238/2019 - Mr Raymond Kilbride and The Sunday Times
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint by Mr Raymond Kilbride that The Sunday Times breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 18 August 2019 The Sunday Times published an editorial on the subject of services which require citizens to have a Public Services Card (PSC). In the editorial it was stated that the Public Services Card is “a mandatory requirement for citizens accessing social welfare payments”. The headline on the editorial read “Even privacy lobbyists will need a card to get a pension”.
Mr Raymond Kilbride complained that the editorial breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice because a number of statements in it, including the headline, were inaccurate. He enclosed copies of correspondence with various Government Departments, agencies and politicians going back to 2013 in which he disputed aspects of the Public Services Card.
The editor of The Sunday Times defended the editorial stating that there was no “significant inaccuracy” in it as maintained by Mr Kilbride. He said that none of the correspondence which Mr Kilbride had attached to his complaint contradicted the fact that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection requires applicants for social welfare, including the state pension, to apply for and obtain a Public Services Card to access those payments.
Mr Kilbride responded stating that the statement in the editorial that the PSC is a mandatory requirement for citizens accessing social welfare payments is a false statement, and the “contrary opinions of civil servants do not make it true”. He further stated that the editorial cannot be permitted to “give credence to the Government’s unlawful methods of foisting the PSC on the targeted sick and elderly”.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
I am not upholding this complaint. As the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s current practice stands anyone seeking a social welfare payment requires a PSC. This includes those who might currently dispute the legality of this requirement and who are lobbying to have the requirement overturned. I can find no evidence that the headline to the editorial, or the statements in it that were the subject of the complaint, breached Principle 1 of the Code of Practice.
11 December 2019
The complainant appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland on the grounds that the Press Ombudsman had erred in his application of the Code of Practice.
At its meeting on 7 February 2020, the Press Council decided to reject the appeal on the grounds that the Ombudsman had not erred in his application of the Code.