A regional daily has apologised after a grieving mother complained about a photographer allegedly hiding in a graveyard during her daughter’s funeral.
The Belfast Telegraph denied the allegation, but has said sorry for publishing photographs taken at the funeral of seven-year-old Brónagh Kinney against her family’s wishes.
The newspaper carried a report on the girl’s funeral following her death from meningitis, and included details of the service as well as a picture of Brónagh and a photo of her coffin being carried into the church, accompanied by her family.
In a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of Brónagh’s mother Bridgina Kinney, the girl’s godmother Shauna O’Neill claimed the photographer had taken the picture of the coffin while hidden in the graveyard and then entered the church uninvited.
After he was asked to leave by those attending, Ms O’Neill claimed the photographer’s response was that he had been given permission to attend by the family, which she said was not the case.
He had taken a copy of the mass booklet, from which the picture of Brónagh was taken, while the photograph of the procession included a ten-year-old boy.
In response the Bel Tel extended its condolences to Brónagh’s family, and said that it was never its intention to add to their distress at such a sad time.
The newspaper said that there had been considerable coverage of Brónagh’s death, that the funeral was an event that it could reasonably be expected to cover, and that it did not believe the photographer’s presence constituted an intrusion into the family’s grief.
The freelance photographer who had attended the funeral was not on church property when he took the picture of the coffin, and said that he had not hidden in the graveyard, but was approached by an individual outside the church and was asked if the family were aware that he was present.
He responded by saying he was not sure, but told the person she could contact the newspaper’s picture desk if she was concerned.
The newspaper said he entered the foyer and asked for an order of service, in accordance with normal practice, and left. It added that at no point was the photographer asked to leave, nor did he pretend to be a member of the congregation.
It had removed Brónagh’s image from its online editions once aware the family objected to its use, but added that the photo of the coffin entering the church was a normal feature of coverage of funerals.
Ms O’Neill had complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, but the Bel Tel agreed to publish an apology following IPSO’s intervention.
The apology stated it unaware that the family did not want Brónagh’s image to be published more widely, and noted that a child who was part of funeral procession was photographed without the necessary consent being given. The paper also offered to make a donation to a charity nominated by the Kinney family.
The complainant said that this resolved the matter to the family’s satisfaction, and the full resolution statement can be read here.