High Court orders Donegal Times newspaper to pay damages of €192,000 to Waterbus directors

Mr Justice Paul McDermott found that two directors had been defamed

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High Court orders Donegal Times newspaper to pay damages of €192,000 to  Waterbus directors

Donegal Bay Waterbus

A local newspaper, the Donegal Times Ltd., and its editor have been ordered by a High Court judge to pay a total of €192,000 to two directors of the Donegal Bay Waterbus Company.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott found that Daniel Ward and Sean Quinn had been defamed in the Donegal Times. He ruled that they were each entitled to an award of €96,000 against the Donegal Times Ltd, The Diamond, Donegal Town and its editor and journalist Mr Liam Hyland.

The judge found that both men had suffered "very serious damage" to their respective personal and professional reputations.

Mr Ward is the financial controller and Mr Quinn the CEO of Donegal Town Enterprises Scheme Ltd which operates the Waterbus. The company is a not for profit community scheme that promotes marine and tourism activities in and around both Donegal Bay.

Mr Quinn and Mr Ward had brought defamation proceedings against the paper and editor over articles published by the paper in September and October 2013. 

They claimed that the articles defamed them and wrongly alleged they were involved in financial mispractices and mismanagement of monies associated with the Waterbus. 

The articles, they claimed, gravely injured their personal and professional reputations and caused them embarrassment and distress.

In his judgement, Mr Justice McDermott said he was satisfied that the plaintiffs had been defamed in the articles. Their good names had been damaged, they had suffered in their communities and they were entitled to damages, he said.

The articles had a very significant effect on their day to day lives, the judge added. The allegations of dishonesty and misappropriation of Waterbus monies were laid against them without any basis whatsoever.

The judge said that he also had to take into account that the Donegal Times is a local newspaper and has a limited circulation. However, in such rural areas, a newspaper can have a very large effect on local views, he continued.

The judge added that he was also taking into account an offer from the defendants of a payment of €25,000 and an apology to the two men published in the paper was not accepted by the plaintiffs.

The judge said he did not accept the defendants engaged adequately with the concept of an apology and said the publisher was only entitled to a reduced level of mitigation in respect of the damage award.

The judge said both plaintiffs are entitled to €120,000 each in damages but, in view of the offer by the defendants to make amends, he was reducing the award by 20% to €96,000 each.