Gormley 'didn't want sacking made political'

Published Friday, 30 November 2012
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A sacked director of Northern Ireland Water was in no "marriage of convenience" with the SDLP, he told the High Court on Friday.

Gormley 'didn't want sacking made political'
The court heard from sacked director Declan Gormley on Friday. (© UTV)

Declan Gormley also insisted he had no desire for his dismissal to be used as a "political football".

The businessman is suing Sinn Féin and two of its representatives for libel.

His defamation action centres on the contents of two press releases issued in the names of MLA Cathal Boylan and former Assemblyman Willie Clarke.

Mr Gormley was one of four non-executive directors sacked from the board of NI Water in March 2010 by Conor Murphy, the Sinn Féin Minister for Regional Development at the time.

It followed an independent review team investigation into how contracts were awarded.

Mr Gormley emphatically denies any wrong-doing.

A jury of six men and one woman has heard that a subsequent PAC report into procurement and performance at NI Water criticised the earlier review and questioned its independence.

Lawyers for the three defendants - Sinn Féin, Mr Clarke and Mr Boylan - are claiming qualified privilege.

They also argue that the two press releases were in response to a campaign of nine separate attacks on Mr Murphy by the SDLP and Mr Gormley.

Continuing his cross-examination on day four of the trial, defence counsel Martin McCann explored a meeting between the sacked director and SDLP MLA John Dallat.

Mr Gormley told him he had no difficulty with any politicians fighting his case.
But he rejected any claim that he was happy for his dismissal to be used as a "political football".

Mr McCann put it to him: "I have suggested and you made it clear you do not even remotely recognise my characterisation of your contact with them (the SDLP) as a marriage of convenience."

The businessman replied: "I refute that."

The court heard that the second Sinn Féin press release, issued to coincide with publication of the PAC report, claimed that its findings vindicated Mr Murphy's actions.

As the former minister and other party representatives listened in the public gallery, Mr Gormley said he waited a year before issuing proceedings because he was trying to find a resolution with resorting to court action.

"I'm not a rich person. I'm not able to fund legal cases in the way other people would be able to, I'm an ordinary working guy," he said.

But he insisted that the alleged linking of him to the "misappropriation" of £45 million worth of contracts in the second press release amounted to libel.

"It was defamatory of me and I found it unacceptable."

He accepted that the press release was never used by any media outlet.

The hearing was adjourned until next Wednesday.

© UTV News
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