Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who, sir? Me, sir? No, sir.

You can't libel the dead, which is presumably why journalists appear just to make stuff up about them.

Derek O'Toole, who died after being struck by a car in Lucan early on Sunday morning (another pedestrian...), seems to have been a decent individual. Certainly today's Irish Independent goes to great lengths to make clear just what a nice guy he was. We're told that "the label 'model son' really applied" to Derek, and we read of his battles with illness and his work supporting young people dealing with cancer.

The paper's main, front-page headline and most of pages two and three (in the tabloid edition) are devoted to the story.

Derek's mother is quoted as saying, "He has never come to the attention of the gardai, absolutely never at any stage has he been involved with the gardai, either good, bad or indifferent."

It's good to see the Indo setting the record straight. This is, after all, the paper that yesterday said of Derek O'Toole, "It is understood that the 24-year-old vicim was known to gardai and had a number of previous convictions."

Today's spread in the Independent seems to us to be a pretty poor attempt to make good a grevious and hurtful error. But the nearest the Indo gets to acknowledging, in its own words, the mistake made is to say, "Senior garda officers emphasised last night that Mr O'Toole was not, as had been reported, known to the force and he had no criminal record or history." Even that isn't just the Indo speaking, it's senior Gardaí.*

That "as had been reported" is a shameful little slither of a subclause.

Does the Indo come clean and admit to its own mistake, does it offer any apology, does it undertake to be a little more careful in future when it comes to sticking the boot into the dead and the bereaved?


* Yes, "Gardaí", that's how you spell it, not "gardai", but then the Irish-ish Indo has a habit of dumping accents off Gardaí, Dáil, Sinn Féin and the like. I suppose that's why their going outsourcing their sub-editing: if you're not going to bother letting people do it properly then you might as well do it on the cheap.