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Developer Kearney picking soft target by suing ex-MLA McKay, says Bryson

By Suzanne Breen

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has claimed that a leading property developer who is suing former Sinn Fein politician Daithi McKay is "picking on a soft target" and has "chickened out" of suing him.

Mr Bryson was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph yesterday exclusively revealed that businessman Paddy Kearney was suing the ex-MLA for allegedly unlawfully conspiring with the loyalist against him. In the landmark legal action, Mr Kearney is accusing Mr McKay of damaging his reputation and causing him financial loss.

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The writ has been forwarded to lawyers acting for the former politician, who just last week announced that he had resigned from Sinn Fein.

He stood down as an MLA in August amid allegations that he had set up a back channel on Twitter to "coach" Mr Bryson shortly before the loyalist gave evidence to the Nama inquiry of Stormont's finance committee, which the Sinn Fein man chaired.

Mr McKay has declined to comment on the writ.

However, last night Mr Bryson said: "At heart, this legal action has nothing to do with Daithi McKay.

"Rather, it is an attempt to force me to expose my sources.

"By suing Daithi McKay, Mr Kearney's lawyers will then try to have me brought before the court.

"There will be an attempt to compel me to give evidence as a witness.

"If they sued me directly - as the defendant - I would have the right not to give evidence.

"So they are litigating their way around the core issue."

Mr Bryson described the writ against Mr McKay as a legal means "to put me in the witness box and compel me to reveal my sources".

He added: "They have chickened out of suing me directly and are instead pursuing a soft target in Daithi McKay.

"But my message to them is defiant.

"Whatever happens, I will never reveal my sources."

Mr Bryson said that he would cite "journalistic privilege" in court.

"There is relevant case law on the matter under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights," he said.

"They will claim that I am not covered by journalistic privilege. But it doesn't matter what is said or done because I will go to jail before I name my sources."

Mr Bryson claimed that he was unperturbed by any possible legal action.

"I challenge them to step onto the battlefield.

"If they want a courtroom war, I am well ready for one," he declared.

In the writ, which was lodged in Belfast High Court on Tuesday evening, Mr Kearney claims that though "unlawful conspiracy" and "acts of targeted malice" against him, Mr McKay is "guilty of misfeasance in public office".

It alleges that Mr McKay "unlawfully conspired" with Mr Bryson by "emails, texts and social media messages" to manipulate the finance committee so that the loyalist's evidence could be heard in open session.

It also alleges that he damaged Mr Kearney's personal and business reputation through the "publication of libels and malicious falsehoods and through the provision of false evidence to the committee of Jamie Bryson" in September 2015.

Mr Kearney (62) is a former joiner from west Belfast who became one of Northern Ireland's leading property developers.

Mr Bryson alleged that Peter Robinson exerted undue influence to secure a favourable "sweetheart deal" for him when he moved to refinance his Nama-controlled loans after they were bought by US investment fund Cerberus.

But the property developer rejected these allegations as "unfounded" and "scurrilous".

Mr Kearney insisted that all his dealings had been totally transparent.

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