McQuillan to sue Durkan as hole gets deeper for the SDLP leader

The controversy over the now infamous ill-advised advert by the SDLP in the Irish News on Policing has taken a new twist as Alan McQuillan tonight announced his plans to sue the party leader, Mark Durkan.

The advert was taken out by the party on the day that Sinn Fein paid the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph newspapers to deliver a 4-page party supplement on the Policing issue. In response, the SDLP took out a full page advert in the Irish News. It is not known if the advert was a hastily prepared piece of work- which would fit in with the fact that Sinn Fein only publicly announced the party’s intention to carry the Policing supplement with the two main newspapers in the north of Ireland the day prior to their delivery (that being said, it is of course possible that someone within the Irish News informed the SDLP in good time of Sinn Fein’s intentions.)

However, the wording of the SDLP’s advert- signed by party leader, Mark Durkan- has provoked a considerable uproar within the Policing Board, with unionist parties and, naturally enough, with the two named individuals who had also applied for the PSNI Chief Constable post.

It’s difficult to see a way out of this one for the SDLP that doesn’t involve a humiliating public climbdown, given that, whatever the party’s intentions, the wording does appear to indicate that the party supported discriminating against individual applicants from a RUC background. Here’s the key parts of the advert:

“Against the wishes of Tony Blair and [former Northern secretary] John Reid we made sure the policing board showed [former RUC and later PSNI chief constable] Ronnie Flanagan the door,” wrote Mr Durkan.

“Against the wishes of Tony Blair and John Reid we ensured that the policing board appointed Hugh Orde – and not a policeman from the old RUC order.”

Like so much here, this controversy needs to be viewed from two different perspectives- not least because of the electoral significance of its outworkings for the SDLP.

It will hardly come as a surprise for me to point out that, taken on its own, the advert will not have caused the slightest annoyance to the SDLP’s electorate, nor in fact the broader nationalist community. To suggest that the SDLP was responsible for ensuring no RUC figure replaced Ronnie Flanagan at the helm of the PSNI is hardly an unpopular assertion. Furthermore, to incur the wrath of unionist politicians and the two former RUC figures who competed with Hugh Orde for the post will not cause many ripples within nationalism, due to the lingering hostility of the nationalist community to the RUC and all it stood for (from a nationalist perspective.)

However, the SDLP must be worried about how this issue is playing with the constituency of voters to which they have spent several years courting in their vain efforts to hold off the Sinn Fein advance: namely, the ‘middle ground’ voter (though I hate the term, I’ll use it for the purposes of clarity here.)

The SDLP have spent a considerable period of time attempting to woo Alliance/ Women’s Coalition voters to bolster their first preference vote, and they have also sought to galvanise support in the form of voting transfers from within unionism in their efforts to compete with Sinn Fein.

For this reason, the timing of this very public spat could not have been worse for the SDLP. For the party to pick a fight with unionism over the most sensitive issue within both communities does not augur well for their efforts to attract the transfers necessary in many constituencies to achieve their electoral ambitions in just a few weeks time.

  • gerry

    much ado about nuthin. the sdlp were perfectly right to highlight the fact that they stood up to the british governments pressure to appoint someone from within the ranks of the old ruc. they have made it perfectly clear that mcquillan had nothing to do with collusion, and no apology is necessary.
    this is a ploy by mcquillan to get himself a few extra shillings if he was ever to win this case, which he won’t he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. he is losing his job at the ARA and is looking for a few ruppees for his spell of dole, or possibly retirement.
    go away alan, we’re tired of the sight of you.

  • borden

    good to see Chris make political capital out of the SDlp for his Provo Sinn Fein electoral chances. Must be frustrating for him and all PSfers to see Durkan and the stoops get the limelight for standing up to the psni.

    Makes a difference from the provos and their constant cosying up to the crown forces recently.

    Republicans, my arse! Roll on the elections..worried Chris??

  • Sean

    Whats the difference if the SDLP blocked his appointment? If they did not want him then it is their job as a party to block him, its not like they ran the whole police board and if the other parties had of wanted him then surely he would have got the position.

