From Kevin Brophy, a solicitor acting for John Waters (above):
RTE said in their recent statement “I want to reassure you that RTE explored every option available to it, including right of reply. Legal advice was sought and all avenues were explored, including an offer to make a donation to a neutral charity”. They further went on to say that they took a particular course of action partly because of “the decision by the complainants not to accept RTE’s proposed remedies”.
This is a grossly misleading version of what actually happened.
This is what actually happened.
I was instructed by John Waters on January 11th to write to RTE seeking an apology and a retraction and the removal of certain defamatory comments from the internet broadcast of the Saturday Night Show. My instructions were very clear at that time. John Waters and the Iona Institute clients wanted an apology and a retraction and nothing else.
RTE proposed a right of reply which was like asking my clients to prove they are not homophobic. John Waters also made several attempts to deal with the matter himself, including having a lengthy telephone conversation with the producer of the Saturday Night Show. In the course of this conversation, he discovered that far from showing a willingness to vindicate his reputation, RTE had spent the previous two days conducting an internet trawl in a fruitless attempt to belatedly substantiate the allegation made by Mr O’Neill. They failed in these endeavours.
John Waters then proposed the precise wording of an apology and further proposed that a donation of €15,000 be made to the St. Vincent De Paul to mark the seriousness of the defamatory comments. This proposal did not come from RTE, it came from John Waters. RTE were not happy to broadcast the apology we had drafted and instead said they intended to go ahead with a totally unsatisfactory two sentence statement. Over the course of the following 7 days, an unsatisfactory wording was eventually agreed and was broadcast.
RTE’s response to the proposed donation to the St. Vincent De Paul was that they felt the figure should be €5,000. My very strong advice was for John Waters to issue proceedings against RTE as I did not believe they were taking the matter seriously.
It should also be noted that these negotiations were ongoing at a time when John Waters was being subjected to the most outrageous level of online abuse and adverse commentary.
Eventually RTE offered €40,000 and this was accepted. I did not recommend the figure as I felt it was too low. The bottom line here is that if RTE had accepted John Water’s original proposal, this case would have settled at a fraction of the final cost to RTE.
I have acted for John Waters for many years. In previous defamation actions he has requested that settlements be passed to charity. John Waters agreed to this final settlement and apology in the hope of putting an end to the matter and in deference to the members of the Iona Institute, who had also been defamed. This is not a case of John Waters trying to silence the gay lobby or prevent freedom of speech. He was defamed. He continues to be defamed. If RTE had acted appropriately and sensibly on day one, this current storm would never have arisen.
Kevin Brophy, Brophy Solicitors
Thanks Vincent Murphy
From February 5:
“RTÉ’s apology to John Waters and members of the Iona Institute following the receipt of six legal complaints and you will, no doubt, have seen the ongoing debate on this subject.
I want to reassure you that RTÉ explored every option available to it, including right of reply. Legal advice was sought and all avenues were explored, including an offer to make a donation to a neutral charity.
“However, based on the facts of what was broadcast, and having regard for broadcasting compliance issues, the seriousness of the legal complaints, and the decision by the complainants not to accept RTÉ’s proposed remedies, we decided that a settlement was the most prudent course of action. Senior counsel was consulted and confirmed that the legal position was far from clear.
“As a dual-funded public body, RTÉ should not knowingly progress to defend an action when it is advised, internally and externally, that such a defence is unlikely to succeed before a jury.”
Glen Killane, RTE managing director Television in an email to staff on February 5.
— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice) February 7, 2014