Leech -v- Independent Newspapers [Ireland] Ltd, [2009] IEHC 259 (2009)

Docket Number:2004 19853 P
Party Name:Leech, Independent Newspapers [Ireland] Ltd
Judge:O''Neill J.

THE HIGH COURT2004 19853 PMONICA LEECHPLAINTIFFANDINDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS (IRELAND) LIMITEDDEFENDANTANDDEPARTMENT OF AN TAOISEACHNON-PARTYJUDGMENT of O'Neill J. delivered the 28th day of May, 20091. Background1.1 The plaintiff is a director and shareholder of Monica Leech Communications Limited. That company and the plaintiff on her own account were the recipients of public relations consultancy contracts from the Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The plaintiff seeks damages for libel, including aggravated and/or exemplary damages against the defendant in relation to some twenty articles and material published in one of its newspapers, which addressed the manner in which these contracts were awarded and the costs involved. In its defence the defendant pleads, inter alia, justification, qualified privilege and fair comment, to the effect that the award of the contracts was influenced by the plaintiff's connections with the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr. Martin Cullen; that the award of the contracts did not comply with best standards and that the rates of payment were excessive.1.2 The former Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, on the 21st December, 2004, appointed the former chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Mr. Dermot Quigley to conduct an inquiry into the awarding of the contracts to the plaintiff and her company and to report his findings to the Dáil. This arose from public concern about issues raised by the media relating to the circumstances surrounding the award of these contracts and the amounts paid to the plaintiff and her company under the contracts. The terms of reference of the inquiry were as follows:-- "To establish the circumstances in which arrangements were entered into for the engagement of Ms. Monica Leech and/or Monica Leech Communications to provide services to the Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government since July, 1997.- To examine the procedures adopted by reference to the norms and practice in respect both of public procurement and the division of the functions and responsibilities between Ministers and civil servant Departmental heads.- To ascertain whether the services contracted for differed in any material respect from those provided.- To make a report of findings and conclusions in relation to these matters and, arising from them, to make recommendations, if appropriate, in relation to any changes in practice which may be desirable."Assurances of confidentiality were given to those who participated in the inquiry. The Quigley Report was presented to the Dáil in January, 2005.1.3 A notice of trial in these proceedings was served on the 7th April, 2006. Inter partes discovery has concluded. Third party discovery has been made to date by the Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment.2. The discovery sought2.1 These proceedings arise by way of a notice of motion for third party discovery in which the defendants...

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