Former Minister for Justice and Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue has succeeded in joining the publishing company of the Tralee newspaper Kerry's Eye in defamation proceedings.

In a judgement handed down at the Circuit Civil Court in Killarney, Co Kerry, Judge Helen Boyle said she was allowing Kenno Ltd, also of 22 Ashe Street, Tralee, Co Kerry, to be joined in the defamation proceedings against Kerry's Eye Ltd, and was extending time to allow this.

The Defamation Act 2009 reduced the time limit significantly in defamation proceedings to one year, or as the court may direct, not exceeding two years, unless the plaintiff suffered prejudice. In 1957 the limit was six years, the court was told.

The case involved allegations in relation "to conduct in public office", and this was the differentiating factor from case law opened in court last week. And the defendant too had written a robust defence letter early "pleading public interest", the judge said.

It was "in the interests of justice", the plaintiff should be allowed to vindicate his good name and the defendant too should be allowed to pursue his defence. This was is in the public interest," she said.

John O'Donoghue
John O'Donoghue served as Ceann Comhairle from 2007-2009

Last week the court heard how defamation proceedings had been initiated by Mr O'Donoghue, against the Tralee-based newspaper over articles published in an edition in October 2018, alleging he had been forced from political office because of lavish expenses.

Mr O'Donoghue was "vehemently" pursuing the matter, and his solicitor, Denis A Lenihan, had sent a letter to Kerry's Eye in November 2018, within three weeks of the article being published, his counsel Katie O'Connell outlined in her application last week.

The application was for an order to join Kenno Ltd, the publishing company, to those initiated against Kerry's Eye Ltd. Both have addresses at Ashe Street, Tralee.

A related application sought an order "if necessary" extending any time limits.

On 21 November 2018, in a letter to solicitor Denis A. Linehan, on Kerry's Eye headed notepaper, Padraig Kennelly directed any future correspondence be to himself, the barrister outlined.

It was only in March 2020 that Mr O'Donoghue's legal team were told that the publisher was Kenno Ltd, of the same address, Ms O'Connell said.

Richard Liston, barrister for the newspaper and Kenno Ltd, said the onus was on the plaintiff to ascertain who the publisher was and to do so in time.

The judge noted "the relevant person" had early notification, took legal advice early on and wrote a robust and detailed response.

"But I note all future correspondence is to be addressed to Mr Kennelly," the judge said of the letter of 21 November 2018, on Kerry's Eye notepaper.

The first time the plaintiffs became aware of Kenno Ltd was March 2020, the judge also noted.

In the interests of justice, the prejudice the plaintiff would suffer, if not given the direction, would significantly outweigh that if the direction was not given, she felt.

It did not appear to her at the moment that by virtue of delay the matter was no longer capable of being adduced, she also said. In the interests of justice, she was allowing the application that Kenno Ltd be joined forthwith.