Details withdrawn by McCausland after approach from PSNI

MINISTER POSTS ACTIVIST’S BUSINESS ADDRESS ON BLOG

By Kieran Hughes

A furious North Belfast businessman has accused DUP politician Nelson McCausland of using his blog to link him to dissident republicanism and posting details of his business address. The allegation comes as Minister McCausland faces censure in the Assembly over his comments over the St Patrick’s Church controversy.

The post, some of which was removed by the minister for social development after an approach from the PSNI, was described by Fra Hughes as “dangerous”.

Mr Hughes, who has travelled as far as Palestine in his role as a human rights activist, had been acting as a human rights observer on behalf of the Irish Law and Democracy Committee (ILDC) at the controversial Twelfth of July parades through Ardoyne.

In the past two months the DSD Minister has written a number of blogs on his site, The Minister’s Pen referring to the role of the ILDC at parades. In a blog posted on August 13 Mr McCausland refers to the ILDC as “GARC with brains”, referring to the radical Ardoyne residents’ group Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective. McCausland also links GARC with dissident republicans in his posts.

Then in a blog posted on Saturday, September 8 Mr McCausland posted a photograph of Mr Hughes and printed his name and business address.

The address was later removed after Mr Hughes contacted police to express his concern.

Mr Hughes insists that he is not aligned to any political party or group and that linking him to dissident republicans is dangerous to both himself and his customers.

“I was totally shocked and dismayed that a public representative being paid from the public purse, to which I contribute as a taxpayer, can imply that I am somehow involved or connected to dissident republicans.

“I am a human rights activist, a local business man currently employing staff from both communities and I have worked previously as a volunteer with a community group in which I have engaged with senior loyalists from the area. I state categorically that I am not, nor do I have connections to dissident republicans.”

Mr Hughes, who is the director of a registered charity Palestinian Aid, said he intends to pursue the matter.

“His posts link the ILDC to GARC and GARC to dissident republicanism, thus linking me to dissident republicanism. I contacted my solicitor in the first instance and then approached the police with my concerns and demanded that these posts be removed. Although the Minister has belatedly removed my business address from his blog it was and had been in the public domain for several days.”

Mr McCausland did not respond to our phone calls despite repeated attempts to contact him on the issue.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police in Antrim Road received a report on Tuesday 11 September of a man’s personal details appearing on a blog. The man involved had concerns over his details being on the website. Although not a police matter, as there was no threat on the blog, in trying to resolve the matter, police spoke with the blogger and raised the concerns of the man involved. Once spoken to, the blogger agreed to take down the personal details from the website and did so that day.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Development would not comment on the Minister’s actions saying it was a party matter while a DUP spokesperson said, “One of the key failures of the current system governing parades is the lack of regulation or control over those protesting, or indeed those who set themselves up as “human rights observers”. Whilst parade organisers have to publicly identify themselves the same is not required from protestors and objectors. Mr McCausland’s post help to point out that fact and highlight the need for a new start to parading in Northern Ireland.”“However, events have taken a sinister turn with Mr McCausland launching a personal attack on one of our members, naming him, publishing a number of photographs of him and naming his workplace on his blog.

“This is a dangerous and irresponsible road to travel. History in Northern Ireland has shown where scurrilous and off the cuff remarks about those engaged in human rights work can lead, with grave consequences.”

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