Sacked director wins libel case against SF

Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 00:00

A sacked non-executive director of Northern Ireland Water has won his Belfast High Court libel action against Sinn Féin.

Declan Gormley was defamed in two separate press releases issued by the party, a jury held yesterday. After their decision the judge rejected a further defence to the claim based on responsible journalism.

Mr Gormley will return to court next week to discover what level of damages he is to be awarded. Legal costs of the three-week trial are also expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The businessman, who was dismissed from the British government-owned company by former Sinn Féin regional development minister Conor Murphy, spoke of his relief at the outcome. He said: “I’m delighted. I feel the verdict has vindicated the position I have held throughout that this was something that was wrong.”

Mr Gormley was sacked along with three other nonexecutive directors from NI Water in March 2010. Mr Murphy removed them from the board following an independent review team investigation into the awarding of contracts.

Mr Gormley emphatically denies any wrongdoing. He issued libel proceedings against Sinn Féin and two of its representatives, MLA Cathal Boylan and former Assembly member Willie Clarke, over the contents of press releases. During a 10-day hearing at the High Court in Belfast, his legal team claimed they damaged his reputation and were reckless if not dishonest. Lawyers for Sinn Féin contended that neither statement contained any defamatory content.