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Editor hits back at politician’s call to boycott title

An editor has hit back after a senior politician called for people to stop reading the title following criticism of an oversees trip.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson called for readers to boycott Belfast-based The Irish News after the paper questioned a 12-day trip to north and south America with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

The DUP leader faced questioned after returning from the trip about whether it was a good use of taxpayers’ money and told a UTV television reporter that people should “Stop reading The Irish News”.

However editor Noel Doran has hit back at the comments and defended the paper’s right to ask legitimate questions.

He said it was “remarkable that the person who is effectively our prime minister should be urging a boycott of the best-selling Northern Ireland-based paper simply for asking legitimate questions about the spending of taxpayers’ money.

“It was particularly ironic that Mr Robinson said his intention was to attract new investment but he had no hesitation in issuing a demand which, if heeded, would lead to the closure of a very successful Northern Ireland company and the loss of 150 jobs.”

His comment was also criticised Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, who said: “The comment is reckless and irresponsible in that The Irish News is a valued employer in Northern Ireland and it performs an important function.

“For a first minister to make a statement like that is highly irresponsible as well as being over the top. He is first minister and first minister for all the people of Northern Ireland including the readers of The Irish News. It is insulting to them and insulting to the staff.”

The DUP has since issued a statement saying that Mr Robinson’s comment was intended as “good humour” rather than a call to boycott the paper.

A spokesman described The Irish News’ coverage of the issue as a “further pathetic attempt” by the newspaper to draw attention to itself.

He said: “At no time has the first minister called for a boycott of any newspaper. His ‘stop reading The Irish News’ comment was directed, in good humour, at a UTV journalist who had asked a question quoting an analysis that relationships in [the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister] were frosty.

“Any sensible person who watched the UTV clip will know this is a concocted story.”

Responding to the DUP’s statement, Noel said he welcomed the clarification but said it had taken three days to come.

He added: “Given that Mr Robinson has insisted that he was speaking in good humour when he asked people to stop reading The Irish News, we will now in equally amicable terms renew our long-standing request for an interview with the first minister which will allow him to confirm his position on this and a range of other issues.”