Belfast Project: Anthony McIntyre and Allison Morris Square Off
Posted on September 9, 2013
Belfast Project protagonist Anthony McIntyre has been highly critical online of Irish News journalist Allison Morris—a dust-up in which, I’m sorry to say, Letters Blogatory played an incidental role. In March 2013, I reported on McIntyre’s suspension by the National Union of Journalists for breach of its code of conduct: the suspension arose out of Morris’s claim that McIntyre had published an item on his blog, The Pensive Quill, that, by linking Morris with the British authorities, put her life at risk. In late July, I reported that an appeals panel had reversed the suspension, and I noted that neither Morris nor her fellow complainant, Ciaran Barnes, had attended the appellate hearing. Morris commented about the reasons for her absence, and McIntyre promptly asserted that her stated reasons were lies. McIntyre’s readers published a bunch of, ah, pointed remarks about Morris, and her partner defended her in perhaps intemperate ways, and the whole thing blew up, as these things sometimes do on the Internet.
Morris’s solicitors have now sent a cease-and-desist letter to McIntyre, which he promptly published despite the fact that the letter said: “Private & Confidential—Not for Publication.” It seems to me that whatever the merits of Morris’s claims (I express no opinion on matters of Irish defamation law), she or her solicitors have misread the situation. I have read a lot of McIntyre’s stuff, and it seems to me that he loves a good brawl and that he relishes the role of David against any Goliath that may come along. So any lawyer who didn’t understand that the first thing McIntyre would do would be to turn the cease-and-desist letter into a rallying cry on the web hasn’t paid attention to the Streisand Effect. The best thing to do would have been to let the story lie.
There is one interesting new twist: the correspondence McIntyre had with Noel Doran, editor of the Irish News, suggests that there is a dispute about whether McIntyre fudged the byline of one of the articles he published about Morris. Turnabout is fair play, I think, so I invite McIntyre to address the following two questions: did he write the article, and if not, who did?