SINN Fein and its Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy have been left with egg on their faces after they were forced to issue a grovelling apology to an animal charity.
In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, the party said it was “unreservedly apologising” to the USPCA for “inaccurate and defamtory” statements made by the MP and issued through its presse office four months ago.
Mr Molloy, who was elected to Westminister seat this year after Martin McGuinness stepped down, had falsely claimed that the charity had been found guilty of animal cruelty.
And to compound to the libel, the former RUC Special Branch informant claimed the USPCA had been found guilty of negligence.
Both claims were entirely untrue.
The Sinn Fein statement issued reads: “On 20 May 2013 at 8.23pm and 21 May at 11.45am Francis Molloy issued two press releases through Sinn Féin press office relating to the USPCA.
“The first of those press releases indicate that the USPCA were to plead guilty to charges of animal cruelty in Armagh Court on 21 May 2013.
“The second of those statements went on to allege that the USPCA had been found guilty of negligence.
“It has been pointed out to us that the statements contained in these press releases were inaccurate and were defamatory of the USPCA as an organisation.
“Sinn Féin and Francis Molloy wish to clarify that they accept that the USPCA did not face any criminal charges and did not plead guilty to any such charges.
“Nor was there any court finding against the USPCA.
“Sinn Féin and Francis Molloy retract both statements and apologise unreservedly to the USPCA.”
It is not known if the party is to pay the USPCA any damages or whether it will make a donation to the animal charity.