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Newspaper names politician who got taxpayers to foot bill for libel case

David McNarryA regional daily has named a politician who got taxpayers to foot a libel bill after defaming one of its journalists.

The Belfast News Letter has unveiled David McNarry, left, UKIP’s leader in Northern Ireland, as responsible for using the Northern Irish Assembly’s publicly-funded libel insurance to pay a bill owed to its former political editor, the late Liam Clarke.

In January, the Assembly refused a Freedom of Information request from the newspaper which sought to reveal details of the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) who had used the policy, saying that details of the case were “clearly expected to remain confidential”.

Liam, who died in December 2015, had written a report of policy differences between Mr McNarry and Nigel Farage after interviewing both men in May 2014.

The then-MLA put out a statement, via his press officer, Lloyd Lavery, which was sent to many senior journalists in Northern Ireland, with the headline ‘McNarry roasts Liam Clarke for his mischievous, devious report in today’s Belfast Telegraph’.

In it, Mr McNarry said: “Clarke set out to rubbish UKIP deliberately, it was obviously his intention from beginning to end. It will be a long time, if ever, before I give him an interview.”

He also forwarded an email initially sent to Liam, which accused him of having a “penchant for mischief making and obtuse slants”.

Liam took legal action against Mr McNarry, which led to the latter accepting that the statement had been defamatory.

The News Letter says it understands Mr McNarry’s side requested a confidentiality clause so that neither party could speak publicly about the settlement – which is understood to have involved a five-figure sum.

However, the clause has no legal weight due to Liam’s passing.

The News Letter has been unable able to reach Mr McNarry for a comment since naming him.