Columnist goes to ground after 'serious' claims of plagiarism
A NATIONAL newspaper columnist accused of plagiarism has gone to ground with repeated attempts by his editor to contact him having failed.
The 'Irish Examiner' branded the claims against Steven King as being extremely serious and said it had suspended his weekly column.
Mr King has been accused of writing strikingly similar paragraphs to those penned by Brendan O'Neill, the editor of UK online magazine 'Spiked'.
The 'Irish Examiner' said it had been trying to contact Mr King, who is based in India, by email, phone and text message since Wednesday evening, but had not received a reply.
"Obviously, I would much prefer if I had a response from him by now," editor Tim Vaughan said.
"This morning, therefore, I suspended publication of any future columns and in the meantime I still await a response."
Mr King is based in New Delhi, where he works for public affairs and strategic communications firm APCO Worldwide.
His company profile states that he is the former chief political adviser to Northern Ireland's ex-First Minister David Trimble, and was also an Ulster Unionist Party negotiator on the Good Friday Agreement.
He has been writing a weekly column for the 'Irish Examiner since 2006'.
Allegations that he was plagiarising Mr O'Neill first surfaced in the blog 'Critical Press', written by a filmmaker producing an environmental documentary, at the end of September.
It alleged similarities between an October 2010 speech by Mr O'Neill on population and a column written last month by Mr King on the same topic.
Efforts by the Irish Independent to contact Mr King yesterday were also unsuccessful.
Mr O'Neill said if the allegations proved to be true, such behaviour could not be excused.
The British commentator praised Mr Vaughan for the manner in which he dealt with the allegations.
"He's dealt with it extremely quickly and I think has dealt with it in exactly the way an editor should deal with these kinds of things," Mr O'Neill said.
Mr Vaughan said Mr King's previous columns were being put through plagiarism-detection software.
"It is not practical for a newspaper to run every article through such software prior to publication, and there is a huge element of trust involved with freelance contributors."