THE COMMUNICATIONS minister Pat Rabbitte has described as “nonsense” moves by the co-owner of the Irish Daily Star to shut down the paper after it published topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge on Saturday.
Rabbitte said the response of Richard Desmond, whose Northern & Shell group owns 50 per cent of the paper, to “close down the joint venture” was a “completely disproportionate response”.
It was an excessive reaction to “suggest that the paper ought to be closed down because of a lapse in taste”, Rabbitte said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s John Murray Show, Rabbitte commented that he could not understand how Desmond “could reconcile the rather timid move by The Star with what he’s prepared to do in some of his publications in terms of the way women are presented”.
Northern & Shell has previously been the UK publisher of the adult magazines Penthouse and Asian Babes among others. Rabbitte said Desmond’s response to the photos of the former Kate Middleton being published in an Irish paper, while he “has no difficulty publishing photographs of women topless”, was “hypocrisy”.
The minister said that while he “wouldn’t have made the decision the Star made – I wouldn’t make a lot of the decisions the Star makes – I would still defend its right to continue to publish its newspaper”.
“The Star has a following in Ireland, it has a readership in Ireland… there are, I understand, 70 to 80 people employed there. So let’s keep things in perspective,” he said.
Desmond has said he would take immediate steps to “close down the joint venture” with the Irish-based Independent News & Media, which owns the other 50 per cent of the Star’s publisher Independent Star Ltd.
Independent News & Media has described any attempt to shut down the paper as a “disproportionate” response to the controversy, while both the British and Irish branches of the National Union of Journalists have criticised Desmond’s approach as “over the top”,
Irish Daily Star editor Michael O’Kane said he believed the images to be tasteful, and pointed out that the photos of Middleton – who, he said, would never be Queen of Ireland – had not appeared in the edition of the paper circulated in Northern Ireland.
‘Shot his mouth off’
Meanwhile, the paper’s financial columnist Eddie Hobbs has said he disagreed with the paper’s decision to publish the photographs – but believes the paper will not be shut down.
Hobbs, who writes a weekly column for the paper, said the paper had “stood its ground” over the furore in a manner which was “characteristic” of its firm editorial stance on some issues.
“The Daily Star is an extremely profitable publication from what we can see,” Hobbs told Newstalk’s Breakfast programme.
Hobbs said he believed Richard Desmond “shot his mouth off” by suggesting he would shut down the Irish paper over the weekend.
Hobbs said Desmond was merely “taking advantage of the situation in order, perhaps, to fulfil a commercial agenda which he wanted to do anyway”.
“I don’t think it was correct to publish those photographs, incidentally, personally… [but the Star] certainly didn’t follow the lead of the UK tabloids with regard to the royal couple,” he said.
The Corkonian said while the Star’s controversy was “one to watch”, he felt it would “all blow over”. ”The biggest problem the Royal family have at the moment is Prince Harry out in Afghanistan,” he said.