Northern Ireland

Phil Flanagan must pay damages to Tom Elliott over tweet

Phil Flanagan
Image caption Phil Flanagan must tweet an apology and pay compensation after the High Court ruling

A Sinn Féin MLA has agreed to apologise and pay compensation to a former Ulster Unionist leader over a defamatory message posted on Twitter.

The Fermanagh MLA Phil Flanagan tweeted after Tom Elliott appeared on a BBC radio programme in May 2014.

On Friday, the High Court was told the tweet read "Tom Elliott speaks to Steven Nolan about past.

"I wonder if he will reveal how many people he harassed and shot as a member of the UDR."

Mr Elliott served in the UDR for 10 years, between 1982 and 1992. He is now the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The High Court heard that he has a clear MoD record.

The court was told that Mr Elliott was alerted to the tweet by the victims campaigner Ann Travers and by DUP assembly member Arlene Foster, who is to become Northern Ireland first minister on Monday.

The tweet was deleted by Mr Flanagan within an hour of being posted.

Mr Flanagan has since tweeted the apology: "On May 1st 2014 I posted a tweet alleging that Tom Elliott was responsible for harassing and shooting people during his service with the UDR.

"I now accept this was untrue and wholly without foundation and I apologise for all offence caused."

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Tom Elliott served in the UDR for 10 years, between 1982 and 1992

Mr Justice Stevens has reserved judgement on the amount of compensation.

The court was also told that the insurance firm which indemnifies MLAs at Stormont, has refused to cover Mr Flanagan in respect of any compensation and costs in this case.

The Sinn Féin MLA is challenging that decision in a separate court action.

In a statement, Mr Elliott said: "I have been totally vindicated and Phil Flanagan has admitted that the comments he made were totally untrue. I am very disappointed that it has taken so long to get to this stage.

"This could have been resolved 19 months ago, but unfortunately I was forced to go down this route. Despite that, I am delighted with the result."

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