1280/2022 - Pro-Life Campaign and the Limerick Post

Friday, 20th May 2022
Filed under:

The Press Ombudsman has decided that the Limerick Post took sufficient action to resolve a complaint that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland had been breached. A complaint that Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) had been breached was not upheld.

On 15 February 2022,  the Limerick Post published in its print edition an article under the headline “Divine providence prompts hospital abortion protests, campaigners claim”. The same article was published in the Limerick Post’s online edition under the headline “Divine providence prompts Limerick abortion protests”. The opening paragraph of the article stated “Anti-abortion protestors who have held prayer vigils and tried to engage with women outside University Maternity Hospital Limerick have claimed that “divine providence” and not staff tip-offs inspires them to protest on the days when abortions are scheduled”.

The Pro-Life Campaign made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman stating that the article breached Principles 1, 2 and 4 of the Code of Practice. The complainants stated that Principle 1 had been beached as the article had contained inaccuracies about the protestors having advance knowledge of when abortions were scheduled in the hospital.  They complained that  Principle 2 had been breached as the article had failed to distinguish between fact and comment when it had reported as fact the claim that protestors engaged with women at the hospital. This was, the complainants stated, based on the views expressed by the “Together for Safety” group and was an opinion, not a fact. The complainants also stated that Principle 4 had been breached as the activist who had been quoted inaccurately in the article had her reputation damaged. The Pro-Life Campaign sought a correction and an apology.

The Limerick Post provided the Office of the Press Ombudsman with a copy of a “right-of-reply” article published on 24 February under the headline “ Limerick maternity hospital rosary participant hits back at protest claims”. This subsequent article  was based on a statement issued by the activist quoted in the original article and included the assertion that the activist had been misquoted and that the protestors had not been informed about the timings of abortions in the hospital. The Limerick Post stated that it was its  understanding  that the activist misquoted in the article was “satisfied with the action taken” by the newspaper in publishing the follow-up article.

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

Principle 1

Principle 1.2 states

When a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report or picture has been published, it shall be corrected promptly and with due prominence.

The right of reply article published by the Limerick Post fulfilled the requirement found in Principle 1 to correct promptly and with due prominence the inaccuracy published on 15 February.

Principle 2

Principle 2.2 states

Comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they are fact.

The article published on 15 February attributed the claim that Pro-Life activists were receiving “tip-offs” about when abortions were scheduled in the hospital to a claim made by the “Together for Safety” group. The newspaper did not state this as a fact, rather as a claim. Therefore, there was no breach of Principle 2.

Principle 4

Principle 4 states

Everyone has constitutional protection for his or her good name. The press shall not knowingly publish matter based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations, and must take reasonable care in checking facts before publication.

The reputation of the Pro life Campaign which they claim  had been traduced by inaccurate reporting ion 15 February was addressed by the article published on 24 February. For this reason I find that the Limerick Post took action sufficient to resolve the complaint that Principle 4 had been breached.

29 April 2022