A former Sinn Fein MLA has issued a High Court apology to leading property developer Paddy Kearney over claims of conspiring with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson to damage his reputation.
Undisclosed damages have also been agreed as part of the settlement announced yesterday in Mr Kearney’s defamation action against Daithi McKay.
With the confidential pay-out to be donated to charity, the Belfast-based developer declared himself fully vindicated by the outcome.
The case centred on evidence Mr Bryson gave in 2015 to a Stormont inquiry into the billion pound sale of the National Asset Managment Agency (Nama)’s Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment giant Cerberus.
Mr McKay was chairman of the finance committee examining the deal at the time.
It was claimed that he and another Sinn Fein member, Thomas O’Hara, had coached the blogger on how to make allegations against Mr Kearney.
In August 2016 Mr McKay stood down as an MLA for North Antrim.
Proceedings were brought against him by Mr Kearney and his development company, Kilmona Property Ltd.
He sought damages for alleged conspiracy, misfeasance in public office, libel and malicious falsehood.
In court it was confirmed that the action is to be stayed on terms including a statement read out by the former Sinn Fein Assemblyman’s legal representative.
Mr McKay’s solicitor, Jack Quigley, said: “The defendant hereby acknowledges and deeply regrets that on or about October/November 2015 he and others, including Jamie Bryson and Thomas O’Hara, undermined and damaged the reputation of the first named plaintiff (Mr Kearney), resulting in unfounded statements being made before the Department of Finance Committee in respect of the sale of National Asset Management Agency assets in Northern Ireland.
“The defendant hereby unreservedly acknowledges that allegations regarding he first named plaintiff’s conduct were totally unfounded and should not have been made in the first place.”
The statement continued: “The defendant acknowledges the plaintiffs’ impeccable reputation and sincerely apologises for any embarrassment and damage caused to both plaintiffs.
“A confidential sum has been agreed in relation to damages and costs which the plaintiffs will be donating to a local Northern Ireland charity.”
Outside court Mr Kearney said: “In testimony to the Northern Ireland Assembly Finance Committee, it was alleged I was in some way involved with others in manipulating in a corrupt manner the sale and purchase of the Northern Ireland NAMA loan book.
“These allegations were totally unfounded and unsubstantiated, and I am very pleased to receive vindication of my position at court today.”
Mr Kearney added: “Strong, accusatory language was also used at that time without evidence or foundation and my reputation was wrongfully and maliciously called into question.
“I am very grateful to my family, my colleagues and my legal team for the support I have received in the intervening period and I am also glad that the proceeds of this action will benefit a local charity.”
His solicitor, Paul Tweed, pointed out that the property developer attended the committee voluntarily in November 2015 to make a personal statement and answer questions about the loan sale arising from allegations about him in evidence by a previous witness.
Mr Tweed described the retraction and apology for an “unjustified attack” on Mr Kearney’s character as a complete exoneration.
The lawyer also confirmed: “My client is continuing to keep all his legal options open in relation to others who may have been involved behind the scenes.”