Sinn Féin's Ciaran Beattie awarded 'substantial damages' after UUP councillor's Facebook post

West Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Ciaran Beattie has been awarded "substantial damages" and an apology at a council meeting after a Facebook post by UUP councillor Chris McGimpsey
John Monaghan

A SINN Féin councillor has been awarded "substantial damages" and an apology at a meeting of Belfast City Council following a Facebook post by a fellow councillor.

Ulster Unionist Chris McGimpsey told the council chamber: "I would like to apologise to councillor (Ciaran) Beattie for the contents of a post I published on Facebook. I wish to retract the comments I published in their entirety and have agreed to pay compensation."

Mr Beattie, a Sinn Féin councillor in west Belfast, lost his left hand after being accidentally caught up in an explosion during the Troubles.

It is understood the post by Mr McGimpsey, in November last year, referred to how Mr Beattie lost his left hand.

Just days before the comments were posted by Mr McGimpsey, Sinn Féin said it was reporting another Ulster Unionist councillor, David Browne, to the Local Government Ombudsman after allegations that he called Mr Beattie a "one armed bandit" during a council meeting.

John Finucane, of Finucane Toner Solicitors, which represented Mr Beattie, said the case arose out of an "offensive and inaccurate" Facebook post.

"The defamatory post was false and unfounded. Legal proceedings were initiated immediately.

"His (councillor McGimpsey's) public apology is welcomed and confirms that his comments were inaccurate and have been retracted in full.

"In recognition of the gravity and seriousness of the original comments, councillor McGimpsey has agreed to pay substantial damages to my client and with (the) apology Mr Beattie considers this the end of the matter," added Mr Finucane.

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