Phil Flanagan

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Phil Flanagan
MLA
PhilFlanaganMLA.jpg
Phil Flanagan MLA in Enniskillen, May 2011
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Assumed office
12 May 2011
Preceded by Tommy Gallagher
Councillor on Fermanagh District Council
In office
10 May 2011 – 28 August 2011
Preceded by Breege McSorley
Succeeded by Stephen Huggett[1]
Constituency Erne North Electoral Area
Councillor on Fermanagh District Council
In office
5 October 2009 – 10 May 2011
Preceded by Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh
Succeeded by Barry Doherty[2]
Constituency Erne West Electoral Area
Personal details
Born (1984-07-16) 16 July 1984 (age 31)
Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Sinn Féin
Website fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com

Phil Flanagan (born 16 July 1984) is a Sinn Féin politician in Northern Ireland who was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in May 2011. He represents Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Assembly constituency) and is 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 lives in Tempo, is originally from Garrison, County Fermanagh and was 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]


Controversies[edit]

Since being elected to the Assembly Flanagan has been involved in a number of controversies, a lot of which involved social media.

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. [8]

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." [9] In 2012 he also referred to Enniskillen, a town he represents, looking "like crap" in a tweet. [10]

In July 2013 Phil Flanagan retweeted a sexually explicit comment about the birth of Prince George.[11] 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.". [12]

In 2014 Mr Flanagan tweeted comments about Tom Elliott's career in the UDR which he later removed from Twitter.[13] 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." [14]

In February 2015 he tweeted comments suggesting that William of Orange was a terrorist.[15]

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. [16]

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." [17]

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. [18]

Court Case and Damages[edit]

On the 1st of May 2014 Mr 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. [19]

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.[20]

On the 8th of 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." [21]

The damages were not decided on until the 3rd of February 2016.[22] 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.[23]

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.” .[24]

Stormont Standards Commissioner[edit]

It is known that at least two complaints [25] [26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

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 found that Phil Flanagan had not broken the Code of Conduct for MLAs.

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." [29]

Response to Controversies[edit]

Mr Flanagan seems to revel in his reputation as an 'enfant terrible' of the online world. After ScopeNI did an article about the Twitter usage of the six MLAs in Fermanagh South Tyrone in February 2015,[30] which referred to him as Scopes "bad boy of Twitter," he emailed them to draw attention to some omissions to their article.

He drew their attention to the "clampit" remarks, the Clabby being a "black hole" remarks and the pending court case with Tom Elliott. ScopeNI apologised and said they were "happy to confirm that he is even more the “bad boy of Twitter” than our original report suggested."[31]


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fermanagh District Council :: The Council :: Councillor Profiles - Erne North". Fermanagh.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  2. ^ "Fermanagh District Council :: The Council :: Councillor Profiles - Erne West". Fermanagh.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  3. ^ "Fermanagh co-option agreed | Sinn Féin". Sinnfein.ie. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  4. ^ "BBC News - Election 2011". Bbc.co.uk. 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  5. ^ "Sinn Féin". Fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  6. ^ Edwards, Rodney. "Phil Flanagan backs Sinn Fein deputy leader on Quinn issue". The Impartial Reporter. The Impartial Reporter. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  7. ^ http://www.irishnews.com/news/2015/12/15/news/flanagan-fails-sinn-fe-in-reselection-test-354178/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "Flanagan dismisses front page splash as non story". 
  9. ^ "MLA challenged after 'Clabby black hole' tweet". 
  10. ^ "Flanagan lets rip on Twitter over Jubilee bunting and tricolours". 
  11. ^ "Sinn Fein politician faces probe over offensive Twitter remark about royal baby". Independent.ie. 
  12. ^ "Flanagan sorry for Royal baby tweet". 
  13. ^ "Elliott and Flanagan tweet row could end up in High Court". Impartial Reporter. 
  14. ^ "Sinn Fein MLA to pay out libel damages". 
  15. ^ "Row over MLA’s William of Orange ‘terrorist’ tweet". Impartial Reporter. 
  16. ^ "Sinn Féin MLA dimisses Transport NI tweet as 'a joke'". 
  17. ^ "Sinn Feins Flanagan condemned for attack on Mairia Cahill". 
  18. ^ "Elliott I would vote to bomb Syria". 
  19. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal. 
  20. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal. 
  21. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal. 
  22. ^ "Phil Flanagan ordered to pay almost 50,000 in damages over defamatory tweet". 
  23. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal. 
  24. ^ "NI Ulster Unionist Party politician awarded 48750 for defamatory tweet by Sinn Fein politician". Irish Legal. 
  25. ^ "UK Northern Ireland". 
  26. ^ "Complaint over Flanagan clampit tweet". 
  27. ^ "SF's Phil Flnanagan apologies to Mairia Cahill". 
  28. ^ "End of Season Report". NI Assembly. 
  29. ^ "Report on a Complaint against Mr Phil Flanagan MLA". NI Assembly. 
  30. ^ "Fermanagh and S Tyrone Silent Minister and Twitter Bad Boy". 
  31. ^ "Phil Flanagan MLA Apology". 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-34390202

http://fermanaghherald.com/2015/03/photoshop-phil-makes-sure-he-gets-in-on-the-act/ http://m.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/im-no-thief-28626101.html

Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Tommy Gallagher
MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
2011 -
Succeeded by
Incumbent