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IPSO dismisses Gerry Adams complaint against regional daily

Gerry AdamsThe press watchdog has dismissed a complaint by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams about a regional daily’s coverage of a previous press complaint involving him.

Mr Adams, pictured left, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the Belfast Telegraph’s coverage of the now-defunct Press Complaints Commission’s decision not to uphold his grievance over a past article.

Mr Adams, a prominent Irish Republican, said a direct quote used by the Bel Tel from the PCC’s decision, which described him as a “prominent British and Irish politician”, was a” significant and offensive (inaccuracy), given its knowledge of his cultural and political background”.

He complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, adding the decision to include the quotation was “an act of bad faith”.

Mr Adams also contended that the quotation amounted to a pejorative reference to his nationality, and a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code.

He further accused the Bel Tel of being engaged in a “concerted campaign to undermine him” through its “wholly disproportionate coverage of his activities”.

The previous article about which he complained to the PCC revealed allegations he had been briefed by police about the case against his convicted paedophile brother Liam before giving evidence against him at a trial.

In response to his complaint to IPSO, the newspaper said the phrase complained about was a direct quote from the PCC’s decision and that it would have been a potential breach of Code to alter it in any way.

It also noted the political activities of the complainant, who has been president of Sinn Fein for 34 years and was a Westminster MP for 14 years, as well as a current sitting parliamentarian in the Republic of Ireland, would “inevitably attract considerable attention in the press”.

The IPSO committee found: “Notwithstanding the complainant’s contention that the reference was deeply offensive to him, the newspaper’s decision to publish this direct quotation in the article did not represent a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article.

“The newspaper was entitled to publish a report of the outcome of the complaint, and to refer to the PCC’s findings. This included by quoting from the decision. There was no breach of Clause 1.

“While recognising the particular political and cultural sensitivities raised by the complainant’s concerns, the Committee did not consider that publication of a direct quotation from a decision of the PCC could be said to amount to a pejorative reference for the purposes of Clause 12.”

“The Code does not include a requirement for balance and Clause 1 (iii) makes clear that publications are free to be partisan. The complainant’s contention, that coverage of his activity, as an elected representative, was disproportionate or sought to undermine him, did not raise a breach of Clause 4 of the Code.”

The complaint was not upheld and the full adjudication can be read here.