Shatter 'opportunistic' on Kate photos

Tue, Sep 18, 2012, 01:00

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused Minister for Justice Alan Shatter of acting in an “opportunistic” manner in the wake of the controversy surrounding the publication of topless photos of Kate Middleton in the Irish Daily Star.

Mr Shatter has said he will revisit the Privacy Bill.

“He just saw cynically an opportunity to get himself into the headlines because of what’s happening with the photographs…I think it’s adding by the way to the over-the-top reaction to that whole episode,” Mr Martin said today.

He said he regretted that the editor Michael O’Kane had been suspended. “I think we need to have a sense of perspective here…The idea of jumping on the bandwagon in an opportunistic manner I think is regrettable.”

Speaking yesterday, Mr Shatter said some sections of the print media attached “no value of any nature” to the right to privacy, despite it being a right recognised by the Constitution and by the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.

His comments were in contrast to those of the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, who yesterday said he found it hard to “get worked up” about the issue.

In a statement last night, the National Union of Journalists warned against a “knee-jerk reaction” to the publication of pictures.

The NUJ’s Irish secretary, Seamus Dooley, said the threat of privacy legislation by Mr Shatter was “a worrying development with serious implications”.

“Mr Shatter is again threatening to revisit a deeply flawed piece of legislation,” Mr Dooley added. “The Privacy Bill was shelved some years ago after it had been comprehensively discredited. It would serve to undermine freedom of expression and protect those anxious to avoid media scrutiny.

“Mr Shatter should not punish the Irish media based on one episode involving members of the British royal family.”

Mr O'Kane was suspended yesterday pending a joint investigation by the tabloid’s shareholders into the publication on Saturday of the photographs.

Mr O’Kane, appointed to the post last November, was suspended with immediate effect by Independent Star Ltd, which publishes the daily newspaper. This appears to have lifted the threat of “immediate” closure, which UK media baron Richard Desmond had issued on Saturday evening.

Mr Desmond controls UK media group Northern Shell, which jointly owns the Irish Daily Star with Independent News Media in Ireland.

Northern Star owns the Daily Star in the UK, which did not publish the pictures.

Up to 120 staff, who are employed either directly or indirectly by the Irish tabloid, faced the prospect of losing their jobs following Mr Desmond’s strong statement over the weekend.

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