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European election candidate Ben Gilroy loses court bid seeking apology from RTÉ over debate exclusion

Mr Justice Senan Allen today said the relief sought by Gilroy was “unknown to the law”.

File photo of Gilroy
File photo of Gilroy
Image: rollingnews.iw

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CANDIDATE Ben Gilroy has been unsuccessful in his High Court action seeking an apology from RTÉ for not including him in a live election debate. 

The businessman and anti-eviction activist lodged proceedings against the national broadcaster, claiming a decision not to include him was prejudicial and “favoured some politicians in the election to the clear detriment” of his own candidacy.  

Mr Justice Senan Allen today said the relief sought by Gilroy was “unknown to the law”. He said there was no basis for the application and that therefore the court would refuse the motion.

The broadcaster had opposed the claims, with Niamh Hyland SC for RTÉ telling the court that Gilroy had brought the action “to advance his electoral aims”. 

Gilroy said he did not wish for the programme to be cancelled and was not seeking an injunction against it airing, but that he wanted “declaratory relief” and for the broadcaster “to say that it was unfair” to exclude him from the televised debate. 

Hyland said there was no place in law for the court to rule on an interim declaratory order ahead of the elections on 24 May and that a longer trial would have to be heard for a judge to make a final ruling. 

Some 19 of the 59 European Parliament candidates are to appear on RTÉ live debates in advance of the elections and an affidavit from David Nally, managing editor of RTÉ current affairs, said candidates’ previous election performances were used as criteria in the selection process. 

All candidates not taking part in the live debates have been invited to submit a one minute video to be aired during the programmes. 

Gilroy, who represented himself in court, claimed this impinged upon the “democratic process” and said all candidates should have been given the same opportunity to address the electorate. 

He also said the decision by RTÉ was in breach of rule 27 of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, concerning coverage of elections which require “fairness, objectivity and impartiality”.

Mr Justice Allen awarded costs against Gilroy and said he would like seek an interlocutory order. 

Three debates, covering the three Euro constituencies, will air on RTÉ One from Sunday night. Sunday’s programme will focus on Ireland South, Monday’s will cover Dublin and candidates from Midlands Northwest will appear on Tuesday. 

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