Will The Kate Middleton Imbroglio Kill An Irish Newspaper?

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By Palash R. Ghosh | September 18, 2012 2:32 AM EST

One of the co-owners of the Irish newspaper that published topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge said that calls for the publication to be shut down is tantamount to excessive punishment.

Over the weekend, the chairman of British-based Northern & Shell, or N&S, Richard Desmond, threatened he would take steps to close down the Irish Daily Star newspaper for reprinting the offending pictures that were originally published by a French tabloid called Closure.

"I am very angry at the decision to publish these photographs and am taking immediate steps to close down the joint venture," Desmond said.

“Northern Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”

The British version of the Daily Star did not publish the photos, following the policy of all UK media.

However, N&S’s joint venture partner in the Daily Star, the Dublin-based Independent News & Media, characterized such a drastic measure as “disproportionate” relative to the magnitude of the offense.

INM said publishing the photos was a “regrettable decision” and that it warranted “immediate investigation.”

But closing down the tabloid, which employs about 120 people in Dundrum, a suburb of Dublin, is “disproportionate to a poor editorial decision,” which was made without consulting shareholders.

According to the Irish Times, the Daily Star has been under the joint ownership of N&S and INM since 1987.

While both N&S and INM have claimed they did not know beforehand that the Daily Star was going to print the topless photos, the Irish Times reports that the paper’s editor, Michael O’Kane, told an Irish radio station as early as Friday he planned to do so.

“I can’t think of any reason not to publish them,” O’Kane told RTÉ Radio 1.

"The Duchess would be no different to any other celeb pics we would get in, for example, Rihanna or Lady Gaga," O'Kane told Irish media. "She's not the future queen of Ireland, so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK."

Nonetheless, the Times also reported that the Daily Star may be in breach of the Press Council of Ireland’s code of practice, which states that “taking photographs of individuals in private places without their consent is not acceptable, unless justified by the public interest.”

The Daily Star agreed to abide by the code in January 2008.

Still, closing down the paper may face some significant obstacles, partially due to the joint venture structure the publication works under.

"There would be significant costs incurred in closing the Irish tabloid in terms of redundancy costs and other commitments, including the lease of its offices beside the Dundrum Town Centre," Ciarán Hancock, the business affairs correspondent at the Times, wrote. "There is also a printing contract with INM, which publishes the Irish Daily Star at its Citywest and Newry plants.”

Other voices also feel closing the paper is unnecessary.

According to the Belfast Telegraph newspaper, Seamus Dooley, head of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland, characterized Desmond's threats as a "hissy fit."

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