Radio Ulster host takes legal action over comments made on Twitter
This is the former Silicon Valley businesswoman being sued by BBC star Stephen Nolan over allegedly defamatory remarks made on Twitter.
Ex-Queen’s and Stanford University student Diane Roberts (55) is a director of the Newry-based business consultancy XPinnovates, which she runs with her husband.
She is being taken to court by the BBC Radio Ulster presenter over comments she made on Twitter, accusing the presenter of inciting violence.
In a Twitter post on April 6 last year, Mrs Roberts said: “I rarely comment on politics and I have met Stephen Nolan in his support of start-ups, and we had a great connection.”
She then made claims about his contribution to “NI political voice”, adding the hashtags “#suemetoo #bbcni”.
Mrs Roberts did not respond to a request for comment from Sunday Life, but her solicitor Darragh Mackin said: “We can confirm we have been instructed to defend the proceedings issued by Mr Nolan.
“As these proceedings await trial, it would be inappropriate to comment on the proceedings at this time.”
Mrs Roberts runs her business consultancy company alongside husband Mark Roberts, with the pair listed as partners in the firm on their website.
The consultancy works with businesses, particularly start-ups, to maximise their potential through mentoring and advice.
Mrs Roberts is described on the company website as a “growth strategy consultant with proven expertise in start-up development, scaling businesses, building international growth plans, and acquiring funding.”
Her biography continues: “Diane Roberts spent her early career in international technology sales and marketing roles and brings over 25 years’ rich industry experience [of] developing new business in the UK, USA, Europe and Asia Pacific.
“From 2002 to 2007, Diane lived and worked in Silicon Valley, where she was the west coast director and the manager of Enterprise Ireland’s US Software and Services team.
“During this time she developed a strong network of contacts and an up-close understanding of some of the world’s leading technology companies and the approach of the world’s largest venture capital community.
“Since its establishment in 2007, Diane has led XPinnovates to become one of the most successful new business venture consultancy and advisory companies in Ireland.
“As a seasoned business mentor, Diane has been a highly respected advisor and senior executive coach to hundreds of start-up firms.”
According to the company website, she was the inaugural national director for the Halo Business Angel Network, Ireland’s angel investment network, from 2009 to 2012.
She also held the role of programme director for the Invest NI Propel scheme between 2009 and 2016, where she “oversaw development of over 100 companies, gaining equity funding in excess of £15m and the creation of over 500 jobs (and counting)”.
As well as this, Mrs Roberts has been a resident mentor on the Enterprise Ireland International Selling Programme for the past 10 years. She also holds a BA in Business Studies and a MA in Modern History from Queen’s University Belfast, as well as having attended the leadership for growth programme at Stanford University in California.
Mr Nolan and his representatives did not respond to requests for comment from this newspaper about his libel action against Mrs Roberts.
In November last year, Sunday Life revealed the star was suing a Sinn Fein-supporting businessman who accused him online of “promoting hatred, violence and bigotry”.
The BBC broadcaster, who received a six-figure settlement from a troll earlier the same year, lodged High Court papers in Dublin naming auctioneer and off-licence owner Eddie Barrett in a libel action.
Through it, he is seeking substantial damages from the 60-year-old Kerry republican over a series of claims he made about him on social media.
These include posts alleging the Radio Ulster star of being a “hate vendor”, a “bigoted hatred spreader” and accusing him of “promoting loyalist terrorism” on air.
Libel and media lawyer Paul Tweed, who is representing the TV and radio host, said of the case last year: “I can confirm proceedings have been lodged with the court, but because the matter is active, I cannot say anything further.”
In another interview, he added: “Tracking down anonymous individuals on social media remains a challenge.
“If we are unable to locate the user by utilising our own investigations or the client’s knowledge, we normally have to apply to the court... as social media giants will normally not reveal the identity of the offenders without a court order.”
In an interview with the Sunday Times about trolls, Stephen Nolan said: “I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to be this rich guy going after people, but I’m as vulnerable as anyone else.
“Rather than buy a new car, I will spend my money going after somebody who has set out to destroy me.”
When pressed by this newspaper previously about whether he thought he had libelled the presenter, Sinn Fein activist Mr Barrett said: “I have never did so and I deeply resent the inference that I ever would.”
Mr Barrett’s comments came after Mr Nolan took £100,000 in damages from a Twitter troll who made a series of false claims.
The man behind the account is a former government advisor who used the anonymous handle ‘Pastor Jimberoo’ and ‘Pastor Jimberoo’s Ghost’ to harass the BBC presenter.
After receiving the six-figure payout, he agreed with a request not to reveal his tormentor’s identity, saying it showed that he was “the bigger man”. The defamatory ‘Pastor Jimberoo’ tweets included falsely linking the journalist to loyalist paramilitaries and accusing him of inciting trouble on the streets, racism and homophobia.
Stephen Nolan, who earns a salary of more than £405,000 per year at the BBC, said the troll was out to destroy him.