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Press Ombudsman Susan McKay Derek Speirs
press council

Press Ombudsman calls on politicians to use her office for complaints before legal routes

A total of 260 complaints were made to the Press Council last year.

LAST UPDATE | 4 Oct 2023

THE PRESS OMBUDSMAN Susan McKay has called on politicians who have issues with the media to consider using her office “as a powerful alternative system of redress”.

A total of 260 complaints were made to the Press Council last year, according to the Press Council’s annual report.

A total of 21 complaints were decided by the Press Ombudsman, with 14 not being upheld. A total of three were upheld, but one was overturned on appeal. 

137 complaints related to print and online national newspapers, while 24 complaints related to online-only news publications. A total of 23 complaints related to print and online local newspapers. 

The majority of complaints (94) cited breaches of Principle 1 of the Press Council’s Code of Practice – Truth and Accuracy. 

Members of the Press Council include all Irish daily and Sunday newspapers, most local papers and some online-only publications. The Journal joined the Press Council of Ireland in 2013.

Speaking at the launch of the annual report, McKay said that a public awareness campaign will run next year to encourage people to use the Office of the Press Ombudsman “effectively”. 

McKay called on politicians to consider using her office rather than first opting for a legal route. 

“Everyone is entitled to go to law, but I want to propose to politicians and others in high office that they should seriously consider using the Office of the Press Ombudsman as a powerful alternative system of redress,” McKay said. 

“One course of action does not rule out the other – my office does not consider complaints while a legal case is ongoing, but there is nothing to stop a person making a complaint under the Press Council’s Code of Practice and following it up by going to law if they so wish,” she said. 

Speaking today, Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth said she’s not sure if some politicians are “aware of other avenues or vehicles” to dealing with press issues other than the court. 

“That’s not to say they’re not aware of this avenue to do it, but I think more work needs to be done on providing examples of rather than going from zero to 100 that perhaps the option of negotiation, if you like, … to iron [issues] out is very useful,” she said. 

McKay opened her speech saying that “hard times have become normal times for the press in Ireland”. 

“But there is no greater threat to the freedom of the press than the intimidation of journalists, and there is no greater threat to the truth the press exists to tell than the spreading of disinformation, and these are issues with which we are now also faced, as recent scenes outside the Houses of the Oireachtas made all too clear,” she said. 

McKay said the Press Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman “stand with our member publications in resisting these efforts to undermine our press and thereby our democracy”. 

The annual report launched today also showed that there were significantly fewer complaints received by the Press Ombudsman’s Office in 2022 compared with the previous year. 

However, it was noted in the annual report that there was a surge of complaints in 2021 regarding the reporting of Covid-19, with multiple complaints received about a small umber of articles. 

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