Paper considering European appeal, says Kennedy

 

THE IRISH Timesis considering whether to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision on costs to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Editor Geraldine Kennedy said the newspaper would have to consider its options following the court’s decision to impose all costs on The Irish Times in spite of the fact that it won the appeal against the Mahon tribunal.

Ms Kennedy said it was most unusual for a successful party not to be awarded costs and the question that arose now was whether the scale of the costs involved, estimated at more than €600,000, amounted to a penalty.

She said she was disappointed at the court’s decision, given the unanimous decision of the five judges to overrule the High Court. “It was a landmark judgment, enshrining the principle of journalistic privilege and the protection of sources into Irish law for the very first time. The Supreme Court vindicated our decision to publish the original story about the payments of monies to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern while he was minister for finance in the public interest.”

She added: “I want to be absolutely clear about one thing. My only concern was to serve the public’s right to know by bringing Colm Keena’s story to publication and, in doing so, to protect journalistic sources in the process.”

Defending her decision to order the destruction of the document which was the source of Keena’s article, Ms Kennedy said she had borne in mind a similar case in the UK, in which the Guardian had been pressurised into giving the government a document about the movement of US cruise missiles in Britain. As a result, the leak was traced to a civil servant, Sarah Tisdall, who was jailed for four months for breaching the Official Secrets Act.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) described the decision as a major disappointment. NUJ general secretary Séamus Dooley said the decision had profound implications for Irish journalism because it could be perceived as a punishment for the manner in which Ms Kennedy had decided to protect the newspaper’s sources.

“The Supreme Court ruling enshrined the principle of journalistic privilege and the protection of sources into Irish law. The Supreme Court clearly recognised the right of The Irish Timesto protect their sources,” he said.