An open letter to Mr. Kevin O’Sullivan, the Editor of the Irish Times

While there is an element of what you, Mr. O’Sullivan, might call ideology – but what I would simply call professional instinct and religious fidelity – in this, ultimately it is a matter of trust in the integrity of your newspaper.

I am a journalist and at the start of my career worked for a newspaper which stood alongside The Irish Times as one of Ireland’s three national dailies. I know how honest mistakes, errors of judgement and differing personal perspectives can all render news presentation less accurate and dependable than editors would wish.

However, the story on the front page of yesterday’s Irish Times shattered all my confidence and trust in your paper’s sincerity and commitment to even-handedness. The entire thrust of the story and my dissatisfaction with it as straightforward presentation and reporting seemed to me to come from something inherently dishonest.

I would be reassured if you were to tell me that there was here an honest mistake or a simple error of judgement at play. If not I have to say that I doubt if I can continue to subscribe to the Irish Times, something that I have been doing consistently for 50 years. A paper which could bring itself to stand over such a gratuitous and tendentious news report is no longer a reliable source of news.

The news report was in fact nothing less than a pretext to make a not-so-veiled attack on the Catholic Church and its teaching. I had to read it several times before I could believe that it was actually saying what I seemed to understand. I still cannot work out what connection it was making between Catholic moral teaching on contraception and sterilisation and the dubious medical procedure which was ostensibly the subject of the report.

In the end all I could see was that an individual doctor seemed largely responsible for the continued use of this procedure in a particular hospital when other hospitals had ceased to follow this procedure. That he did this was attributed to the “church”. Carl O’Brien’s introductory paragraph on the front page – or was that your subeditor’s work, as undoubtedly your headline was – told us that the Government’s draft report “says one of the reasons it was used was to obey laws influenced by the Catholic Church that banned contraception and sterilisation.” However, in his report on page 5 Carl writes that the “report suggests this”. There is a difference.

This is a bad and regrettable scene, Mr. O’Sullivan. It simply adds to my growing suspicion – a suspicion I have so far tried to resist out of respect for the integrity of my profession and my colleagues – that the Irish Times really does have an anti-Catholic agenda.

I asked a few friends this morning if they had read the article and what they thought in meant. One described it as an utterly ridiculous story with a ridiculous angle. Another no longer reads the Irish Times because of the constant slant it gives its stories on the Catholic Church. A third only reads the Irish Independent now. That is something I would rather not have to do – but I fear that for Irish news coverage I may now have no alternative.

Sincerely, Michael Kirke.

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