OMB. 1858 - Dr William Ralph and the Irish Examiner

By admin
Thursday, 30th May 2024
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The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint made by Dr William Ralph about an article published in the Irish Examiner in February 2024.

The article is a news report about “serious concerns” voiced by various TDs over an event to be held the following week in Leinster House.  The publication states that the event, organised by a Senator, is entitled “WHO* pandemic treaty, know the facts”.  It states that it is to feature “a panel of prominent far-right individuals and anti-vaccination campaigners”.  

The article notes that there are to be six panellists and names and briefly profiles three of them, while the others remain unnamed and are not described.  The profiles are based on political affiliations and campaigning activities and positions adopted by the panellists on the Covid-19 vaccination programme.  The article quotes three named TDs who speak critically of the proposed event.

Dr Ralph claims the article breaches Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) and Principle 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice. He states that the article is prejudicial to him, since, while he was not named, he was one of the panellists.  He adds: “if voting Sinn Fein … and personally vaccinating the vulnerable patients in my practice makes me a ‘far right, antivaxer’ then we have truly entered Alice’s Wonderland”.

He refers to “the disastrously damaging lockdown policy” which he says was advised by the WHO, “the 18% excess deaths in 2023 in Ireland”, the question of “why an unelected supranational body, WHO, would want binding powers over member states during a pandemic”.  He suggests that if questioning these makes the panellists “far right, antivaxers” we might “do better as a nation” if there were “more people like this asking questions”.

The Irish Examiner says the article is truthful and accurate and does not breach Principle 1.  It states that when it quotes the TDs voicing serious concerns about the event, it does so accurately.  It asserts that “the world view and public positions of the panel are as stated” and the description of them used by the publication is “grounded in fair and accurate references to their public statements, affiliations and activities”.  

It says that while the complainant is not named in the article, he has made many public statements which “create a natural link and commonality of perspective” between him and the named panellists in the article.  In support of this, the publication quotes public statements made by the complainant and appends screen shots of some of the social media posts he has published.

On Principle 2, the publication says the article is a news report and not an opinion piece.  It says the article is about a scheduled event and TDs’ concerns about this.  It says that no views attributable to the publisher are expressed or advocated.  

The publication says the article contains no reference to any of the categories listed under Principle 8.


The Press Ombudsman finds that it is normal practice for the press to summarise the politics of those it deems key panellists when describing events, based on its awareness of their profiles, and the public positions each of them has taken on relevant issues and campaigns.

The Irish Examiner has provided profiles of some of the panellists to back up its decision to describe the panel in the report as “far-right individuals and anti-vaccination campaigners”.   It highlights political and professional controversies in which some of them have been embroiled. 

The Press Ombudsman finds that the publication has assessed the public stances taken by the complainant and decided that it may accurately depict him as having what it describes as a “commonality of perspective” with the named speakers.  In his complaint, Dr Ralph aligns himself rhetorically with the others when he suggests that if asking the kind of questions raised by them makes them “far right, antivaxers” Ireland might “do better as a nation” if it had more people like this asking questions. 

The Press Ombudsman finds that the article has strived for truth and accuracy and has not breached Principle 1.

On Principle 2, the Press Ombudsman accepts that this is a news report and that it clearly attributes opinions to the TDs whose concerns about the proposed event provide the basis for the story.  There is no breach of Principle 2.

On Principle 8, the Press Ombudsman finds that the complainant offers no evidence of a breach, and there is none.

*World Health Organisation

2 May 2024