Sinn Féin suing SDLP over McCartney murder claims?

As the McCartney family’s campaign continues, today they’re travelling to Brussels to meet with European Parliament President, Josep Borrell and other MEPs, it appears that the first court action taken in relation to the murder will not be a criminal case, nor a civil action against those the family have claimed are reponsible – instead, according to the SDLP website, there has been a writ issued by SF’s Alex Maskey against the SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell.

  • Just Wondering

    Within 24 hours I was aware of what happened that night. A quote from Alaisdair Mc Donnell. I was just wondering has he given a statement or information to the PSNI.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I recall Pat in a different context asking me how long it took to get out a libel writ. I make that seven days.

  • Rumpole

    Jeepers – Sinn Fein relying on British justice to dig them out of a hole! Still, if I were Maskey, I wouldn’t be too keen to be trailing these issues into open court!

  • Davros

    Splendid – I can think of no better admission that there’s something nasty in the proverbial woodshed. Sinn Féin big-wigs really are losing the plot. They should remember what happened to Oscar Wilde when he sued the Marquess. Or are they looking for an excuse to retreat from the GFA ?

  • Gonzo

    Never mind Alex Maskey’s election agents, it looks like Maskey is McDonnell’s new press secretary.

    Alasdair couldn’t buy that kind of press normally.

  • PatMcLarnon

    ‘I recall Pat in a different context asking me how long it took to get out a libel writ. I make that seven days.’

    Surprisingly quick jimmy, take it you have heard nothing new from DI.

  • NewYorker

    Does anyone dispute the facts in Alasdair McDonnell’s statement? They are very serious, especially for those running for office.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Afraid not Pat. I’ll post the moment I hear from them.

  • fair_deal

    A rather pathetic attempt to try and shut McDonnell up during the election campaign.

    At this stage it certainly looks like another media own goal by republicans. They really have lost their touch.

  • Gonzo

    What exactly IS the libel? Seriously…

  • crat

    Can anyone find the article or statement that caused offence?

  • Jimmy Sands

    I’m assuming it was the statement he made on 29th March which triggered it. Broadly speaking he said the same then as he says now. Maskey, if this story is right, presumably objects to being personally linked to te cover-up. Nothing however as far as I know from either SF or Maskey. Curious.

  • peteb

    Presumably, Jimmy, that would be the statement reported in the Belfast Telegraph here

    ..and, fortunately, cached by Google here

  • Jimmy Sands

    Something seems odd about this. It would obviously be a very stupid thing for Maskey to do. No other news outlet seems to have picked this up, nor is there anything on the sf site. I’m a little suspicious that Maskey may have merely made a vague DI-style threat and McDonnell is now pulling his chain.

    Just a theory.

  • peteb


    Stupid? Maybe.. there have been other suggested reasons in this thread. On the no other news outlet.. the SDLP press release seems to have only been published today.. and the SF website hasn’t been updated since Sunday.

    and Alasdair McDonnell and the SDLP are stating quite clearly that a writ was issued against them by Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey.. that sounds like more has happened than a ‘DI-style threat’.

  • aquifer

    I would be amazed if a writ sees the light of day.
    Maskeys mayoral kudos could end up crushed, damaging the whole SF political project.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but he says “issued” rather than “served”, which may imply he hasn’t seen it.

    Of course an enterprising journo could simply check the registry….

  • bigwhitedove

    I hope big Alaisdair knows his electoral law?
    note the bit about the law applying BEFORE AN ELECTION IS CALLED

    False statements
    8.19 It is an offence under electoral law to make or publish a false statement of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate in order to affect the
    return of any candidate an election.45 Note that this restriction applies both before and during an election period, but is subject to the definition of a candidate, as
    explained in section 5, ‘Getting nominated’. It is also an offence to make a false
    statement of a candidate’s withdrawal.

    8.20 The potential consequences of a breach of this requirement are serious. If you
    or your agent breach the requirement you may be found guilty of an illegal practice,
    and the election may be invalidated.46 Any other person found guilty of breaching the
    requirement may be fined up to £5,000.

  • Alan McDonald

    Wow. Good thing we don’t have any laws like that here in the USA. Nothing would be said during an election campaign.

    NOTE: in the USA, election campaigns run 24/7/365 (366 in Leap years).

  • Jimmy Sands


    Presumably no-one is technically a candidate until formal adoption which I assume has not yet happened.

