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INM says threats to close down tabloid a step too far

THE 'Irish Daily Star' was published as usual this morning, as its co-owners here described threats to close the title as "disproportionate".

The threat to the newspaper came as there was a public backlash from the half-owners in Britain after it republished several pages from the French magazine 'Closer' showing Kate Middleton sunbathing topless during a private holiday.

Independent News & Media -- which publishes this newspaper and owns 50pc of the 'Irish Daily Star' -- also condemned the decision to publish, saying it was beginning an "immediate investigation".

But INM dismissed calls from its UK partner for the tabloid's closure, with the loss of up to 120 jobs.

Any closure would be "disproportionate to a poor editorial decision that occurred without reference to either shareholder", INM said last night.

INM confirmed that it did not know in advance that the pictures were being published by the 'Star'.

The newspaper's other owner, UK-based Northern & Shell, said that the paper would no longer be able to use the 'Daily Star' name and that its future was a decision for INM.

"I am very angry at the decision to publish these photographs and am taking immediate steps to close down the joint venture," the company's chairman, Richard Desmond, said.

Seamus Dooley, head of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland, described Mr Desmond's statement as a "hissy fit".

Joe Webb, chief executive of INM (Ireland) and a director of publishing company Independent Star, said the pictures should not have been published.

"This was a poor decision. These pictures should not have been published.

"I understand the anger that many Irish citizens feel at the offence caused to the British royal family, especially in the light of the visit of Queen Elizabeth last year.

"Since then Ireland has regarded the queen and her family in the warmest light. Kate Middleton is a member of her family -- and on behalf of INM, I wish to offer her my deepest apologies," he added.

While both the 'Star' owners went out of their way to criticise the publication, senior staff tried to justify the action.

'Star' editor Michael O'Kane earlier said: "The duchess would be no different to any other celeb pics we would get in, for example, Rihanna or Lady Gaga. She's not the future queen of Ireland, so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK."

An Italian gossip magazine said it would follow suit by publishing a 26-page spread on the duchess that would include the pictures.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the threat to close the newspaper is completely "disproportionate."

Mr Rabbitte also said it was "hypocritical" of part owner Richard Desmond to threaten closure - and 70 Irish jobs - considering some of his other publications portrayed naked women.

He said he didn't agree with the editorial call to publish the pictures, but said it would be "nonsense" to close the paper.

Irish Independent