The Case of the Stolen Photographs

Last Sunday, Ciaran Barnes ran a story in the Sunday Life quoting a ‘senior republican source’ who expressed anger about the Liam Adams scandal and made a bit of a stink about his involvement with Sinn Fein in West Belfast. Photos of Liam Adams with Fra McCann, Tom Hartley and West Belfast youths were printed. These photos had previously been published in the Andersonstown News, whose coverage of the scandal has been more or less supportive of Adams and by extension, Sinn Fein, which is understandable as Sinn Fein and its community involvement is the Andersonstown News’ bread and butter. To expose the full extent of the child abuse scandal and do some real investigative reporting about who knew what when and who signed off on who where – which Barnes’ report hinted at doing – would cause real problems for Teach Basil. As such, head honcho Máirtín Ó Muilleoir’s blog has been noticeably quiet on the issue, only posting a couple times to complain about how the rest of the media has been examining the issue. Today, however, he really let loose, and is ready to call in PC Plod (or at least the Belfast Media Group’s lawyers). Does he know where Liam Adams is, one wonders? Has he uncovered other victims of abuse? Will the Andersonstown News be breaking this story wide open, and really exposing the extent of corruption in West Belfast?

Not quite.

On Sunday past, the Sunday Life newspaper in Belfast printed several photographs belonging to the Belfast Media Group without our permission.

The photographs had images of alleged sex abuser Liam Adams.

The newspaper says the photographs were given to them by a “senior republican source” who also kindly gave the newspaper’s reporter Ciaran Barnes (late of this parish) a series of quotes injurious to Gerry Adams.

Copyright and protection of same is the number one priority of the news industry at present and woe betide anyone who would appropriate the property, intellectual or otherwise, of Sunday Life owner Tony O’Reilly and his Independent News and Media empire.

The Sunday Life tell me they didn’t know the press-quality photos (two of which have appeared in successive editions of the Belfast Media Group titles) weren’t the property of the “senior republican source”.

The mind boggles: do we call in PC Plod to find out who has been filching our property and flogging or gifting it to the Sunday Life? Or do we presume that Ciaran Barnes was duped by his “senior republican source” who didn’t reveal the provenance of the “exclusive snaps” (that’s “exclusive snaps” in the tabloid sense of “have appeared in other publications first”)? Or that Ciaran, lead journo on the story, hadn’t seen the photos in the Belfast Media Group titles?

Unimaginable as those scenarios are, they are certainly more credible than the wholly wicked suggestion that the photos were stolen and the quotes made up by the Sunday Life “crime reporter”. I for one believe that theory doesn’t hold water. For if it did, no one would believe anything they read in the Sunday papers?

So, I’m handing the whole sorry affair over to the guys who get well-paid to sort these transgressions out: the lawyers and heading off to enjoy my 50th birthday and the New Year celebrations. – From the Balcony, A Publisher’s Blog

Earlier, Ó Muilleoir had written:

Anyone who is interested in moving beyond the Gerry Adams-bashing agenda into resolving this up-to-now ignored legacy of the conflict should be asking republicans, the police and the social services to look again at the cases of child sex abuse which, reported to the authorities or not, were never adequately probed because of the conflict on our streets. I have no doubt that there will be some uncomfortable home truths to be faced on all sides if such a process is to be undertaken.

Anyone except for those who feel they have to go outside the Belfast Media Group to get the real story published?

All is not lost. Maybe the next Andersonstown News will have Robin Livingstone putting the hard questions to Liam Adams. Now that would be a real scoop, wouldn’t it?