Ms Aoife Kelleher and the Sunday Independent

Friday, 5th July 2013
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The Press Council of Ireland has decided there was insufficient evidence to uphold a complaint made by Ms Aoife Kelleher about an article published in the Sunday Independent on 25 November 2012.  The article, about the release of a statement by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland on RTE’s editorial review of a Frontline programme shown during the Presidential election campaign, contained a number of references to the complainant.  

This complaint was referred to the Press Council by the Press Ombudsman.

Ms Kelleher complained that the article, which was published at a time when she was no longer working for RTE,  breached Principle  1 (Truth and Accuracy),  Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) and Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Code of Practice.  She complained that the article inaccurately and misleadingly implied that her involvement in the production of the TV programme was partial, unprofessional and biased, and that the newspaper published a large photograph of her headed “Public Disservice”.   

She also complained about the accuracy of a number of statements in the article, including a statement about another named individual, Mr Dermot Fitzpatrick, and his membership of a political party, and complained that the newspaper did not take care in checking its facts because it did not contact her in advance of publication.

The newspaper said that its article was an accurate reflection of the events reported.  It said that the words “Public Disservice” were not directed at Ms Kelleher, but were the introduction to a caption for four photographs in the article in question, and were a reflection of the entire article.   The newspaper accepted that its statement about Mr Fitzpatrick’s membership of a political party was inaccurate, but said that he had been a long-standing member of the political party in question and his membership had lapsed as he was not up to date with his membership subscription.  It said it did not contact the complainant in advance because it had earlier been asked by RTE not to make contact with any member of staff but to deal with the relevant spokesperson.

After very carefully considering the complaint, the Press Council found that there was insufficient evidence to uphold it under any of the Principles of the Code cited by the complainant, and that while the factual statement in relation to Mr Fitzpatrick was incorrect, this constituted an insignificant error in the context of Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code. 

5 July 2013