Sinn Féin MLAs to claim ‘qualified privilege’ for press statements in NI Water libel case?

The BBC reports from Belfast High Court as, former non-executive director in NI Water, Declan Gormley’s libel proceedings against Sinn Féin, the party’s Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, and former assembly member Willie Clarke, heads to its court date – 26 November.  Apparently, no political party members nor NI Water employees, members and staff on the Stormont Public Accounts Committee are to be allowed to sit on the jury.  And, also from the BBC report

At a review hearing on Friday, Mr Justice Gillen was told that the grounds on which the action was being resisted had narrowed.

The defendants were to claim qualified privilege, the court heard.

Nicolas Hanna QC, for Mr Gormley, said he was astonished at the argument that there was a right to “reply to an attack”.

“As I understand it, the defendants are saying Mr Gormley himself went public on this and indeed appeared on a television programme in August 2010 in which he was highly critical of the decision by the minister to sack him,” he said.

“Therefore what the defendants are saying is this was a reply to an attack made by Mr Gormley.”

Mr Hanna claimed it was “an extraordinary proposition” being made by the defendants.

“It does not extend to defending yourself by making defamatory statements about your accuser,” he added.

Nor would it extend to making defamatory press statements in defence of your party’s NI Executive Minister…  MLAs or not.

Of course, if the then NI DRD Minister, Conor Murphy, had believed he, himself, had been defamed at that time, then he could have taken libel proceedings.  [The law is for little people! – Ed]  Indeed…