Trib sacks Moloney for not returning to Belfast

Moloney: given four weeks’ notice

Almost the last act of Sunday Tribune editor Matt Cooper before he left for a new job in radio this month was to sack Ed Moloney, the Belfast journalist celebrated for protecting his sources.

Recently Moloney authored a controversial book on the IRA and has since remained in Dublin fearful of reprisals if he returned to his job in Belfast as Northern Ireland editor.

But now Cooper has given him four weeks’ notice from 4 November.

In a dismissal letter, Cooper told him: "You have clearly stated that you are not willing to return to Belfast to resume your duties as Northern Ireland editor. Unfortunately we cannot continue with this position and therefore we must bring your existing relationship with this newspaper to an end."

Moloney said his reluctance to return to Belfast was "in the wake of the publication of A Secret History of the IRA and the obvious dangers that I would expose myself and my family to. It is not that I think that the IRA would order action – it is not that stupid – but that some Saturday night hero might try to impress his bosses by taking his own action".

He said that in correspondence this summer, Cooper had accepted that argument but counter-suggested that Moloney could return to Belfast if he agreed to abandon the book, "something which I was not prepared to do".

"I offered to work in Dublin or to negotiate some other arrangement, but he refused to even discuss that – instead he waited until the serial of my book was published in the Tribune and then moved to sack me."

The NUJ, at chapel, Ireland and UK levels, has agreed to fight the dismissal on Moloney’s behalf, on the grounds of lack of due process.

Kevin Cooper, chairman of the NUJ Belfast branch, said: "Despite the growing concern about safety of journalists working in Northern Ireland, this concern does not seem to be shared by employers. The NUJ must vigorously challenge this both industrially and politically."

In 1999, Moloney challenged an order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act to hand over to a court notes of his interview with a UDA man charged with the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

He faced imprisonment and a heavy fine, but fought the order down the line until an appeal court ruling in his favour.

By Jean Morgan

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