4118/2019 Mr Dan Duane and the Irish Examiner

By admin
Friday, 10th May 2019
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The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint made by Mr Dan Duane that the Irish Examiner breached Principles 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.

On Saturday 3 November 2018 the Irish Examiner published a front-page report under the headline “Cloyne ex-priest sets out abuse defence in book”.  Under the headline was a sub-heading “Outcry as Duane addresses 11 allegations made against him”. The report described how Dan Duane, a defrocked priest, had self-published a book in which he defended himself against findings that he had “abused minors”. The report stated that Mr Duane said in the book that he had written the book to “redress the injustice that (he) was denied by the Cloyne Report and the Cloyne Church Tribunal”. The report went on to state that the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) had called on Amazon to remove the book from sale immediately as the publication of the book had caused “enormous distress to the women involved”. The report also included a comment from a spokesperson for the Cloyne Diocese saying “The diocese is concerned about this (book) because of the power of the impact on victims”. The report then outlined Mr Duane’s acquittal in the criminal courts on two occasions and his conviction in canonical courts in regard to five victims and his subsequent dismissal from the priesthood.

Mr Duane wrote to the editor of the Irish Examiner saying that the author of the report had given the impression that she had read his book. He then proceeded to give his account of his legal proceedings and his views on his accusers. He queried the reported number of his victims.   He then denied that there had been any “outcry” at the publication of his book and that the Irish Examiner gave the impression that he didn’t have the right to write his book.

Mr Duane made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman claiming that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Code of Practice had been breached by the Irish Examiner.

The Irish Examiner stood over its publication of the article stating that Mr Duane had been found guilty of five charges in the canonical courts and that the Church had previously confirmed that the diocese of Cloyne had settled civil cases with “at least five of his victims”. The editor justified the use of the word “outcry” in the sub-heading as “reasonable”, based on the headline writer’s summation of the impact of the book’s publication. The editor concluded that he found “no merit” in Mr Duane’s complaint.

Mr Duane responded to the editor’s submission largely challenging some of the proceedings against him in the courts and tribunal. He included extracts from his book and said that the Irish Examiner had “incurred the onus to read the book in full and repair (the) damage by cooperating in its launch in the defence of free speech and freedom of the press”.

The editor responded by saying that what was published on 3 November had been a news report on the reaction to the publication of his book and not a book review.  He said there was a range of formats in which Mr Duane could publish further copies of his book and that the matter was not an issue in which the newspaper was either impeding his free speech or the freedom of the press,  and that there was no obligation on the Irish Examiner to  “co-operate with his plans”  in that respect.

As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

Principle 1

The report that led to this complaint was a news report on the reaction to the publication of a book by a former priest defending his reputation following his dismissal from the priesthood.  I can find no significant inaccuracy in what was published. Almost all of the complainant’s challenges in regard to accuracy refer to his court and tribunal experiences and are therefore not relevant to any claims that the newspaper breached any Principle of the Code of Practice.

The use of the term “outcry” in the report to describe the reaction to the publication of the book was challenged by Mr Duane. The paper defended the use of the word in the headline based on concerns expressed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, concerns expressed by the Diocese of Cloyne and concerns expressed by previous victims of Mr Duane.   In these circumstances  the use of the word “outcry” was justified. There is also the matter of the claim by Mr Duane that there were only two alleged victims, “not 5 or 11”. The eleven victims which Mr Duane mentions are presumably a reference to a sentence in the report “The Cloyne Report looked at the Church’s handling of clerical sex abuse allegations, including 11 complaints against Mr Duane.” The complainant has provided no reason to question the accuracy of this statement. For all of these reasons I find that there was no breach of Principle 1.

Principle 4

This Principle requires the press to not publish matters based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations.  What was published on 3 November was an account of a response to the publication of a book. The background information provided in the article on the author was a factual account of the author’s court and tribunal experience. That the author disputes many of the findings of the courts and tribunal is not relevant.  There was no breach of Principle 4.

27 March 2019