Updated: 26/02/18 : 13:23:55
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€3,500 High Court award in Keogh defamation case against RTÉ

A former Sinn Féin councillor has been awarded €3,500 in his High Court case for damages against RTÉ for defamation.

RTÉ reports that Nicky Kehoe, who is now a political manager for Sinn Féin, had sued over comments made about him during a live radio debate in October 2015.

The jury found the contents of the broadcast meant that Mr Kehoe was not a fit person to be involved in the democratic process.

However, it found the broadcaster was only 35% responsible for the defamation and former Labour TD Joe Costello was responsible for 65%.

RTÉ lawyers say they plan to appeal the case and said it is possibly the lowest award of damages ever made in a defamation case.

The costs of the case are likely to be much higher.

These have not yet been decided.

The case concerned comments made on the Saturday with Claire Byrne programme by Mr Costello.

During the programme, Mr Costello claimed a member of the IRA army council was directing Sinn Féin councillors on Dublin City Council on how to vote.

He also said "all the little heads swivel around when a decision has to be made".

The programme panel also included Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin who named Mr Kehoe as the person to whom Mr Costello was referring.

Mr Ó Broin repeatedly challenged Mr Costello about his remarks, describing them as outrageous and bizarre.

Mr Kehoe claimed the broadcast was hugely defamatory, damaged his personal and professional reputation by alleging he was a member of the IRA army council, an illegal organisation and that he controlled the way in which Sinn Féin councillors vote on Dublin City Council.

Mr Kehoe said he was ashamed of his activities in the IRA, had reformed while in prison and had left his paramilitary past behind.

He said he had since dedicated his life to working in the community and in his GAA club in Cabra and had worked for more than 20 years to restore his reputation.

He said it was taken away "in one swipe" by the RTÉ programme.

His lawyers said the case was in many ways about whether or not someone like Mr Kehoe was entitled to a second chance to restore their good name.

RTÉ denied the statement made amounted to defamation.

Lawyers for the broadcaster said Mr Kehoe was a notorious former IRA gunman who had served two jail terms.

They said his reputation to this day was closely tied to his IRA activity in the past and he could not sue.

They also said he had never complained to either Mr Costello or Mr Ó Broin nor had he made a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireand.

Instead, he had immediately sought damages from RTE.

The presenter of the programme, Claire Byrne, defended her handling of the debate that day.

She said she thought Mr Costello "had gone doolally" when he made the allegation and she could not have known what he was about to say.

Mr Costello had not named anyone and she was about to intervene when Mr Ó Broin jumped in, named Mr Kehoe and robustly defended him.

She did not agree that she should have shut down the debate and said to do so would have done more damage to Mr Kehoe.