Trial date set for defamation claim against Law Society president

Co Tipperary accountant suing solicitor Maura Derivan in case that is almost 14 years old

A Co Tipperary accountant, who is suing solicitor Maura Derivan - the current president of the Law Society - for €50,000 for alleged defamation of character, has finally been given a trial date for a case that is almost 14 years old.

Robert (Bobby) Fitzgerald, chartered accountant and head partner of Fitzgerald Fleming Long Accountants, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, was told in the Circuit Civil Court on Tuesday that a trial would start on November 1st next.

During an earlier court application for a trial date Ms Derivan and her husband, Patrick, were criticised for attempting to frustrate the hearing of the action against them.

Judge John O’Connor, who has stated he is unable to hear the case because he knows the Derivans, said other judges had recused themselves from being listed to deal with the trial.


Full defence

Mr Fitzgerald initiated the defamation case against the Derivans, who practise as Derivan Sexton and Co Solicitors, and another defendant, Bernard Brophy, more than 13 years ago. At the previous request for an early hearing, Mr Fitzgerald shocked the court by saying, “Aw for f**k’s sake” when told by Judge O’Connor there was a shortage of judges to deal with the case.

Barrister Dan O’Mahony, for Mr Fitzgerald, told Judge O’Connor on Tuesday that the parties had attempted to reduce the proposed four-day hearing but the best they could do was reduce it to three days.

Solicitor Neil Brehany, of Sean Ormond Solicitors, Waterford, for Mr Brophy said his client was “the man in the middle” and was suffering extreme stress because of the delay in getting a hearing. “For him it has an urgency of its own,” Mr Brehany said.

Judge O’Connor said he fully understood the situation but unfortunately getting three to four consecutive days was difficult. He put the matter down for trial for two days beginning on November 1st to “see what happens.” During earlier applications for a trial date, Judge O’Connor has urged the parties to try and resolve matters.

The Derivans had earlier denied there was any obstruction on their part to settlement talks.

The case, which was moved from the south-eastern circuit to Dublin on the application of the Derivans, arises from written correspondence allegedly initiated and published by Derivan Sexton and Co in matters relating to their client, Mr Brophy, concerning the proposed purchase of a development unit by Mr Brophy and involving Mr Fitzgerald’s company.

Ms Derivan was elected president of the Law Society last November and her term of office is due to end on November 11th next.

A full defence, denying all and any issues relating to the alleged defamation against Mr Fitzgerald, has been entered on behalf of the Derivans and Mr Brophy, a plasterer of Owning, Piltown, Co Kilkenny.