The following comment of mine appeared in THE IRISH WORLD (London) some years ago under the heading-
“GROUNDHOG DAY I AM CONVINCED”
Reading Paul Donovan’s account of media lying regarding responsibility for violence in the North of Ireland ( THE IRISH WORLD , 22 November) Iwas convinced that it was Groundhog Day.
There I was, feeling deja vu all over again. Reporting Bobby Sands’s funeral in the London Times in May 1981, Christopher Thomas attributed all violent deaths since 1969 to IRA action. For good measure, all victims of the violence, according to THE TIMES, were Protestants. Westminster Unionist MP, James Kilfedder had broadcast a similar porky on the BBC.
When I wrote to THE TIMES I was assured ( in a letter by Managing Editor John Grant) that their correspondent had confirmed his “facts” and several sources.
I took the matter up with the Press Council which stonewalled for nine months and, reluctantly upheld my complaint. TIMES Editor Harold Evans was proclaimed “EDITOR OF THE YEAR” that same day. A few months after that judgement, THE DAILY EXPRESS, THE DAILY STAR and THE DAILY MAIL simultaneously published the lie, (in a concerted smear campaign against Ken Livingstone, Leader of the Greater London Council). Another nine months stalling by the Press Council before it upheld the complaint by a Mr Conlan, an elderly man of some courage, in Birmingham, regarding THE DAILY EXPRESS and THE DAILY STAR, which both published unrepentant editorials and re-spewed their falsehoods.
THE DAILY MAIL escaped Press Council censure, although I had lodged a complaint against it. The falsehood had gone out under the name of Sir Humphrey Atkins, Northern Ireland Secretary. The Press Council had a public reputation for toothlessness and was replaced by the PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION.
Sir Humphrey Atkins, raised to THE HOUSE OF LORDS, joined THE PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION. Another Tory adornment to that COMMISSION recently resigned when it transpired that he was connected with Anderson Auditor, involved in the ENRON swindle.
According to the rules of the “new, improved” Press Complaints Commission, I would not now be able to take a similar falsehood for its adjudication. The falsehood concerned the IRA and, as I never belonged to that well-meaning body of men and women, my complaint would be out of order.
(John Grant an alumnus of Balliol College Oxford, and an ex Officer of the Brigade of Guards was accorded the deference expected by a learned and gallant gentleman. But I took him for a lying scoundrel. He is now in a place where he cannot sue me for libel. Similarly Sir Harold Evans and Humphrey Atkins)