1436/2023 - Clare Daly MEP, Mick Wallace MEP and the Irish Daily Mirror

By admin
Wednesday, 1st February 2023
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The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint made by MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace that the Irish Daily Mirror breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland. 

On 14 October 2022 the Irish Daily Mirror published an article headlined “MEPs Russian to Ukraine row.”   It described Ms Daly and Mr Wallace as having voted against a motion in the European Parliament “to condemn Russia for its escalation in the invasion of Ukraine” and was critical of this.

Ms Daly and Mr Wallace stated that the article breached Principles 1 and 2 of the Code of Practice.  They said the resolution was in fact “on Russia’s escalation of its war against Ukraine” and argued that by “inaccurately describing” it as if the “sole” purpose of the motion was condemnation, the article made it appear that to vote against the overall motion, as they did, amounted to condoning Russia’s actions.

 They said this misrepresented their position, it was false, and it was not in the public interest. They said the article had presented comment as if it were fact. Ms Daly stated that correspondence from many of her constituents showed that “the Irish public has…been misled” as to her beliefs and voting record, and she blamed inaccurate reporting and commentary for this. The MEPs said the Irish Daily Mirror’s “poor choice of phrasing” gave the Irish public an impression “exactly contrary to the fact” and they asked the newspaper to publish a clarification.

The Irish Daily Mirror rejected the complaint and declined to publish a clarification. It said the article had not claimed to quote the title of the motion.  It also said that it had not stated that condemnation was the sole purpose of the motion, but that any reading of the motion clearly showed that this was its “overwhelming and overriding thrust”. It said the piece fairly summarised the MEPs’ position.  It said the article was not reportage on the 25-paragraph motion, but a short opinion piece based on supporting facts, and that to represent the motion as the article did was a matter of fair comment on a matter of public interest.

The complaint could not be resolved through conciliation and was referred to the Press Ombudsman.

The Press Ombudsman finds that the Irish Daily Mirror is entitled to rely on a defence of fair comment.  The article is clearly an opinion piece, and a short one.  It does not state that the reference to the motion that was voted upon was a reference to the actual title of the motion (which was, she notes, “on Russia’s escalation of its war of aggression against Ukraine”). She considers the motion can legitimately be perceived to have had as its predominant intention the condemnation of Russia for its escalation of its war against Ukraine. It can thus fairly be described as it is in the article.   It includes sections that address other matters including proposals on how to assist Ukraine and the article provides a robust commentary on one of Ms Daly and Mr Wallace’s key alternative proposals, which includes a quotation from Ms Daly.

The Press Ombudsman finds no evidence that the article fails to strive for truth and accuracy as required under Principle 1 of the Code.  She finds no evidence that it reports comment as if it were fact as complained of in relation to Principle 2. She notes that Principle 2.1 states that newspapers are entitled to advocate strongly their own views on topics, and she considers that the article in the Irish Daily Mirror does so without breaching the Code of Practice.

 16 January 2023