Northern Ireland

Phil Flanagan: Former Sinn Féin MLA 'cannot pay' damages over Tom Elliott tweet

Image caption Former MLA Phil Flanagan said his priority was to find a job to provide for his family

A former Sinn Féin MLA who was ordered to pay more than £50,000 damages for posting a defamatory tweet about Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott says he does not have the money to pay up.

Phil Flanagan, who lost his seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone last week, ruled out asking Sinn Féin to help out.

He said it would be "unfair" to ask the party for assistance.

Mr Flanagan added that his priority now is to find a job to provide for his wife and two children.

"I think it would be unfair to ask Sinn Féin to cover the cost of the case because, at the end of the day, if it is £57,000, that would be like me asking Sinn Féin to cut two members of staff to cover for something daft I said about Tom Elliott on Twitter," he said.

When asked if he was worried about having to pay the money, he said: "It is something which is always in the back of mind but I don't think I am overly worried about it, because at the end of the day I don't have the money to pay him.

"So I am not going to lose too much sleep over it."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption MP Tom Eliott won damages from Phil Flanagan over the tweet

He posted the tweet about Mr Elliott after the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP appeared on a BBC radio programme in May 2014.

The tweet was taken down from Mr Flanagan's Twitter account within an hour of being posted.

However, Mr Elliott said, that despite the tweet being removed, it remained accessible on the internet.

A judge ruled that Mr Flanagan's tweet was grossly defamatory and he was ordered to pay damages and apologise to Mr Elliott.

A High Court judge has put a stay on Mr Flanagan having to pay any money until he resolves his legal action with insurers used by assembly members.

The insurance company has refused to indemnify Mr Flanagan.

The View will have more on this story on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22:45 BST on Thursday, 12 May.

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