Journalist Ruth Dudley-Edwards vows not to be silenced after Gerry Kelly libel action is ended

Sinn Fein's Gerry KellySinn Fein's Gerry Kelly
Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly
A second journalist sued by Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly for claiming he shot a prison officer has vowed not to be silenced after the libel action was ended.

Proceedings brought against Ruth Dudley Edwards over a statement about Mr Kelly’s role during a mass escape from the Maze Prison more than 40 years ago were dismissed by consent.

Ms Dudley Edwards, a prominent writer and critic of Sinn Fein, said her legal costs are to be paid under the terms of the settlement.

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Following the outcome, she pledged to continue speaking out.

“I will never give in… I care very passionately about free speech,” she insisted.

Earlier this year a separate libel action Mr Kelly took against writer and journalist Malachi O’Doherty was struck out at the High Court in Belfast.

A judge declared that case to be “scandalous, frivolous, and vexatious” and ordered the Sinn Fein politician to foot the legal bill for the case.

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Although proceedings against Ms Dudley Edwards initially continued, it was confirmed today that a settlement has been reached.

A final order was made on terms agreed between the parties without any formal written judgment.

Prison officer John Adams was shot in the head during the mass break-out from the Maze by IRA inmates in 1983.

Mr Kelly was later prosecuted but ultimately acquitted of the shooting.

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He had previously been convicted on explosive charges related to the IRA bomb attack on the Old Bailey court bombing in London in 1973.

He sued Dr O’Doherty for libel over comments made in two radio interviews in August 2019.

During the programmes the journalist alleged that Mr Kelly had shot the warder in the head.

It was claimed that those comments gravely damaged the Sinn Fein representative’s character and reputation.

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His standing as a respected public representative and MLA for North Belfast had been called into disrepute, according to the defamation action.

An application to have that action struck out cited material contained in Mr Kelly’s autobiographies.

In January, Master Bell held that the description of events in the politician’s books demonstrated a “common design”, regardless of who fired the shot.

Dr O’Doherty was deemed to have established a complete defence to a lawsuit found to be untenable.

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Master Bell said at the time: “Even if one accepts the submission that Mr Kelly has not explicitly admitted pulling the trigger, the content of his books appears to make Mr Kelly civilly liable, on the balance of probabilities, for the shooting of Mr Adams.”

He also found that the defamation proceedings were aimed at “stifling the voices of troublesome critics” with the threat of legal costs through a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).

The libel action Ms Dudley Edwards faced related to a newspaper article about the Maze escape shooting.

At the time he ruled in favour of Dr O’Doherty, the Master had indicated: “This decision obviously has implications for Mr Kelly’s similar defamation proceedings against (her) which will not be lost on his legal advisers and hers.”

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