    Its called politics boys and girls, get over it

  • Nestor

    I feel I may be in a minority but I am not convinced that Mr McQuillan has as strong a case as has been suggested in some quarters.
    Per se, the Patton Report acknowledged that the RUC was very far from an appropriate police service.
    The recent publication of the Ombudsman investigation into the activities of Haddock and Special Branch was further proof that elements of the RUC were indeed very corrupt.
    If those who were senior to them did not know that these activities were happening, then they may be classed as incompetent and not fit to lead the new PSNI.
    Mark Durkan should be proud and confident to pursue a defence of justification because if he cannot prove corruption, incompetence will be a breeze.

  • McGrath

    The only ploy here is McQuillen disassociating himself with the reasons why the SDLP did not what him appointed in the first place. In proceeding with legal action McQuillen thereby acknowledges that those reasons the SLPD based their objections on, actually existed.

  • Dougal

    I saw the advert and I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. It was factual and to the point. It was never personal; just political. The SDLP is in the business of making politics work. It is important that the Policing Board show an appreciation of the argument that it was the SDLP who actually defended the independence of the Board from political interference, (most notably by the British government)!

  • McGrath

    I feel I may be in a minority but I am not convinced that Mr McQuillan has as strong a case…..

    Posted by Nestor on Feb 07, 2007 @ 10:39 PM

    Indeed Mr McQuillen does have a very strong case, but not against the SLPD, if discrimination is the issue, he needs to sue those who were offering the job.

  • observer

    nice to see nationalist defend discrimination and job gerrymandering

  • Chris Donnelly

    Roll on the elections..worried Chris??


    Not in the slightest- but thanks for the laugh anyway!

  • Nestor

    An excellent point McGrath and it is Mr Durkan towards whom Mr McQuillan appears to be directing both his ire and his writ.
    I am sure under fair employment legislation he may have a wonderful case for discrimination.
    However I do not believe that he has a very good case for defamation because I believe that Mr Durkan founded his opposition to the appointment on principles which will be simple to prove.

  • SuperSoupy

    I don’t see how Borden can spin this as the SDLP standing up to the PSNI (ignoring the attack on the blogger). Their reaction to McQuillan, the PB and others calling for an apology has been incredibly weak.

    Constantly repeating ‘we never said anything’ rather than batting the ball back to a man with many questions directly levelled at him through the failings of leadership conclusions in the Ombudsman report seems more indicative of a party frightened to raise the big issues. The very issues McQuillan is using this pretext to disassociate himself from, something the SDLP limp wrested defence is assisting him with.

    Seems like back-pedalling in the face of a deflective challenge and certainly not hard ball.

  • Nestor

    I take the point Super but I do think that if I were a legal representative for Mr Durkan I would advise him that if he did not wish to retract the statement then he ought not to comment further in the light of the threat of a writ.

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    I agree with the point that this could benefit the SDLP in the elections, if they play it right.

    Few nationalists will not support Durkan in this and given the recent Ombudsman’s report showing how bad the police have behaved here will lose them any of their moderate voters either.

    This is the sort of controversy SF would reap electoral benefits from.

  • Opto

    …I thought nationalists always had a problem with the unionist veto….seems it’s ok when the other way round.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

    Our politicians like to think of themselves as Leaders….my arse!

  • Patrique

    Under employment law he is indeed going after the wrong people, the SDLP do not make the appointment, although nothing should surprise us here.

    As for defamation, Durkin would have a fairly easy defence, as Mr McQuillan as Ass Chief Constable had no idea what was going on in the force, and therefore could fairly be said to “belonging to the old RUC order”, who apparently didn’t know what was going on, even though everybody else did.


    A very predictable piece from CD. although more wishful thinking than analysis I suspect.

    It’s interesting how this faux fuss has driven the threat of SB officers naming provo agents off the agenda.

    I’m just saying.

  • Templeton

    Durkan’s in the right here and it’s good to see it. This time, I think the SDLP bashin’ by SF is wrong.

