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Irish Independent's 'gunpoint' story about Gerry Adams misleading, says watchdog

The Ombudsman said the paper should have clarified that remarks he made about its editor referred to events in 1916.

Updated – 11:35am

THE PRESS COUNCIL has upheld a complaint by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams that the Irish Independent distorted comments he made in speech at a fundraising event in New York earlier this year.

A report published in the paper on 9 March claimed that the Louth TD had “openly joked about holding the editor of the Irish Independent at gunpoint”.

Adams’ solicitors said his remarks, which referred to the actions of Michael Collins in 1916, were taken “entirely out of context”.

They provided the paper with a transcript of the speech, in which Adams said:

Mick Collins’ response to the Independent’s criticism of the fight for freedom was to dispatch volunteers to the Independent’s offices. They held the editor at gunpoint and then dismantled and destroyed the entire printing machine! Now I’m obviously not advocating that.

Responding to Adams’ solicitors, the editor of the Irish Independent said that the article was “a fair and accurate account of [his] speech” and was “viewed by some as a veiled threat”.

The Press Ombudsman upheld Adams’ complaint on 7 May because it said readers of the article could “reasonably be expected to assume that [his] remarks as reported referred to the current editor of the Irish Independent and not to an event a century ago”.

The paper should have clarified that he was speaking about events in 1916, it said.

The Ombudsman’s decision was appealed by the Irish Independent.

That appeal was heard and rejected at a meeting of the Press Council on 3 July.

‘Concerted campaign’

Adams’ lawyers had also claimed that the paper had subjected him to a “concerted campaign… over many months”.

The Ombudsman dismissed this part of the complaint, saying it can only consider objections to specific individual articles.

In a statement, Adams said he hoped the ruling would “further bolster the case for fairness and objectivity in political coverage in the Irish media”.

The constant stream of biased and offensive coverage of Sinn Féin by the Irish Independent, and of myself in particular, is unprecedented in the history of Irish newspapers. The decision of the Press Council to uphold the Press Ombudsman’s findings is another significant and positive development.

Read: An election-ready Sinn Féin wants to raise wages by €1 and cut politicians’ pay >

Read: So what articles in the press had people complaining last year? >

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