Minister for Health Mary Harney may sue Irish radio broadcaster Newstalk for libelous comments made by reporter Nell McCafferty.

McCafferty has been banned from appearing on Newstalk radio for the foreseeable future.

McCafferty branded Harney a "practicing or recovering alcoholic" on radio.

A spokesperson for the Minister said the slur was unfounded and that the matter was now in the "hands of the minister’s lawyers."

Harney is currently on a 15-day state visit to New Zealand.

Sources close to the Minister said that she thought McCafferty's comments were "utterly rubbish" and "beneath contempt."

Struggling radio station Newstalk immediately withdrew the interview from their Internet playback service and released a press statement saying the comments made from McCafferty were false and unfounded.

Legal experts have warned that the station may have to pay a substantial settlement to Harney.

"It was alleged that Mary Harney, TD, Minister for Health and Children was and is an alcoholic, has been treated in hospital for alcoholism and, as a result, is unfit for office. It was also suggested that Ms Harney had been directly and personally responsible for the failure of Tallaght to deal properly with correspondence from doctors and for the deaths of patients,” read Newstalk’s statement on the matter,

"Each and every one of these allegations were untrue and were known to be without truth when they were broadcast."

Newstalk also apologized for causing distress to Harney’s extended family.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Newstalk CEO Frank Cronin apologized for Newstalk's "abject failure" in broadcasting the show in which the comments were made.

Cronin also said that McCafferty would not be used in future Newstalk productions.

"Nell won't be used again. We regret what happened and we did apologize to Mary Harney's press officer straight after the incident on Thursday. We will be reviewing how it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again,” he said.
An unnamed government minister told the Irish Independent that it was an unlikely coincidence that the comments were made as Harney left for a 15 day visit to New Zealand.

“They hate her, we know it and it is too convenient that this happened just as she left the country for 15 days.”