Thursday, October 20, 2011

Irish News Responds to Moloney Criticism

Parts of an interview we at conducted in September with former Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney concern three February 18, 2010, Irish News articles that were based on information evidently gathered from former Provisional IRA senior operative Dolours Price. In those portions of our Q&A, Moloney attempted to provide background to the British authorities’ interest in the oral history that Price provided to Boston College’s Belfast Project. In doing so, Moloney condemned actions he ascribed to the Irish News staff during its information gathering at Price’s home prior to the Irish News articles’ publication. Irish News Editor Noel Doran approached shortly after our Moloney interview was published, requesting the opportunity to respond to Moloney. We had, in fact, reached out to Irish News reporter Allison Morris prior to release of our interview with Moloney, but had received no response. Acknowledging our lack of success in getting an Irish News perspective before publication, we invited Doran to address Moloney’s criticism, and he sent us the following statement, which we publish here, unedited, in its entirety.

To the Editor:

It is genuinely surprising to find a journalist with Ed Moloney's
experience directly questioning editorial standards at the Irish News but making the elementary mistake of failing to establish the newspaper's point of view.

(Dolours Price, right, photo by The Irish News)

As a result, Moloney attributes words and deeds to members of staff at the Irish News which bear little or no resemblance to the truth of the matter. I am grateful to for providing me with the opportunity to set the record straight.

To begin with my own position, I can say with certainty, as editor of the Irish News, that I have not heard from Moloney for over a decade, and yet he has managed to produce an entirely flawed account of two short telephone calls in which I was involved last year.

In his contribution to, Moloney says that I spoke to a person he strangely refers to only as the aunt of the son of Dolours Price. It is hard to understand why Moloney did not identify this individual as Marion Price, a prominent figure in Irish republicanism for almost 40 years.

Marion Price did indeed telephone me in Febuary, 2010, after her sister, Dolours, had made a number of approaches to us and invited an Irish News representative to speak to her at her Co. Dublin home.

According to Moloney, "She (Marion Price) then phoned the editor of the Irish News, and, after much discussion, he said that he would use the interview but agreed to keep 'the juicy bits' out to minimize the damage to Dolours Price, which he did.''

What actually happened was that Marion Price telephoned me and asked if we were planning to run an interview with her sister. I said we were still pursuing our research and I would get back to her when we had reached a conclusion.

I rang her back some days later to say that we had decided against publishing an interview with her sister but we would be carrying a statement from Dolours Price which confirmed that she intended to engage with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) -- more commonly known as the commission for the Disappeared. Marion Price thanked me for calling her and ended the conversation.

Although Moloney claims that this outcome was reached "after much discussion," both of my two telephone calls with Marion Price were actually brief and the second lasted rather less than one minute.

What is more concerning is Moloney's specific allegation that I had agreed to keep "the juicy bits" out of an interview. Neither Marion Price nor I used such a phrase or dealt with such a request at any time, and -- as the accompanying cuttings show -- we never set out to publish an interview with Dolours Price in the first place

Our report of February 18, 2010, could hardly be more clear and strongly focused on Dolours Price's plans to speak to the commission for the Disappeared, an important and plainly newsworthy development which also provided her with the considerable protection of immunity from prosecution over any statements she might make in
this context. We understand that Dolours Price honoured this arrangement.

It is verging on the bizarre that Moloney could describe our coverage of this date as an interview when it did not include a single quotation from Dolours Price, and it is striking that, throughout his version of our story, he managed to avoid even a
single reference to the crucial role of the commission for the Disappeared.

Our initial dealings with Dolours Price came about when she telephoned the Irish News and said she wished to offer her comments on an interview which we had just published with the president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams.

I asked a senior news reporter, Allison Morris, to take on this responsibility, and, by agreement, an arrangement was made for a meeting at the Co. Dublin home of Dolours Price.

Allison Morris, accompanied by a staff photographer who can corroborate the encounter, spoke amicably, professionally and in some detail to Dolours Price, and was never asked by anyone to stop the conversation.

Only when Allison Morris was preparing to leave was she asked to take a telephone call from Marion Price, who was informed that -- as she subsequently did -- she should address any concerns she might have to myself as editor.

It has been well documented that many Irish people who have survived the violence of the last four decades and beyond, including activists on all sides, politicans and indeed journalists, have suffered negative consequences to their health.

This does not preclude them from offering an opinion on their experiences, although it is reasonable to expect that newspapers should acknowledge, as we did in our front page report of February 18, 2010, those who have a particular medical history.

Dolours Price has provided her own testimony on many previous occasions, including her dealings with the organisers of the Boston College project before and after her involvement with the Irish News.

She continued to offer her thoughts to the Irish News after we carried our reports of February 18, 2010, and no member of her family has subsequently raised any issues over our coverage.

Perhaps the single most remarkable aspect of Moloney’s intervention was the following claim about our dealings with Dolours Price -- 'Whether the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve. '

Moloney would have been able to solve this 'mystery' himself by a single telephone call to the Irish News, through which we would have readily confirmed that we were contacted by the PSNI some 16 months after our report about Dolours Price.

Detectives routinely approach the main Belfast-based news organisations in connections with various investigations, and it is our policy to observe our responsibilities as both journalists and citizens in this regard.

Accordingly, we informed the detectives both personally and in writing that we fully stood over our coverage of February 18, 2010, but we were no longer in possession of any research material which could possibly be of relevance to their inquiries. We have not subsequently heard from them.

Moloney's final allegation is that a tape provided by the Irish News was the basis for a subsequent article in the Sunday Life newspaper. I am completely satisfied this is untrue, and yet again Moloney made no attempt to check the background with the Irish News before going public with his claim.

The Irish News did not make any tape recordings of Dolours Price available to other journalists or publications. Many other outlets have carried reports about Dolours Price down the years but the Irish News is only responsible for its own content.

I appreciate the many pressures which Moloney is facing over his Boston College project, but the criticisms he directs against the Irish News are completely without foundation.

Noel Doran
The Irish News

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