Irish news website The Liberal mired in controversy over payment for stories and report of Boxing Day 'riot' in Dublin

Irish news website The Liberal is facing legal action after being accused of using content from agencies and rival titles without payment or attribution.

News agency CCC.nuacht has confirmed it has filed a case with the district court in County Louth, Ireland, over what it claims is the site’s use of four of its stories without payment.

CCC’s managing editor Conor Gallagher said: “I’m happy to confirm that there is a case with the district court in County Louth against them and we are waiting on court dates for that case.

“It’s not about money for us, it’s about standards of journalism and protecting our work and we just want this to stop. Going to court, it seems, is the only way we can do this.”

Head of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland, Séamus Dooley, told Press Gazette: “We regard The Liberal as a parasite, feeding off the work of freelance journalists.”

The Liberal was set up in 2014. Its Facebook page has up to 430,000 likes and its Twitter profile nearly 18,000 followers.

The site has been down for “essential maintenance” earlier this week but reappeared yesterday afternoon.

Earlier this month the website was embroiled in controversy over a story in which it claimed rival gangs of up to 250 teenage boys had run riot in Henry Street, Dublin, on Boxing Day.

The website called the incident “reminiscent of a scene from Baghdad” and included a claim from onlookers that “the youths were made up of at least 90 per cent African Irish”.

It also said that mainstream news sources had failed to cover the event before The Liberal’s report.

A number of online commentators have since questioned the veracity of the story, although the site has today posted what it claims is a video interview with victims of the riot.

Sherlock also said in a comment piece the website had been “subjected to a vicious agenda-driven hate campaign over the past couple of days”.

He said: “Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am in no way a racist and those that have falsely accused me of being so will dealing with my solicitor in the immediate future.”

Dooley said the NUJ “has made representations on behalf of court agencies and individuals” about The Liberal using other publications’ content.

He said: “As far as we are concerned he has been stealing food from out of the mouths of freelances. We have written to him and attempted to make contact with him but he has ignored us.”

“Our major issue is the issue around non-payment [for agency copy] he said, but he added: “There was a lot of controversy generated last week around the [riot] report.

“I find that report very disturbing for two reasons. Firstly he was claiming it to be massive incident that hadn’t been reported.

“Really, while there was an incident it was a minor one and when journalists went down there to talk to residents and shopkeepers what happened was nothing of the scale that he talked about.

“He also implied it had been a feud between black immigrants. He uses inflammatory language. We would have concern about the language used and the capacity for such language to stir up racism.”

Mark Hennessy, news editor at the Irish Times, said of The Liberal: “The reputation goes before them – there isn’t a high opinion.”

Press Gazette has contacted Sherlock for a comment in response to the allegations but is yet to receive a reply.

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