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Reports of politician's affair branded inaccurate

Articles which suggested a politician’s affair had led to his resignation and the breakdown of his marriage have been rapped by the Press Complaints Commission.

The Northern Irish edition of Sunday World carried two stories last year under the headlines: ‘Sinn Fein MLA dumps wife for Brit army general’s daughter’ and ‘Love rat McHugh dumped by Brit lover’.

They centred on an affair between Gerry McHugh, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Sinn Fein, and Angela Foran.

Miss Foran complained to the PCC that the two articles were inaccurate on two grounds, therefore breached Clause 1 of the PCC’s Code of Conduct. The complaint was upheld.

The articles claimed that the complainant, said to be the daughter of a British army general who had links to the intelligence services, had conducted an affair with Mr McHugh.

The affair, it was suggested, led to the breakdown of his marriage and resignation from the party.

Miss Foran said that Mr McHugh had not left his wife to “shack up” with her.

She denied causing the breakdown of the marriage, as the relationship had occurred long after Mr McHugh and his wife had separated.

In addition, while her father had carried out national service in the army, he had not attained the rank of general or worked in the security services.

The complainant said she had never mentioned her father when speaking previously to the newspaper.

In response, Sunday World said it stood by the accuracy of the central allegation, that the pair had conducted an affair.

The information relating to Miss Foran’s father had stemmed from the complainant herself as part of an earlier story, together with its own security sources.

The PCC’s adjudication said: “Although the complainant had not denied having a relationship with Mr McHugh, she had denied two significant aspects of the coverage: the claim that Mr McHugh had left his wife for her, and the assertion that her father had been a general in the British Army who worked in the intelligence services.

“Neither of these points had been satisfactorily corroborated, and the paper had not offered to publish a correction. There was therefore a breach of Clause 1 of the Code, and this part of the complaint was upheld.”

  • Miss Foran raised two other concerns to the PCC about Sunday World’s coverage. The first related to photographs the paper used which she had posed for on a previous occasion.

    The complainant claimed that they had been misleadingly edited but the PCC decreed that the images had not been cropped in a way which would mislead readers in breach of Clause 1.

    Secondly, Miss Foran complained the articles had intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 of the Code.

    In the context of a story which connected her relationship to the resignation of Mr McHugh, the Commission did not consider that referring to the existence of the relationship had raised any breach.

    The Commission said the relationship appeared to have been made public by the pair attending a number of events together and no private details about anything that happened within the relationship had been published.