Tag Archives: Stephen Rae

From top: Denis O’Brien and Leslie Buckley; Dee Forbes; Former group editor at INM Stephen  Rae with Jean-Claude Juncker , President of the European Commission earlier this year

At the weekend.

Mark Tighe, of The Sunday Times, reported extensively on documents opened in the High Court pertaining to the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement’s application to have High Court inspectors  appointed to investigate Independent News and Media’s affairs.

The documents largely focus on the claims made by INM’s former chief executive Robert Pitt, who joined INM from Tesco in October 2014.

Mr Tighe reported that one of Mr Pitt’s claims is that, in 2016, Leslie Buckley – the then chairman of INM and a nominee of INM’s largest shareholder Denis O’Brien – relayed concerns to Mr Pitt that if INM made the then Group Editor of INM Stephen Rae redundant, as a means to cut costs, “he [Rae] would ‘retaliate’ by revealing editorial interference”.

Specifically, Mr Tighe reported that Mr Pitt claims Mr Buckley conveyed to him that he feared Mr Rae would “make public interactions that they had where Leslie called on Stephen to have content removed from the papers”.

Mr Buckley resigned from INM on March 1 of this year, while Mr Rae announced he was stepping down from his role on May 23 of this year.

Their resignations followed reports of an alleged data breach at INM.

Mr Tighe first reported on Christmas Eve last that the National Union of Journalists had expressed concerns over Mr Buckley arranging for Cardiff-based Trusted Data Solutions to be given access to INM’s servers in 2014.

About two weeks later, it was announced that Mr Rae was appointed to the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on Fake News.

In April, Gavin Daly, also of The Sunday Times, reported that an Isle of Man company controlled by Denis O’Brien (Blaydon Limited) paid the bill for TDS to gain access to INM’s computer network.

Mr Tighe also reported that Mr Pitt claims, prior to Mr Buckley allegedly relaying his fears about a retaliation on the part of Mr Rae if he was made redundant, there were discussions with the director general of RTÉ Dee Forbes about the “possibility of getting Stephen Rae a job” at RTÉ.

Mr Pitt has reportedly claimed that, before Mr Pitt started at INM, Mr Buckley was “very clear” that “Stephen had helped him control the editorial tone and content of publications owned by INM”.

In addition, Ryan Preston, INM’s chief financial officer, claims Mr Buckley talked about ringing Mr Rae on Saturdays to “get articles removed from the paper”.

Mr Tighe reported:

“Preston recalled Buckley talking about ringing Rae on Saturdays to “get articles removed from the paper”. Buckley described Rae as “loyal” and suggested he be given a 30% pay cut instead of losing his position.

“At the same meeting Pitt floated the idea of INM selling its newspapers but Buckley is said to have responded that “Denis is not a seller” and that O’Brien “was fearful” about how Independent newspapers would treat him under different ownership. Pitt described this as a “blocking strategy” to “protect one shareholder”.

“Preston recalled Buckley saying that O’Brien would “not sell while his family still lived in Ireland”. He said Buckley talked about O’Brien “having a terrible time with the press in 2012” when the Sunday Independent ran more than 20 articles about him in one edition.”

Mr Buckley didn’t respond to Mr Tighe’s request for a comment but Mr Tighe reported that, during an internal INM review of Mr Pitt and Mr Preston’s claims, Mr Buckley said:

“I have never instructed the editor of any newspaper to pull a story.”

Mr Tighe also reported:

“It can also be revealed that on May 24 at 7.13pm, the ODCE sent an urgent letter to INM saying it had received information that the company was deleting records of communication between Rae and O’Brien. The ODCE said its information, which it had not verified, was that the deletion was being done on the “pretext of compliance with GDPR”.

“The ODCE gave INM a deadline of 11pm to confirm that records of Rae, whose departure from INM had been announced the previous day, had not been destroyed.

“INM said it had disabled Rae email account, which had been reset to retain its data for “1,000 years”. On May 30, Rae’s solicitors wrote to INM to confirm he had not deleted any records, “if there are any”, in relation to the ODCE letter.”

In June, at the Disclosures Tribunal, Mr Rae told the tribunal the following about journalist Gemma O’Doherty calling to the home of then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to check his address and verify penalty points attached to his personal Renault car had been quashed…

“the Irish Independent is a trusted media source, that somebody going unannounced to somebody’s house at 10pm wasn’t the proper way to do things and it wasn’t the professional way to do things…”

It was Ms O’Doherty’s evidence that she did not call to the house at 10pm and, instead, called earlier in the evening.

