The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has condemned as “unwarranted and unworthy” an attack by DUP MP Ian Paisley on News Letter Political Editor Sam McBride.
At the weekend, Mr Paisley published online a 750-word personal attack on the journalist in response to an analysis piece which was published in Saturday’s newspaper.
The article explored the possibility of Stormont returning by October 21 – the date on which abortion will be decriminalised unless devolution is restored – and concluded that was unlikely.
The article reported the views of DUP members who said they believed that the party had calculated that it would lose more votes by accepting an Irish language act, the likely price of restoring Stormont, rather than allowing the abortion change to go through by maintaining its current stance. Mr Paisley was not mentioned in the article.
The NUJ’s Irish secretary, Séamus Dooley, is to write to Mr Paisley about the issue. He said: “Sam McBride outlined the current political context in Northern Ireland. As an experienced political analyst he set out the facts ... at no stage has he expressed a personal opinion on the substantive subject of abortion.
“Ian Paisley’s consequent attack on Sam McBride was unwarranted and unworthy of an MP. It was a clear attempt to smear the professional reputation of a conscientious journalist.”
He added: “Mr Paisley is not entitled to impute political motives to the Political Editor of the News Letter in a manner which is designed to undermine his professional reputation.
“Mr Paisley has gone beyond the bounds of acceptable political discourse and has engaged in a personal attack which is extremely damaging. The consequences of this behaviour has been a vile reaction on social media.
“In considering Mr Paisley’s comment I hope the DUP leadership and members will recognise the integrity of Mr McBride and his track record as a journalist of long standing.”