    It’s difficult to see a way out of this one for the SDLP..

    Et tu, Chris?

  • The crux of the province’s policing problem revealed:

    Yer cops don’t have necks.

  • knacker of garnerville

    Come on Alan – any fair minded interview panel would see candidate McQuillan was not “fit” for purpose – with his physique he would never now get past prelim screening for a constable position. At least Orde sets a good example with his marathon running. A problem of RUC was pomotion of deadweights from within – probably excused on basis of the undertood the “culture” though we whenever a light is shone on that we see why they were keen to keep in all in the family.

    A sad state of affairs all in.

  • observer

    SHOCKER – Nationalists engage in discrimination – who`d wouldve believed it!!

  • Sean


    how is it shocking that the SDLP refused to accept an incompetent candidate to lead an incompetent police force. Especially as he was to be expected to lead them into competence, maybe some day they will be competent

  • Billy

    While I have no time for Durkan and the advert was certainly ill-advised, McQuillan has little or no chance of winning a libel case against him.

    Libel laws in the UK favour the defendant.

    I saw a statement from McQuillan’s lawyer last week claiming that the advert linked his client with the collusion allegation etc.

    By no stretch of the imagination could this claim be upheld in court.

    Durkan and the SDLP can simply claim that they wanted a non RUC Chief Constable as another step of Patten’s new beginning – this is perfectly understandable.

    There is nothing in this advert that accuses anyone of anything. It simply says that the SDLP pressurised the Policing Board not to appoint someone from the old RUC.

    This may upset Unionists but it is not illegal. The DUP are constantly pressuring the govt to replace Nuala O’Loan and to abolish the parades commission.

    If Alan McQuillan wants to take legal action, he he should try going for the Policing Board itself. However, I wouldn’t rate his chances very highly in that one either.

  • SuperSoupy

    That’s not what the SDLP are now saying though. They are saying they merely insisted the position was open to non-RUC candidates.

    Very, very softball once the courts were mentioned and certainly not the claim of ensuring the ‘old RUC order’ didn’t get the job they kicked off with.

    Back-pedaling and allowing McQuilan to deflect from questions leveled at him via the McCord report.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Libel laws in the UK favour the defendant.

    I didn’t think this was the case. Isn’t this the reason why the book “The Committee” could never be published here ? The publisher was likely advised that they would be sued, and would probably lose.

    I think Hugh Orde was the better candidate and probably won the job on merit; I don’t know whether Durkan’s claims have any basis in fact to begin with. Whether they are true or not, the nature of the way the claims have been publicized comes across as belligerent and outrageous, and the man has dropped low in my opinion. Bragging that you interfered in a recruitment procedure to block people from a certain background, aside from being immature and tactless, is disgusting given our long history here with discrimination, and indeed the SDLP’s own history in fighting it. What would happen if Ian Paisley had bragged about keeping GAA players out of the civil service ?

  • Billy

    Comrade Stalin

    I may be wrong but I thought this was the case.

    The frequent criticism of the libel laws is that ordinary citizens can often not afford to sue a newspaper etc as they are very likely to lose and will be landed with crippling legal bills.

    Only people like Elton John can do so as they can afford the potential losses.

    I agree with you about Durkan’s claims – true or otherwise. I also agree that Hugh Orde got the job on merit – I’ve been quite impressed by him.

    I just think that it’s a long jump to say that the SDLP libelled Alan McQuillan by insisting that the job was open to non RUC candidates.

    This is clear back-pedalling by the SDLP. However, the burden of proof is on McQuillan. He must show that the SDLP libelled him as an individual (NOT THE RUC).

    I just think that his case is very weak.

  • SuperSoupy


    That’s why I can’t understand those SDLP supporters trying to claim this as an example of holding the RUC or PSNI to account.

    By their ill judged letter they have given a senior RUC member, part of the culture criticised through the McCord investigation, an opportunity to distance himself from the allegations by fighting SDLP bias during interviews.

