John Waters ordered to pay Kitty Holland’s €150,000 legal costs following defamation ruling



Author and columnist John Waters, who a court ruled defamed Irish Times journalist Kitty Holland, has been ordered to pay Ms Holland’s full legal costs, estimated to be around €150,000.

At the Civil Circuit Court, Judge John O’Connor ordered Mr Waters to pay Ms Holland €35,000 damages for defamation of character.

At an adjourned hearing to assess the issue of costs, Ms Holland’s counsel, Andrew Walker SC, told the court his client was entitled to her costs following the court’s finding in her favour.

Mr Walker said Mr Waters had indicated prior to the hearing that he intended to call 11 witnesses to give evidence on his behalf, but subsequently called no witnesses and instead based his case on a 100-page letter of defence and his own evidence.

Counsel said Waters had sent Ms Holland’s solicitors a 100-page letter which had made it clear he had no intention of settling the case.

Following an application on behalf of Mr Waters asking the court not to make an order for costs, Judge O’Connor said he saw no reason to depart from the normal rule that “costs follow the event”.

The judge added that, in his opinion, Ms Holland was absolutely entitled to a full set of costs.

Judge O’Connor said the defamation in the case had been a serious attack on Ms Holland’s professional integrity as a journalist and had caused her considerable hurt.

“Fortunately, this attack on her reputation as a journalist did not result in consequences for her career,” Judge O’Connor said.

“She is held in very high esteem as a journalist by her peers and this is confirmed today by this court.”

Reckless

The judge said the defamation by Mr Waters had been careless and reckless of Ms Holland’s reputation in order to make a political point.

Mr Waters’ words had suggested she was a journalist who was deceitful in her presentation of an important news story, the death of Savita Halappanavar, the court heard.

Judge O’Connor said he was attempting to be proportionate in making an award of €35,000, exactly half of the award he could have made against Mr Waters.

He noted Mr Waters had arranged for his speech, which contained the defamatory remarks, to be deleted from the Renua website, though no clarification or apology had been issued.

Ms Holland had sued former colleague Mr Waters for up to the €75,000 Circuit Court limit for defamation, alleging Mr Waters had seriously injured her standing as a journalist.

Ms Holland (53), of Ranelagh, Dublin, broke the story of the death of Ms Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway 12 years ago.

Ms Holland alleged Mr Waters had, without specifically naming her, made a claim in an address to a political party conference that she had lied in her report, making her out to be a dishonest and inaccurate reporter, and unfit to be a journalist.

Referendum

The court heard that both journalists had been passionate advocates on either side of the public debate leading up to the referendum on abortion in 2018.

“The sting of the libel”, the court heard, was a wrong observation by Mr Waters claiming not only that Ms Holland was a bare-faced liar, but the journalist who started the alleged lie and continued promulgating lies for money and awards.

Mr Waters, of Sandycove, Dublin, described in court as a strident pro-lifer, denied Ms Holland’s claim that he had defamed, stating he had nothing to do with the publication of his speech on the political party’s website.

Ms Holland told the court that after receiving a tip-off about Ms Halappanavar’s death, she thoroughly investigated the matter and her story had been published by the Irish Times under the headline ‘Woman “denied a termination” dies in hospital’, having been vetted by editors and lawyers for three days.

During the hearing, Mr Waters said Ms Holland was in many respects a sincere and decent person who had been used as a tool by unscrupulous interests inside and outside The Irish Times.

“I did not accuse Kitty Holland of personal dishonesty, but I do believe she has become embroiled in the telling of an enormous untruth that has had, and will continue to have, disastrous consequences for Irish Society and, in particular, for its unborn children who have been stripped of the most fundamental protections as a result of that untruth,” Mr Waters stated in his defence.



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