Slugger O'Toole

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Why did Sinn Fein feel compelled to invent ‘malicious’ untruths about Declan Gormley?

Mon 17 December 2012, 11:43am

This morning in the High Court, both Sinn Fein’s and Declan Gormley’s counsels will be making their cases on the figure in damages to be reached by the jury in Sinn Fein malicious libel trial. We should have a figure to run with by lunchtime.

As Tom Kelly – rather prophetically – warned back in 2007 (long before Mr Gormley had even been appointed been appointed to Northern Ireland Water), Martin McGuinness’s promise to put manners on Civil Servants, was tantamount to threatening individual and employment rights:

Trampling on people’s rights is second nature to people who exiled others from their homes – or who refuse to provide vital information which could lead to the arrest of murderers or the location of the bodies of the disappeared but, if we genuinely are moving on, then the type of leadership we can expect needs to change too.

Conor Murphy, despite being responsible for running up the bulk of an £8 million bill in legal advice and claims, has still to apologise to the man he turned aside for chair of Northern Ireland Water on the grounds, according to the Eqaulity Commission, that he was Protestant.

And yet, in Mr Gormley’s case, being Catholic and from Derry was no defence against the wrath of the Minister, even though there has never been a shred of evidence that anyone on the Board of Northern Ireland Water had the least knowledge of the breaches at the heart of the sacking.

Far from putting manners on senior civil servants, Mr Murphy did not question the specious grounds (see Slugger’s timeline here and Sam McBride’s summary here) offered him by his then Permanent Secretary Paul Priestly, who was subsequently suspended and disciplined for serious misconduct.

Having had Murphy’s ‘mistake’ pointed out at the PAC meeting of July 2010, Mr Gormley made it clear to Mitchel McLoughlin, Sinn Fein’s senior member of the PAC, that all he wanted was a recognition that he was innocent and he would resume normal life with his reputation restored.

And that remained his position right up until the moment they went court three weeks ago. All of which begs a number of questions, not least: why did Sinn Fein not take the simple way out in what proved in the end to be an utterly unanswerable case?

Insteat they went on the attack. But when it came to throwing material at Mr Gormley they encountered a major problem. Despite having sacked him, there was absolutely no evidence that Mr Gormley personally (nor indeed any of the other three sacked members of the Board) had actually done anything wrong.

Far from putting manners on his own senior civil servants he took their word as well as those of some very well paid external consultants (two of them paid £1,100 a day, the third was a friend of the then NI Water CEO)

Even so, the report was so bland and uncritical of the board, that they had to be pressed several times before the Minister would move.

Even when his Permanent Secretary was removed from office (for the first time in the history of the NI Civil Service, and only the second time in the UK), Mr Murphy continued to protest that the independent review team , as Eamonn’s tweet of that time noted:

And yet, if that really was true, and the sacking of the Board was more than just a convenient way of grabbing headlines, then why did Sinn Fein and two of its then MLAs feel compelled to invent what the court has defined as malicious untruths about Mr Gormley?

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Comments (26)

  1. Pigeon Toes (profile) says:

    Sam Mc Bride has tweeted the damages to be at £80,000
    https://twitter.com/SJAMcBride

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  2. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I think that needs a separate note… I’ll wait for the detail, but thanks PT…

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  3. Skinner (profile) says:

    Is there a concise guide to the background to Mr Gormley’s sacking anywhere? There is a lot of assumed knowledge in the above (understandably)

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  4. Pigeon Toes (profile) says:

    @ Skinner http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/critical_pac_report_puts_pressure_on_murphy_1_2473361

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  5. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Two people emerge with credit out of this whole episode. Mr Gormley for having the cojones to take on the bunch of thugs collective that is the Sinn Fein leadership and you yourself, Mick, for keeping on this case and demonstrating a very high standard of investigative journalism which is so rare in this benighted hole.

    It’s like what John Hume said about the ‘republican movement’: if they can murder, maim, kidnap, extort, telling a few lies is no problem. This place is in the grip of totalitarians and,yes, fascists. Alabama and Mississippi in the thirties is the nearest equivalent.

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Skinner,

    We had problems with the site earlier… I wanted to see it with some back links, which I will try to do now. Actually, try this in the meantime

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  7. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Can I nominate two others?

    Both Sam McBride and Jamie Delargy. It was Jamie’s UTV programme that helped flush out Priestly (even as Murphy denied that his PS was up anything behind his back).

    It is extraordinary the extent to which other news outlets simply stepped back and allowed these matters go substantially unreported, which in turn had the effect of increasing the pressure on those of us who thought a Minister using his powers to single out individual citizens as political enemies was unacceptable behaviour.

    As for the wider NI Water story, it might take a book or a film to properly uncover what went on there.

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  8. son of sam (profile) says:

    Mick
    Why are you surprised at the nature of the Sinn Fein beast?The name of the party(ourselves alone) reflects that in all circumstances,the party comes first.If you have to libel an innocent person along the way,that tough.As I have mentioned in other posts,it would be very interesting to know who was really directing the strategy for Sinn Fein in the case.Did the legal team(solicitors and counsel)have control over the running of the matter or was the hard line imposed by Connolly House?Presumably in the nature of things we will hardly get straight answers any time soon.

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  9. GavBelfast (profile) says:

    To answer the thread’s main question: force of habit?

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  10. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I was not expressing surprise. I’m asking a serious question and one that requires some pretty serious answers.

