Saturday 17 March 2018

Sunday Times apology for 'sexist' column is branded 'unacceptable'

Not mentioned in apology: Sacked columnist Kevin Myers. Photo: Tony Gavin
Not mentioned in apology: Sacked columnist Kevin Myers. Photo: Tony Gavin

Alan O'Keeffe

An apology issued by 'The Sunday Times' yesterday, for an article by Kevin Myers has been denounced as "completely unacceptable" by the National Women's Council of Ireland.

The controversial column, entitled 'Sorry Ladies, equal pay has to be earned,' led to Mr Myers being sacked within hours of its publication the previous week. In his article about the BBC gender pay gap, Mr Myers had referred to the Jewish faith of high-earning BBC presenters Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, stating Jews are "not generally known for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest-possible price".

The newspaper yesterday published a short, four paragraph editorial which contained an apology, stating the article "included unacceptable comments which caused offence to many, in particular to the Jewish people."

Last night, Orla O'Connor, Director of National Women's Council (NWCI), said: "The article clearly displayed discriminatory views on both gender and religious grounds, yet the apology today made no reference to the misogynistic and sexist views expressed in the article. The apology presented the Sunday Times with the opportunity to redress the views expressed, and the offence caused to women.

"This opportunity was clearly not taken. By its omission, in our view the apology gives licence to further similar sexist views to be expressed in its newspaper in the future"

"It is ironic that the genesis of this article came from a series of articles on the persistent inequalities that women experience with regard to economic equality and leadership. NWCI will now submit a formal complaint to the Sunday Times' editor, and to the Press Ombudsman."

The newspaper's apology was entitled 'Overstepping The Mark' and stated the article was removed and the newspaper had apologised to the two female BBC presenters. "Newspapers publish controversial articles that often cause upset. It is important to generate forthright debate about issues affecting our lives.

"It is also important, however, not to publish comments that overstep the mark. Where this column did so, we are deeply sorry," it stated.

Marriage Equality chairwoman Gráinne Healy labelled the apology as "horrendous" in an interview on RTE's Marian Finucane Show yesterday.

"[The apology] doesn't even mention one of the key elements [of the column] ... That man has a history of stating dreadful things about, in particular, women."

"The man has lost his job, he paid his price ... but personally I stopped reading Kevin Myers 10 years ago."

The editor of 'The Sunday Times' Irish edition, Frank Fitzgibbon, was absent from Twitter over the weekend.

Associate editor John Burns tweeted the front page, merely stating it was "the end of a difficult week".

Four letters on the controversy were published in the newspaper's 'Letters To The Editor' section. Two of the letters were critical of the editorial process in the newspaper, which had failed to prevent the remarks being published.

One letter, from a woman in Wexford, stated Mr Myers's writings over the years were "far from anti-Semitic" and she believed him to be "a deeply compassionate and honest man".

The Jewish Representative Council of Ireland showed support for the sacked journalist, stating that attempts to brand Mr Myers as an anti-Semite were "an absolute distortion of the facts".

Following his sacking, Mr Myers (70) said he had believed he was paying the two women presenters a compliment. But he admitted: "I am the author of my own misfortune."

It will be some weeks before the Press Ombudsman issues a decision on complaints made about the column.

Irish Independent

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