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to the courts

Mary Lou McDonald’s husband sues Shane Ross following his biography of the Sinn Féin leader

The legal action was filed yesterday by solicitors acting on behalf of Martin Lanigan.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Feb 2023

MARY LOU MCDONALD’S husband is taking legal action against former cabinet minister Shane Ross and a publishing company. 

The legal proceedings were filed yesterday by solicitors acting on behalf of Martin Lanigan against Ross and publisher Atlantic Books, which last year published Ross’ book ‘Mary Lou McDonald: A Republican Riddle’. 

Previously, McDonald stated that every citizen has a right to defend their good name after it was reported in October of last year that solicitors acting on behalf of Mr Lanigan had issued Ross with a legal letter in relation to the book. 

Speaking to The Journal, Shane Ross said that he and his solicitors will defend any legal action taken over the biography “robustly”.

“When I wrote the book I offered to interview both Martin Lanigan and Mary Lou McDonald, and I am reiterating that offer now,” he added, noting that the public has a right to ask questions of its politicians.

Following the publication of the book, McDonald told reporters that she and her husband have a mortgage on their family home after the book had raised questions about how renovations on it were purchased. 

Asked about the threat of this legal action when it was first reported last October, McDonald said: “Obviously, our system relies on two things – freedom of expression, freedom of the press and also the right of every citizen to defend and vindicate their good name.

“And my husband is a private citizen and I think those rights for private citizens are especially important.”

Sinn Féin told The Journal this afternoon that it would not be commenting on the matter. 

Last June, when asked about separate High Court defamation proceedings against RTÉ, McDonald also said that there is no binary between freedom of the press and an individual’s right to defend their reputation.

That case is in relation to an interview that aired on RTÉ radio in February 2022 in which a reporter made reference to Sinn Féin and the IRA’s historic handling of abuse allegations.

“Freedom of the press is a very important value. It’s a cornerstone of democracy and it needs to be defended. And I don’t regard that and the right of an individual to defend their reputation as a zero-sum game. I don’t think it’s one or the other. And beyond that, I will not stray because it is now a matter for the courts,” McDonald also said at a press conference in Brussels last year.