Belfast Project protagonist Anthony McIntyre responds to Noel Doran’s post criticizing McIntyre’s blog, The Pensive Quill. Just a note on this piece: folks who have been following the discussion will know that one of the issues that has cropped up is the supposed difference in ‘tone’ between this blog and TPQ. I think there is a difference, and I will enforce my comment policy on this post as on all others, but I have not edited the substance or style of Anthony’s post or asked him to edit it, because I think his, ah, pugnacious style is part of the story.

It was pleasing, if hardly intellectually stimulating, to find Noel Doran at last do something other than use the threat of legal coercion to silence voices he takes umbrage at. However, it has hardly gone unnoticed that he concluded his piece with a call for a robust piece of writing to be suppressed. I will not wait to the end of this current piece to tell him that is not going to happen. The article by Paul Campbell stays in place, and if wasting time suits him, Noel Doran can have a censor lawyer use up a paper mill churning out threatening letters by the tonne.

Mr Doran might not have witnessed much else that has been going on in front of his nose lately but he has seen the inanity of coming to Letters Blogatory to make his case when it was much easier for him to have done what he was repeatedly invited to do, make it on the relevant blog, The Pensive Quill. His excuse, rather than his reason, was that TPQ is vulgar and confrontational. It seems he has at last read the contributions by the partner of his journalist, Allison Morris. True, TPQ confronts censors and libel bullies. That much won’t change. If he fears being confronted by people not willing to roll over in the face of his threats, he should seek help for either his phobia or his bullying.

On the point of vulgarity, he may as well cite the idiocy of blasphemy. Regional accents used to be regarded as vulgar back in the day when only BBC English would pass muster. Things have changed: vulgarity is a matter of taste. TPQ does not concern itself with parliamentary language. A daily newspaper might feel it has to but that is hardly a reason for Mr Doran not to engage on TPQ. He spends enough time reading it so presumably is comfortable with the ‘vulgarity.’ Or does he read the vulgar bits with his hands over his eyes? Much more plausible is that what he finds vulgar is a public challenge to his penchant for censorship. In my view, the reason for his absence is that he feels more at ease in the company of those he considers to be from his own social milieu, those he might consider a cut above the rest. It is the attitude of a pompous snob, a social class thing. Too bad, we won’t be doing hoity-toity to facilitate him.

Noel Doran is not in a position to determine the credibility of TPQ. He is much too busy trying to maintain his own in a community of journalists increasingly perplexed by his bizarre behaviour and his resort to libel bullying as he labours valiantly, but hardly victoriously, to either shut up or close down a small blog which has raised serious questions about the conduct of the paper of which he is editor.

My wife Carrie Twomey, former editor of The Blanket, has with consummate ease swept aside his claim of contradictory behaviour in respect of the use of pseudonyms and his disingenuous intimation that he had only wanted to engage without any legal threat. There is no need for me to labour the issue and pull the same decaying tooth twice. People can look into the substantial cavity in the Irish News narrative and judge for themselves. In fact, people need look no further than the pages of the Irish News itself, where it runs anonymous letters, has a weekly column devoted to reprinting anonymous/unverified comments from readers, and frequently uses the by-line of “Staff Reporter.”

One of the most recent examples of the work of the “Staff Reporters” is the front page report on the murders of Kevin Kearney and Barry McCrory. A photo of Mr McCrory’s broken-hearted and grieving family is prominent under the headline “Arms Cache Linked to Murdered Drugs Baron” while the article itself is based on allegations from unnamed “informed sources” claiming that one of the dead men, Kevin Kearney, was “regarded as being the boss of one of Belfast’s most disciplined crime gangs,” and that he headed a “major drugs gang.” The Irish News also claimed that a weapons cache discovered in August belonged to Kearney’s ‘gang.’ All of this may well be true; after all, the Irish News chose to publish it, so presumably they can stand over its contents. And, as they say, the dead can’t be libeled, can they? No irony lost here on the hurt feelings of the grieving family depicted a few days later at a funeral in another front page photo as they opened their morning newspaper and read of what unnamed ‘informed sources’ and ‘Staff Reporters’ said about their murdered loved one.

That is how the news media works. Pen names, such as ‘Anonymous’ in the letters section, are at the Editor’s discretion. If the Editor deems that there is a legitimate need to protect the identity of an author, that identity will be withheld; the Irish News, and its Editor, stands over the content of the material in the act of publication.

Likewise with the Irish News’s popular weekly column, Off the Fence, which selectively publishes comments submitted by anonymous readers. From experience, the paper does not verify the identity of the callers whose words they print; anyone can call or text the paper, call themselves whatever they like, and the comments they submit are carried without any follow-up from the Irish News. “Real GAA Supporter,” “Shane from Belfast,” and “Lurgan Orangewoman” are some of the names used. Occasionally, some comments are carried without any ‘name’ at all. Is it because the subject is Sport that this practice is acceptable to Noel Doran?

“Do as I say, not as I do” appears to be the editorial guideline being advocated by Noel Doran on Letters Blogatory.

On numerous occasions Noel Doran has been asked to back up with evidential specifics the charges he has made. He has singularly failed to do so, opting to hide behind the vaguest of generalisations and seductively waving the cheque book at the censor lawyer. On the issue of the personal safety of Allison Morris, I am wholly confident she is under no threat whatsoever as a result of anything that appeared in TPQ. There is more chance of her being hit by one of those fictitious Hezbollah rockets she discovered in South Armagh. What may be under threat is her credibility. Perhaps that is what really irks Noel Doran. He has placed his trust in her and is sensitive to his judgement being called into question in the wake of some of her stories.

He claims that it would not be legally appropriate to go over the defamatory claims on TPQ. That is because it is our contention that there are none. As I have insisted time and again, what is demonstrably ‘misleading and false’ was his own journalist’s claim on this blog as to why she did not attend my appeal hearing in London.

Noel Doran’s seems obsessed with establishing what he believes to be the true identity of Paul Campbell. Had TPQ inserted ‘Staff Reporter,’ ‘Anonymous,’ or ‘Ardent Paul’ rather than Paul Campbell, would he have been satisfied? Not at all. His quest is for one reason: so that he can fire off another letter from a censor lawyer. He seeks to legally coerce Paul Campbell as well. I am indifferent to his efforts and have not the slightest intention of assisting him.

Throughout he has churned out a load of vacuous waffle rather than address the issue at hand: the actions of his own reporter regarding the interview with Dolours Price. Contrary to the professed belief of Allison Morris I had no objections to her interviewing Dolours Price. Had I such objections I would have raised them at the time rather than writing a piece that was in no way critical of what appeared in the Irish News.

The contention pertains not to Ms Morris’s interview per se but to what Ms Morris did with the parts of that interview which did not feature in the Irish News piece. It is my unshakeable belief based on what Ms Price divulged to me coupled with the timeline, that Ms Morris passed this on to Ciaran Barnes. Information that Ms Price claimed to have revealed only to me and Ms Morris appeared in the Sunday Life under the by-line of a friend of Ms Morris, the same friend who together with Ms Morris made baseless accusations against me to the NUJ. It would be defying logic to believe anything else. If there is an alternative explanation then Noel Doran is free to offer it rather than censor the narrative that questions his own journalist’s account. He need not tell me the tooth fairy left it for Mr Barnes.

My case is this: Noel Doran, like most other journalists familiar with the issue, knows exactly what happened with the Allison Morris material. But rather than deal with it he has opted to become a libel bully. Both he and the underhand cabal at the Irish News will be tackled every step of the way. It does not matter how many censor lawyers he employs or libel bullies he aligns with. The Pensive Quill will not be silenced.