This week the noted media watcher, Roy Greenslade of the Guardian discovered that The Irish Mirror hacked into Bertie Ahern’s phone. This is a topic that I have been banging on about for a considerable amount of time now. We blogged about this particular story in early July – so enjoy Roy’s observations.
The Daily Mirror’s Irish edition published a story detailing exactly how to hack mobile phones as early as 1998.
In an article headlined, “Mirror taps Bertie’s mobile: we listen to his message in cabinet phone scandal”, the reporter explained the necessary hacking technique in great detail.
The full story, billed as an exclusive, is archived here. It told how, aside from Ahern’s phone, reporters were also able to access messages on the phones of the ministers of justice and defence.
At the time, members of the Irish government used Eircell mobile phones. They changed their codes and tightened security immediately after the Mirror’s article appeared.
The Mirror was then edited by Piers Morgan, but the Irish edition was published separately in Dublin. Its editor in 1998 was Craig MacKenzie, but he believes he was located in Belfast at the time and cannot recall the story.
One person on the Dublin staff who does remember it said it was “wholly legitimate and in the public interest” to publish it.
Copies of the Irish edition are sent as a matter of routine to the paper’s London headquarters. But that does not mean that they reach the attention of the London-based editor.
It is thought highly unlikely that Morgan would have seen the story. A member of the London office staff during that period said: “I would say Piers was hardly aware of the Irish edition.”
This was confirmed by the Dublin staffer who said: “Piers had nothing to do with us.”
All forms of phone hacking have been illegal in Ireland since 1983 under the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act.
And Irish people have had a constitutional right to privacy since 1974.
So the Irish Mirror’s hacking activities were in breach of the law. But Irish legal experts believe the paper was not prosecuted because its revelation was clearly designed to protect the prime minister’s privacy rights and to bolster security.
Though there was no public interest defence in law, the paper would have been able to advance a good argument that it had acted for the wider public benefit.
The same point was made in a statement from a Trinity Mirror spokesman. He said the article “highlighted the potential threat to security posed by intercepting phone messages and is therefore significantly different from an article which simply used information gained from intercepting phone messages… our story was not only in the public interest but led to changes that were also in the public interest.”
As the Queen arrives in Ireland maybe she can teach Obama some media management lessons after the US government flapped and floundered desperately trying to control the storm surrounding Osama bin Laden, writes Paul Allen
It was a right royal cock up. As news of the demise of Osama bin Laden flooded onto TV screens, newspapers and magazines, what should have been a coup was quickly turning into a PR disaster. Read More
“Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness simply hasn’t learned where to shop.”
Yes it is that time of year, when the truly wonderful Warren Buffett provides us with plenty of quotes as he writes his annual letter to his shareholders, writes Paul Allen.
It’s classic Buffett, through-and-through, from his outstanding levels of optimism (“America’s best days lie ahead”) to his insight into the value within the insurance businesses, plus the emphasis on Berkshire’s unique culture (“in businesses, culture counts”).
As always his best digs are kept for the academics. Warren is due in Dublin this summer for a philanthropy conference, where he will no doubt offer more pearls of wisdom and insight. In the meantime, here are his lucid and remarkably frank words to enjoy. Read More