Belfast Telegraph

RTE presenter 'incredulous' at TD's IRA claims

By Staff Reporter

RTE presenter Claire Byrne told the High Court in Dublin yesterday she thought a former Irish minister of state "had gone doolally" on her radio show.

Ms Byrne thought claims by Joe Costello that Sinn Fein political manager Nicky Kehoe was a member of the IRA Army Council, controlling how councillors voted at meetings, were outrageous.

She said her tone towards Mr Costello, then a Labour TD and a former Irish minister, was incredulous. "I thought he had gone doolally. I remember sitting there thinking: 'Where is this coming from'?" she said.

"I expected him to represent government policy and what he was doing was bringing it down to local politics.

"My tone was incredulous because that is how I felt at the time."

She was giving evidence as part of RTE's defence of a defamation action against it by Mr Kehoe, a former city councillor and Sinn Fein director of elections and now employed as a political manager by the party.

He says he was falsely described by Mr Costello, on a Saturday With Claire Byrne live radio programme on October 2015, as a former chief of staff of the IRA who was controlling how Sinn Fein councillors on Dublin City Council voted.

Yesterday saw further cross- examination of Mr Kehoe and evidence from three community activists in the Cabra area who all said they did not believe his standing in the community had changed as a result of what was said on the programme.

In her evidence, which began yesterday afternoon, Ms Byrne said that after Mr Costello made the comments, her producer pressed the 'talk back button' - a warning system between producer and presenter, and a click came on in Ms Byrne's headphones.

She thought what Mr Costello had said was outrageous and a strange thing to say, and she was about to intervene when another panellist, Sinn Fein's Eoin O Broin, spoke and named Mr Kehoe. Before that, she did not know who Mr Costello was talking about.

Earlier, Mr Kehoe told the court he did not accept he now has "zero reputation" when it came to his association with the IRA.

He accepted that would be the case in relation to the Seventies and Eighties, when he was involved in IRA activities, but disagreed that was so today.

The case is set to continue on Tuesday.

Belfast Telegraph

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