Press Ombudsman upholds Citywide Complaint

10 Jun 2011

Citywide, the Irish Needle Exchange Forum & the International Harm Reduction Association on behalf of more than thirty Irish drug service providers and professionals lodged a joint complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman against the Irish Independent, and the column "Sterilising junkies may seem harsh, but it does make sense" by Ian O'Doherty (18 February 2011 ).

The Press Ombudsman has upheld our complaint.

We complained that the article breached Principle 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines because it was likely to cause grave offence to or stir up hatred against individuals or groups addicted to drugs on the basis of their illness.

The article commented favourably on a suggestion by a doctor that drug users should be offered money to be sterilised. It described a group of people whose anti-social activities the writer had witnessed from his taxi as "junkies" and "feral, worthless scumbags", and voiced the writer's opinion that "if every junkie in this country were to die tomorrow I would cheer".

The Press Ombudsman found that "Neither the justification advanced in the article for the comments complained about -an unconvincing distinction between "junkie" and "addict" - nor the subsequent publication by the newspaper of letters from other complainants, or the publication of a feature reacting to the article, can obviate the need to make it clear that this article represents a breach of Principle 8 of the Code. In these circumstances, the complaint under this Principle is upheld".

The Irish Independent must publish the decision within three weeks.