Analysis

Thursday 24 July 2014

'Daily Star' editor in public spectacle over privacy laws

Liam Collins

Published 06/08/2006|00:11

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OPPOSING VIEWS: Ger Colleran's (left) comments on 'Prime Time' about privacy upset Martin Long (right)

DAILY Star editor Ger Colleran is not a man known for mincing his words on privacy or other issues. This hasn't endeared him to Martin Long of the Catholic Communications Office.

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"We had too much privacy in this country. We should have had less privacy in respect of clerical abuse of children, when they were screaming in every presbytery all over the country," said Ger in a Prime Time broadcast on Government plans to introduce laws to protect "citizens" from media invasion.

Mr Colleran is right. There is far too much privacy. It's what has protected the banks, the legal profession and the politicians - and it did play a major part in protecting the clergy.

But Martin Long complained to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) in fairly strongish terms. "These words are false, slanderous and amount toan allegation against every parish-based priest in the country," he thundered.

"A presbytery is both a place of work and home for priests, and the running of presbyteries is very much reliant on the ongoing support of lay people in the parish."

He also complained about the "mistaken presumption" to the prevalence of child sexual abuse by clergy.

Only 3.2 per cent of those reporting sexual abuse of children identified their perpetrator as a member of the clergy, although a survey found that only 16 per cent of people came close to this figure when they were asked to estimate clerical sex abuse.

RTE acknowledged that it was a "robust defence" of the rights of newspapers to pursue stories. But, they claimed, "Viewers would have understood the nature of live debate and would not have taken literally the example provided by Mr Colleran and would have understood the point he was making, namely that privacy laws might inhibit the exposure of wrongdoing."

The BCC declined to uphold the complaint. "All the examples were said in an exaggerated manner. In the overall context of the discussion, it was a general comment, made to highlight an opinion."

The BCC was of the view that it was made to convey, and endorse, his stance on the issue of privacy laws, and that there was no evidence of intent to cause offence.

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