Over 1,000 complaints about 'Mail' article

PUBLIC ANGER: THE UK’S Press Complaints Commission has received more than 1,000 complaints about an article in the Daily Mail…

PUBLIC ANGER:THE UK'S Press Complaints Commission has received more than 1,000 complaints about an article in the Daily Mailwhich questioned the circumstances of Stephen Gately's death.

The article by columnist Jan Moir, which was not carried in the newspaper’s Irish edition last week, has also been the subject of a complaint to London’s Scotland Yard.

In a column about the singer’s death, she wrote: “Something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap on a holiday weekend, like a broken teacup in the rented cottage.

“Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this.”

The article went on: “And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.

“After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards.”

She said Gately’s death struck another blow to the “happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”.

“Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael.

“Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately’s last night raise troubling questions about what happened.”

The article was not available to view on the Daily Mail’s archive yesterday, although the rest of Moir’s opinion articles were.

A number of companies, including Marks & Spencer, reportedly pulled their advertising from the webpage featuring the article.

In a statement over the weekend, Moir defended her article, saying she was the victim of “a heavily orchestrated internet campaign” and rejecting claims that the article was homophobic.

She said Gately was a “charming and sweet man who entertained millions” and insisted the point of her article was that his death raised many unanswered questions.

She added: “It seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.”

Social networking sites such as Twitter became a major forum for debate over the issue, with many providing directing links to the Press Complaints Commission.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent