Northern Ireland

Sorcha Eastwood gets pay-out over 'IRA mouthpiece' tweet

sorcha eastwood Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The remark was made on social media about Sorcha Eastwood

An Alliance Party councillor is to receive a substantial five-figure sum from a former DUP representative for falsely accusing her of being a "mouthpiece for the Provisional IRA".

Graham Craig also issued an unreserved apology to Sorcha Eastwood, the High Court was told on Thursday.

He accepted that his comments on social media were completely unfounded and compromised her security.

Ms Eastwood sued over the contents of a tweet by Mr Craig in August 2018.

The pay-out, which covers damages and legal costs, was confirmed as part of a settlement reached in her libel action.

The tweet was published shortly after Ms Eastwood, who serves on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, spoke at a rally supporting families of those killed in Ballymurphy in 1971.

Mr Craig, a DUP councillor in Belfast at the time, later deleted it and posted an apology for remarks he accepted were untrue.

The case was listed for a hearing to deal with the issue of damages.

Following discussions, the judge was told the action had been resolved, with a statement read out on behalf of Mr Craig.

It said: "On 13 August 2018 Graham Craig published a tweet about Sorcha Eastwood by which he sought to link Ms Eastwood to paramilitarism.

"The tweet was completely without foundation and was published without any regard for Ms Eastwood's reputation, feelings or her personal security.

"Graham Craig accepts that he should never have published this tweet and unreservedly apologises to her for damaging her reputation, injuring her feelings and compromising her security."

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Mr Craig said he now accepted the allegation was "untrue"

Mr Craig's apology on social media a month later was "inadequate", the court heard.

"He accepts that he ought to have made it clearer to his followers and readers that the apology referred to Ms Eastwood and he also ought to have put her on notice of the fact that he was publishing the apology," the statement said.

"He accepts that the manner by which the apology was published caused further unnecessary distress and upset to Ms Eastwood for which he now apologises unreservedly."

It added: "In recognition of his conduct and the damage to her reputation, Mr Craig has agreed to pay Sorcha Eastwood a substantial five-figure sum by way of damages and legal costs in respect of this matter."

Ms Eastwood, who also stood for Alliance in the Lagan Valley constituency in last year's general election, welcomed the outcome.

Outside court she said: "I'm relieved that this matter has been resolved and that I have now received a fulsome and comprehensive apology.

"This totally unfounded allegation caused me enormous distress and upset, and I'm pleased that my reputation has now been vindicated and the record set straight."