1441/2023 – Environmental Trust Ireland and the Limerick Leader/LimerickLive.ie
Environmental Trust Ireland appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland on the grounds that (1) the procedures followed in making the decision were not in accordance with the published procedures for submitting and considering complaints and (2) there was an error in the Press Ombudsman’s application of the Principles of the Code of Practice.
Environmental Trust Ireland complained that an article headlined “Special meeting on student complex” in the Limerick Leader and “‘Spurious’ objections and ‘nimbyism’ over Limerick student halls plan criticised” in LimerickLive.ie, breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment), Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) and Principle 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice.
PRESS OMBUDSMAN’S DECISION
The Press Ombudsman decided not to uphold the complaint.
The Press Council considered the appeal at its meeting on Wednesday, 7 June 2023
The procedures followed in making the decision were not in accordance with the published procedures for submitting and considering complaints.
The Press Council decided to reject this part of the appeal on the basis that it did not contain sufficient evidence to support the claim made by the appellant that the procedures followed in making the decision were not in accordance with the published procedures for submitting and considering complaints.
There was an error in the Press Ombudsman’s application of the Principles of the Code of Practice.
The Press Council finds that there has been no error in the application of the Code of Practice with regard to truth and accuracy, distinguishing fact and comment, respect for rights or prejudice.
In essence the appeal simply disagrees with the decision of the Press Ombudsman. Such disagreement does not form the basis of an appeal.
The article was a fair and accurate news report of a local authority meeting which clearly attributed claims or comments to individual councillors speaking at the meeting.
The points of detail raised in the appeal – in particular as regards the legal context of the meeting – are minor and do not materially affect the substance.
Describing in common parlance Environmental Trust Ireland, or any other organisation advocating particular policies or actions in an area of interest to it, as a lobby group is reasonable and non-pejorative.
There was no evidence to suggest intent to stir up hatred and Environmental Trust Ireland does not fall under the categories listed under Principle 8 of the Code.
The Press Council has therefore rejected the appeal on this ground also.
The Press Council strongly rejects the appellant’s claim that “there is an element of arbitrariness and capriciousness in the decision-making process of the Press Ombudsman.” The Ombudsman decides on each complaint on a case-by-case basis and there is the option of an appeal to the Press Council, as in the current case.