An editorial lapse

At The Irish Times the default position has been and will remain that the views expressed, often robustly, by our columnists and contributors such as cartoonist Martyn Turner, are largely sacrosanct. We're in the business of providing a platform for civilised debate between articulators of a wide range of views from left to right, social conservative to liberal, to whatever you're having yourself, and whose presence in these pages has never implied our endorsement .

That aspiration is very much in the spirit of the obligations placed on the paper's editors by the Irish Times Trust's principles which require the paper to ensure that "comment and opinion shall be informed and responsible ... and special consideration shall be given to the reasonable representation of minority interests and divergent views" and to uphold "the promotion of peace and tolerance and opposition to all forms of violence and hatred, so that each man may live in harmony with his neighbour, considerate for his cultural, material and spiritual needs."

That means, however, that there is no carte blanche , and that there are ground rules which we try to adhere to, mostly with no argument from those contributors. Civilised debate, we accept, requires the eschewing of ad hominem argument, playing the ball, not the man, and avoiding crude stereotyping.

Sometimes, however, things fly in under the editorial radar. Martyn Turner’s cartoon on Wednesday is a case in point. In making a legitimate argument about the debate over priestly responsibility for reporting child abuse and the concerns for the seal of the confessional, Turner also took an unfortunate and unjustified sideswipe at all priests, suggesting that none of them can be trusted with children. This has, unsurprisingly, caused considerable offence and we regret and apologise for the hurt caused by the cartoon whose use in that form, we acknowledge, reflected a regrettable editorial lapse.