    They aren’t seeming hardline on holding the police to account by their responses and have helped those that wish to dilute and muddy the collusion waters.

    I have no problem with what they claim to have done. I have a problem with their weak strategy letting worms wrigle off the hook.

  • mickhall

    what is wrong with you and your shinner mates, the words your looking for, but seem pertrified to say for fear of giving offence are ‘catholic middle classes’. For christ sake man you sound like Peter Mandelson singing that old Kathy Kirby song, ‘Secret Love’ [see below]

    “namely, the ‘middle ground’ voter (though I hate the term, I’ll use it for the purposes of clarity here.)
    posted by Chris D”

  • SuperSoupy


    Do you think he means that or are you telling him?

    I read Nationalist where you read Catholic. Who of us can tell Chris what he meant? You do.

    And what a pointless deflection from topic, just what the whole McQillan SDLP goof story is.

  • True Blue

    The SDLP were wrong in implying anything in their advert, all they were trying to do was to act greener and stronger than Sinn Fein ridiculous remarks at the weekend before. I hope Alan McQuillan is successful and I believe he will be as he has engaged a top lawyer. It is about time something brought the SDLP to their senses and that they engaged their brain before they open their mouths especially Mark Durkan and Alex Atwood.

  • While I’m not totally convinced McQuillan will win his case, his lawyer is Paul Tweed. Google his name if you think this will be clear cut.

    If that fails, McQuillan might try employment legislation. Even if that fails, it will continue to string things out badly in the media for the SDLP.

    Either way, it will be interesting to see in court how the SDLP managed to keep ex-RUC out of the top PSNI job. Evidence would probably include communications between the SDLP and Policing Board, for example. Even if McQuillan loses his case, evidence placed in the public domain during it might prove more politically damaging than defamation damages.

    If a party founded on equal rights for all and opposing job discrimination were found to be anything other than whiter than white in the evidence, it would make the SDLP look a rather hollow shell.

    The SDLP must be sure of their case, as they didn’t offer any apology. Are they gambling?

  • Billy

    True Blue

    So what if McQuillan has hired a top lawyer?

    Don’t you think that Durkan and the SDLP will do the same?

    The late George Carman lost many high profile libel cases and I think he may have been just a little better than Paul Tweed.

    It obviously helps to have a top lawyer but, in the end, it all depends on the strength of your case.

    Personally, I don’t think mcQuillan’s case is all that good. The fact that he has just lost his job with the abolition of the ARA makes it look even more as if he’s acting out of bitterness and desperation.


    I have little time for Durkan or the SDLP and I think the advert was ill-advised.

    However, they are not stupid. Given their declining membership and lack of funds, they can ill-afford to lose this case.

    While it would be seen as a climbdown, they could have avoided all this with an apology. The fact that they have decided to tough it out indicates that their own legal advisors believe they have a strong case.

    I would agree – I think it’s McQuillan who is gambling.

  • Billy

    You definitely have a good point, but in the mouth of an election, the SDLP ain’t gonna be seen to backing down from anything right now. A bad time to hand ammo to opponents. They can tough it out until after the elections, certainly, but the cumulative effect of drawn-out legal action might not be worth the potential political cost. It’s a judgment call on their part as well as McQuillan’s. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.

  • DMCM

    What a nerve McQuillan has! How insensitive is he? He should be apologizing to the nationalist leadership for collusion etc, not trying to sue them.
    I didnt see any members of the SDLP involved in any collusion. McQuillan should be calling out the names of those BASTARDS that murdered people by collusion in his ranks, if he wants to be self righteous. Lets start with Flanagan and go from there.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The frequent criticism of the libel laws is that ordinary citizens can often not afford to sue a newspaper etc as they are very likely to lose and will be landed with crippling legal bills.

    My understanding is that here the person making the claim in question (ie Durkan) is required to produce evidence about that claim. This contrasts with the USA, where the subject of the false claim is required to produce evidence that they were actually damaged by it. We’d need a lawyer to comment (cg ?)

