1793/2024 – Turf Cutters of Éire and The Irish Times

By admin
Thursday, 9th May 2024
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The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint made by Mr Sean Wynne against The Irish Times about an article published in November 2023.  Mr Wynne, who is PRO for the Turf Cutters of Éire, complained that the article breached Principle 7 (Court Reporting) of the Code of Practice.

The article reports on a determination by the Supreme Court to resolve “as soon as possible” an appeal relating to the constitutionality of legislation which gives effect to an EU Directive. The case involves two turf cutters who in 2012 allegedly refused to allow Wildlife Service officers to access their lands at a Co Longford bog.  The article says they faced charges of obstruction but that they challenged the constitutionality of the legislation, and their prosecutions were paused while they pursued their civil challenges.   The article is about developments in the matter.

In his complaint to the Press Ombudsman, Mr Wynne said that the article breached Principle 7 of the Code of Practice because it did not contain a reference to a 1963 Supreme Court Judgement which stated that turf was an agricultural product. The Turf Cutters of Éire had requested that The Irish Times print a correction stating that the article had failed to include this reference.  Mr Wynne said this failure could undermine property rights for turf cutters provided by the 1963 Judgement.

The Irish Times responded that it found no merit in Mr Wynne’s complaint and no reason to publish a correction.  It said the 1963 case cited by the complainant was not referred to by the Supreme Court in the determination on which the newspaper had reported, and that neither was it mentioned in the High Court Judicial Review Judgement which preceded it. The publication provided links to both documents.  It said the role of a court reporter was to report on evidence heard in court and on decisions made by the courts, and not to act as advocate for any party to the proceedings. 

Decision

The Press Ombudsman finds that The Irish Times has demonstrated that the Supreme Court Judgement from 1963 was neither mentioned in the Supreme Court determination which was the basis for its article nor in the High Court Judicial Review Judgement which preceded it, and which is referred to in the article. She finds that the publication is correct to assert that its responsibility in covering court proceedings is to report on evidence and decisions in the case about which it is reporting and that there was no requirement for this article to mention the 1963 case.  The Press Ombudsman finds that the report is fair and accurate and requires no correction.  There is no breach of Principle 7.