Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Agent receives damages over drug claims

McGartland 'horrified' at allegations

AN author who once worked undercover for the security forces in Northern Ireland has accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages over a claim that he had links with the criminal underworld on the mainland.

AN author who once worked undercover for the security forces in Northern Ireland has accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages over a claim that he had links with the criminal underworld on the mainland.

Martin McGartland was credited with saving the lives of more than 50 people during the time he infiltrated the Provisional IRA between 1987 and 1991, when his cover was blown.

Fearing IRA reprisals, he fled to England where he lived under assumed names in and around Newcastle and north east England, his solicitor advocate, Paul Fox, told Mr Justice Gray at the High Court in London yesterday.

Over time, he added, Mr McGartland became a respected and credible commentator on Northern Ireland affairs, published two best-selling books about his life and contributed hundreds of articles to national newspapers.

But Mr McGartland remained in constant fear of the IRA and had still not recovered from an assassination attempt, on June 17 1999, when he was shot six times at his home in Whitley Bay, Newcastle.

Mr Fox said that the Evening Standard and its "This is London" web site reported the shooting later that day and stated that it may have been related to links between Mr McGartland and feuding drug gangs on North Tyneside.

The following day, the Daily Mail also reported the shooting and stated that Mr McGartland had links with the local criminal underworld.

Mr Fox said that Mr McGartland was horrified by this "wholly untrue" allegation which struck at the very core of his personal reputation at a time when he was fighting for his life.

Mr McGartland survived to find that his carefully nurtured professional reputation was severely damaged.

Rebecca Jackson, for Associated Newspapers Limited, said that they acknowledged that there was no truth whatsoever in the allegation that Mr McGartland was involved with criminal or drug dealing gangs and they unequivocally apologised to him.

They had agreed to pay him substantial damages and his legal costs.

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