    Ordinary citizens are screwed anyway when it comes to the law. Even if they are in the right, the law obviously can and does make mistakes and they can end up losing anyway, bankrupting themselves in the process. I don’t think legal aid covers you much anymore.

    Leaving the above aside, I agree with you to an extent in that I’m not sure what McQuillan’s case is and precisely which accusation he is saying is libellous and therefore false. As such, this whole thing might be an effort to pressure the Stoops into apologizing and therefore embarass them. If that doesn’t work, the Police Board might have some kind of case against Durkan for implying that they permitted him to interfere with the recruitment process. I’d have thought that if there were any truth in Durkan’s boasting, the Police Board could be sued for discrimination.

    So what if McQuillan has hired a top lawyer?

    Don’t you think that Durkan and the SDLP will do the same?

    I believe Durkan is a lawyer himself anyway.

  • Peter Bowles

    Waters muddied a bit by the Irish News apologising this morning eh lads?

    As the publishers of the ad in question they were very much in firing line and would have been named on the proceedings. Wisely, they have chosen to apologise at an early stage and avoid the huge costs of a defamation action.

    A decision I believe Mark Durkan may come to regret.

  • Billy

    Comrade Stalin

    “I’m not sure what McQuillan’s case is and precisely which accusation he is saying is libellous and therefore false.”

    To be frank, neither am I. I read a comment from McQuillan last week effectively saying that the SDLP were accusing all of the RUC (and, by implication, McQuillan) of collusion.

    I can see no way that this can be read into the SDLP advert (although I think it was a stupid thing to do). I certainly don’t think this claim has any legal basis at all.

    If this claim did have any legal basis, then surely any RUC member could claim defamation.

    I also share your understanding of libel law – if Durkan had directly accused McQuillan of saying or doing something, then Durkan would have to prove that it was true OR that he truly believed it to be true at the time he said it.

    However, there are no direct allegations about McQuillan (or any particular individual) in the advert. Therefore, I cannot see how McQuillan can claim that he as an individual has been libelled.

    I would have thought that the only chance of successful legal action would be to take on the Policing Board and/or SDLP under employment legislation.

  • I believe Durkan is a lawyer himself anyway.

    He isn’t

  • BonarLaw

    For all the barrack room lawyers here laughing of McQuillians’ chances I ask only this – why has the Irish News appologised this morning?

    Could it be that their actual lawyers (as opposed to, say, Atwood) realise what Billy et al are blind to and that Durkan has actually crossed the line here?

    I predict empty coffers at Stoop central.

  • True Blue

    Isn’t it very interesting that the Irish News has already apologised to Mr McQuillan they must have had second thoughts perhaps there is a case to answer I suppose they are hoping that doing this will help their case when it comes to court perhaps the SDLP should have been more pragmatic and the SDLP’s legal advice probably came from the legal eagles within the SDLP

  • The Clockwoman

    McQuillan must show that:
    Defamatory words (in the relevant and particular context) were published (i.e. somebody other than the McQuillan and the SDLP saw the words, and
    they caused damage to reputation. * McQuillan must have a reputation which can be damaged!

    This can limit claims by companies, larger groups, and public authorities in different ways. Sometimes private individuals can have no reputation capable of protection – which is why newspapers can have a field day against somebody who has been convicted of any serious offence.

    The SDLP may, by way of answer, establish that:
    one of the essential elements is absent; or
    the defamatory words are true. This is the atom bomb defence. Whichever wins, claimant or respondent, takes all; or
    some other (several possibilities) reason protects the publication in law. This may be some form, of privilege, or innocence.
    a suitable offer of amends has been made

  • The Clockwoman

    Did the SDLP have a veto on the police board? Anyway as a claimant can sue the distributer or anyone that repeats the allegation then maybe Mick should go throguh this thread. Why did the Irish News apoligise? Does this not infer guilt on their part?

  • BonarLaw

    The Clockwoman

    “Why did the Irish News apoligise? Does this not infer guilt on their part?”

