Even with hindsight, John McGuirk (39), the editor of Gript Media, does not regret reporting on the afternoon of the attack on children on Parnell Square in Dublin that the assailant was from Algeria.
At 5.33pm that day, Gript Media posted on X, formerly Twitter, that it could confirm that the “person of interest” to gardaí in relation to the attack was an Algerian national. It ran a story to that effect a short time later on its website.
The man was, in fact, a naturalised Irish citizen who came to Ireland from Algeria about 20 years ago.
Other media, including The Irish Times and RTÉ, refrained in the immediate aftermath from reporting that the man was originally from the north African country, but later that night and the next day reported that he was a naturalised citizen who came to Ireland years ago. The Irish Times later reported that he was originally from Algeria.
Last Wednesday, Gript, without naming him, published a report purporting to outline the asylum application history of the assailant. The report was taken down the following day after Gript was contacted by the Garda and told the man whose history was described had no connection with the Parnell Square attack.
By then, however, the man had been named on social media. He was given personal protection for a time by the gardaí as was a business premises with which he had been associated online. Neither he nor the premises have any link to the attack.
Other false online claims in the wake of the Gript report included that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had intervened to help the man with his asylum application. Much of the false information was linked to online posts by Michael O’Keeffe, a prominent Waterford anti-immigrant activist who was later described in the Dáil as a “white supremacist”.
“I have huge regrets in relation to the story,” said McGuirk of the false publication last Wednesday.
However, he said he had “no regrets” in relation to the story about the “Algerian national” published on the day of the stabbings. “I think it was an important piece of public information.”
McGuirk, an economics and political science graduate from Trinity College Dublin, is a former member of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael who worked for businessman Declan Ganley’s Libertas group when it campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty in the late 2000s.
Gript Media Ltd, the company behind Gript website, was incorporated in December 2018 and received financial support from the Life Institute, which campaigns against abortion and with which it shares an address on Gardiner Place, Dublin 1.
The website has 10 full- and part-time staff and a sufficient number of paying subscribers to make it no longer financially dependent on the Life Institute, McGuirk said.
Asked to define Gript, he said it is “broadly conservative and nationalist, broadly skeptical of internationalism, broadly skeptical of the use of unelected agencies and NGOs, broadly skeptical of the tone of debate we have in this country about a whole range of ideas”.
A philosophical difference with other media outlets was part of why Gript was founded, he said. The Gript website says it delivers news and analysis “without the liberal filter”.
“I don’t think it is the duty of the press to stop riots,” McGuirk said. “It is the job of politicians to come out and say these are the facts and you shouldn’t riot.
“It is not the job of someone in an office... to say I have a duty to suppress this fact in order to stop a riot. Once you start doing that you are no longer a journalist, in my view, you are a political activist.”
Jane Suiter, director of Dublin City University’s Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society, takes issue with this view of the role of journalism.
“There isn’t an absolute right for the public to know absolutely everything that every journalist knows,” she said. “Journalists have to exercise discretion so as to not generate hatred, not prejudice trials, not to invade people’s privacy and so on and so forth.”
Freedom of expression is a freedom that is limited by other considerations, she said. “You do have a right to say things but you don’t have a right to say them if it is going to whip up hatred against other people.”
Gavan Titley, a professor in the Department of Media Studies at Maynooth University, describes Gript “as a politically-aligned conservative right-wing media form, the kind of which are increasingly visible in the European landscape outside of legacy media”.
They are “very politicised” media forms that are aligned with a set of interests and values, such as ideas about society, gender, culture and race, but not necessarily aligned with any political party, he said.
Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date