PRESS Ombudsman Peter Feeney is refusing to deal with ex-TD Colm Keaveney’s complaint against The Irish Times coverage of his travails and truce with Denis O’Brien. O’Brien dropped his libel action against Keaveney while the latter swore an affidavit alleging that Declan Ganley was the man behind the alleged Red Flag conspiracy to destroy poor Denis.
Keaveney has a raft of complaints about an article by IT hack Peter Murtagh in which it was strongly implied that so financially desperate was Keaveney that he made a Faustian pact with O’Brien. This, according to the article’s allegations, followed a failed attempt by Keaveney to gain employment with Ganley. Keaveney has accused Murtagh and the IT of breaching the Press Council’s Code of Practice on four counts. While not disputing the IT’s account of his bankruptcy and debt details, Keaveney claims that Murtagh got it wrong about his financial and employment situation. He claims to have been unduly harassed by Murtagh and that the article was based on anonymous sources.
Apart from these financial arguments concerning Keaveney, O’Brien and Ganley, there is also Keaveney’s claim that the IT breached article 2.3 of the code that says editorial coverage should not be “inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests … Writers should disclose significant potential conflicts of interest to their editors”. Keaveney has homed in on this principle as Murtagh’s daughter, Natasha Murtagh, was hired as an intern by Red Flag last November and December. Red Flag, of course, is one of O’Brien’s principal targets and the billionaire has spent a good deal of money pursuing the company through the courts for the past three years.
Feeney has refused to deal with Keaveney’s complaint saying that Press Council of Ireland rules only allow complaints if “the subject matter of the complaint is not the subject matter of court proceedings”. Presumably, this is a reference to O’Brien’s action against Red Flag. Keaveney is appealing Feeney’s decision to the Press Council, claiming that he is not a party to O’Brien’s action. And he has indicated that the High Court will be his next forum should the council also reject his complaint.