Rae ‘changed stories’ for INM chairman (Mark Tighe, Sunday Times)

Editor-in-chief of Independent News and Media Stephen Rae

Small violin to hand?

When asked to confirm Mr Rae’s departure, INM declined to comment.

It is the latest development in a period of tumult at the media company, which has recently undergone a major change to its board membership and is fighting efforts by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) to have inspectors appointed to the business.

INM has lost both a chief executive and a chairman in the past year.

G’wan the Gemma, Maurice, etc., etc.

Independent group editor-in-chief Stephen Rae to step down (Irish Times)

Previously: Discerning Fakes



“Since 2013 I have had the privilege and honour to lead the editorial department at INM.

“Now having completed by five-year term as group editor and following a transformation of the group into a digital focused newsroom and content hub, I am to leave the publishing business in a strong position and hand it over to a team of strong and dynamic editors.

“I leave the business at a time when all print titles are market leaders, in addition our online platform independent.ie has become the nation’s go-to news source.

“During my 25 years in INM I feel greatly fortunate to have worked with many extremely bright and exceptional people and to have guided the coverage on some of the biggest news stories our country has seen.”

“I am now looking forward to taking on new digital projects which will focus on my core interests of developing new revenue models for journalism along with the hugely important editorial fight against fake news.”

Statement released by Stephen Rae this afternoon.

From top: Stephen Rea, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan


In the Seanad.

Former Fine Gael Minister for the Environment and Carlow/Kilkenny TD Phil Hogan – who became the European Commissioner for Agriculture in September 2014 amid a string of controversies at the time – addressed the Seanad.

Readers may recall how one of these controversies concerned an Irish Daily Mail front page story in 2012 about how the then Environment Minister had written to some of his constituents in Kilkenny, telling them a Traveller family – Patrick and Brigid Carthy and their seven children – would not be moved to a house near them.

Phoenix magazine later reported that former Irish Independent journalist Eimear Ni Bhraonain had the story for 10 days before the rival paper but her editors held off from printing it and only did so when the Irish Daily Mail was on the verge of publishing it.

Further to this…


During his address to the Seanad, Mr Hogan spoke about “fake news” and praised the Group Editor-in-Chief of Independent News and Media Stephen Rae who was recently appointed to the European Commission High Level Expert Group on Fake News.

Mr Hogan was speaking about Brexit when he praised Mr Rae.

He said:

“The EU institutions have been shaken from their slumber. It is noticeable that there is a new energy and a new desire to get things done. In a world of rising nationalism and retrenchment, the EU is occupying the space that has been vacated by others to lead from the front across multiple policy areas.

“The EU is now the unquestioned global leader in promoting open and fair trade that is based on rules. As the Cathaoirleach mentioned, in the past two years we have signed important new deals with Canada, Japan and Singapore. Earlier this week, I was delighted to announce an agreement with Mexico.

“Many of these deals are immensely positive for our agrifood producers and our pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors. This is very good news for Ireland. Size matters in trade. As the world’s leading trading bloc, the EU is in a position of strength to build mutually beneficial agreements with our global partners.

“We are driving the global agenda on climate and sustainability, which remains the single greatest challenge of our time. This country urgently needs to step up its contribution to meeting this challenge. We are trying to relight the flame of Europe’s enlightenment values by making truth and reason relevant again in a world of mistruths and fake news.

“Again, Brexit is important in this context. EU membership was a successful policy in the UK and was accepted as such by the majority of politicians and commentators. That did not stop a majority of people voting to scrap it. That is strange because one thing the Brexit story has shown is that the UK does not – by a long shot – have an alternative policy to EU membership.

“Even Brexiteers are happy to keep one foot in the EU, for example by continuing to participate in security and transport agreements and certain EU agencies. The fact remains that people in the UK voted to leave. As politicians, we might think successful policies always commend themselves, but that is not always the case.

“Successful policies need to be defended, articulated and communicated. Brexit has taught us all a sharp lesson in this regard. We need to understand this and incorporate it into our political lives as part of our stocktaking. We cannot take it for granted that people will vote for the EU, or like the EU, just because it happens to work.

“As I mentioned earlier, this has been a wake-up call for the European institutions. We have to look at how we can do things better in this regard. That is what we are discussing with member states and, through them, public representatives and people. Perhaps we can go a stage further by asking how everyone failed to spot that a disconnect was arising between citizens and their representatives.

