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Sunday Independent terminates columnist’s contract after discovering his anonymous Twitter account

The ‘Barbara J Pym’ Twitter account that Eoghan Harris was part of has since been suspended.

Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Updated May 7th 2021, 7:43 AM

THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT has dropped columnist Eoghan Harris after it emerged he was part of an anonymous Twitter account.

Harris admitted to editors that he was part of a Twitter account, Barbara J Pym, which regularly tweeted about Irish politics. 

The account has been suspended overnight. Twitter says it suspends accounts which violate the site’s rules. 

Twitter has been contacted for further comment. 

Editor Alan English said that, following a review of the account, many comments “went far beyond what I would describe as fair and reasonable comment. Under no circumstances would such material have been published in our newspaper or on Independent.ie.”

Harris regularly wrote columns about Northern Ireland and Sinn Féin. 

English said, in a statement this evening, that the company found “Eoghan Harris’s involvement with this account as a betrayal of trust and as such his contract has been terminated.”

English added: “Regardless of where they stand on any issue, we expect our writers to put their views across in a transparent manner. Readers can agree or disagree with these opinions. We will not, however, tolerate hidden agendas.

“This account was set up in February 2020 under the name of Barbara J Pym, mostly posting tweets about aspects of Irish politics.

“Many of the views expressed – such as opposition to ‘Sinn Féin pressure for a united Ireland’ are in keeping with those articulated by Eoghan Harris in his Sunday Independent column.

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“Eoghan has accepted that he was one of the founders of the account. He has also stated to me that he was ‘one of a group of people that contributed to a Barbara Pym entity’.”

Contacted by The Journal, Mediahuis publisher, Peter Vandermeersch said the company will not “investigate actively” whether other journalists associated with the company were involved in the account.

“But we want to be a transparant [sic] and serious newsorganisation. Everyone knows that there is no place for anonymous accounts,” he said. 

He said yesterday: “Eoghan has been an outstanding columnist of the Sunday Independent. While we are very appreciative of his contributions over the years, we expect all our contributors to act in line with our core values of openness, transparency and the highest journalistic standards.”

- With reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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