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Gerry Adams' complaint about IRA murder article rejected by Press Ombudsman

An article in the Irish Independent reported Adams said he thought jailing the men who killed a Louth farmer would be counterproductive.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE PRESS OMBUDSMAN has rejected a complaint by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams about an article which appeared on the front of the Irish Independent newspaper.

The article published on 1 September 2017 was based on an interview the TD had given to radio station LMFM and was headlined ‘Don’t jail IRA murderers of innocent farmers – Adams’.

Adams had been giving his reaction to news that gardaí had uncovered a number of new lines of inquiry into the 1991 murder of Louth farmer Tom Oliver. The Irish Independent reported Adams said he did not think jailing the man’s killers would “assist the wider process” and that it “would be totally and absolutely counterproductive”.

Solicitors representing the Sinn Féin leader wrote to the editor of the  newspaper stating that their client “denies your grossly inaccurate assertion” that he had said that the killers of Tom Oliver “should not be jailed”.

They claimed that “even from a cursory reading of the LMFM interview transcript it is quite clear” that his remarks had been “completely misconstrued” and that “he did not state that those responsible for the killing of Mr Oliver in 1991 should not be prosecuted”.

‘Fair and accurate’

Solicitors representing the Irish Independent responded that the article was “fair and accurate and by no means false and misleading”. The Irish Independent solicitors included extracts from the radio interview transcript which they claimed supported the headline on the article. They also concluded that the article was a “truthful and accurate representation of the interview” Adams had given to LMFM.

As Adams was not satisfied with the response from the newspaper a complaint was made to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.

The editor of the Irish Independent made a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman and stated that the “quote referred to by the complainant is incomplete” and that what the newspaper had reported was a “truthful and accurate representation of the interview”.

Solicitors representing Deputy Adams responded by saying that the “headline and whole tenet of the article” was inaccurate as their client had “stated in the interview that Thomas Oliver’s family deserved the truth and also that Sinn Féin continued to facilitate attempts to put in place an independent international body to obtain information for Thomas Oliver’s family and other families”.

Newsworthy

As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

Although the ombudsman’s office noted that the article on the front page did not include Adams’ comments from the radio interview about supporting the rights of victims’ families (these quotes were carried inside the paper on page 6), it did not find that this rendered the front page article inaccurate.

“Newspapers are entitled to concentrate on particular parts of interviews which they regard as newsworthy. The view that Deputy Adams regarded the sending to jail, if convicted, the murderers of Mr Oliver as “counterproductive” was newsworthy,” the Ombudsman said.

The reference to the counterproductive outcome of jailing Mr Oliver’s murderers was a specific statement, the right of families to the truth was something that had been stated before by Sinn Féin representatives and was, therefore, less newsworthy.

“The headline used on the front page article “Don’t jail IRA murderers of innocent farmer – Adams” whilst not reflecting the full intent of what Deputy Adams had said in his radio interview was a reasonable summary of the most newsworthy aspect of Deputy Adams’ interview.”

The complaint was not upheld.

Read: Paul Murphy complaint about Irish Times article not upheld by Press Ombudsman>

Read: Complaints lodged to Press Ombudsman over offensive Kevin Myers column>

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