Geraghty and the 'Sunday Independent'
The Press Ombudsman has decided to uphold a complaint by Mr Des Geraghty about the Sunday Independent.
Mr Geraghty complained that an article in the Sunday Independent of November 8, 2009, entitled "Geraghty's des res and the house Jack 'built'", was in breach of Principles 1 (Accuracy) and 5 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals, in that it described as "Mr Geraghty's own home" a property that he did not own, and in that there was no public interest in the publication of personal details about him in the context of a story about trade union leaders.
The newspaper offered to publish a clarification containing his rebuttal of the statements about the property involved, and including the information that he retired from Siptu in 2003 and his statement that he has no involvement with Ictu or with current union strategy on any subject. It also offered to express its regret for any distress caused. The complainant rejected this offer to publish a "clarification" as inadequate.
This complaint arose in the course of a public controversy about the relative living standards of -- among others -- television presenters and current senior trade union officials. The complainant was one of those featured in an article about the private homes of current trade union officials, and was referred to prominently in the headline.
The newspaper did not dispute the complainant's view that the article was factually incorrect insofar as it referred to the property concerned, and its proposed clarification accepted a substantial part of the wording suggested by the complainant in relation to his trade union activities. It did not address his claim that it had breached his privacy.
In the opinion of the Press Ombudsman, however, a "clarification" is an inadequate response to a complaint about the prominent publication of a significant factual error, as in this case. The Press Ombudsman's view, therefore, is that a retraction or apology as provided for under Principle 1.3 would be required before he could accept that sufficient remedial action had been offered or taken by the publication concerned as a remedy for this breach of the Code of Practice. The complaint under Principle 1 is therefore upheld.
The complainant has been, and remains, a public person. Nonetheless, in the opinion of the Press Ombudsman, the publication of some of his personal details in the article does not satisfy the requirement of Principle 5.4 of the Code of Practice that such publication may be justifiable "where the information revealed relates to the validity of the person's conduct, the credibility of his public statements, the value of his publicly expressed views, or is otherwise in the public interest." The complaint under Principle 5 is therefore upheld.