Northern Ireland news

Nelson McCausland 'apologises unreservedly' to Irish News journalist Allison Morris

Former DUP assembly member Nelson McCausland served as a DUP MLA for North Belfast for 14 years.

A former DUP MLA has issued a High Court apology for false and "seriously defamatory" postings on his Facebook page and 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 The Irish News' Security Correspondent Allison Morris.

Ms 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 did not personally make the postings, 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 today 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 Ms 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."

She added: "I would like to thank my solicitor Laura Cunningham, my editor Noel Doran and Irish News managing director Dominic Fitzpatrick for their support during what was a very difficult and distressing time."

Ms Cunningham, a media lawyer with Johnsons Solicitors, said: "My client Allison Morris is very satisfied with the total vindication she has received following the comprehensive retraction and apology announced before the court this morning, together with the defendant's agreement to make a donation to a mutually agreed charity as a mark of his regret."

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