Former Belfast Lord Mayor to receive libel damages

image captionSDLP councillor Pat McCarthy is to receive libel damages

A former Lord Mayor of Belfast is to receive libel damages over a newspaper report on false graffiti allegations of serious crime.

SDLP Councillor Pat McCarthy sued after the Sunday Life printed an article linked to claims which appeared on gable walls in Belfast.

Although he was not named in the story, the newspaper's publishers have issued an apology.

As well as damages, Mr McCarthy is also to be paid his legal costs.

A statement confirming the resolution was read out at the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday.

It said: "In the March 18, 2007 edition of the Sunday Life, the defendant published an article which contained totally unfounded allegations of the most serious nature regarding the plaintiff.

"The defendant unreservedly accepts that the plaintiff was not guilty of any such offence and categorically withdraws any such inferences."

The statement added: "The defendant sincerely apologises to the plaintiff and his family for the publication of these false allegations which the defendant fully accepts are entirely without any foundation whatsoever.

"The defendant has agreed to pay substantial damages to the plaintiff and his legal costs."

Mr McCarthy's lawyer said his client was satisfied with "the total vindication of his reputation".

Paul Tweed, senior partner with Johnsons Solicitors, said: "The offending article, based on fabricated allegations appearing on gable wall graffiti, should never have been published in the first place, casting as it did an outrageous and totally unjustified slur on Pat McCarthy's character.

"While it is disappointing that it has taken so long for the record to be set straight, my client now wishes to put this matter behind him and get on with his life."