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PRO-Life Activist Wins Libel Case Against The Irish Independent

Added to on October 19, 2007

[ It is almost impossible to find this story in the national media. In November 1997 Niamh Nic Mhathuna of Youth Defence was viciously libelled in the Irish Independent by Justine McCarthy (who now works for the Sunday Tribune). The Irish Independent used every possible legal stunt to drag out the libel proceedings over 9 years and 50 court appearances. Finally in April 2007 they apologised in the High Court and paid her legal costs and substantial damages.

The following are reports from the Catholic newspaper "Alive" and the Christian website ]

(1) “Alive” newspaper June 2007
AFTER a nine and a half year struggle for justice, a leading Irish pro-life campaigner has finally won an apology, her legal costs and substantial damages from the Irish Independent.

The David and Goliath court marathon arose following remarks made about Niamh Nic Mhathuna in two articles by journalist Justine McCarthy.

Ms Nic Mhathuna (now U’ Bhriain) claimed that the articles insinuated that she had been trained in the US to bomb abortion centres.

The apology was read out in the High Court, and afterwards Mrs U’ Bhriain confirmed to "Alive" that she is going ahead with a libel case against another newspaper in the Independent Group.

Speaking outside the Four Courts, Aoife de Cl?r, a friend of Mrs U’ Bhriain,said she was “really thrilled at the outcome.”The media regularly attempt to blacken pro-life people in order to undermine the pro-life message.” she said. “Niamh has shown great courage in defending her good name.”

In its apology the Irish Independent said:
“In articles published in November 1997 we referred to Ms Niamh Nic Mhathuna, then spokesperson for the pro-life organisation, Youth Defence.

“It is suggested that the articles meant that she had been trained in illegal activities and actions of a violent nature.

“We are happy to acknowledge that this was untrue, that no such meaning was intended and that Ms Nic Mhathuna is a person of the highest integrity.”

In one article, on 29 November [1997], Justine McCarthy,who now works for the Sunday Tribune, wrote:

“Its [Youth Defence’s] best-known spokeswoman, Niamh Nic Mhathuna, has travelled to the U.S. in the past where she has met members of Operation Rescue, the militant organisation with a worldwide notoriety for bombing abortion clinics.

“It is widely accepted in Washington that Operation Rescue trains like-minded anti-abortion activists in elements of its campaigning tactics.”

In fact there were never any grounds for such allegations against Operation Rescue, much less Ms Nic Mhathuna

(2) Newspaper Apologises to Pro-Life Activist in High Court
from Ci News (The Webportal for Christians) 29 August 2007

Independent Newspapers will today apologise in the High Court to a pro-life activist, Niamh U’ Bhriain, following the settlement of a nine-year libel case against the newspaper group. The paper had accused Ms Nic Mhathuna, as she was then, of being engaged in violent and illegal activities.

On 14th April 2007 the Irish Independent published an apology acknowledging that the suggestions they had made in a series of articles were untrue. The paper stated that she is “a person of the highest integrity”.

Independent Newspapers is expected to repeat the apology in open court today. It has also agreed to pay damages for libel to Niamh U’ Bhriain and her legal costs. Speaking to CiNews, Mrs U’Bhriain said she was not allowed to disclose the amount of damages to be paid, but she said the amount was “substantial.”

Ms Nic Mhathuna was spokesperson and chairwoman of Youth Defence, a radical pro-life group, from 1992 to 1999. The articles in The Irish Independent were written in 1997. Since then she has married, and is currently expecting her third child. She is now involved in the Mother and Child Campaign - a "natural progression".

Mrs U’ Bhriain has said she was absolutely delighted with the outcome after such a long, long battle.

“Independent Newspapers have deep pockets and huge resources, but what they wrote about me was untrue. Now they have acknowledged that I am a person of the highest integrity. I feel this is not just a victory for me, but for the pro-life community. I feel that often papers feel they can say what they like about pro-life people, but not anymore.”

Mrs U’Bhriain thanked her legal team for their “Herculean efforts” and her family who had made the outcome possible.
She added that no one should be intimidated by the wealth and resources of giant media groups, and no newspaper or journalist had the right to defame individuals or to tell lies about those who worked to protect helpless children from the abortion industry.

“What was written about me was entirely untrue, and a slur on my character and good name. It needed to be challenged. It took over 50 separate court appearances to achieve this victory for common sense and justice.”