FROM: Donal Kennedy
TO: The Right Hon Sir Humphrey Atkins MP
House of Common
On 8 December 1982 an article in THE DAILY MAIL under your name accused the IRA of inflicting over 2,000 deaths since 1969.
Following a complaint to THE PRESS COUNCIL the paper published a correction failing to mention your authorship of the article. Indeed, in correspondence with me the paper absolved you from blame for the untruth.
I would like, for the record, to know whether you disclaim authorship of the article or of that portion of it which THE DAILY MAIL retracted.
I realise your concern that the truth about Northern Ireland should be broadcast. I recall that THE TIMES, following the resignation of Mr Michael Daly from the New York DAILY NEWS, reported 12 May 1981 that you had instructed Civil Servants at the Northern Ireland Office to monitor the overseas press and refute untruths appearing there.
However THE TIMES was itself censured by THE PRESS COUNCIL on 18 February 1982 for printing on 8 May 1981 virtually this same untruth which appeared in THE DAILY MAIL under your honoured name, and as THE DAILY EXPRESS and THE DAILY STAR were censured by the COUNCIL in August 1983 for the same untruth which appeared under less exalted authority in December 1982
I would like to trace the misinformation to its source and ensure it is refuted. Incidentally THE DAILY EXPRESS and THE DAILY STAR have promised to keep repeating the untruth despite THE PRESS COUNCIL censure. I note from last week’s Parliamentary reports the weight Mrs Thatcher gives to PRESS COUNCIL proceedings.
As the question I have asked you is of public interest copies of this letter and your reply, if any, will be widely disseminated. I hope you appreciate that my quest for truth will not burden the British taxpayer.