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TV journalist denies contempt Reporter faces contempt trial

A television reporter yesterday denied a charge of contempt before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in a case arising from her refusal to disclose sources of information in a documentary.

On the opening day of her trial, Susan O'Keeffe, 34, pleaded not guilty to a charge of refusing to answer a question at the judicial tribunal investigating the Irish beef industry on 2 December 1992, when she declined to reveal a list of people she had interviewed for the programme.

The documentary, for Granada's World in Action, broadcast in May 1991 with a follow-up programme in July that year, alleged that the leading Irish beef processor, the Goodman International group, was involved in political favours and widespread fraud.

Two charges against Ms O'Keeffe of hindering the tribunal investigation and of failing to provide names and addresses were dropped after objections from Ms O'Keeffe's defence counsel, Kevin Haugh, that they were not supported by the evidence, were accepted by Judge Dominic Lynch.

Maurice Gaffney, for the prosecution, told the jury they should put out of their minds any sympathy they might feel for Ms O'Keeffe. If she was guilty what happened to her was a matter for the judge, not the jury.

Controversy sparked by the tribunal led to the 1992 general election, and, according to witnesses who this month testified before a Dail select committee inquiring into the events of last November, also helped undermine trust within the last Fianna Fail-Labour alliance.

In spite of extensive evidence of fraud and tax evasion running into millions of pounds uncovered by the beef tribunal, only Ms O'Keeffe has faced criminal charges.

The trial is expected to last three days. Before the hearing, about 30 members of the National Union of Journalists protested at the prosecution and called for protection of reporters' sources.