Phil Flanagan

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Phil Flanagan
PhilFlanaganMLA.jpg
Phil Flanagan MLA in Enniskillen, May 2011
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
In office
12 May 2011 – May 2016
Preceded byTommy Gallagher
Succeeded byRichie McPhillips
Councillor on Fermanagh District Council
In office
10 May 2011 – 28 August 2011
Preceded byBreege McSorley
Succeeded byStephen Huggett[1]
ConstituencyErne North Electoral Area
Councillor on Fermanagh District Council
In office
5 October 2009 – 10 May 2011
Preceded byDomhnall Ó Cobhthaigh
Succeeded byBarry Doherty[2]
ConstituencyErne West Electoral Area
Personal details
Born (1984-07-16) 16 July 1984 (age 34)
Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
NationalityIrish
Political partySinn Féin
Websitefermanaghsouthtyronesf.com

Phil Flanagan (born 16 July 1984) is a Sinn Féin politician in Ireland who was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in May 2011. He lost his seat at the 2016 election. He represented Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Assembly constituency) and was the Sinn Féin party spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Flanagan also served as a councillor on Fermanagh District Council following his co-option in 2009 [3] and re-election in May 2011. He resigned from his council seat in August 2011 in line with Sinn Féin party policy on dual mandates and was subsequently replaced on the council by Stephen Huggett.[4] Flanagan originally from Garrison, County Fermanagh, lives in Tempo. Educated at St Michael's College, Enniskillen, he is a former retail manager and small-business owner.[5]

In references to the Seán Quinn case, Flanagan stated that, "It is not up to the media, to politicians or to anyone else to determine the outcome of this case. That decision needs to be made by a judge and the sooner that happens and a clear outcome is decided, the better it will be for all concerned."[6]

In December 2015 it was announced that Mr Flanagan would not run in the May 2016 Assembly elections when he failed to gain the necessary support from delegates at a Fermanagh South Tyrone constituency selection convention.[7] In January 2016, at a re-convened selection convention, he was put back on the party ticket at the expense of Michelle Gildernew.[8] In February 2016 Sinn Féin decided to run an extra candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone and the extremely popular Gildernew was added back on to party ticket.[9]

During the Assembly election on 5 May 2016 Mr Flanagan polled 3,449 first preference votes, lost his seat and was the first Sinn Féin candidate to be eliminated from the count.[10]

After stepping away from politics after losing his MLA seat in 2016 Mr Flanagan became the Vice Chair of the County Fermanagh GAA Board in December 2016.[11] In June 2018 Mr Flanagan was awarded over five thousand pounds in damages when he was discriminated against by Citizens Advice on grounds of his political opinion.[12]

Controversies[edit]

  • In 2011 it was revealed that Flanagan had been suspended from his previous employment during a probe into higher than usual expenditure from the shops petty cash. He denied any wrongdoing and said the £2000 of petty cash had been used to buy coffee and tea as the shop had no kitchen unlike other shops in their chain.[13]
  • In 2012 he tweeted remarks about Tom Elliott and Mike Nesbitt being "clampits." Also in 2012 he posted a comment on Facebook about the village of Clabby being a "black hole." [14] In 2012 he also referred to Enniskillen, a town he represents, looking "like crap" in a tweet.[15]
  • In July 2013 Phil Flanagan retweeted a sexually explicit comment about the birth of Prince George.[16] He later removed the retweet saying that he "misconstrued the meaning" of the tweet and apologised "for any offence that this may have caused anyone.".[17]
  • In 2014, Flanagan tweeted comments about Tom Elliott's career in the UDR which he later removed from Twitter.[18] In January 2016 the MLA agreed to apologise and pay compensation and legal costs to Mr Elliott over the defamatory message. The apology read: "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. I now accept this was untrue and wholly without foundation and I apologise for all offence caused." [19]
  • In February 2015 he tweeted comments suggesting that William of Orange was a terrorist.[20]
  • In August 2015 he tweeted that a public sector organisation (Roads Service) resurfaced a road for the 12 of July and yet wouldn't be aware that a major GAA game was being played. He refused to apologise for his remarks saying he was only joking.[21]
  • Also in August 2015 he got into a war of words on Twitter with Máiría Cahill which resulted in him tweeting the following apology, "I'm sorry if my tweet earlier caused any upset or offence." [22]
  • In November 2015 when asked whether ISIS were terrorists he said he was not comfortable with the way organisations were demonised by being labelled terrorists. When he was later criticised for his remarks he stated on his Twitter account that he believed ISIS to be terrorists.[23]

Court Case and Damages[edit]

On 1 May 2014, Flanagan tweeted the following comment; “Tom Elliot talks to @StephenNolan about the past. I wonder if he will reveal how many people he harassed or shot as a member of the UDR.” He removed the tweet one hour later after it was seen by 167 of his followers with six of them re-tweeting it.[24]

After Mr Elliott was made aware of the tweet his solicitors contacted Mr Flanagan asking for an apology and damages but received no reply. Mr Elliott then issued legal proceedings in June 2014 which resulted in Mr Flanagan agreeing that he would publish an apology on Twitter and that damages should be agreed. Although agreeing to offer an apology and agree damages this never materialised and Mr Elliott proceeded to court to enforce the agreement that was made. This came to court in January 2016.[25] On 8 January 2016 Mr Flanagan agreed, in court, to apologise and pay compensation and legal costs to Mr Elliott over the defamatory message posted on Twitter. The apology which was posted on Twitter read: "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. I now accept this was untrue and wholly without foundation and I apologise for all offence caused." [26]

