Senior Sinn Féin politician Gerry Kelly is to be paid a five-figure sum by a Sunday newspaper which accused him of being involved in an affair with a US diplomat in a story published 15 years ago.
The case was settled at the High Court in Dublin on Friday. A confidentiality clause prevents public disclosure of the sum paid by the Sunday World. It related to a story carried by the newspaper in 1996, shortly after an IRA attack on London’s financial district.
The paper had carried two articles -- one that claimed Mr Kelly was chief of staff of the IRA at the time of the blast, the other that he was involved in an inappropriate liaison with Martha Pope. Ms Pope had been acting as a senior aide to Senator George Mitchell during the early stages of the peace negotiations which led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Kelly and Ms Pope found themselves ar the centre of a smear campaign which came to a head at a DUP conference, when Ian Paisley said, “people in Senator Mitchell’s office are not to be trusted for they’re friends of leading members of the IRA”.
The Sunday World and the Mail on Sunday, who both carried the allegations, settled a libel claim with Ms Pope within days of the article appearing.
Her name was later used by the Real IRA who used the codeword ‘Martha Pope’ to claim a number of attacks.
Despite the story having been published almost 15-years ago it was only settled this week.
As well as the substantial financial settlement an apology on behalf of the Sunday World was also read out at the Dublin courthouse..
It stated: “The Sunday World acknowledges that both articles were wrong.
“The Sunday World accepts that Mr Kelly has played an important part in ending the violence in Northern Ireland and made a positive and significant contribution to the peace process .
“The Sunday Warld apologises to Gerry Kelly for the upset that the articles caused.”
The Sinn Féin assembly member said: “This case could have been settled 15 years ago with a simple apology from the Sunday World but they consistently fought to keep the case from going to court.
“I felt I should pursue the case in order to combat the view in some elements of the media that republicans and particularly ex-prisoners are fair game and easy targets.
“There is an onus on all journalists and news corporations to report in an honest and fact-based manner,” Mr Kelly said.