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O Leidhin and the Sunday Independent

The Press Ombudsman

The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint made by Mr Eoin O Leidhin, on behalf of the Rossport Solidarity Camp, that an article published in the Sunday Independent on July 25, 2010, entitled "Polish 'anarchist' linked to Corrib gas pipeline protest" breached Principle 1 (truth and accuracy) and Principle 2 (distinguishing fact and comment) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.

Mr O Leidhin complained that statements in the article about an individual were inaccurate. These included statements that the individual in question (who was not named or physically described) had been present at a protest camp on several occasions over a period of months and that the same unnamed individual was "emerging as one of the key organisers in the protest".

It is notably difficult to prove a negative, particularly in relation to statements about an unnamed individual, and in this case, the complainant did not provide persuasive evidence to rebut the newspaper's report.

In the circumstances, the references in the article to the unnamed individual did not breach the Code of Practice.

A number of other statements in the article about which Mr O Leidhin complained were either conjecture, rumour or unconfirmed reports and therefore did not present a breach of the Code of Practice.

Mr O Leidhin also complained about a statement in the article relating to the reason for delays affecting the project, which he said was misleading.

However, as he did not supply any definitive evidence that the reason for the delays was a different one from the reason stated in the article, and as the Press Ombudsman's functions do not extend to making a determination on the causes of complex events which are the subject of unresolved controversies involving many different parties, this part of the complaint is not upheld.

As the evidence offered by both parties about the accuracy of a statement in the article, that the Corrib field would supply 60 per cent of Ireland's gas needs was inconclusive, the Press Ombudsman was unable to decide on a complaint that it was inaccurate.

The newspaper, shortly after the article appeared, published a letter from the Shell to Sea Campaign, criticising the article. Although this was not a response to Mr O Leidhin's complaint, the newspaper was entitled to, and did, advance it as reasonable evidence that it had already taken note of criticisms, by people associated with the Corrib protests, of the article in question.

Sunday Independent