    It infers that their lawyers told them to do so ASAP. It follows that the lawyers (as opposed to anti RUC bloggers) realise that Durkan has crossed a line and it is in the best interests of the Irish News to distance itself from the defamation.

  • mickhall

    Soupy Mo Chara

    No I feel the word catholic was fine in the context I used it, although you are correct in that Chris would have used nationalist. By the way, has the word republican been placed on a non speak list by Mr Adams, as he has suddenly starting using the word nationalist when aiming at a non republican audience.

    Just a quick point, if you felt my post was a pointless deflection from the topic, why reply, for surly by doing so you are only adding to the said deflection?

  • J_K

    This is very very bad for the SDLP and Mark Durkan in particular.

    If there was undue pressure being exterted on them by the British Government (and I suspect it is a bit of an exageration to spare further blushes) then it should have been made known at the during the selection process – failure to do so actually undermine the entire appointments process.

    If the SDLP are now saying that it is OK to have political interference in public appointments – as in the Parades Commission or the interim Victims’ Commissioner – then this is a disgrace.

    I suspect that what has happened is that the SDLP feel very threatened by Sinn Féin over policing and that one of the office juniors in the SDLP backroom wrote the leter and that it was a rush job getting it into the Irish News. The SDLP have overstated themselves when in fact I supect that they didn’t really do anything – it is just childish stuff really – the politics of the schoolyard i.e my brother is bigger than yours.

    What the SDLP have done is to totally dilute the deabate on collusion and allow unioniswts who didn’t want to talk about it anyway to focus on something else.

    Anyone who supports the SDLP should think long and hard before proclaiming this a victory – it shows poor judgement and poor leadership and it exposes the fact that the SDLP are quick to claim anything even when it is highly unlikely that they were in a position to actually have Flanagan sacked or Orde hired.

    Unionists will not vote for it and nationaluists won’t vote for it. A huge own goal that looks set to totally derail the SDLP’s election camapign.

  • gram

    I’m lost. If we have politicians on the policing board do we not expect them to make political decisions?

  • J Kelly

    The apology from the Irish News is very bad news for Durkan. your on your own boy.
    Politically its a disaster for the SDLP it makes them look incompetent and silly the whole reason for the ad was to look harder than Sinn Fein and it has totally backfired. The soft uu and alliance voters will be disgusted, the middle class nationalist will be asking how stupid can one be to lay yourself open to something like this and republicans will be sniggering. Mark and Alex are in another fine mess. Not a good start to an election campaign.

  • Plum Duff

    Say, for the sake of argument, McQuillan actually goes to court, wouldn’t it be interesting to see if the SDLP lodged an Application for Discovery for the *whole* O’Loan Report in order to boost their case – ie, the one the public didn’t see and the one which names names. I know it *may* not have a direct bearing on McQuillan himself – for example, whether he gave evidence or not – but, as an illustration of the ‘RUC types’ they were trying to exclude, it could provide valuable insight.

    Or maybe not…

  • The Clockwoman

    Just sit back and enjoy …

  • J Kelly

    will McQuillan have any aces of the SDLP working with the RUC, you gotta know when to hold them, you gotta know when to show them and you gotta know when to walk away

  • gram

    J kelly. As a middle class nationalist I’m not asking “how stupid can one be to lay yourself open to something like this”. In fact I would have been more concerned were the SDLP not trying to influence the selection of the CC.

    At least the SDLP were on the train trying to piss out rather than SF in the station trying to piss in.

  • ingram


    The bottom line is Alan McQuillan must as a senior RUC/PSNI officer accept a portion of the blame for the institutionalised collusion that is outlined by Sir Stevens.Promotion brings with it not only benefits but also responsibilties.

    All senior officers should make it their business to be famliar with all aspects of his force, in his role as Deputy CC he would in the absence of the C/C be involved on a day to day strategic decision making. That would include running of ALL ASPECTS of the force. He would also be privvy to all AGENTS just like the C/C is and anyone who denies it is telling porky pies.

    He should wind his rather large kneck in and stop engaging in silly arguments.

