Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association and the Irish Examiner

Thursday, 7th May 2015
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On 18 December 2014 the Irish Examiner published a report on opposition to the development of the GAA’s Casement Park in Belfast.  Some local residents were opposing planning permission for a much larger stadium being built on the site of the existing stadium. Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association complained that the article breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines. The Residents Association complaint included a claim that the article contained three significant inaccuracies: a statement that opposition to the redevelopment had been whittled down to “about a dozen individuals”,   an alleged acceptance of a compensation package by “the vast majority of residents”, and reference to an alleged sliding scale of compensation. The Association also complained that the article failed to distinguish between fact and comment and that the reporter should have sought a response from the Association in advance of publication.

The editor of the Irish Examiner stood over the article but offered the Residents Association a right of reply.  It was subsequently clarified that the right of reply could either be a letter published or an article setting out the Residents Association’s position. This offer was rejected by the residents as “insufficient” because, they said, the “egregious nature of the accumulated inaccuracies” required a published correction and an apology.

As a conciliated compromise could not be agreed the complaint was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

In regard to the disputed scale of compensation the editor of the Irish Examiner provided the Press Ombudsman with a letter from the Group MD of part of the construction team appointed to the new Casement Park development.  That letter stated that he had outlined the details of the sliding scale compensation package that was reported in the article to a representation from the Committee of the Residents Association at a meeting held on 3 April 2014. The Residents Association, in response, provided a submission that included a statement from a member of its Committee, who was acting chairman in April 2014, stating that no financial figure was specified at the meeting held on 3 April.  He also stated that at no time after that meeting was a sliding scale of compensation, as outlined in the article, presented to the residents.

These are contradictory statements about what transpired at the meeting on 3 April 2014.  

In addition, despite the submission of a very detailed complaint by the  Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association,  accompanied by comprehensive documentation, there is also inconclusive evidence  in regard to the numbers of residents remaining opposed to the development and to the number of residents who might accept  a compensation package were a package to be put to the residents.

In these circumstances, I find that the offer made by the editor of the publication of a right of reply, in which the Residents Association could put its views to readers, was an offer of sufficient remedial action to resolve the complaints made under Principles 1 and 2 of the Code of Practice.

7 May 2015

The complainant appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland. 


View the Decision of the Press Council of Ireland