The National Union of Journalists president Barry McCall has criticised a UK Independence Party councillor in Northern Ireland for calling local journalists “Provos”.
McCall has called on Henry Reilly to “clearly and unambiguously” withdraw his description of the Armagh and Down media.
According to the NUJ, Reilly made his comments at a meeting of Newry and Mourne District Council yesterday (Monday 8 April).
During a debate about strip-searching in prisons, he said: “The press…they are Provos too probably.”
The NUJ said he then refused to withdraw his comments, saying: “I haven’t called the press…any particular journalist a Provo. I will make generalised statements that some papers have a Nationalist/republican bias. It is a commonly held perception among the Unionist community.”
Five journalists in attendance then presented Mayor John McArdle with a signed request for Reilly to withdraw his remarks. Reilly again insisted he had not targeted any individuals and declined to apologise.
McCall said: “He should clearly and unambiguously withdraw his description of the media as Provos.
“The media in the area serve the community and to imply that any of the publications represented at the meeting were linked with an illegal organisation was entirely unacceptable.”
NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley added: “This is an outrageous attack on the local media which should not go unchallenged.
“Elected representatives need to be mindful of the potential implications of public utterances of this type.
“Cllr Henry Reilly has abused his position and failed to avail of the opportunity given to withdraw his statement.
“He occupies a leadership position with UKIP Northern Ireland and I call on the party’s MLA David McNarry to disassociated himself from the comments of Cllr Reilly.
“As a public representative Cllr Reilly is entitled to express strong opinions but not in a manner which is unacceptable or seeks to tarnish the reputation of individuals.”