The damages were not decided on until 3 February 2016.[27] The Judge awarded damages of £75,000 because of the serious nature of the defamation, Mr Flanagan initially ignoring Mr Elliott's solicitors, his refusal to offer an apology until the date of the hearing and his failure to make an offer of compensation.[28] The judge than reduced the award by 35% which brought it down to £48,750 because of Mr Flanagan's apology and offer to use the amends procedure. The Judge said he would have reduced it by "fifty percent if the response had been in an appropriate timescale, if the defendant had actually published the apology and if he had offered a realistic amount in compensation.”[29] The Stormont Assembly insurers, AIG, refused to indemnify Mr Flanagan for the damages or costs of the case so he sued them. On 1 June 2016, Mr Justice Stevens ruled that AIG did not have to cover him as the comments about Elliott were clearly defamatory. [30] The result of the 1 June ruling meant Flanagan must pay the £48,750 to Elliott, all Elliott's legal expenses in his case, and all of AIG's expenses in their case. He also has to pay his own expenses from both cases.[31]

A week after losing his MLA seat in May 2016 Mr Flanagan said he was unable to pay the damages owed to Mr Elliott and as such he was "not going to lose too much sleep over it."[32] In June 2018 Tom Elliott, former MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, announced that he had not received any money from Mr Flanagan and urged him to honour his debt to him. Mr Elliott cited the £20,000 payment Phil Flanagan received when he lost his MLA seat and the £5,865 he got in damages in an Employment Tribunal in June 2018.[33]

Stormont Standards Commissioner[edit]

At least two complaints [34][35] have been made about Phil Flanagan to the Stormont Standards Commissioner with one other person at least threatening to report him for comments he made.[36] If a complaint is not found to be admissible the complaint is not made public and nothing comes from it. If the Commissioner finds the complaint to be admissible he will investigate the complaint and send his findings to the Committee for Standards and Privileges.[37]

Only one complaint about Mr Flanagan has been found admissible so far, which was his re-tweeting of the following joke; "The news says that the duchess doll entered the hospital by the back entrance. If William had done the same we wouldn’t have to suffer this balls.” Although the NI Assembly Commissioner for Standards thought it worth investigating he determined Flanagan had not broken the Code of Conduct for MLAs.[citation needed]

In his report the commissioner was critical of Mr Flanagan, stating that "while Mr Flanagan’s retweet was offensive it was a crude ‘joke’ which demeaned Mr Flanagan rather than the Royal Family." He also stated that it was "hard to accept" when Mr Flanagan claimed "that he initially believed the original tweet to be an innocent joke." He went on to say his "explanation may in the eyes of some have cast doubt on Mr Flanagan’s integrity."[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fermanagh District Council: The Council: Councillor Profiles - Erne North". Fermanagh.gov.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Fermanagh District Council: The Council: Councillor Profiles - Erne West". Fermanagh.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  3. ^ "Fermanagh co-option agreed". Sinnfein.ie. 6 October 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  4. ^ "BBC News - Election 2011". BBC.co.uk. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Sinn Féin". Fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  6. ^ Edwards, Rodney. "Phil Flanagan backs Sinn Fein deputy leader on Quinn issue". The Impartial Reporter. The Impartial Reporter. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Flanagan fails SF in reselection test". 15 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Michelle Gildernew: Former MP not selected by Sinn Féin for Stormont elections". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Michelle Gildernew back as Sinn Féin assembly election candidate". BBC News. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Sinn Fein's Flanagan believes political career is over". The Impartial Reporter.
  11. ^ "New Erne chief targets revamp to boost title hopes". The Belfast Telegragh.
  12. ^ "Ex-Sinn Fein MLA 'unlawfully discriminated against' awarded £5,500 payout". The Impartial Reporter.
  13. ^ "Flanagan dismisses front page splash as non story".
  14. ^ "MLA challenged after 'Clabby black hole' tweet".
  15. ^ "Flanagan lets rip on Twitter over Jubilee bunting and tricolours".
  16. ^ "Sinn Fein politician faces probe over offensive Twitter remark about royal baby". Independent.ie.
  17. ^ "Flanagan sorry for Royal baby tweet".
  18. ^ "Elliott and Flanagan tweet row could end up in High Court". Impartial Reporter.
  19. ^ "Sinn Fein MLA to pay out libel damages".
  20. ^ "Row over MLA's William of Orange 'terrorist' tweet". Impartial Reporter.
  21. ^ "Sinn Féin MLA dimisses Transport NI tweet as 'a joke'".
  22. ^ "Sinn Feins Flanagan condemned for attack on Mairia Cahill".
  23. ^ "Elliott I would vote to bomb Syria". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  24. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal.
  25. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal.
  26. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal.
  27. ^ "Phil Flanagan ordered to pay almost 50,000 in damages over defamatory tweet".
  28. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal.
  29. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal.
  30. ^ "Ex-SF MLA facing likely bankruptcy after losing libel legal bid". News Letter.
  31. ^ "Ex-Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan loses legal battle with insurer over who pays £50k libel bill". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Phil Flanagan:Former Sinn Fein MLA 'cannot pay' damages over Tom Elliott tweet". BBC News.
  33. ^ "Elliott urges ex-SF MLA to honour £48K that he owes". The Belfast Telegragh.
  34. ^ "UK Northern Ireland".
  35. ^ "Complaint over Flanagan clampit tweet".
  36. ^ "SF's Phil Flnanagan apologies to Mairia Cahill".
  37. ^ "End of Season Report". NI Assembly.
  38. ^ "Report on a Complaint against Mr Phil Flanagan MLA". NI Assembly.

Links[edit]


Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Tommy Gallagher
MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
2011 – 2016
Succeeded by
Richie McPhillips