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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 29 March, 2020

Estate of deceased councillor allowed to continue defamation case against journalist Gemma O'Doherty

The matter arises from O’Doherty’s documentary about the unsolved disappearance of Mary Boyle in 1977.

Gemma O’Doherty pictured in September 2018 at City Hall in Dublin ahead of a DCC meeting to hear from prospective presidential candidates seeking a nomination.
Gemma O’Doherty pictured in September 2018 at City Hall in Dublin ahead of a DCC meeting to hear from prospective presidential candidates seeking a nomination.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE ESTATE OF Donegal councillor and hotelier Sean McEniff, who died two years ago, was substituted yesterday as plaintiff in a defamation claim McEniff had launched against campaigning journalist Gemma O’Doherty.

Eamon McArdle, an accountant who is acting as executor for McEniff’s estate, was allowed today by Judge Jacqueline Linnane to continue the defamation proceedings on behalf of the estate which can sue for damages of €75,000.

McArdle’s application had been made before Judge Linnane earlier this month and the judge had adjourned it to allow for further affidavits to be lodged in the case. 

Today she granted McArdle leave to continue the case on behalf of the estate despite opposition from O’Doherty’s legal team.

The matter, which arises from a documentary, Mary Boyle: The Untold Story, about the mysterious unsolved disappearance of the child in 1977, will now go to a full trial. The video was posted by O’Doherty on YouTube where it has been viewed almost 800,000 times.

It claimed a politician had in effect prevented gardaí from pursuing a particular suspect into the disappearance of the six-year-old, alleging the unidentified politician had made  “a phone call”.

Widespread speculation 

McEniff issued statements five years ago stating that he could not have been the politician referred to in the documentary “by rumour and innuendo” surrounding the allegation. He had denied having any knowledge of the phone call involved.

He issued legal proceedings against O’Doherty in 2016, shortly before his death, and while a libel action would previously have died with the plaintiff, the 2009 Defamation Act allowed for the estate of a deceased person to apply to continue the case. 

Although no particular politician was named on the documentary there has been widespread speculation in South Donegal that McEniff was the politician it claimed made a call to a senior garda which allegedly resulted in the main suspect not being arrested in the disappearance of Mary near her grandparents home at Cashelard, Ballyshannon, 42 years ago.

A garda cold case has been keeping the case under review. A date will now be set by the Circuit Court for a hearing of the case.

Comments have been closed as the above case is before the courts. 

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About the author:

Ray Managh

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