Social Democrats want Naughten to recuse himself from media deal

Murphy says Minister should not have role in Irish Times purchase of Landmark Medai Group

Social Democrats joint leader  Catherine Murphy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Social Democrats have called on Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to recuse himself from any decisions related to the proposed purchase of Landmark Media Group by The Irish Times .

The proposed sale includes the Irish Examiner national newspaper and the daily Evening Echo and seven regional titles.

Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy said while the party had no particular concerns about the acquisition itself, she did have issues regarding the Minister’s role in the process.

“We have been given reason to have concerns,” she said. “We have looked for the Minister to recuse himself in relation to media regulation and we are waiting for the Taoiseach to respond to that.”

The Irish Times revealed last week that Mr Naughten told a lobbyist working for INM on a phone call in 2016 he intended to refer the company’s proposed takeover of Celtic Media regional newspaper group to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland two months before he officially announced his decision.

Mr Naughten’s view, expressed to lobbyist Eoghan Ó Neachtain, a former government press secretary, was passed on to INM’s then chairman Leslie Buckley, who then informed Denis O’Brien, INM’s biggest shareholder and the owner of Communicorp.

The contacts were disclosed in court papers filed by the State’s corporate watchdog, who investigated INM and said Mr Buckley may have shared “inside information” and potentially breached market abuse regulations.

The Social Democrats said there is a need to change the current rules and regulations surrounding the lobbying laws needs to be altered to name and shame lobbyists who break the law and to give the Standards in Public Office Commission the authority to inspect records and conduct spot checks on returns filed.