Mr Gerry Adams TD and the Irish Independent
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint made by Mr Gerry Adams TD that the Irish Independent breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 1 September 2017 the Irish Independent published on its front page a report on an interview Deputy Adams had given to LMFM, a radio station in Counties Louth and Meath. The heading to the piece was “Don’t jail IRA murderers of innocent farmer – Adams”. The report was based on Deputy Adams’ response to news that the Gardaí had uncovered a number of new lines of inquiry in its investigations into the murder in 1991 of a farmer, Tom Oliver, in County Louth. The report stated that Deputy Adams had said that he did not think that jailing Mr Oliver’s killers “would assist the wider process”. Deputy Adams was reported as saying that jailing the killers “would be totally and absolutely counterproductive”. The front page report ended with the information that the full story was available inside the paper
Solicitors representing Deputy Adams wrote to the editor of the Irish Independent stating that their client “denies your grossly inaccurate assertion” that he had said that the killers of Tom Oliver “should not be jailed”. They claimed that “even from a cursory reading of the LMFM interview transcript it is quite clear” that Deputy Adams’ remarks had been “completely misconstrued” and that “he did not state that those responsible for the killing of Mr Oliver in 1991 should not be prosecuted”.
Solicitors representing the Irish Independent responded to Deputy Adams’ solicitors and said that the article was “fair and accurate and by no means false and misleading”. The Irish Independent solicitors included extracts from the radio interview transcript which they claimed supported the headline on the article. They also concluded that the article was a “truthful and accurate representation of the interview” Deputy Adams had given to LMFM.
As their client was not satisfied with the response from the newspaper a complaint was made to the Office of the Press Ombudsman. A link to an audio file of the full interview was provided.
The editor of the Irish Independent made a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman and stated that the “quote referred to by the complainant is incomplete” and that what the newspaper had reported was a “truthful and accurate representation of the interview”.
Solicitors representing Deputy Adams responded by saying that the “headline and whole tenet of the article” was inaccurate as their client 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”.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
The front page article in the Irish Independent reported that Deputy Adams believed the jailing of Mr Oliver’s murderers would be “counterproductive”. This article did not mention that Deputy Adams had stated in his radio interview that he supported the rights of families of people killed by the IRA “to see investigations and prosecutions”. This information was carried on page 6 of the newspaper in a fuller report which included Deputy Adams’ qualification that there were “two conflicting imperatives” (the rights of the family of Tom Oliver to see his murderers prosecuted and the “wider process that we are all engaged in”). However, I do not believe that the failure of the front page article to refer to this rendered it untruthful or inaccurate. The information was carried in the fuller report inside the paper. 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 qualification which Deputy Adams made in his radio interview that the families of those killed were entitled to the truth did not need to be referred to in the front-page report to meet requirements found in Principle 1. 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 headline used on the front page article “Don’t jail IRA murderers of innocent farmer – Adams” whilst not reflecting the full intent of what Deputy Adams had said in his radio interview was a reasonable summary of the most newsworthy aspect of Deputy Adams’ interview. The complaint is not upheld.
13 December 2017