Online media outlet Gript has removed an article that purported to give details of the asylum application history of the suspect in last week’s attack on schoolchildren on Parnell Square in Dublin.
The article was removed after Gript was contacted by An Garda Síochána, which has put in place special security measures to protect the man whose asylum details were published and who is not the suspect in the attack.
The article, which was published on Wednesday, referred to court records and purported to outline the detailed history of the suspect’s dealing with the State in relation to asylum, but did not name him. After the article was published, a number of people on social media went on to publish what they said was the man’s name.
On Thursday the Garda Press Office, which did not name Gript in its statement, said the article published on Wednesday was “highly inaccurate”.
“The individual referenced in the article is not a person of interest in the investigation into the knife attack of last Thursday,” it said. “An Garda Síochána has contacted the online news outlet and the outlet has agreed to remove the article.
“An Garda Síochána is aware of some social media posts resulting from the article that purport to identify the individual and has put in place measures to ensure the safety of the individual.”
Gript did not contact the Garda Press Office before publishing the article, the Garda said.
The article has been replaced by a statement in which Gript said that its report “was sourced from a member of an Garda Siochána” and that it is investigating whether it was “deliberately deceived”.
Gript claimed the information it received was “cross-checked against publicly available records, and while the name of the suspect was not reported, that name was put to a senior official on the basis of an informal ‘cross-check’ before publication.”
Gript Media, it said, has a firm policy of never naming any individual suspected in relation to a criminal act until such time as that person has been charged with a crime, and confirming that there are no reporting restrictions in place.
“In this case, we kept to that policy, while cross-checking our details with our sources in the usual way,” said the media outlet.
“We are investigating the circumstances of this error, including giving due consideration to the question of whether this media outlet was deliberately deceived by a senior official. If we determine that to have been the case, then our obligation to protect the anonymity of those sources will be considered forfeit.”
The main suspect in the attack is still in hospital and has yet to be interviewed by An Garda Síochána because of his injuries.
Garda sources told The Irish Times the force was aware of the social media posts implying involvement by the wrong man and sharing content that included his name, photograph and details about his life before he came to Ireland and since he settled in the Republic.
The same sources said there were now serious concerns for the safety of the man identified and measures were being put in place to protect him.
This included assigning Garda resources to him to ensure he did not come to harm, which is a very unusual move in response to misinformation circulating online.
However, gardaí were also hopeful once news spread that the man identified was innocent and not connected in any way to the events of last Thursday, the risk to his safety would recede.