WE SILENCE THE HOUSE OF PRAYER Sunday World – Jim Gallagher

WE SILENCE THE HOUSE OF PRAYER

‘Visionary’ Christina Gallagher’s followers had their objections thrown out by the Press Council

SWPress council story (PDF)

ANOTHER EXCLUSIVE

THE Press Council and the Press Ombudsman have thrown out three

separate complaints made against the Sunday World by the discredited

House of Prayer on Achill Island.

The media watchdogs decided this newspaper had nothing to answer over its 20-month investigation into the finances of fake visionary Christina Gallagher. Amazingly, the objections effectively comprised nearly 100 separate complaints against the Sunday World – but not a single one was upheld. The complaints were made by the woman who claims to be the House of Prayer’s chief fundraiser Majella Meade, from Longford, and by local newspaper boss Dick Hogan, of Mullingar, one of Gallagher’s biggest supporters. Gallagher and her spiritual director Fr Gerard McGinnity had signed forms allowing the complainants to act on their behalf.

Complaints

Meade made two separate complaints on February 23 and April 26 of this year. The Press Ombudsman referred the first to the full Press Council who discussed the case in July. It has now dismissed the complaint. In its ruling it said that Meade complained about four separate articles, “House of Pain”, from November 2008, “House of Scandal,”, from December 2008, “She Still Preys”, January 2009, and “Without A Prayer”, in February. Meade complained  that the articles breached the Code of Practice for Newspapers under Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2

(Distinguishing Fact and Comment), Principle 3 (Fairness and Honesty), Principle 4 (Respect for Rights), Principle 5 (Privacy), Principle 6 (Protection of Sources) and Principle 8 (Incitement to Hatred). The Press Council rejected the complaint under all categories. It ruled:

PRINCIPLE 1: “There was no evidence that the newspaper did not strive for truth and accuracy in the articles under complaint. “In addition, there was no evidence that the articles contained any significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report. In the circumstances, the complaint under Principle 1 was not upheld.”

PRINCIPLE 2:

“Under the Code of Practice, comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported  as if they were fact. “In the articles under complaint, the comments complained of were either directly or indirectly attributed to named or unnamed sources. “Their attribution was clear, and the articles therefore did not breach Principle 2.”

PRINCIPLE 3:

“The Press Council noted that the newspaper had made significant efforts to contact the persons mentioned in the articles for comment or reply. “The fact that Ms Meade, who had not been mentioned in the articles, was not approached did not, in the Council’s view, constitute a breach of Principle 3.”

PRINCIPLE 4:

“The Press Council found that no breach of the Code occurred since the published

material was not based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations and reasonable care had been taken by the newspaper to check facts.”

PRINCIPLE 5:

“No breach of the Code occurred as the material published did not interfere with

the complainant’s right to privacy and publication of the articles was in the public interest.”

PRINCIPLE 6:

“The complainant had not put forward any legitimate grounds for her complaint.”

PRINCIPLE 8:

The Press Council decided that the articles …. “did not constitute ‘material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual, or group’ and nor were they intended or likely to give rise to such consequences.” The Press Ombudsman subsequently dismissed the second complaint by Meade without referring it to the Press Council. The Ombudsman also dismissed a complaint by Dick Hogan who claimed that an article on February 1, 2009 breached five Principles of the Code of Practice.

The Sunday World had defended the story, which reported how Hogan and the board of directors at the House of Prayer had resigned.

Malicious

The Press Ombudsman ruled that the article was in the public interest and was “appropriately sourced” to public documents or attributed to specified sources. The Ombudsman said there was “no evidence to suggest that the newspaper knowingly published matter based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations. Its attempt to contact the complainant supported its contention that it took reasonable care in checking facts.” The complaint under Principle 4 was therefore not upheld. There was no breach of Principle 5 because these were not private but public matters documented in the Companies Registration Office. And there was no breach of Principle 8 because Hogan’s evidence fell “far short” of proving incitement to hatred.

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