Poor Clares get substantial donation after blogger defames Galway-based businessman

A blogger has apologised for defamatory tweets posted last month about Declan Ganley in what is believed to be the first legal settlement in the State involving Twitter content.

Kevin Barrington issued his apology to Galway-based businessman on Twitter, and said he had paid a "substantial" donation to the Poor Clare Sisters, Mr Ganley's nominated charity, to "reflect his regret".

Mr Barrington wrote: "I wish to unreservedly apologise to Declan Ganley for the content of my tweets of December 2012. In future I undertake not to defame Mr Ganley. To reflect my regret, I have made a substantial donation to the Poor Clares."

The out-of-court settlement will serve as a warning to Twitter users who have posted defamatory content online in the mistaken belief that it is not subject to the country's strict defamation laws.

Representing Mr Ganley, Belfast-based libel lawyer Paul Tweed said the action is likely to be "the first of many coming down the tracks in Ireland" for those engaged in online abuse.

"As far as media law firms are concerned, it is very much a growth area," he said. "In the last 12 months, there has been a major surge in people consulting us regarding abusive comments on social networking sites in general and Twitter in particular."

Mr Tweed believes the Lord McAlpine case in England has served as a wake-up call for many Twitter users who post libellous content online. The former Tory Party treasurer is taking legal action against 20 tweeters who wrongly identified him as a child abuser.

Mr Tweed said: "Before the Lord McAlpine case, I don't think people really appreciated that they are liable for defamatory content that they tweet.

"I think there was a general feeling that Twitter is different from the print media, but the same defamation law applies."

Mr Tweed recently represented former Galway West TD Frank Fahey in his successful settlement with the publishers of the Irish Daily Mail. He is also representing other high profile Galway figures in upcoming defamation actions.

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