Maritime lawyer threatens defamation action against The Guardian

Dermot Conway

A maritime lawyer has threatened to take legal action against the Guardian newspaper after it made allegations of widespread labour exploitation in the Irish fishing industry.

A year-long investigation by the newspaper purported to turn up evidence of migrant workers being subjected to illegal practices and being paid less than the minimum wage.

Dermot Conway of Cork-based Conways Solicitors has told the Irish Independent that several boat owners are now considering a defamation action against the newspaper.

He also said that a number of the Guardian’s allegations were put to boat owners and firmly rebutted before publication.

Mr Conway said: “At all times I was very unhappy with any specifics in the allegations being made; they were extremely generic in nature and the same generic allegations were put to several boat owners without any substantial difference.

“The article itself bears out the lack of detailed evidence that you would expect to support such allegations. It cannot be overlooked how serious those allegations are and the scrutiny they have brought to bear on the fishing industry.

“Prior to publication I put The Guardian fully on notice that any and all specific allegations would have to be accurate or my respective clients would consider proceedings for defamation and consider going to the Press Council of the UK. We are now studying all the material in minute detail.”

In a statement, the Guardian said it “stands by its thorough investigation”.

The newspaper added:‎ “We are pleased that the Irish and UK governments have responded … by acknowledging that human trafficking for labour exploitation in the fishing fleets in Ireland is one of their priorities.”

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