Northern Ireland

Libel case taken by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly struck out

Ruth Dudley Edwards the second journalist to have libel action struck after Malachi O’Doherty case thrown out earlier this year

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the families of Kingsmill victims are entitled to truth and justice
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly (Liam McBurney/PA)

A second journalist sued by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly for claiming he shot a prison officer has vowed not to be silenced after the libel action was ended.

Commentator Ruth Dudley Edwards reported on Thursday on X that a libel case taken against her by the prominent republican would no longer be proceeding.

The North Belfast MLA filed the claim against Ms Dudley Edwards after she wrote he shot a prison officer during the 1983 Maze escape of 38 IRA prisoners.

“My solicitor tells me that Gerry Kelly’s libel case against me for saying that he shot a prison officer in the head has now been struck out and he has paid all my legal costs,” Ms Dudley Edwards said in a social media post.

Ruth Dudley Edwards comes to Belfast for two events on March 16 and 18
Ruth Dudley Edwards comes to Belfast for two events on March 16 and 18

Mr Kelly and Sinn Féin were contacted for comment.

Following confirmation of the outcome on Friday she pledged to continue speaking out.

“I will never give in… I care very passionately about free speech,” she insisted.

Earlier this year a separate libel action Mr Kelly took against writer and journalist Malachi O’Doherty was thrown out at the High Court in Belfast.

A judge declared that case to be “scandalous, frivolous, and vexatious” and ordered the Sinn Féin politician to foot the legal bill for the case.

Although proceedings against Ms Dudley Edwards initially continued, it was confirmed on Friday that a settlement has been reached.

A final order was made on terms agreed between the parties without any written judgment.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly and journalist Malachi O'Doherty
Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly (left) and journalist Malachi O'Doherty

Mr Kelly was also ordered to pay costs.

The case related to two radio interviews during which Mr O’Doherty stated Mr Kelly shot a prison officer during the escape from the Maze prison in 1983.

The North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA was one of the IRA inmates who escaped from the prison. Prison officer John Adams was shot in the head, but survived.

Master Evan Bell, in his judgment in the case taken by Mr Kelly against Mr O’Doherty, suggested the North Belfast MLA could still be prosecuted over the shooting of the prison officer.

“Since the amendment of the law on double jeopardy, where an author has been tried and acquitted of criminal offences, and his criminal memoir contains material which amounts to new and compelling evidence against him, he may expose himself to re-prosecution for that offence,” Judge Bell said.

General View of Laganside Court in Belfast.
MLA Gerry Kelly took two libel actions PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

In his judgment in the O’Doherty case, Judge Bell referred to SLAPPs, legal actions designed to silence or intimate individuals.

“In my view, where a court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a defamation action amounts to a SLAPP, then an award of costs to the defendant on an indemnity basis is an inevitable consequence as a demonstration of the court’s repudiation of the way in which a plaintiff has abused the processes of the court,” he said.

“I therefore award Dr O’Doherty both the costs of this application and the costs of the action on an indemnity basis.”