Non-turnips have last laugh

March 29, 1996

Undergraduate publications are rarely sued for libel but editors of student magazines in Irish universities are likely to be much more careful in future.

Their caution is understandable given an extraordinary court case involving five security staff at University College Cork who did not take kindly to being described as having the "mental capacity of retarded turnips". This month they were awarded IRPounds 4,000 (Pounds 4,100) each in the Cork Circuit Court.

Judge Patrick Moran described the article, which appeared in November 1992, as scurrilous and highly defamatory to the men who had worked in the college for many years. The five worked as security men in the UCC Boole Library and the article also referred to them as Homo sapiens booesecurity guardensis.

One of the five received an MA last year and told the court he was the first non-academic staff member to the elected to the college's governing body.

"I was asked by people how I managed to get a degree with such a low IQ after the article appeared," he said.

Another staff member said he became the butt of people's jokes while on duty in the library. He also received a parcel containing animal bones with a note saying "eat these".

Donnachadha O hAodha, the student union administrator, said he had not read the article before it got into print and he deeply regretted it. He added that he had been unable to discover who wrote the offending piece as it was simply signed "Mad Dog".

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