Alliance Party’s Sorcha Eastwood to get ‘substantial sum’ from ex-DUP man over false IRA ‘mouthpiece’ claim

An Alliance Party councillor is to receive a substantial five-figure sum from a former Democratic Unionist Party representative for falsely accusing her of being a “mouthpiece for the Provisional IRA”, the High Court heard on Thursday.

Thursday, 20th February 2020, 3:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th February 2020, 4:29 pm
Alliance Party Cllr Sorcha Eastwood outside the High Court in Belfast, with her solicitor Laura Cunningham from Johnson's Solicitors, where she settled her case against the DUP's Graham Craig. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Graham Craig also issued an unreserved apology to Sorcha Eastwood, accepting that his comments on social media were completely unfounded and compromised her security.

The pay-out, which covers damages and legal costs, was confirmed as part of a settlement reached in Ms Eastwood’s libel action.

She sued over the contents of a tweet by Mr Craig in August 2018.

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It was published shortly after Ms Eastwood, who serves on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, spoke at a rally supporting families of those killed by British soldiers in the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre.

Mr Craig, a DUP councillor in Belfast at the time, later deleted the post and posted an apology for remarks he accepted were untrue.

The case was listed for a hearing to deal with the issue of damages.

Following discussions Mr Justice Maguire was told the action had been resolved, with a statement read out on behalf of Mr Craig.

It said: “On August 13, 2018 Graham Craig published a tweet about Sorcha Eastwood by which he sought to link Ms Eastwood to paramilitarism.

“The tweet was completely without foundation and was published without any regard for Ms Eastwood’s reputation, feelings or her personal security.

“Graham Craig accepts that he should never have published this tweet and unreservedly apologises to her for damaging her reputation, injuring her feelings and compromising her security.”

Mr Craig’s apology on social media a month later was “inadequate”, the court heard.

“He accepts that he ought to have made it clearer to his followers and readers that the apology referred to Ms Eastwood and he also ought to have put her on notice of the fact that he was publishing the apology.

“He accepts that the manner by which the apology was published caused further unnecessary distress and upset to Ms Eastwood for which he now apologises unreservedly to Ms Eastwood.”

The statement confirmed: “In recognition of his conduct and the damage to her reputation, Mr Craig has agreed to pay Sorcha Eastwood a substantial five-figure sum by way of damages and legal costs in respect of this matter.”

Ms Eastwood, who also stood for Alliance in the Lagan Valley constituency at last year’s General Election, welcomed the outcome reached.

Outside court she said: “I’m relieved that this matter has been resolved and that I have now received a fulsome and comprehensive apology.

“This totally unfounded allegation caused me enormous distress and upset, and I’m pleased that my reputation has now been vindicated and the record set straight.”

Her solicitor, Laura Cunningham of Johnsons law firm, added: “My client Sorcha Eastwood is very satisfied with the complete vindication she has received following the categoric apology announced before the court this afternoon, together with the defendant’s agreement to pay her a substantial five figure sum by way of damages and costs.”