‘Disgruntled and bitter’: ‘Independent’ editor hits out at ex-colleague
Fionnán Sheahan’s conflict of evidence with Anne Harris is fourth among journalists to come before tribunal
Asked if he was saying former Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris was confused or lying, Irish Independent editor Fionnán Sheahan said: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask her that.”
Irish Independent editor Fionnán Sheahan has said the former editor of the Sunday Independent, Anne Harris, was motivated by bitterness when making claims to the Charleton Tribunal which he has said are incorrect.
Ms Harris, in evidence to the tribunal in May, said that at a meeting in the offices of Independent News & Media in September 2014, Mr Sheahan had referred to Sgt Maurice McCabe as a “paedophile”.
However Mr Sheahan, in evidence today to the tribunal, said he was certain that he had never made the comment and rejected the claim by Ms Harris that he had tried in 2014 to warn her off stories that were positive towards Sgt McCabe.
He said he was away from most of the editorial meetings during the period in which the alleged comment was said to have been made, and his emails showed that during the month in question he was involved with the commissioning of coverage favourable to Sgt McCabe.
Responding to Darren Lehane BL, for Ms Harris, Mr Sheahan said he did not just deny the allegation from Ms Harris but also said that it was entirely contrary to what his emails from the period showed.
Mr Sheahan said he believed Ms Harris, in her evidence, was motivated by malice and a grudge against him and that evidence of her feelings towards Mr Sheahan could be seen in an article in the Sunday Business Post she had written.
In the article she had referred to male INM executives with “big swinging titles”.
He said Ms Harris had opposed a group editorial structure put in place at INM when she was still editor of the Sunday title.
Mr Sheahan said he believed Ms Harris was “abusing the tribunal”, which was set up at great public cost, so as to “ventilate a grudge” against him.
Asked if he was saying she had “made up lies” about him and told them to a sworn tribunal of inquiry, Mr Sheahan said she had given a very confused account of what she was alleging.
When asked if he was saying Ms Harris was confused or was lying, Mr Sheahan said: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask her that.”
He agreed it was his view that her evidence was improperly motivated, that she was “disgruntled” and bitter.
Mr Lehane noted that in his solicitor’s letter to the tribunal, it had been stated on Mr Sheahan’s behalf that as Ms Harris’ statement to the tribunal was “false and untrue” it was not protected by privilege against a defamation action.
Mr Sheahan said that Ms Harris “was headline hunting here” and that a few days after her statement to the tribunal was circulated to interested parties, “it ended up on the front page of the Sunday Times.” This was a “remarkable coincidence”.
The tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, said the evidence from Mr Sheahan concerned the fourth conflict of evidence involving journalists that had come before the tribunal. Eight witnesses were involved in disputes among journalists.
Mr Justice Charleton asked if there was “anything in the world of journalism that I am not aware of that might help me.” He said he had heard references to bitterness, careers and jobs. “I don’t know if it’s down to sick buildings,” he said. Mr Sheahan did not directly respond.