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SF man 'can't pay' £50k libel damages to Tom Elliott after losing seat

By David Young

Published 13/05/2016

Tom Elliott sued Phil Flanagan (pictured) over a defamatory tweet
Tom Elliott sued Phil Flanagan (pictured) over a defamatory tweet
Tom Elliott (pictured) sued Phil Flanagan over a defamatory tweet

Former Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan could face further legal action after insisting he cannot pay the £50,000 libel damages a court ordered him to hand over to UUP MP Tom Elliott.

Mr Flanagan, who is unemployed after losing his Assembly seat in last week's election, also said he would not be asking Sinn Fein to help cover the penalty. Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's The View political programme last night, he explained: "It would probably be unfair to ask Sinn Fein to cover the costs.

"If it's only £50,000, that would be me asking Sinn Fein not to have two members of staff to cover me for something daft I said about Tom Elliott on Twitter.

"It's something that's always in the back of my mind, but I don't think I'm overly worried about it because I don't have the money to pay it. So I'm not going to lose too much sleep over it."

In February this year, a High Court judge in Belfast ordered Mr Flanagan to pay Mr Elliott almost £50,000 compensation for falsely implying he harassed and shot people while a member of the UDR. The post was seen by 167 of Mr Flanagan's followers before it was taken down.

During the hearing, Mr Justice Stephens said: "To state that a senior politician, who had been the leader of a party, was responsible for harassing and shooting people during his service with the UDR is a most serious libel."

The baseless allegation was aggravated by Mr Flanagan's failure to publish an apology until the former UUP leader took him to court, the judge decided.

Mr Elliott, who is the Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, brought court action against Mr Flanagan (left) over the contents of the tweet, which was sent by the former Sinn Fein MLA from the Stormont car park in May 2014.

Contacted by the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Elliott said: "This is a matter for my lawyers. Phil Flanagan showed total recklessness by not dealing with this matter properly. I'll now be referring the matter to my solicitors."

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