The Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent have teamed up with Wikileaks to publish a cache of embassy cables detailing the full extent of US involvement in Ireland.
A joint team from both newspapers spent two weeks trawling through more almost 2,000 cables – many designated confidential or secret – which they claim ‘offer an unprecedented insight into backstage diplomacy and international relations”.
The Belfast Telegraph, which is the first regional newspaper to obtain embassy cables from Wikileaks, kicked off its coverage yesterday with a 13-page special covering the peace process and the Good Friday agreement.
Earlier this year managing editor Paul Connolly visited Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange at home in Norfolk
‘We had a three-hour discussion about the work they’re doing and what steps would need to be taken to redact the cables, and the information was delivered to us 10 days later,’he said..
Following The Guardian’s publication of embassy cables last year, its relationship with Wikileaks quickly deteriorated.
Connolly, however, said the newspaper encountered few problems working with the organisation.
He said: ‘We found him [Assange] straightforward to work with. They now have a lot of experience working with newspapers, which they perhaps didn’t have when they were working with The Guardian.”
The Telegraph’s Adrian Rutherford worked on the cables full-time alongside Shane Phelan from the Irish Independent.
The team also included Connolly, news editor Shane Doran and security correspondent Tom Brady.
They sifted through more than 7,000 documents sent to and from the US consulate in Belfast and the US embassy in Dublin, containing almost 2.4m words
‘There was a very real threat of legal action,’said Connolly. ‘There were a lot of issues with privacy, but defamation was one of the biggest concerns, so we worked closely with our lawyers.’
Both newspapers, which are owned by the Independent News and Media group, will continue publishing the cables this week.
Content is being published on the Telegraphs’s website around 18-24 hours after it appears in the print edition.