Former DUP MLA apologises over defamatory posts about journalist

Nelson McCausland to make donation to charity as part of settlement with Allison Morris

 Nelson McCausland addresses the DUP annual conference in 2011.  File Photograph Paul Faith/PA Wire

Nelson McCausland addresses the DUP annual conference in 2011. File Photograph Paul Faith/PA Wire

 

A former Democratic Unionist Party MLA has issued a High Court apology for false and “seriously defamatory” online postings on Facebook and on his blog about a Belfast journalist.

Nelson McCausland is also to make a donation to charity as part of the settlement reached in a libel action brought against him by Allison Morris, security correspondent with the Irish News.

Morris said she hoped the outcome will help to deter online abuse targeting women in the media. She sued the ex-politician over comments about her which appeared on his online blog three years ago.

Although Mr McCausland, a former minister for social development, did not personally make the postings on his blog, proceedings were issued against him as the site’s operator. The claim also centred on a link put up on his Facebook page.

A settlement was announced on Monday ahead of a planned libel trial at the High Court in Belfast.

Under the terms of the resolution a statement was read out on behalf of Mr McCausland, who served as a DUP MLA for North Belfast for 14 years.

Counsel told the court: “In April and May of 2016, articles were posted on the defendant’s Facebook page and a blog maintained by him which were seriously defamatory of the plaintiff.

“These posts alleged that the plaintiff had been guilty of inappropriate conduct of both a personal and professional nature.”

The statement continued: “Whilst the defendant did not post these articles, he did provide a link to one of them on his Facebook page.

“He accepts that there was no truth in any of the allegations and imputations contained in them, and regrets that they were ever posted.

“Accordingly, the defendant apologises unreservedly to the plaintiff for the fact that such articles were posted on his Facebook page and blog and, as a mark of his respect, shall be making an agreed donation to a mutually agreed charity.”

Mr McCausland was not present in court for the outcome.

But Morris said outside: “I welcome this apology and would hope that it sends out a very strong message that women in the media or in any other public role are not open season for online abuse of a misogynistic nature.”