Former senator ‘betrayed trust and his contract has been terminated’, says editor
Long-time Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris will no longer be writing for the paper, with immediate effect.
The decision to terminate Mr Harris’s contract was taken by editor Alan English this week, after the former Senator admitted being involved in the running of an anonymous Twitter account set up in February 2020.
Mr Harris has been a trenchant critic of Sinn Féin for many years and has written extensively on Northern Ireland, among many other subjects. His columns have also challenged readers to see the unionist perspective in relation to issues such as the recent debate around a potential Border poll.
“We encourage the expression of strong, sharp and diverse opinions in the Sunday Independent and Eoghan Harris’s column has been a must-read for a great number of readers for a considerable time,” said Mr English.
“While his views have long divided opinion, freedom of expression is a core principle of the Sunday Independent and its owner, Mediahuis.
“However, his position as a columnist became untenable when Eoghan confirmed to us this week that he has had an involvement in the operation of a fake Twitter account.
“Regardless of where they stand on any issue, we expect our writers to put their views across in a transparent manner. Readers can agree or disagree with these opinions. We will not, however, tolerate hidden agendas.
“This account was set up in February 2020 under the name of Barbara J Pym, mostly posting tweets about aspects of Irish politics.
“Many of the views expressed – such as opposition to ‘Sinn Féin pressure for a united Ireland’ are in keeping with those articulated by Eoghan Harris in his Sunday Independent column.
“Eoghan has accepted that he was one of the founders of the account. He has also stated to me that he was ‘one of a group of people that contributed to a Barbara Pym entity’.
“Having reviewed the account this week I found it frequently went far beyond what I would describe as fair and reasonable comment. Under no circumstances would such material have been published in our newspaper or on Independent.ie.
“We regard Eoghan Harris’s involvement with this account as a betrayal of trust and as such his contract has been terminated.
“Eoghan has been synonymous with the Sunday Independent for two decades and has been one of its sharpest and most distinctive opinion writers. While we have sometimes had our differences, I have also enjoyed working with one of the most unique voices in Irish public discourse.
“On a personal level, I very much regret that his involvement with the paper has ended in this way.”
Peter Vandermeersch, Publisher at INM, said: “Eoghan has been an outstanding columnist of the Sunday Independent. While we are very appreciative of his contributions over the years, we expect all our contributors to act in line with our core values of openness, transparency and the highest journalistic standards.
“We could not tolerate a situation where a columnist was contributing anonymously to a social media account which contradicts these core values.
“We will continue, however, to provide a diverse range of voices and opinions in the Sunday Independent.”
Mr Harris declined to comment when contacted by Independent.ie.