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Journalists launch legal action against Eoghan Harris over accounts linked to 'Barbara J Pym'

Harris confirmed he had received solicitors’ letters and added that he would “see them in court”.

Image: Shutterstock/khak

TWO JOURNALISTS HAVE launched legal proceedings against former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris, following this month’s revelations that he was one of the founders of an anonymous Twitter account under the name ‘Barbara J Pym’ which has since been permanently suspended from the platform.

Belfast-based Phoenix Law – which is representing journalists Allison Morris and Aoife Moore – has also written to Twitter in relation to the proceedings.

Harris confirmed to The Journal that he had received solicitors’ letters, and added that he would “see them in court”.

Last week Sunday Independent editor Alan English announced that Harris had been dropped as a columnist due to his involvement in the Twitter account. Twitter has also suspended eight additional accounts linked to the Barbara J Pym one. 

Morris – crime correspondent with the Belfast Telegraph, which is published by Independent News & Media – confirmed earlier today she is taking legal action against Harris to retrieve data from several Twitter accounts involved in what she described as “sustained and obsessive attacks” against her. 

Phoenix Law, on behalf of Morris, are seeking the identities of the eight other suspended Twitter accounts and the people behind them. 

Speaking last week Harris denied the additional accounts were linked to him telling RTÉ:

“No, they’re not linked to me, they have suspended nine Twitter accounts, which has supported the political line at various times, or retweeted stuff. They’ve done it clearly in response to major pressure and I suspect the pressure is coming from Sinn Féin.”

Aoife Grace Moore, political correspondent with the Irish Examiner, later confirmed that she too is taking action against Harris.

Moore tweeted last week that the Pym account had sent her sexualised messages. 

Asked about these tweets, which referenced the journalist’s “backside”, Harris said on RTÉ he did not write them but he denied they were sexually offensive, claiming the criticism was “humorous and robust”. 

Moore said today as part of a statement issued by Phoenix Law that there are “legal consequences” for social media abuse.

Claire McKeegan, partner at Phoenix Law and Morris’ legal representative, said that her client alleges “persistent trolling and online attacks on her reputation”.

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“We have sought full disclosure of each and every targeted account pertaining to Mr Harris directly and from Twitter. Given that no cooperation has been forthcoming, we are now asking the court to exercise its powers to retrieve the data.”

Twitter’s guidelines state that a legal process, such as a court order or subpoena, are required to release non-public information about Twitter users to those who request them.

In an interview with RTÉ’s Drivetime on Friday, Harris defended his co-founding of the account under a pseudonym, saying that he wanted to write about Northern Ireland more regularly than just once a week, and that it was the other six people involved in the account who wanted anonymity.

“I had no problem admitting my involvement when I was asked about it. But others on the site were a bit loath to do so because they’re just afraid of Sinn Féin, and of course that is the context of the whole thing,” he said.

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