A Garda investigation is under way after thousands of copies of the Lucan Gazette were removed from stores last week.
The pictures above show Tommy Morris, parliamentary assistant to Fine Gael’s Derek Keating TD, who was captured on CCTV, taking substantial numbers of Lucan Gazettes from different stores during last Thursday and Friday.
The paper’s distribution staff believe that over 3,000 copies were taken across Lucan, including the Village, Ballyowen, Hillcrest, Dodsboro and Griffeen Valley.
The Lucan Gazette contained a front page story in which Griffeen Valley Educate Together NS principal Tomas O’Dulaing criticised Deputy Keating for claiming to have “initiated and led” the campaign for the extension of the school.
This week Tom Curran, general secretary of Fine Gael, said: “[The party] condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of Mr Tommy Morris, who is an employee of Derek Keating TD, in removing copies of the Lucan Gazette from retail outlets. His actions have no place in politics. We are deeply disappointed by these events.”
Local residents, advertisers and distributors of the paper are angry at the actions. One reader of the publication said: “I looked for the Lucan Gazette on several days in Marks and Spencer and I couldn’t find it there. This is censorship and it smacks of underhandedness.
“They should let people read what they want. If I had advertised this week I would have been incensed.”
Gazette managing director Michael McGovern said: “We will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our brand, the people who read the paper and the people who spend money advertising with us.
“The Gazette is a group of eight papers, with a weekly print-run of more than 40,000 copies. We employ 22 people, as well as freelance and agency workers.
“That someone would attempt to jeopardise their livelihoods in these times is particularly shocking.
“We have sought legal advice, and reported the matter to the Garda. We are determined to ensure that the person or persons responsible are made accountable,” he said.
The Gazette made many attempts to contact Mr Morris, but he had not responded by the time of going to press.
Barry McCall, president, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said it was “astonishing and bizarre behaviour by an individual being paid by the taxpayer”.
He added: “Respect for media freedom is a hallmark of a modern democracy.”
The Gazette NUJ chapel said: “As a local paper, we seek balance in our coverage of all stories and give space to as many points of view as possible.
“We are shocked at the consequences of this course of conduct which, in effect, we believe is an attempt to censor our reporting.”
When asked if he would apologise, Deputy Keating said he had initiated an internal investigation.
Deputy Keating said: “Following legal advice, I am now initiating an internal investigation into these allegations. This internal investigation may lead to disciplinary procedures against Mr Morris.
“I wish to be unequivocal that, at no time, in this alleged incident, did Mr Morris act with my knowledge or consent.”
At the time of going to press, there has been no effort made, nor has any confirmation or undertaking been given, to return the papers to The Gazette and/or not to repeat such conduct.