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Regional paper distances itself from "racist" Facebook status

Editor of The Connaught Telegraph says he will be having a “word in someone’s ear” after rant posted on paper’s official Facebook page.

The Connaught Telegraph's Facebook page as it appeared this morning before it was deleted.
The Connaught Telegraph's Facebook page as it appeared this morning before it was deleted.

A REGIONAL NEWSPAPER has distanced itself from a status update on its Facebook page which accuses “illegal” migrants of defrauding the Irish economy.

The status of the Connaught Telegraph‘s official Facebook page was updated at around 11pm last night with a statement entirely typed in capital letters. It read:

PASS THE NORTH KOREAN BORDER ILLEGALLY, YOU GET 12YRS HARD LABOUR, YOU PASS THE AFGHAN BORDER ILLEGALLY, U GET SHOT, YOU PASS THE IRISH BORDER ILLEGALLY U GET A JOB, A DRIVER’S LICENSE, A PLACE TO LIVE, HOUSING BENEFIT, HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION, CHILD BENEFIT, NEED I CARRY ON?.THIS COUNTRY’S A JOKE!! PUT AS YOUR STATUS IF …YOU AGREE!!…NO WONDER WE ARE A COUNTRY IN DEBT

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this morning, Connaught Telegraph editor Tom Gillespie said he had not seen the Facebook page update. He confirmed that the Facebook page was meant to “reflect the opinions” of the Connaught Telegraph and that it was managed by “one of the lads” within the company. The Connaught Telegraph is based in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

When the status update was read out to him, Mr Gillespie said he had not been aware that it had been posted and did not agree with the sentiments expressed in it.

I wouldn’t agree with it, no. It won’t be up there much longer, I can tell you that. I can guarantee you that it is coming down as of now.

Asked if he would have anything to say to commentators on the web page who had denounced the status as “xenophobic” and “very narrow-minded”, Mr Gillespie said he would have to read the status himself and the comments that followed it before he could make any statement.

He added:

I would distance the paper from it. I will find out who is responsible for it and I would be having a word in someone’s ear about this.

One commentator on the page, Kate Donnelly, posted a response to the status shortly after it was posted last night, saying:

I think this attitude is xenophobic and very narrow-minded, we need to place the blame for this country’s troubles with those who created them through policies that were only ever intended to serve the most priveleged (sic) in this society. Please don’t start blaming our migrant communities who came to this country in good faith and to contribute. We need to ensure that these new Irish communities are not blamed for the appalling state of this country – brought on us by Fianna Fail/Green Party.

Another commentator, Bernard Joyce, said:

I’m pretty disgusted at the FB page of a newspaper who’s (sic) motto is ‘Be Just and Fear Not’ engaging in this racist rant. Do these comments have editorial approval?

In the responses posted to these commentators under the tag of ‘The Connaught Telegraph’, the writer defended the status, saying that:

We as a nation crossed borders and worked, we were made welcome only by being productive. Michael Ring stated that there was a drop of 3% decrease in people signing on when we had the ash cloud grounded flights…nobody is blaming the migrants, the policies were wrong .(as indicated by the status)

TheJournal.ie contacted Fine Gael TD for Mayo Michael Ring to ask if he had been contacted by the writer on The Connaught Telegraph Facebook page in relation to the “decrease in people signing on” at the time of the ash cloud crisis in April this year.

Mr Ring said that he had not been contacted in relation to the page. He confirmed that he had posed a question in the Dail about the drop of 3,500 fewer signing on the Live Register at the time of the ash cloud in April.

I was making an enquiry in my capacity as Social Protection spokesperson for Fine Gael. My job is to  ensure that the taxpayers’ money that is being paid into social welfare is being used correctly. They (the Connaught Telegraph’s Facebook page) have used my comments relating to that in a different context. They didn’t ring me about it, no.

TheJournal.ie spoke to the editor of The Connaught Telegraph at 9.45am today. The offending status update – and The Connaught Telegraph‘s entire page – was deleted from Facebook shortly after 10am.

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