Ruling

10754-21 Millar v Nation.Cymru

    • Date complaint received

      3rd March 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 10754-21 Millar v Nation.Cymru

Summary of Complaint

1. Darren Millar complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Nation.Cymru breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Brexit-backing Tory MS reveals he has Irish citizenship” published on 29 September 2021.

2. The complainant was the Member of the Senedd and subject of the article.

3. The article reported that the complainant had “revealed” he was an Irish citizen during a debate in the Senedd. It included his full comments made to the house, in which he stated that “obviously, I am a proud Irish citizen”. The newspaper commented that despite backing Brexit, he had retained his own EU citizenship by being an Irish citizen, and included a Tweet from another politician which stated that he “hadn’t realised” the complainant was an EU citizen.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He said he had not “revealed” that he was an Irish citizen in the Senedd, as he had previously shared this information in the public domain. He supplied a number of tweets posted from 2009 to 2021 and blog posts from 2013 and 2014 in which he referred to his Irish citizenship, and noted his dual citizenship had been recorded on his Wikipedia page since 2011 and that he had also previously referred to it within the Senedd. The complainant said that the word “revealed” was significant as it gave the impression he had kept his citizenship a secret prior to the referendum to leave the EU. He also said that readers had assumed from the article that he had gained his citizenship after the UK left the EU in order to protect the benefits associated with EU citizenship when, in fact, he had this citizenship from birth.

5. The complainant contacted the newspaper directly after the publication of the article, and asked them to publish the following quote:

I’m surprised that my news of my Irish heritage came as a revelation to [named politician] because I’ve referred to it many times in the Senedd over the past 14 years. We all know he loves the sound of his own voice but if he took the time to listen to others from time to time he could be enlightened further. I will make no apologies for being Irish. As the son of a working class Irish immigrant, I am proud of my Irish heritage and citizenship; it’s an important part of who I am. Like many Irish citizens living in the UK, and the majority of voters in [named politician]’s constituency, I voted to leave the EU; [named politician] needs to get over it

This quote was included in full in a second article; however, the complainant said that this did not resolve his complaint as the first article remained online and uncorrected.

6. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It said that whilst the word “reveal” could mean disclosure a secret, this was not its sole meaning. It said that the word reveal can simply mean to "make known". The newspaper said that many people did not know the complainant was an Irish citizen – including the editor of the newspaper – and it was made known, or “revealed”, to these people when he spoke about his Irish citizenship during the recent debate in the Senedd. It noted that the opposition politician, whose tweet was used in the article, had been surprised by the complainant’s citizenship, which suggested that it was not well known. The publication said, therefore, the use of the word “reveal” in the first article was entirely contextual depending on whether the reader was aware of his citizenship. The newspaper also noted that, on a separate occasion, the complainant had also used the word “revealed” in the Senedd to refer to information that would already have been known by some people, which the newspaper said demonstrated that the word could be understood this way.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

7. It was not contested that the complainant had previously made public his status as an Irish citizen, and that some people would therefore be aware of his dual citizenship. The question for the Committee was, therefore, whether it was significantly misleading to use the word “revealed” when reporting on the complainant’s reference to his Irish citizenship during the recent debate in the Senedd.

8. The Committee noted that the article focused on the complainant’s support for Brexit whilst retaining citizenship to the EU himself. It accurately reported what had been said in the Senedd, and apart from the contested word “revealed”, had not contained any suggestion that the complainant had previously hidden his Irish citizenship: indeed, it had quoted him as saying that “obviously” he was a “proud Irish citizen”, which did not suggest he had sought to conceal the fact. Nonetheless, it was evident that this information was not universally known, as demonstrated by the inclusion of a tweet from a politician who said he had not been aware of the complainant’s dual citizenship. The Committee accepted the publication’s view that the term “revealed” does not have the sole meaning of information being made public for the first time, and could simply mean to inform, or make known, to those previously unaware of particular information. In the context of the article the word “revealed” was not misleading in the way suggested by the complainant and there was no breach of Clause 1.

9. The complainant had expressed concern that readers had understood from the article that his Irish citizenship had been recently acquired in order to retain the benefits of EU citizenship. The article made no suggestion that he had recently obtained the citizenship; it referred to him having “retained” his Irish citizenship despite his support for Brexit, implying that it predated the Brexit debate. There was no breach of the Code on this point. The Committee, however, welcomed the publication of the second article, including the quote from the complainant.

Conclusion(s)

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

11. N/A


Date complaint received: 13/10/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 10/02/2022