THE EDITOR in chief of one of the papers which published the Sharon Ni Bheolain photographs at the weekend has apologised.
Editor in chief of the Irish Daily Mirror John Keirns was speaking on Newstalk this morning and apologised to Ms Ni Bheolain for publishing the covertly-taken photographs of the RTE star walking her dog while wearing her pyjamas.
“In hindsight and having listened to her yesterday, I believe that on my part, we made a mistake.
“I would like to apologise to Sharon for that. Because, to be fair to Sharon, she is not your run-of-the-mill celebrity that we would have in this country. I feel that, on our part, we did make a mistake.”
He admitted that there was a “massive row in this newsroom because of it”.
“We wrongly did a leader - saying as a joke - that she looked a bit rough. The news editor and myself felt very strongly about that. It was a lead and it was written very late at night and a few of the girls in the office said she didn’t look great and it was wrong.
“It was wrong and I would absolutely apologise to Sharon for that. In hindsight, I have to make quick decisions. We work in a competitive market and if you know your competitors have a certain set of pictures, you don’t want to be left out of the loop. But it wasn’t as though the Mirror hired a photographer to stalk Sharon for the weekend. But considering everything that she had been through, in hindsight, I think I made a massive error in judgment and I regret that."
However, the editor of the Irish Sun, Paul Clarkson, has expressed “surprise at Sharon’s actions” after his paper also published the pictures.
“I was genuinely surprised at her reaction. Our tone was respectful. We did not make any negative comments on her appearance. I actually thought it put her in a positive light. This is a woman who is very capable of reading the news and doing her job but who also has a bit of fun.
“I think Sharon is blowing us all out of proportion. She was talking on Joe Duffy yesterday and that blew this issue even more out of proportion – that there were people hiding in bushes yesterday. I can guarantee that the freelance photographer who took those photos was not hiding in a bushes. It was a public street and we were very careful to crop out any images of her daughter. Her daughter is not part of the story so we did show consideration.
“Sharon herself said that the stalker was not a problem – the problem was being seen worse for wear, looking like a dog’s dinner as she requited herself. He issue seemed to be more over her appearance than her picture actually appearing.
He said that he did not believe Ms Ni Bheolain was put under more stress by the photos which were published in a number of tabloids over the weekend.
“This is where the sense of proportion is probably getting lost,” he said “To complain about having her photograph taken in a public place in newspapers is not the same as the message she was getting from the stalker. It is nothing to do with her gender.
“I know Sharon said she was surprised that there was interest in her but she is a famous woman. We did a series of interviews with Sharon where she did great work in Malawi and it was her fane that helped being all of that positive attention to the story. She has to realise that she is in the public eye and this was a huge story for all of the newspapers.”
When asked whether it was fair whether Ms Ni Bheolain did not know she was being photographed, he said:
“A free press cannot be judged in what is in people’s tastes. There is pleny of times when video footage is being used when people don’t know that they are being filmed. You have got victims of crime and court cases and they probably do not want their photographs being used but they will be used everywhere. We can’t have a select few people decide what the rest of us will see.”
Yesterday anchor Sharon Ni Bheolain has spoken of her distress at being secretly photographed just days after it emerged she had been the target of a stalker.
Ni Bheolain was subjected to six months of harassment before making a complaint to An Garda Siochana before Christmas.
But the 43-year-old says she was deeply upset after pictures were published in a number of tabloid newspapers of her walking her dog while wearing pyjamas.
The presenter, who has been on scheduled leave from RTE to coincide with her daughter Faye's mid-term break, said the abuse failed to "knock a feather" off her.
"I have broad shoulders and am able to deal with this on my own," she said. "I have been handling it really, really well. I think I have been fairly robust."
But she said she was distressed to see pictures of herself in newspapers yesterday, which were taken without her knowledge near her home.
She is now considering taking the matter up with the Press Council.
The news anchor said it was her "right" to go outside in Ugg boots and a "battered cardigan".
"Perverse as this may sound, I was more upset seeing those photographs than I have been in recent weeks. This isn't the Kardashians. I'm a regular Joe Soap who happens to read the news every night."
Ni Bheolain had previously remained silent about the harassment investigation, but decided to speak out after pictures of the suspect also emerged over the weekend.
"The suspect was named," she said. "And in this country you are innocent until proven guilty – that is the bedrock of our justice system.
"I thought that was very inappropriate and, ridiculous as this sounds, I feel sorry for the guy and very sorry for his family," she said on Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' programme.
Ni Bheolain believes a second individual was involved in sending her a series of 'vile' emails and said the disclosure of information relating to the case has jeopardised the investigation.
"I am cross because this whole media kerfuffle has hampered the investigation," she said.
"It's an ongoing investigation but it is my belief there was a second individual involved; all this media kerfuffle would have tipped off other parties. And I don't think prosecution will be successful as a result. I'm disgusted by all this."
Kirsty Blake Knox