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Press Ombudsman upholds complaint by Kate Fitzgerald's family against Irish Times

The Press Ombudsman has decided the Irish Times was in breach of a principle of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines for a statement it published in December 2011.

The clock on the former Irish Times offices on D'Olier Street in Dublin (File photo)
The clock on the former Irish Times offices on D'Olier Street in Dublin (File photo)
Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

THE PRESS OMBUDSMAN has decided that a statement published by the Irish Times in reference to a story carried in the newspaper – in which the author described her history and experience of depression – was in breach of a principle of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.

The story in question was published anonymously in the newspaper on 9 September 2011, and included some comments about the author’s place of work. The employer was not identified in the article.

At a later date, the author was revealed to be 25-year-old Kate Fitzgerald, who died by suicide shortly after the article was written.

Fitzgerald had worked at the Communications Clinic in Dublin and, following her identity coming to light, the Irish Times published a statement on 3 December apologising to her former employer for a number of assertions contained in the article, and stating that these assertions were “not factual”.

Decision by the Press Ombudsman

The Press Ombudsman said the statement of apology by the Irish Times to the Communications Clinic had violated principle 5.3 of the Code because the newspaper had failed to sufficiently take into account the feelings of Kate Fitzgerald’s parents.

Tom and Sally Fitzgerald had complained that the statement had effectively called their daughter a liar, and also complained that the newspaper had refused to state which of the assertions contained in her article that it believed to were “not factual”.

While the Irish Times subsequently apologised for any hurt caused, the Ombudsman also stated that the newspaper had failed to take sufficient remedial action to resolve the Fitzgerald family’s complaint.

The decision refers only to the statement of apology made by the Irish Times in December 2011.

Both the complainant and the newspaper have appealed the decision.

The Press Council of Ireland will publish its ruling later this evening or tomorrow here. In the meantime, you can read the full statement in the Irish Times or on Broadsheet.ie.

Read more: Irish Times responds to criticism from parents of Kate Fitzgerald

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