    A government party targeting ordinary citizens as political enemies and then deliberately and determinedly inventing lies to try and destroy them is not only worrying, it ought to have broader consequences.

    But also, what strategic genius thought there would be a pay off to getting thumped in court?

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  11. OneNI (profile) says:

    It is worrying Mick that the hundred of thousands of pounds in costs and damages that they face appears not to have made them hesitate for a moment.
    They obviously have very deep pockets and perhaps this is the ‘win’ for them – they have demonstrated their willingness and financial ability to take on any legal fight regardless of how daft or doomed it is?
    How many people – especially in the media – will be intimidated by this potential prospect?

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  12. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Son of Sam

    ‘The name of the party (ourselves alone)…’

    Actually, that’s not what Sinn Féin means. You should not take your Irish language translations from British military intelligence.

    ‘…reflects that in all circumstances,the party comes first…’

    The concept of ‘sinn féin’ is much, much older than the parties that presently claim that name; indeed, it’s a concept which is adhered to by all parties of Irish nationalism, north and south, and owned by none of them – even the one that calls itself ‘Sinn Féin.’

    It does not mean ‘ourselves alone.’ That much-repeated mistranslation is British propaganda – a lie first told more than a century ago, and still blithely repeated to this day.

    If you want to know what it actually means, I suggest you read up a little.

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Billy/Son of,

    For the sake of not getting dragged off topic so early, try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinn_F%C3%A9in_(slogan)

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  14. Sean Og (profile) says:

    Sinn Fein will hardly appeal will they?

    Given how this has been handled to date I wouldn’t put it past them.

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  15. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    They’ve made no statement in that regard…

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  16. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    UTV have some additional info

    [Mr Gormley's barrister, David Dunlop] pointed out how damages were for the distressed suffered by his client, to repair the harm to his reputation and a form of vindication.

    Mr Dunlop added that Sinn Féin and the other defendants have not apologised.

    Instead there had been “a bull-headed, unreasonable and unjustified persistence in maintaining the party line” throughout the trial,” he said.

    In a statement Sinn Féin said they would “study this verdict in detail with our legal representatives and examine all options available to us going forward, including the possibility of appeal”.

    Yeah, well, let us know when you finally make that decision…

    In the meantime, there’s the small matter of the bill.

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  17. son of sam (profile) says:

    Perhaps Lionel Hutz can assist but would any potential appeal not have to be on a point of law.I’d be surprised if the learned High Court judge had erred in his interpretation of the law.

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  18. toaster (profile) says:

    Sinn Fein is an organisation aiming to reunite Ireland and end partition. Mr Gormley was detrimental to the strategy, ergo an enemy. Sinn Fein functions politically, so he was a political enemy. The leadership has nothing to apologise for, and I applaud its stance.

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  19. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    They could certainly argue the quantum, but since it was Sinn Fein who insisted on having a jury in the first place (despite warnings from the judge) that might only serve to advertise the lack commonsense in allowing the case get to open court.

    Still, at least we know they now discriminate against Catholics as well as Protestants…

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  20. Pigeon Toes (profile) says:

    “Mr Gormley was detrimental to the strategy, ergo an enemy”

    How?

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  21. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    ‘Toaster’ is a gutless troll. Don’t feed the trolls. If he/she is not a troll, he has a serious paranoia problem.

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  22. 241934 john brennan (profile) says:

    I feel sorry for Willie Clarke. AS a Sinn Fein public representative he rarely speaks at Council meetings and almost never at all in his stint as MLA in Stormont, which resulted in him being recently substituted ‘to concentrate on being a local councillor’.
    But Willie has form for plagiarism. But up until now he only suffered some embarrassment for that – mainly by DUP’s Jim Wells publically comparing Willie’s press statement s , issued under his own name, but using the exact same words as other SF councillors –and also Sinn Fein press releases. One example of this particularly referred to loyalist flags illegally flown on lampposts.
    Being lampooned by Jim Wells for being a gullible SF party servant is one thing – but being held personally to account for libel damages is another. Let’s hope that SF party HQ pay Willie’s fines and costs – and also go the extra mile by compensating this loyal servant for the abuse and misuse inflicted upon him by his lords and masters.

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  23. toaster (profile) says:

    @ SDLP Supporter:

    Sticks and stones may break my bones…

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  24. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    It’s the nature of Adamsism to smear and we’ve all heard some of the dirt they throw out about anyone not ‘towing their line’…

    “They have drink or drug problems…Mental health issues etc.”

    We’ve even heard the ‘Dissident Journalist’ line of McGuinness or their favourite one…”Anti-peace process”

    They’ve always been that way. If someone should leave the party, as sure as night follows day, the shit starts getting flung.

    For me the best one has to the shinners calling anyone a ‘Tout’.

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  25. son of sam (profile) says:

    Dixie Elliott
    I am led to believe that Declan Gorlmley is from Derry.Any views on how the Derry Journal (well known for its fervent support of Sinn Fein) will run the story?!! “Derry man libelled by Sinn Fein”—-Somehow,I don’t think so!

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  26. Pigeon Toes (profile) says:

    “Why did Sinn Fein feel compelled to invent ‘malicious’ untruths about Declan Gormley?”

    Perhaps because without Declan Gormley’s input the facts surrounding NIW and DRD would never have been known, and that “swift and decisive” action would still have been regarded as the work of the (ex) Minister working in the wider public interest…

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