Sinn Fein MLA apologises to Tom Elliott in tweet

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2016''UUP MP Tom Elliott's case against Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan settled at the High Court in Belfast with damages to be decided.   Phil Flanagan leaves the court. ' 'Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2016''UUP MP Tom Elliott's case against Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan settled at the High Court in Belfast with damages to be decided. Phil Flanagan leaves the court. ' 'Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The Sinn Fein MLA who libelled Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott has finally apologised on Twitter.

Phil Flanagan, who is facing a massive bill after he falsely tweeted in May 2014 that Mr Elliott had shot people during his time in the UDR, tweeted the following message last night: “On May 1st 2014 I posted a tweet alleging that Tom Elliott was responsible for harassing and shooting people during his service with the UDR.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2016''UUP MP Tom Elliott's case against Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan settled at the High Court in Belfast with damages to be decided.   Tom Elliott leaves the court. ' 'Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2016''UUP MP Tom Elliott's case against Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan settled at the High Court in Belfast with damages to be decided. Tom Elliott leaves the court. ' 'Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“I now accept this was untrue and wholly without foundation and I apologise for all offence caused.”

The offending tweet only stayed up for one hour in 2014 before the MLA deleted it and it was seen by just 167 people – but Mr Flanagan now faces a huge bill for his comment.

Mr Elliott, who is now the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, immediately got his solicitor to write to Mr Flanagan and then began legal proceedings.

After a delay in which Mr Flanagan made no substantive response, his lawyers eventually replied to accept that his tweet had been defamatory.

They admitted that the allegation had been “wholly without foundation” and “untrue”. He has agreed to pay compensation, which will be set by the judge.

It was agreed yesterday in court that Mr Flanagan tweet an apology last night.