Leading journalists have sharply criticised an article by a Guardian columnist in which he questioned the BBC Spotlight revelations about the IRA investigation into Mairia Cahill’s claims she was raped.
Roy Greenslade, a former editor of the Daily Mirror and one of the UK’s leading commentators on the media industry, was slammed by the veteran Londonderry socialist and journalist Eamonn McCann who said it was an “ignorant” and “contemptible” article, which constituted “a disgrace to journalism”.
Prof Greenslade, who is a visiting professor at London City University’s journalism course, said that the BBC should have told viewers that many years after she alleged she was raped and subjected to an IRA kangaroo court Ms Cahill had been a member of a political group opposed to Sinn Fein.
The failure by Spotlight to inform viewers of Ms Cahill’s past involvement with the Continuity IRA-linked Republican Network for Unity meant the programme was “flawed” and “overly one-sided”.
Although the programme focused on how Ms Cahill’s allegations of rape were handled by the IRA and Sinn Fein, rather than seeking to establish whether she was actually raped, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has said that he believes she was raped.
Prof Greenslade – who stood surety for alleged Hyde Park bomber John Downey ahead of his trial collapsing earlier this year – said of the alleged rape victim: “Cahill’s political stance should have been explored more fully [in the programme].”
In the past, Prof Greenslade has placed ‘full disclosure’ notices at the bottom of articles where he has a link to the subject material, but that was not done in this case, despite his long-standing links with Sinn Fein, including a period as a secret columnist for its newspaper, An Phoblacht.
Former Irish Times journalist and author Ed Moloney highlighted Prof Greenslade’s deep and enduring links to senior Sinn Fein figures.
In an article on his website, Mr Moloney said: “Isn’t it about time that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger moved to protect his readers’ interests and insisted that a health warning accompany Greenslade’s articles on Ireland. Something like: This writer is not neutral about Sinn Fein or Gerry Adams, in fact he supports them.”
Veteran Belfast journalist Malachi O’Doherty also condemned the central premise of the column.
Writing in a comment beneath it on the Guardian website, he said: “Roy, this is low. Lower still for being so transparently done in the service of the party. A woman is raped and interrogated by the IRA but none of us can judge the moral weight of these events if we are not told that four years ago, 10 years after the event, she supported a political movement that is opposed to Sinn Fein.”
The News Letter attempted to contact Prof Greenslade through his university, which said to email him. At the time of going to press, he had not responded to emails asking for comment.