A regional newspaper group did not discriminate against a gay man when refusing to publish a Christmas notice concerning the man’s late life partner.
That is the finding of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which has found that Iconic Newspapers Ltd did not discriminate against Frank Kelly based on his sexual orientation when refusing to publish the notice.
Mr Kelly’s life partner died on July 26th 2017 and he took the discrimination case against Iconic Newspapers when it refused to publish the Christmas notice in December 2018.
Iconic Newspapers operates 20 titles including 'The Limerick Leader', 'The Dundalk Democrat' and 'The Leinster Leader’.
The newspaper that declined to publish the notice is not named but it had previously published two other notices submitted by Mr Kelly concerning his late partner.
These included a month’s mind notice in the family announcements section on September 1st 2017 and a Christmas message for his late partner in December 2017.
However, WRC Adjudication Officer, Marguerite Buckley stated that she accepted Iconic Newspapers Ltd’s evidence that it did not decline to publish the Mr Kelly’s 2018 Christmas wish notice based on his sexual orientation.
Ms Buckley stated that she accepted that the decision not to publish the Christmas notice “was due to the intervention of the next of kin of the deceased”.
Ms Buckley stated that had the intervention by the deceased’s family not taken place, "I have no reason to believe that the Christmas greeting would not be published".
Ms Buckley found that Mr Kelly has has not made a prima facia case of discrimination.
The Regional Managing Director of Iconic Newspapers told the WRC on November 22nd 2018, the group received a solicitor’s letter representing the legal personal representative of the deceased.
The letter stated that that they required sight of any future notices which might be published regarding the deceased.
The letter set out “our client wants you to ensure that no memorials, notices, messages or such like are to be published …... relating to the deceased without prior notice to us so that we can consider and advise on whether such notices in question are appropriate for publication having regard to all the surrounding circumstances”.
On December 14th 2018, Mr Kelly submitted his Christmas message for his late partner for publication.
The Regional Managing Director confirmed to the WRC that he contacted Mr Kelly and advised him of the letter from the firm of solicitors that he had on file.
He also contacted the solicitor for the legal personal representatives of the deceased informing them of Mr Kelly’s request for the publication of the Christmas notice.
The legal firm replied on the same date to state “under no circumstances should the Claimant’s communication and/or notice be published by you”.
The Regional Managing Director stated that in those circumstances they decided not to print the notice.
He explained that this decision would be made irrespective of the gender or sexual orientation of any of the parties concerned.
Iconic Newspapers set out that they were simply caught in the middle of a row between the family of the deceased and Mr Kelly.
Iconic Newspapers confirmed they were prepared to publish any reasonable notice in good faith and had done so in the past until objection was made by the deceased’s legal estate.
Mr Kelly - who confirmed that he was not the spouse or the civil partner of the deceased - submitted that because of the newspaper group’s failure to publish the Christmas greeting, “his life was left in a state of torment and pain”.
He stated that all he wanted to do “was to be allowed to express how much he missed his late partner especially at Christmas time and to be treated like any other loving couple in bereavement, a time of great loss and sorrow”.
Mr Kelly claimed that Iconic Newspapers had inflicted mental torment on him and more grief than needed.
Mr Kelly explained that the failure by Iconic Newspaper to print the Christmas message stopped him from grieving properly.
Mr Kelly submitted that his late partner’s family have refused to acknowledge their gay relationship.
Mr Kelly also claimed that his request would not have been refused were it not for his sexual orientation.