Thursday 17 January 2019

Press Ombudsman rejects complaint by Gerry Adams against the Irish Independent

Former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

The Press Ombudsman has rejected a complaint made by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams against the Irish Independent.

The complaint was in relation to a front page story published on September 1 last which was headlined “Don’t jail IRA murderers of innocent farmer - Adams”.

The story carried extracts of an interview Mr Adams had given to local radio station LMFM after gardai discovered a number of new lines of inquiry in relation to the murder of Co Louth farmer Tom Oliver by the IRA in 1991.

The report stated that Mr Adams had said he did not think that jailing Mr Oliver’s killers “would assist the wider process”. He was also reported as saying that jailing the killers “would be totally and absolutely counterproductive”.

The front page story ended with information that the full story was available inside the paper on page six.

Solicitors for Mr Adams wrote to the Editor of the Irish Independent, Fionnán Sheahan, stating that their client “denies your grossly inaccurate assertion” that he had said Mr Oliver’s killers should not be jailed.

Legal representatives for the Irish Independent responded by saying the article was “fair and accurate and by no means false and misleading” and included transcripts of the LMFM interview to support the headline.

Mr Adams then made a complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.

In his submission to the Ombudsman, Mr Sheahan said that what the paper had reported was a “truthful and accurate representation of the interview” and that a quote referred to by Mr Adams was “incomplete”.

Solicitors for Mr Adams responded by saying that the “headline and whole tenet of the article” was inaccurate as Mr Adams had “stated in the interview that Thomas Oliver’s family deserved the truth and also that Sinn Féin continued to facilitate attempts to put in place an independent international body to obtain information for Thomas Oliver’s family and other families”.

In his determination, Ombudsman Peter Feeney said that while the front page story did not mention that Mr Adams had said he supported the rights of families of people killed by the IRA “to see investigations and prosecutions”, this information was carried in the fuller story on page six.

He pointed out that the fuller story also included Mr Adams’ qualification that there were “two conflicting imperatives” - the rights of the family of Mr Oliver to see his murderers prosecuted and the “wider process that we are all engaged in”.

Mr Feeney said he did not believe the failure of the front page article to refer to this rendered it untruthful or inaccurate. This information was carried in the inside report.

“Newspapers are entitled to concentrate on particular parts of interviews which they regard as newsworthy.

“The view that Deputy Adams regarded the sending to jail, if convicted, the murderers of Mr Oliver as ‘counterproductive’ was newsworthy.

“The reference to the counterproductive outcome of jailing Mr Oliver’s murderers was a specific statement, the right of families to the truth was something that had been stated before by Sinn Féin representatives and was, therefore, less newsworthy.

“The complaint is not upheld”.

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