Irish newspapers compensate ex-seminarian for false sex claims

Three leading Irish newspapers have formally apologised and paid compensation to a former seminarian after admitting they made false statements about him.

The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner and The Echo claimed the seminarian was expelled from formation after being found in bed with another seminarian.

They alleged the seminarians had been attending an event to mark the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae” before the alleged incident occurred at the Pontifical Irish College.

In May last year when the story broke, another newspaper – The Irish Catholic – found the story to be a lie.

They published a story that claims two seminarians were dismissed from the Irish College in Rome were false, claims of a sexual nature were false and claims the alleged event happened after a conference were untrue as the conference never happened.

While some media outlets took down the story soon after it was shown to be false, The Irish Times stood by the story.

However, in an apology published at the end of June this year, The Irish Times admitted that “there was no truth in and no basis for this allegation.”

While the newspaper did not name either of the seminarians, it acknowledged “that this article referred to and identified Conor Gannon, who at that time was a clerical student studying for the priesthood in the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.”

The apology said: “The Irish Times acknowledges that the article was false and should not have been published. The Irish Times has agreed to pay damages to Conor Gannon for the upset and distress caused to him by the article.”

An almost word-for-word apology was repeated in Irish Examiner and The Echo newspapers the same day.

David Quinn, who is the head of The Iona Institute, said the case “raises serious questions about the sort of editorial checks and balances used in some Irish media when they are reporting on the Catholic Church”.

Quinn said he believes the case “will confirm the suspicion of many Catholics that, when it comes to the church, priests, religious and seminarians, it is open season.

“If various media want to be taken seriously as holding other people to account, they must have higher standards themselves. The newspapers responsible for this false story need to explain how it was ever published.”


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