Harassment allegations | 

Eoghan Harris and wife Gwen Halley will not face criminal charges over tweets

“We are very happy to receive this news as the initial reporting of this investigation caused us a fair amount of distress,” Mr Harris said.

Eoghan Harris

Shane PhelanIndependent.ie

Former newspaper columnist and politician Eoghan Harris and his wife Gwen Halley will not face charges following a garda probe into allegations of online harassment.

A complaint by Aoife Moore, a political journalist, sparked a nine-month investigation into the couple, leading to a file being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in May.

Her complaint related to tweets posted by Mr Harris and Ms Halley from pseudonymous Twitter accounts.

Gardaí informed the parties today that the DPP had decided not to press charges.

“We are very happy to receive this news as the initial reporting of this investigation caused us a fair amount of distress,” Mr Harris said.

Ms Moore declined to comment.

The former senator and his wife were both interviewed by gardaí as part of the probe, which examined whether offences were committed under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

This prohibits the harassment of another "by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her".

The couple denied the tweets amounted to online harassment.

Mr Harris, who is terminally ill, was sacked by the Sunday Independent in May last year after he admitted being secretly involved in the running of a Twitter account under the name of "Barbara J Pym".

The newspaper's editor Alan English said material posted on the account frequently went far beyond fair and reasonable comment and described Mr Harris's involvement in the account as a "betrayal of trust".

The Pym account and others associated with it were suspended by Twitter.

Ms Halley, also a former Sunday Independentwriter, later admitted being behind one of the suspended accounts, which used the name "Dolly White".

She previously told the Irish Independent she was responsible for 34 tweets critical of Ms Moore’s coverage of Sinn Féin.

While it appears the matter is closed from a criminal law perspective, civil proceedings remain ongoing.

Ms Moore, who works for the Sunday Times, has ongoing defamation proceedings against Mr Harris and his wife in the High Court.

Mr Harris is also being sued over allegedly malicious and defamatory posts on Twitter by Belfast Telegraph crime correspondent Allison Morris.

Both Mr Harris and his wife deny defamation and claim the content of tweets amounted to fair comment.

Mr Harris has also issued defamation proceedings against Ms Moore in the Circuit Court, where a hearing date could be set next month.

These relate to comments in which Ms Moore said the Pym account sent her sexualised messages about "whether Mary Lou McDonald turned me on, the size of my arse and called me a terrorist".

She also said she had to go to counselling and the gardaí following tweets.

While Mr Harris accepts the Pym account tweeted public messages about Ms Moore, he says he never sent her private or direct messages and denies ever communicating with her in a "sexualised way".

He claims the anonymous Pym account was set up to tweet about Northern Ireland politics and was "not a trolling account".

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos