A regional daily editor has praised the “outstanding journalism” of his staff in spite of political calls for a boycott of the newspaper.
Brian Haslett, an assistant to Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, called for a boycott of Belfast-based daily The News Letter on Twitter, accusing political editor Sam McBride of “bias tripe” (sic).
It is understood Mr Haslett’s calls refer to the News Letter’s recent coverage about a scandal involving the region’s renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme, which was overseen by Mrs Foster in her previous role with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in 2012.
The incentive, which has now been stopped, gave overgenerous offers of fuel subsidies for properties to switch to green energy, leading to it going over budget.
It is thought the scheme could cost taxpayers in Northern Ireland an extra £400m, although Mrs Foster has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Haslett’s post on Twitter has been ‘liked’ by other figures in the Democratic Unionist Party, of which both he and Mrs Foster are members, including serving Northern Ireland Assembly members.
“While it was disappointing to see anyone call for a boycott of our paper the reaction from our readers, and from across the political spectrum, has been a vindication of how we have covered this hugely significant story.
“We have in no way been biased in our coverage but our reporting team, and in particular political editor Sam McBride, have merely been determined in attempting to give our readers the full facts of an issue affecting everyone in Northern Ireland.
“Along with some other media outlets, our team has demonstrated some outstanding journalism.”
The DUP has said that individuals should “make their own decisions” about which newspapers they purchase, and that Mr Haslett’s views did not represent the party’s position