Nelson McCausland is to donate money to charity as part of the settlement

A former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA apologised for “seriously defamatory” posts on his Facebook page and blog about a Belfast journalist.

Allison Morris of the Irish News sued Nelson McCausland over false comments that appeared three years ago.

He is also to donate money to charity as part of the settlement in the libel action she took against him.

Ms Morris said she hoped the outcome would help to deter online abuse targeting women in the media.

Although Mr McCausland did not make the posts on his blog himself, proceedings were issued against him as the site’s operator.

The claim also centred on a link that he posted on his Facebook page.

‘No truth in allegations’

A settlement was announced on Monday ahead of a libel trial that was due to take place at the High Court in Belfast.

Allison Morris
Allison Morris is the security correspondent for the Irish News

A statement was read to the court on behalf of Mr McCausland, who served as a DUP MLA for North Belfast for 14 years until he lost his seat in 2017.

The posts, which were made in April and May 2016, alleged that Ms Morris had been “guilty of inappropriate conduct of both a personal and professional nature”, said a barrister.

“[Mr McCausland] accepts that there was no truth in any of the allegations and imputations contained in them, and regrets that they were ever posted.

“The defendant apologises unreservedly to the plaintiff… and, as a mark of his respect, shall be making an agreed donation to a mutually-agreed charity.”

Mr McCausland was not in court.

Speaking outside the court, Ms Morris said she hoped the case “sends out a very strong message that women in the media, or in any other public role, are not open season for online abuse of a misogynistic nature”.