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Luke 'Ming' Flanagan in court in Brussels this morning.
Brussels

Man who hacked Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s Twitter account sentenced to 150 hours community service

A former parliamentary assistant to Flanagan admitted to sending the post in the early hours of 28 September, 2020.

LAST UPDATE | 25 Mar

A COURT IN Brussels has handed down 150 hours of community service to Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s former parliamentary assistant after he admitted to hacking the MEP’s Twitter account.

The post centred on former Green Party election candidate Saoirse McHugh.

On 28 September, 2020 at 2.50am, a post sent from Flanagan’s account on X, formerly Twitter, read: “Sapirse [sic] mchugh photo skinny dipping.”

Last month, Diarmuid Hayes, 34, from Dublin, was convicted of the offence in a Belgian court.

Hayes, who worked for Flanagan for 18 months, told last month’s court hearing that the post had been a joke and an “impulsive decision” that he had taken in the middle of the night. 

This morning, he was sentenced to 150 hours’ community service, in lieu of a 15 month prison sentence.

He was also fined €5,000 in damages to Flanagan, plus court fees.

At a hearing last month, Belgian public prosecutor Thomas Deschamps had sought a one-year prison sentence for Hayes.

However, Deschamps said he would not object if this term was suspended. 

Hayes left his position as assistant to Flanagan in 2019 and was no longer working for Flanagan.

Speaking outside court today, Flanagan explained that he changed his password but his account was still logged onto a third party app that Hayes had access to.

He said that the person who did this logged in from Belgium.

Flanagan himself had been at home in Ireland due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Belgian police had been working with Flanagan since he made the complaint four years ago.

During sentencing today, Judge Isabelle Jacquemin said Hayes was “conscious” of how the tweet would be construed when he posted it.

“You realised it would damage his reputation, you published it with the intention to damage his reputation and honour,” she told the court.

“You knew it would have very clear consequences.”

She also urged Hayes to be “conscious” of what he is doing online and of the consequences, especially when it is “damaging someone else’s reputation and honour”.

‘Glad this is over’ 

“The main thing for me is, I’m glad this is all over and I don’t have to deal with this anymore,” Flanagan said after the sentencing. “My name has been cleared”. 

He said the community service sentence was not a surprise – “it’s what I was expecting”.

Speaking after a court hearing last month, Flanagan said the matter has had a huge impact on his family, with his daughters being reluctant to leave the house sometimes over the comments they would hear about their father. 

In a post on X following this morning’s sentencing, Flanagan said he is happy the case is “done and dusted” and added that he and his family “are now heading off to have pancakes and enjoy the sun”.

Flanagan and Saoirse McHugh were both candidates for the European Parliament elections in the Midlands North West 2019. 

The Midlands North West takes in 13 counties and the 2019 count lasted for four days.

McHugh was elimated from the count during the early hours, three days into the extensive count. 

 


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