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'Creepy keyhole journalism' will stop -- Shatterprivacy: Justice Minister refuses to back down on new press law

COALITION tensions deepened today as Justice Minister Alan Shatter refused to back down from what he called "creepy keyhole journalism".

The majority of his Cabinet colleagues do not seem concerned about the need for a new privacy law -- but Mr Shatter vowed to bring proposals to cabinet in the new year.

The Government is facing a potentially serious split over the Minister's surprise threat to introduce a privacy clampdown on the media.

Mr Shatter has sparked a rift in cabinet after becoming the only minister to call for privacy legislation as the fallout from the publication of the Kate Middleton photos continues.

But speaking to the Herald, the Minister said the legislation is essential in ending what he described as "creepy keyhole journalism".

He said that that was the correct term to describe standing on a road with a lens hundreds of yards from where Kate Middleton was enjoying a private holiday.

"In the light of this, and other actions by sections of the print media, it is my intention to bring proposals to cabinet in the new year," he went on.

"This was always my intention, but given what we have seen in relation to the Star newspaper, we will review the legislation sooner than expected. It is my responsibility, as Minister for Justice, to introduce measures in this area while still protecting good news and investigative journalism."

The minister rejected suggestions that his comments were at odds with his cabinet colleagues, adding that suggestions he had gone on a solo run are "nonsense".

"There is no row here. The matter will be brought to cabinet and we will decide collectively."


The threat to introduce legislation came as the editor of the Irish Daily Star, Michael O'Kane, was suspended pending an investigation into the publication of the controversial images of the topless duchess in last Saturday's edition.

Mr Shatter received support today from the chairman of Fine Gael, Charlie Flanagan.

The TD said that Minister Shatter is "so right" in relation to his privacy bill plans, adding: "Also we must remember the good will of Queen's visit. We must defend a neighbour's child."

But their comments were at odds to those made by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, who said he found it "hard to get worked up" about the matter.

The Labour Party minister said he was not convinced of the need for privacy legislation. "Notwithstanding the lamentable lapse of judgment and taste by the Irish Daily Star, I would have to be persuaded that resort to legislation on privacy is warranted," said Mr Rabbitte.

The National Union of Journalists condemned Minister Shatter's plans as an "over reaction".

"Legislation in itself is not the answer. The strongest privacy legislation in Europe is actually in France, where this was published. Privacy is notoriously difficult to legislate for," according to NUJ secretary-general Seamus Dooley.

The row over the pictures of Kate Middleton has put up to 100 jobs at the Dundrum-based newspaper at risk.

Meanwhile, a French court in Nanterre will today rule whether to grant an injunction to Ms Middleton and her husband, Prince William, against magazine Closer to prevent further publication of topless photos of her.

The royal couple are trying to ensure the publication does not sell the photos to anybody else.

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