An Alliance Party activist has issued defamation proceedings in the High Court over a tweet by a DUP councillor branding her a “mouthpiece for the Provisional IRA”.
Belfast City councillor Graham Craig posted the tweet about Sorcha Eastwood, the Alliance Party’s candidate for West Belfast during the 2017 Westminster elections, on social media website Twitter on August 13.
He made the remarks after the Alliance member, who sits on the party’s executive, had expressed “solidarity” with the families of those killed by the Army in Ballymurphy over three days in 1971.
Ms Eastwood, the previous day, had tweeted: “Privileged to speak at Ballymurphy March For Truth today and represent @allianceparty. We stand in solidarity with the Ballymurphy families and with all victims and survivors.”
She added: “There can be no more obfuscation and obstruction of the truth.”
The day after Mr Craig’s tweet, on August 14, Ms Eastwood wrote: “Folks, I just want to say thanks for the many messages of support I’ve received – it means a lot.
“This matter is now with my solicitor so I hope you understand that I won’t be commenting further.”
The Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long MLA, had urged Mr Craig to delete his tweet.
She wrote: “Graham, you need to delete this tweet and apologise to @SorchaEastwood and to the families.
“It is defamatory and actionable.”
She added: “Not to mention completely reckless and utterly crass. Not that either of those are likely to bother you.”
Mr Craig deleted his tweet and, on September 18, issued an apology via Twitter.
He posted a link to the following statement: “On 13 August 2018, I made a statement on my Twitter account regarding Sorcha Eastwood alleging she is a mouthpiece for the Provisional IRA,” Mr Craig said.
“I accept that my statement is untrue and should never have been published in the first place. I sincerely apologise to Ms Eastwood and her family for any hurt and distress I may have caused.”
A solicitor acting on behalf of Ms Eastwood said: “I would confirm that defamation proceedings have been issued in the High Court on behalf of our client Sorcha Eastwood against councillor Graham Craig.
“These proceedings arise out of the publication of a tweet by councillor Craig on 13th August 2018.”