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Ian Paisley jnr's libel bill can be paid with public money

 Ian Pailsey jnr was sued over comments he made during a radio broadcast
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP's Ian Paisley jnr won't need to personally pay a libel settlement because of an insurance policy funded by the public purse.

A financial settlement was reached after the North Antrim MP was sued by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson over comments he made on radio.

But it has emerged Mr Paisley may not have to foot the bill – because public money is used to protect MPs from defamation claims.

Westminster uses taxpayers money to fund an indemnity policy that covers MPs for libel.

Last night the DUP refused to say whether Mr Paisley would avail of the publicly-funded insurance scheme to cover the libel settlement.

The Irish News previously revealed that a similar insurance policy at Stormont costing taxpayers £33,700 annually was used to provide cover for a libel action against DUP MLA Paul Givan.

He was left with an estimated £50,000 damages bill in 2013 after being sued by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan over comments he made during a live UTV interview.

The Welsh assembly also insures its politicians for libel, but both the Oireachtas in the Republic and the Scottish parliament do not provide such taxpayer-funded protection.

Martina Anderson brought defamation proceedings against Mr Paisley after they took part in a radio interview last year about the closure of Gallahers cigarette factory in Co Antrim.

Hundreds of job losses had just been announced at the Ballymena plant, which was one of the biggest employers in Mr Paisley's constituency.

The case was due to be heard at Belfast's High Court, but the judge was told on Monday that the dispute had been settled.

A donation to the Pink Ladies cancer charity in Derry is to be made on behalf of Mr Paisley as part of the agreement.

No details of the libel dispute were disclosed in court and neither Mr Paisley nor Ms Anderson attended the hearing.

But the Sinn Féin MEP's solicitor, Padraig Ó Muirigh, said: "The claim was settled in Martina Anderson's favour.

"Costs are being paid by the defendant to include a payment to the Pink Ladies cancer charity in Derry."

Ms Anderson's solicitor told The Irish News the terms of the libel settlement do not prevent it being paid using the Westminster insurance policy covering MPs.

The House of Commons confirmed that an insurance policy covers MPs for libel claims, but refused to say how much it costs or whether it would cover Mr Paisley's case.

In a statement a spokeswoman said: "The House of Commons has a joint policy that covers employer liability, public liability, and professional indemnity (which includes defamation). MPs are covered only for activities that are undertaken in pursuit of their parliamentary activities."

The DUP and Mr Paisley last night did not respond to requests for a comment.

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