Tipperary defamation case hears another 'Michael Reilly' lived 2km away

Consultant engineer Michael Reilly claims he was defamed in a newspaper article referring to an uninsured driver with the same name
Tipperary defamation case hears another 'Michael Reilly' lived 2km away

A jury hearing a High Court action by consultant engineer Michael Reilly, who claims he was defamed in a newspaper article referring to an uninsured driver with the same name, has heard there had been another Michael Reilly living in a mobile home about two kilometres from where the engineer lives.

That other Michael Reilly, who was 26 at the time, was a member of the Traveller community who lived in Ballynacloughy, Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, who was "evasive in his addresses" but would have used both Ballynacloghy, Mullinahone, and Ballycullen, Mullinahone, where the engineer Michael Reilly lives, Det Garda Dan Quinlan told the court.

Det Gda Quinlan was giving evidence in the case brought by the engineer, 62-year-old Michael Reilly, against Iconic Newspapers, publishers of the Kilkenny People.

Court report

Mr Reilly, of Ballycullen, Mullinahone, claims he was defamed by being called a criminal in a court report in the paper on February 9th, 2016 about another Michael Reilly who got a suspended jail sentence, six year driving ban and a fine for uninsured driving.

The paper denies defamation and says it was an entirely fair and accurate report of the court proceedings which also attracts absolute legal privilege.

Clonmel-based Det Garda Quinlan, whose area as a garda includes Mullinahone and who has known the engineer personally and professionally for more than 30 years, under cross examination by Rossa Fanning SC, for Iconic, said the other Michael Reilly lived for a period of time in Ballynacloughy in a mobile home.

When the other Michael Reilly was stopped driving, he would have been living in Ballynacloghy, but it appeared he used the names of all the townlands around where he lived, Det Gda Quinlan said.

Asked earlier by Paddy McGrath SC, for the engineer, was there any other Michael Reilly living in Ballycullen, the detective said there was not.

Mr Reilly, the engineer, had supported the State professionally in a number of prosecutions, he said.

'Mr Moonlight' trial

Following his evidence in one of those cases, in April 2016, the detective garda made a courtesy call to his home and they decided to go to a local pub for lunch. The court heard one of those cases that Mr Reilly gave expert evidence in was the trial of Tipperary farmer Pat Quirke who got life for the murder of DJ Bobby ‘Mr Moonlight’ Ryan.

While at the restaurant, Det Gda Quinlan said a number of unfavourable comments were made about Mr Reilly by men standing at the bar while they were having lunch and as they were leaving.

Mr Reilly told his counsel Frank Callanan SC he used to go for a drink in his local pub on Friday nights, but following a number of occasions in which comments were passed he decided to stay away from local pubs.

Asked how it affected him professionally, he said since the publication he had got four jobs locally when there had been around 30 construction jobs carried out in his area. "I would have been expected to get at least 50 per cent of those", he said.

Mini-break in France

Under cross-examination by Mr Fanning, Mr Reilly said when he first learned of the publication, he was driving in northern France on a mini-break with his partner Monica Leech who was picking up some old crockery there which she had bought on ebay.

Mr Reilly said while in France he contacted his solicitor Mark Walsh who was his friend, had acted for him before, and who he agreed had an expertise in defamation matters, having also acted for Ms Leech.

The court heard the paper offered to publish a clarification to say the Michael Reilly referred to was not him, but no agreement could be reached.

Solicitor

Mr Fanning put it to him that within days of publication, Mr Reilly instructed his solicitor not to ask what had happened, but immediately to assert a legal wrong had been done. He replied: "We are playing with semantics now. It was clearly defamatory."

He said his solicitor had established it had appeared in the paper and he was abundantly aware he was the only Michael Reilly of Ballycullen, Mullinahone. "I am sure you would have written it too if you were representing me".

Mr Fanning replied: "That's not true Mr Reilly. We would not be here if I was representing you."

Mr Reilly's younger brother John, told the court members of the family, apart from Michael "all took stick" about the article. His friend said Michael stopped going for a drink with him because of "nasty comments" passed by people in the pub.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds and the jury.

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