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Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger resigns from Future of Media Commission

The former editor said he didn’t want his involvement to “be a distraction” from the Commission’s work.

Image: PA

FORMER EDITOR OF The Guardian Alan Rusbridger has resigned from the Future of Media Commission.

Rusbridger faced calls leave the role after reports that The Guardian’s former media columnist, Roy Greenslade, was supportive of the IRA. 

He has said today that he did not want his involvement on the Commission to be a “distraction” from its work.

Former Senator Máiría Cahill raised concerns around Rusbridger’s involvement in the Commission over the way a columnist for the paper treated a report from Cahill of sexual abuse by an IRA member during Rusbridger’s editorship. 

In a statement today, Rusbridger said he had been “pleased to be invited by the Taoiseach” to be part of the Commission and was “heartened by his backing for my continued involvement, along with the Culture and Media Minister, Catherine Martin”.

“The unanimous support of my Commission colleagues was very important to me,” he said.

“The Commission is considering critical issues for Ireland and I don’t want my involvement to be a distraction from its work, so I have told its chair, Professor Brian MacCraith, that I will step down.” 

An article in the Guardian by former columnist Roy Greenslade said that a BBC documentary had been “too willing to accept” a statement from Cahill that she was raped by an alleged member of the IRA when she was 16.

The accused person denies any wrongdoing, and was aquitted of rape after the case against him collapsed.

Cahill received an apology from the Northern Ireland public prosecution service in 2015 over the way her case was handled.

Rusbridger apologised to Cahill in an article published by The Guardian last week, saying that he was “sincerely sorry” for “the article and for the upset it must have caused her”.

However, Cahill said that his apology was unclear and that the article had instead looked at “associating the Guardian with peace”, which she said was not the issue at hand.

Rusbridger was the editor of The Guardian at the time the article by Greenslade was published in 2014.

In February this year, Greenslade described himself as having “republican sympathies” in an article for the Sunday Times.

His 2014 article for The Guardian was removed from the paper’s website today.

An end note that was attached to the article this month, which still appears on the site, says: “In March 2021, Maíria Cahill contacted the Guardian to complain that this article by Roy Greenslade had been published and without the writer disclosing his political affiliations.”

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“The complaint followed an article by Greenslade in the British Journalism Review, in which he detailed his long allegiance to the Irish republican movement and revealed his support for the IRA’s use of violence during the Troubles.”

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister Catherine Martin said that Rusbridger should remain on the Commission after pressure for him to resign.

The members of the Commission issued a statement to say that they “unanimously support the continued membership of Alan Rusbridger on the Commission”.

“We believe that it was important for Alan and The Guardian to apologise to Máiría Cahill, who has exposed important issues of media standards and transparency. These issues will continue to form part of the Commission’s ongoing work,” they said.

The Future of Media Commission was set up last September to examine the challenges the media faces in Ireland and how they can be addressed.

The Commission is chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, former president of DCU, and its members include disability activist Sinéad Burke,  Professor of media economics Gillian Doyle, and broadcast historian Dr Finola Doyle-O’Neill.

Journalists Lynette Fay, Siobhán Holliman, and Mark Little are also members, as well as the Irish Rugby Football Union’s director of communications Stephen McNamara and documentary filmmaker Nuala O’Connor.

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