High Court reporters
A judge will rule later on an appeal by former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris against the Circuit Court's decision to transfer his defamation action against journalist Aoife Moore to the High Court.
Mr Harris had claimed in proceedings he brought before the Circuit Court that he was defamed in a tweet posted by Ms Moore about him in early May 2021.
He claims that in the post she wrongly accused him of allegedly directly sending her sexualised messages on Twitter.
In her defence she denies defaming Mr Harris in a tweet which she says was posted after it emerged Mr Harris was allegedly involved with an account which had allegedly posted defamatory material about her.
Ms Moore, and another journalist Allison Morris, have brought separate High Court proceedings against Mr Harris claiming that they were defamed in posts on a Twitter account called "Barbara J. Pym”", allegedly operated by Mr Harris and others on dates between 2020 and 2021.
Ms Moore claims that she was defamed in those tweets which she says allegedly called into question her journalistic objectivity.
She also claims that the tweets referred to her in a sexualised manner.
Mr Harris denies the claims.
Mr Harris's action against Ms Moore was due to be heard before the Circuit Civil Court earlier this year.
However following a pre-trial application by Ms Moore's lawyers before Christmas, Judge John O'Connor ruled that Mr Harris's case should be transferred to the High Court.
Ms Moore, represented by Thomas Hogan SC, and Conan Fegan BL instructed by Phoenix Law solicitors, claimed that because there was an overlap on the issues surrounding the claims, both cases should be heard together in the High Court.
Mr Harris's appeal against that decision to transfer his claim to the High Court came before Mr Justice Paul Burns on Friday.
Represented by Remy Farrell SC appearing with Hugh McDowell BL, and instructed by solicitor Robert Dore, Mr Harris says that while there were some similarities, Mr Harris's claim against Ms Moore is "quite net".
It should be heard separately, and before a judge of the Circuit Court, from the actions pending before the High Court, counsel said.
Mr Farrell said his client rejects Ms Moore's contentions that his client should have brought a counterclaim against Ms Moore in the High Court proceedings.
Mr Harris was not under any legal obligation to do so, counsel said.
Counsel said that Mr Harris was perfectly entitled to make a claim before the Circuit Court despite the fact that High Court proceedings against him were commenced first , and even if the outcome in those proceedings was different to what the High Court decides in Ms Moore's action.
Any suggestion that Mr Harris is not entitled to bring his claim before the Circuit Court merely because Ms Moore's had brought her defamation action before his was "quite radical," counsel added.
He compared the application to have Mr Harris's action taken out of the Circuit Court to strategic litigation against public participation which he said is a form of litigation designed to stop somebody from bringing a claim.
Age and health
Counsel said his client wants his claim determined as soon as possible, due to factors including Mr Harris's age and health, and that it can take some time before High Court defamation actions are finally heard.
In his submissions to the court Mr Hogan said both cases should be heard by the High Court, rather than have two separate hearings before different courts over claims that arise out of the same background.
The reality of the situation counsel said is that the claims "could not be divorced from each other."
Counsel said it his side's intention to seek to have both Ms Moore's and Mr Harris's actions consolidated.
Rather than bring a separate claim before the Circuit Court, Mr Harris should have brought a counterclaim against Ms Moore in the High Court proceedings, counsel submitted.
In reply to the judge Counsel accepted that the proceedings against other parties alleged to have been involved in the posting of the allegedly defamatory tweets about Ms Moore are in progress.
However counsel said that his side has sought a defence to Ms Moore's High Court claims from Mr Harris's lawyers in order to progress the claim.
Following the conclusion of submissions from the parties, Mr Justice Paul Burns reserved his decision.