Resolution Statement: Complaint 02310-15 Dignan v Irish News
Summary of complaint
1. Tony Dignan, acting on behalf of the committee of the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA), complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Irish News had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “A Casement answer is standing right in front of us: Tiny minority shouldn’t be allowed to derail project”, published on 16 December 2014.
2. The article was a comment piece discussing opposition to the Gaelic Athletic Association’s proposal for a new 38,000-seat stadium at Casement Park in Belfast. The complainant was a member of the MORA committee, a residents association that had successfully brought judicial review proceedings against the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) in an effort to quash its decision to grant planning permission for the stadium.
3. The complainant said the newspaper had inaccurately reported details of a compensation proposal made by Heron Brothers Joint Ventures, one of the GAA’s contractors, to residents living in properties around the “horseshoe” of Casement Park in Owenvarragh and Mooreland. The complainant provided a copy of the contractor’s proposal, and noted that it had not set out a “sliding scale” of compensation, as reported. The complainant also disputed the report that the “vast majority” of residents had been willing to accept the compensation package, and that opposition to the development had been “whittled down to a few houses”. He said residents had voted on the compensation proposal and had rejected it by a clear majority. The complainant said the newspaper had failed to distinguish comment from fact, and expressed concern that it had not sought MORA’s comment before publication.
4. The newspaper said that details of the compensation proposal had been provided by sources who had attended a meeting between members of the GAA, HBJV and MORA in April 2014. It also provided a statement from the managing director of HBJV in which he said he had “outlined” the details of the compensation proposal as set out in the article at that meeting. The reporter said he had well-placed sources who were in a position to canvass the views of local residents. He said he believed that at the time the article was published, the “vast majority” of residents living in Mooreland, Owenvarragh, the Andersonstown Road and Stockmans Lane were in favour of accepting a compensation package from the GAA. The newspaper provided a statement from a local MP in which he said he believed that the “majority of local people [were] supportive of the Casement Park project”. The newspaper offered to publish a right-to-reply piece written by a member of MORA to resolve the complaint.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. The newspaper repeated its offer to publish a right-to-reply piece of up to 750 words written by a member of MORA.
8. The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer as a resolution to the complaint.
9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 16/04/2015
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 29/07/2015Back to ruling listing