1738/2023 - A Man and the Sligo Champion

By admin
Tuesday, 27th February 2024
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On 23 November 2023 the Press Ombudsman decided not to uphold a complaint made by a man about an article in the Sligo Champion, in print and online, published in October 2023. The article is a report about the rejection of a planning application by Sligo County Council.  The complainant stated that he believed it to be in breach of Principle 3 (Fair Procedures and Honesty) of the Press Council’s Code of Practice. 

The article notes the reasons why the Council rejected the planning application, and then goes on to  describe its contents, along with the names of the applicants.  It then summarises the “submission/objection” it received from the complainant, naming him and giving his address. The remainder of the article consists of quotations from the Council’s planner’s report, giving the reasons why the application was rejected.

The complainant said that as a “Third Party to the application” he had not been given fair procedure with respect to the release of his information, as his name and address were given in the article while the names and addresses of the applicants and other parties involved were not included. He referred to another article in the same issue of the newspaper which he said did not give “explicit identifiable information” about the parties concerned in another planning refusal.  He said that between the two articles, he was the only person fully identified by name and address.  He asked for the article to be removed from publication both in print and online.

The editor responded that the man ought to have been aware that observations of planning applications were a matter of public record and open to the public, with a planning list routinely sent to local media outlets by Sligo County Council.  He said the newspaper had a right to publish articles about these matters, and that the planning application about which the man had objected was of a newsworthy type, as were the reasons given for refusal.  He said the man’s objections were “germane” and that the report was fair and accurate.  He said it was necessary to give the man’s address to distinguish him from others who had the same name as it was a common one.

Press Ombudsman’s Decision

The Press Ombudsman finds that the newspaper is correct in stating that planning applications and submissions about them are publicly accessible documents and that those engaging in the process should be aware of this.   She agrees that some of the key objections raised by the man in his submission are in line with the reasons given by the planners for their rejection of the application, and that the quotations the newspaper uses from his submission are therefore pertinent. She accepts the need for the publication to be clear in identifying which person among several of the same name had made the objection.  The applicants for the permission are named and information is given about where they live.   The Press Ombudsman finds no evidence of unfair procedures, and concludes that there is no breach of Principle 3 of the Code.

View the Decision of the Press Council of Ireland