Labour's Ivana Bacik denies it was hypocritical to attend event on media freedom days after party issued legal warnings to media organisations

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik. Photo: Arthur Carron

LABOUR leader Ivana Bacik has denied it was hypocritical to attend an event on media freedom days after her party issued legal warnings to media organisations over a political poison-pen-letter.

She claimed it was “perfectly acceptable” for a political party to issue legal warnings to journalists who rely on anonymous correspondence if it is defamatory.

Ms Bacik defended her party issuing legal threats to media organisations the day after chairing a panel at an event on freedom of speech organised by the Index on Censorship at Trinity College Dublin.

The event heard from speakers who campaign against strategic lawsuits against public participation or SLAPPs, which are considered an abuse of defamation laws. Ms Bacik has previously criticised Sinn Féin’s propensity for issuing libel writs against media organisations.

Last weekend, the Sunday Independent reported that it had received a legal warning from the party over an anonymous letter it had received which made claims about an adviser to Ms Bacik. Labour said the claims were “completely untrue”.

Speaking ahead of her first party conference as Labour leader in Cork on Friday, Ms Bacik said she did not accept it was hypocritical to attend the conference.

“There are many instances where those journalists who are speaking themselves about having been recipients of defamation claims had also themselves issued proceedings where they had been defamed,” she claimed.

She said she does not “engage with anonymous, untrue and defamatory alleged letters” and disputed that the legal warning had a “chilling effect” on the media, claiming the party’s warning “didn’t seem to chill”.

She added: “We don't engage in anonymous, untrue and libellous or defamatory correspondence.

“We've made that very clear and I think it's very valid for any political party to take issue with journalists who seek to rely entirely on an anonymous alleged letter that's also untrue and that is defamatory. I think it is perfectly acceptable for a political party to take action.”

Ahead of the conference getting underway, Ms Bacik said the “housing disaster was currently engulfing the country” and appealed to Opposition TDs, including those who backed the Government over the ending of the eviction ban next week, to “step up” and back Labour’s motion of no confidence in the Dáil next week.

“I don't think any of the Independents wanted to vote for evictions, they didn't want to vote clearly not for increased homelessness figures and yet we know that that's what's going to result from the lifting of the ban on April 1,” she said.

Local Labour TD Seán Sherlock said the “expression of the fear of eviction” is driving the issue and claimed the party is being contacted by “thousands of people” who are fearful about the end of the eviction ban.

Ms Bacik said that the ban should be extended for the next three or four months to bring in measures that would alleviate the homelessness crisis.