Michael Lowry V Sam Smyth
TD Michael Lowry failed to obtain summary judgement for defamation against journalist Sam Smyth. In one of the first applications pursuant to the Defamation Act 2009, Mr Lowry sought summary relief that Mr Smyth’s description of him as a liar, was defamatory.
Summary relief may be granted where the court is satisfied that the statement is defamatory and that the Defendant has no defence that is "reasonably likely" to succeed.
Under the Defamation Act 2009, a Plaintiff who successfully obtains summary relief for defamation is entitled to publication of a correction and an order prohibiting further publication of the statement. A successful Plaintiff is also likely to succeed with his costs application. Where the application fails, the action may still proceed to a full hearing.
Mr Smyth's comments were made in the context of an Inquiry into Mr Lowry by the Moriarty Tribunal, set up to investigate payments to politicians, before it had delivered its final 2,400 page Report in March 2011. Mr Lowry has disputed the Report’s findings.
Mr Lowry claimed that the comments broadcasted by Sam Smyth on TV3 and published by him in a national newspaper, the Irish Independent, meant that he was corrupt, dishonest, untrustworthy and unsuitable to be a Member of the Irish Parliament, Dail Eireann. Mr Smyth however argued that his comments were true, fair and reasonable and that they related to a matter of public interest. He specifically referred to how Mr Lowry was involved in tax fraud and had lied about cheating on his taxes for a number of years.
Earlier this year, Heneghan J stated in a reserved judgement that the central question was whether it was "too far fetched" to believe Mr Smyth had a defence. She ruled against Mr Lowry and instead accepted Mr Smyth's contention that he had an arguable defence, having reviewed material submitted by the journalist as part of his defence to the application. This material included reports of the McCracken and Moriarty Tribunals and Mr Lowry’s personal statement to the Dáil in 1996. The judge did not find this material incompatible with the defences put forward and she decided that the matter shall be resolved at a full hearing.
Mr Smyth's application for his costs was postponed to a later hearing.