High Court rules RTÉ must provide documents to Sean Gallagher

Thursday 29 May 2014 23.08
Sean Gallagher is seeking several documents from RTÉ concerning the Frontline debate
Sean Gallagher is seeking several documents from RTÉ concerning the Frontline debate

The High Court has ruled that RTÉ must provide Sean Gallagher with certain documents sought by him for his action against the broadcaster arising from the "Tweetgate" incident during the 2011 Presidential Election campaign.

Mr Gallagher sought several documents, including one created between the broadcast of the Frontline debate on 24 October 2011 and 18 November 2012, when a report of an internal RTÉ review of the broadcast was published.

RTÉ opposed the action. It claimed the request was too broad and amounted to a "trawl" of documentation that would put the station to extra cost.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said that Mr Gallagher is entitled to be provided with the documents he is seeking from RTÉ as part of his case.

Mr Gallagher's lawyers had asked the court for orders compelling RTÉ to discover certain categories of documents because they were unhappy with the scope of documents that RTÉ was prepared to make available to them.

They sought documents created between the broadcast on 24 October 2011 and 18 November 2012, when a report of an internal RTÉ review of the broadcast, conducted by Rob Morrison, was published.

They also wanted material received by RTÉ via the "McGuinness4president" Twitter account, which was subsequently put to Mr Gallagher; documents recording RTÉ's protocols and guidelines for the verification of information used during broadcast; all documents relating to Mr Morrison's review and an unredacted copy of that review.

Mr Gallagher also wanted all documents created prior to November 2012 relating to identification and selection of audience members and to questions to be asked by those.

RTÉ, who opposed the motion, was only prepared to discover materials generated either on the date of the debate or in the week afterwards.

RTÉ's lawyers said the broadcaster was happy to provide Mr Gallagher with all materials relevant to the claim.

Mr Justice Gilligan in his judgment said that limiting discovery to documents created on the date of or within the subsequent week of the broadcast would be "too restrictive" and would "run the risk of doing an injustice" to Mr Gallagher.

The judge said he was also satisfied Mr Gallagher was "not seeking to engage in a fishing expedition or general trawl of RTÉ's documentation".

He did not accept compliance with orders for discovery would prove to be "unnecessarily costly" for RTÉ or lengthen the litigation.

Documentation generated in the time frame sought by Mr Gallagher's lawyers was appropriate for the fair disposal of the proceedings, the judge added.

Mr Justice Gilligan adjourned the matter for a week to allow both sides consider his judgment.