972/2021 - Mr Hermann Kelly and The Journal
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint made by Mr Hermann Kelly that The Journal breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The Journal on 18 September 2021 published an article which referred to the Irish Freedom Party as a “far-right party”.
Mr Hermann Kelly, President of the Irish Freedom Party, emailed The Journal stating “This attribution of ‘far-right group’ to the Irish Freedom Party” was “false”. He asked that The Journal “immediately correct it online with an apology to our members”. Mr Kelly stated that “There is nothing ‘Far-right’ in what we advocate or do”. He included in his email the principles of the Irish Freedom Party as found in its Political Programme and Constitution. Mr Kelly said that The Journal had breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The editor of The Journal responded stating “I am satisfied that no changes are required to the article you have made inquiries about”.
Mr Kelly was not satisfied with the response of the editor and made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
In a submission to the Press Ombudsman the editor of The Journal defended the use of the description of the Irish Freedom Party as “far-right”. She wrote “It is a legitimate and useful political definition to differentiate the policies of different parties in Ireland. I am happy that we have used the term correctly in this article…”.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
The central point of this complaint is the accuracy or otherwise of the description of the Irish Freedom Party as a party of the far-right. Mr Kelly states this is inaccurate and the editor stands over it as accurate. Like other political parties the Irish Freedom Party promotes a range of objectives and policies. Not all of these policies fit into a single description, some of its policies could be described as nationalist, others as anti-EU, others as pro-family, others as anti-corruption. In addition to its policies political journalists in categorising political parties can legitimately look at what causes and campaigns members or supporters of a party have been associated with. The use of the epithet “far-right” to describe the Irish Freedom Party is, in my view, not a breach of Principle 1. It is a “broad-sweep” term which coming from a political reporter expressing his or her political judgment seems acceptable given the range of policies promoted by the party and by the causes party members have been associated with. The focus of the article that led to this complaint was not an analysis of the ideology of the Irish Freedom Party, it was about an individual who had been associated with the party. In these circumstances the single reference to the party as “far-right” was not a breach of Principle 1.
13 October 2021