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Journalist wins libel damages from own union over Real IRA sources

A police officer patrols outside the Massereene army barracks in Antrim, west of Belfast, Northern Ireland, after two British soldiers were shot to death and four other people injured in a drive-by ambush March 7, 2009 that politicians blamed on IRA dissidents.

Investigative journalist Suzanne Breen has won libel damages from UK's National Union of Journalists over an article about her which appeared in union magazine – The Journalist. Union member Breen was backed by the NUJ in a legal battle with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2009 which had sought to force her to disclose information which could lead to exposing the identity of sources in the Real IRA terrorist group.

The Press Gazette reported: [Link]

Breen had received the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility for shooting dead two soldiers at the gates of Massereene Army Base in Antrim. She also interviewed a member of the group. She refused to hand over phone records and notes to police and in June 2009 a judge upheld her right to do so saying that to hand over the information would endanger her life.

Breen, who was Northern Ireland editor of the now closed Sunday Tribune newspaper, began defamation proceedings against the NUJ after union mag The Journalist published comments about her stance in the Real IRA sources case.

The case was due to go to trial at the High Court in Belfast but was settled at the eleventh hour. The outcome is subject to a confidentiality agreement – but her lawyer Paul Tweed told the BBC that she had taken the case with "the greatest of reluctance".

Speaking outside the cour yesterday he said: “Such was the gravity and outrageous nature of the offending allegations, which not only sought to undermine her professional integrity, but also could have prejudiced her personal security and that of her young family, that she was left with no choice but to issue these defamation proceedings.” The agreement is understood to include a retraction, apology, substantial damages and payment of legal costs.

Date posted: March 8, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 185