    Ding Ding


  • carlos blancos

    Mick the headline on this post is biased. I’m not sure what the rules on this site are but headlines usualy have some connection with the reality. There is no hole getting deeper for the SDLP leader.

    I am no legal scholar but I fail to see how McQuillan has been libelled by Mark. And Durkan should savour the chance of such a case, a high profile victory awaits him, and a chance, in the courtroom, to put the RUC itself on trail.

    Stick to asset recovery Alan. You’re good at that.

  • TKmaxx

    This is a bogus debate. If this gets to court which I doubt – everything comes to into play – so Mc Quillan will effectively look like he is defending the RUC. When you turn a washing machine on – its very hard to stop until its finished. Libel/defamation plays for high stakes – for all sides. He is playing into political hands – the unionists and SDLP. The latter’s rural supporters will lap it up!

  • Sean

    the only reason the paper appologized was because it cost them nothing financially or politically to appologize, they simply appologized to save them the expense of preparing a statement of defense

    For Durkan its win-win he either makes McQillan back down or he as seen as someone whos is personally willing to fight the RUC

    And for what? For the cost of preparing a statement of defence! The SDLP likely has an army of lawyers working full time so this is nothing really. Its already been clearly articulated early on in these postings what there defense will be and that it will be almost guaranteed to win

  • Ca Va

    Did any SDLP Policing Board members sit on the Selection/Interviewing Panel?

  • Picador

    Wasn’t Durkan’s old man a member of the RUC?

  • brendan,belfast

    didn’t the Irish News apologise for a ‘perceived offence’ or somehting like that?

    It seemed to me to be a prudent move by the newspaper rather than anything all out or genuine. It will have no bearing on the libel case.

    So the SDLP and Unionists are arguing about ‘who did what’. so what? that’s what they do. McQuillan should shut up and rise above it. he is pissing away his credibility.

  • BonarLaw

    brendan, belfast

    “he is pissing away his credibility”

    I would love a libel jury to decide the point.

  • True Blue

    Yes Mark Durkan’s father was in the police who was also a Protestant and yes Joe Byrne was the SDLP rep on the panel

  • BillyO


    “I would love a libel jury to decide the point”.

    I doubt that this will get that far. Libel cases tend to drag on and attract a lot of publicity (this one certainly will). That’s why the Irish News “bailed out” – they didn’t want their name banded about for months in association with this case. Their decision will have no bearing on the actual case (should it ever get to court).

    I am no fan or Durkan and didn’t agree with the advert.

    I am also no legal eagle but I don’t think anyone posting on this topic is.

    McQuillan is claiming that the SDLP associated him with collusion. As there is no reference to either McQuillan or collusion in the advert – that’s very difficult to prove.

    Usually in a libel case, the defendant has clearly accused someone (in print) of saying or doing something. The defendant then has to prove that their accusation was true or that they sincerely believed it to be true at the time.

    In this case, there is nothing libellous in the actual advert. McQuillan is claiming that he has been libelled “by implication”. Extremely difficult to prove.

    The SDLP are claiming that they were simply resisting Govt pressure to have an ex RUC man. They can claim that they wanted someone from outside the RUC as part of Chris Patten’s new beginning.

    The SDLP may not have apologised. However, they have stated in public that, while they thought Sir Hugh Orde was the best candidate (as is their right), they did not make any references whatsoever to collusion or accuse anyone of involvement.

    Again – the advert completely supports their position.

    Whether you like it or not, this is very plausible. It’s a lot easier to substantiate that what McQuillan is claiming.

    I think this was a stunt by the SDLP to try and “out green” Sinn Fein and it has backfired badly.

    I don’t like what they did or how they did it.

    However, that doesn’t alter the fact that Alan McQuillan is suing the SDLP for libel for something (in his opinion) that they IMPLIED but DID NOT ACTUALLY SAY.

    It’s all very well hiring a big name lawyer, I think McQuillan thought the SDLP would “bottle out” and apologise. They haven’t – I think McQuillan will realise he’s on shaky ground and I doubt that this will ever see the inside of a court room.