  • bigwhitedove

    how I would hate to make you weep but not so !
    both candidates were announced by their parties in 2004, and anyway the SDLP have repeated their assertions about Maskey on Official Election Literature put through my door tonight, WOOPS
    Is electoral law dispensed by a British court or the Electoral Office?

  • Jimmy Sands

    There is a difference I think you’ll find between selection and formal adoption. The latter is normally done as late as possible so as to minimise the effect of spending limits. SFAIK no-one is a candidate until formally adopted.

    The leaflets of course may be a different matter. Do they contain any false assertions?

  • bigwhitedove

    Jimmy a chara,

    I would check the law re formal adoption, I think it is as long as the knoweledge is in the public domain, to prevent slander and then withdrawal etc

    The leaflets very specifically accuse Maskey of perverting the course of justice and obstructing a police investigation, but heres the rub
    Its an Alex Atwood election leaflet which has Mark Durkan quoting Alisdair making these allegations

    SF should go for the HAT TRICK ( not to metion the agents responsibility)

  • Jimmy Sands

    So then it all boils down to the word “false”?

    Has Maskey said anything about this yet?

  • PS

    Obviously Mr. McDonnell has worked out that it isn’t just Carmel Hanna that he has to fight elections against. I wonder has the good doctor worked out if health is a priority yet?

  • mark


  • bigwhitedove

    Your right on the button Jimmy

    to specifically accuse a candidate of committing two offences, without being charged or convicted seems to me to be FALSE

    If the PSNI had this info on Maskey they would have charged him already!!

    Maybe Carmel will get her day in the sun yet!

  • Jimmy Sands

    It seems to me that an allegation is not necessarily false merely because no charges have been brought. Nevertheless, if these allegations are false as you say no doubt Mr. Maskey will pursue the matter.

  • bigwhitedove


    Hence the writ

  • Gonzo

    I read the Belfast Tele story that was linked to above, and could find no libel in it – the allegations are about Sinn Fein (only an individual can sue for libel) and the parts that name Maskey merely ask questions.

    Haven’t seen the leaflets, so can’t comment.

    However, I see a couple of posters still seem to think that ‘the truth’ has something to do with defamation… *sigh* …and after all my work trying to explain that the ‘truth’ of what happened is usually the last line of defence in libel – literally.

  • Jimmy Sands

    SF site now updated. No mention of this writ.

  • peteb

    I wonder what prompted the late night update of the Sinn Féin website, Jimmy?

  • fair_deal

    My legal knowledge is limited but a mate of mine wanted to sue for libel but his solicitor said forget it as he has a criminal conviction i.e. he lacked a good name and reputation to be damaged.

    If memory serves me right does Alex not have a conviction?

    (The answer to this is pro bono 😉 )

  • Jimmy Sands

    It would certainly be a factor, but not an absolute bar. The puzzle here is that an election candidate claims he is being sued for libel by another. This is news by any definition, particularly as the campaign is now officially underway. Nevertheless, according to google this is the only outlet covering the story, and the man allegedly libelled doesn’t appear to have said a word on the subject, nor has his party. As I sugested earlier, I assume at least one news organisation would have taken the obvious step of searching the registry as a writ is a public document. Curious.

  • fair_deal


    “I assume at least one news organisation would have taken the obvious step of searching the registry as a writ is a public document. Curious.”

    Your assumptions would not be my experience of the level of cross-checking or work rate from most of our local journalists.

  • Jimmy Sands

    It’s fair to say it’s a bugbear of mine.

  • Henry94

    Is it a libel to falsely claim that someone is suing you for libel?

    And would a subsequent action undermine itself?

  • Harboy

    No. It’s not just individuals who may sue for libel as corporations may bring an action in defamation (though such a claim cannot include aggravated damages).

    The “McLibel” action brought by McDonald’s would probably be the best known example.

    However, as I understand it Trade Unions are barred from bringing defamation actions so possibly politocal parties are too.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    Under the “innocent until proven guilty” theory, wouldn’t Maskey have to prove that he/SF weren’t involved to prove that libel had been committed?

  • Jimmy Sands


    Probably not. It’s hardly defamatory to accuse someone of suing you. Still nothing on any news outlet, or from either SF or Maskey (although obviously they have other news management considerations today). Bizarre.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Update: Irish Echo is the first paper to pick up on it, but no indication they have any source other than the SDLP siteIrish Echo is the first paper to pick up on it, but no indication they have any source other than the SDLP site.