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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 14:59 GMT
Papers admit libel against Foster
Arlene Foster
The papers apologised to Environment Minister Arlene Foster
Environment Minister Arlene Foster has won substantial libel damages from three newspapers.

Apologies were also read out at the High Court in Belfast on behalf of the papers involved for false allegations made against Mrs Foster.

The papers were the News Letter, Tyrone Constitution and Tyrone Courier.

They had reported claims she betrayed unionists by working to ensure Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew was elected Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP in 2001.

The case centred on a press release in the name of former MP Ken Maginnis which was carried on the UUP website.

A week-long libel trial was due to begin next week, but it was confirmed on Friday that an out-of-court settlement had been reached.

Although the amount of damages was not disclosed, a five-figure sum is understood to have been paid out by the papers.

Apologies

As part of the settlement, a QC read out apologies from the three newspapers.

The News Letter and Tyrone Constitution statements referred to their reports including claims that Ms Foster had worked "surreptitiously" to ensure Sinn Fein won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat.

All three papers said: "We accept that these allegations were entirely unfounded and apologise to Mrs Foster and for the distress and embarrassment caused to her."

Outside the court Ms Foster's solicitor, John McBurney, said she was pleased to accept the apologies.

He added: "Mrs Foster was unable to attend court due to commitments in Fermanagh, but she is pleased the case will not have to proceed to trial next week."



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