Call on Naughten to publicly admit he ‘acting wrongly’ on INM conversation

Communications Minister Denis Naughten should remove himself from any media merger decisions unless he issues a public statement accepting he was wrong to discuss Independent News and Media’s (INM) bid for Celtic Media with a lobbyist.

Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley said the public admission is necessary, despite saying his party is not demanding “a public execution” and is unlikely to table a no-confidence motion in Mr Naughten.

Mr Naughten was embroiled in controversy last week when it emerged he spoke informally with Heneghan PR official and former government press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain about the proposed INM takeover of Celtic Media.

The conversation was confirmed in leaked court records which showed Mr Naughten and Mr Ó Neachtain spoke about the deal on November 11, 2016, at which point Mr Naughten said he expected the deal to be referred to a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland inquiry.

The following day, then INM chairperson Leslie Buckley forwarded businessman Denis O’Brien an email from Heneghan PR executive Nigel Heneghan outlining the November 11 conversation.

However, during a Dáil debate on December 6, 2016, Mr Naughten said no decision had taken place on the deal and that the matter was still being discussed privately.

In a special Dáil debate last Wednesday, Mr Naughten insisted he had done nothing wrong, a position that was repeated by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other ministers.

Mr Dooley said the communications minister must this week provide a public statement accepting he acted wrongly, and if he fails to do so he must remove himself from any involvement in future media mergers.

“There needs to be an acceptance from Mr Naughten what he did was wrong. I’m not saying he did what he did with any intent, but the phone call is a fact.

“He can couch it in whatever way he wants, but if he can’t do that he should recuse himself from merger discussions.

“This doesn’t have to be fatal for him, we’re not looking for a public execution, but there is a need for the public to see a minister who has done this held to account,” said Mr Dooley.

On Sunday, the National Union of Journalists also called on Mr Naughten to “recuse” himself from media merger discussions due to last week’s revelations, a move also sought by the Social Democrats.

More on this topic

TD calls for more support for media industry as job losses loom at Virgin Media IrelandTD calls for more support for media industry as job losses loom at Virgin Media Ireland

Bestselling writer brought to book during radio interviewBestselling writer brought to book during radio interview

How the British media reacted to the death of Isis leader Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiHow the British media reacted to the death of Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Media banned from naming mother who smothered child with pillowMedia banned from naming mother who smothered child with pillow


Kate Tempest’s Vicar Street show began with the mother of all selfie moments. The 33 year-old poet and rapper disapproves of mid-concert photography and instructed the audience to get their snap-happy impulses out of the way at the outset. What was to follow would, she promised, be intense. We should give ourselves to the here and now and leave our phones in our pockets.Kate Tempest dives deep and dark in Dublin gig

Des O'Sullivan examines the lots up for auction in Bray.A Week in Antiques: Dirty tricks and past political campaigns

Following South Africa’s deserved Rugby World Cup victory I felt it was about time that I featured some of their wines.Wine with Leslie Williams

All your food news.The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

More From The Irish Examiner