4123/2019 Mr Dan Duane and The Sunday Times
The Press Ombudsman has decided that The Sunday Times offered to take action which was sufficient to resolve a complaint made by Mr Dan Duane that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland had been breached.
On 4 November 2018 The Sunday Times published an article about a decision to withdraw from sale a book by Mr Dan Duane, a former priest, in which he claimed the Catholic Church had violated his human rights in the manner it had dealt with accusations against him of sexually abusing children.
Mr Duane wrote to the editor of The Sunday Times stating that he considered the article to have been “unprofessional and gravely misleading” and “damaging to (his) reputation”. He highlighted a number of statements in the article which he said were inaccurate, in breach of Principle 1 of the Code of Practice.
The Sunday Times responded to Mr Duane and offered to publish a letter “setting out some of the points” he had raised with the editor. As agreement on the wording of a letter to be published could not be reached, Mr Duane referred his complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
During the Office of the Press Ombudsman’s conciliation processes an agreement on the wording of a letter to be published was reached between The Sunday Times and Mr Duane. Mr Duane requested that the publication of his letter be delayed until the launch of his book took place. He asked that The Sunday Times would attend the launch. The Sunday Times was agreeable to this and said it would send a journalist to the launch and publish Mr Duane’s letter at that time. Mr Duane indicated that he would be in contact with the editor about the date and venue of the launch.
The launch of the book was postponed “due to flooding of the proposed venue”. Mr Duane indicated that the launch might be postponed for some considerable time. The Sunday Times proposed to go ahead and publish Mr Duane’s letter. Mr Duane did not want The Sunday Times to publish his letter in the circumstances of the postponement of the book launch. The newspaper agreed not to publish the letter.
Mr Duane requested that his complaint be forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
In my view The Sunday Times offered to take action which was sufficient to resolve this complaint. The complainant and the newspaper agreed on the wording of a letter to be published. The newspaper further agreed to delay publication of the letter until a scheduled launch of the complainant’s book. This launch, through no fault of the newspaper, did not take place and the newspaper proposed going ahead with the publication of the letter. This was not acceptable to the complainant. The publication of the letter would have been sufficient to deal with the complaint. The withdrawal of permission from the complainant to the publication of the letter cannot be attributed to any action taken by the newspaper. The offer as opposed to the publication of the letter was sufficient.
13 May 2019
The complainant appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland on the grounds significant new information was available that could not have been or was not made available to the Press Ombudsman before he made his decision.
At its meeting on 5 July 2019, the Press Council decided that the appeal was not admissible because it did not contain sufficient evidence to support the grounds cited. The decision of the Press Ombudsman therefore stands.