“This disconnect dominates so much of our politics today. How did we allow our public discourse to be dominated by fake news and half-truths? How can we begin to remedy things and stop it happening here? Here again, Brexit should be a lesson, because another thing the Brexit story has shown us is a brand of politics in which concern for people’s real well-being has gone out the window, the soundbite has become more important than the truth and people can groom a majority to act against its own welfare. In short, we now have a brand of politics and commentary that, all too frequently, misleads rather than leads.

“It is remarkable that a successful UK economy is determined to be divergent rather than convergent with its neighbouring countries in Europe. If we look a little more widely, we see it is not only Brexit. Our political arguments are becoming coarsened and are having knock-on effects on our behaviour. One sign is the trigger-finger readiness of so many people to play the immigration card, even the race card.

Much of this is the result of fake news and the way in which what we used to call tall stories and gossip no longer goes from mouth to mouth but from one set of fingers to a million sets of eyes, with a tap on the keyboard.

“Brexit shows us how vulnerable we are in that regard. That is why the Commission is alerting member states to the dangers and advising them to set up an infrastructure that can counter what is happening.

The respected Irish Independent editor-in-chief, Mr [Stephen] Rea, is making a sterling contribution to this work, having been appointed to the European Commission’s high level expert group examining the issue of fake news. Next year’s elections to the European Parliament gives this added significance and urgency. We must be on our guard.

“My final thought on this issue is to underline the difference between bad publicity, contrary opinion and fake news. As politicians we all know about bad publicity and contrary opinion. It comes with the turf and we deal with it, but we do it in the world of truth. We have been slow to recognise that fake news is something else. It is not bad publicity, it is not contrary opinion, it is not in the world of truth. It is a fiction – a harmful fantasy.

“It is urgent that we find the way to reveal it for what it is, namely, political mischief and a wrecking ball.”

Read his address in full here

Previously: ‘Friendly Towards Hogan’

Had Your Phil Yet?

Phil In The Gaps

Tom Lyons tweetz:

“So this happened in INM…”


Earlier: ‘Arguably One Of The Largest Data Breaches In The History Of The State’

Group editor-in-chief at INM Stephen Rae and journalist Sam Smyth

This lunchtime.

On RTE Radio One.

Áine Lawlor spoke to former Irish Independent Sam Smyth who was named by the paper this morning as being one of the so-called 19 former and current workers at Independent News and Media who had their data breached by a third party paid for by a Denis O’Brien-controlled company.

Readers should note that RTE is reporting group editor-in-chief at INM Stephen Rae – who was recently appointed to the European Commission High Level Expert Group tackling Fake News – as saying those involved had been contacted.

It’s reporting online that:

“The Editor-in-Chief of Independent News & Media (INM) has assured staff their welfare is the company’s primary concern, following allegations of a significant data breach.

Stephen Rae told staff individuals from the company who had been named as having their emails searched had been informed.”


Mr Smyth, who told Ms Lawlor he got a call “from a friend” last week, telling him he was one of this group, says he hasn’t received any word from INM.

Former INM executive Karl Brophy, who has also been named as one of the 19, has tweeted the same…

From the interview…

Sam Smyth: “I said, ‘how do you know?’. Well, he says, ‘there’s this list going around, a list of people who were apparently had all of their communications with INM monitored, harvested and so on’. I took it at that. I could get no other detail. I heard nothing whatsoever from INM or anybody else in authority there. The first time I saw it confirmed was this morning when it was in the Irish Independent.”

Aine Lawlor: “So what you are going on, in terms of knowing you’re one of the INM19, so-called, who are part of this alleged data breach, you’re simply going on what’s been reported in public – nobody has contacted you to say ‘there may have been an alleged breach of your data while you were working at Independent News and Media’. Is that correct?”

Smyth:Nobody whatsoever, people who have a knowledge about the media, about those things, did say it to me. When I read it in the Irish Independent, I took it seriously, because it’s Irish News and Media (sic) that’s in the firestorm of all this, so you would assume if anybody had knowledge of it, it would be them. But I saw my name in the paper, and I’m therefore prepared to believe it.”

Lawlor: “So you’re believing the reporting by Independent News and Media, what’s your reaction?

Smyth:Not as surprised as you might have thought. For a long time, rumours were flying. Different people said to me, some people involved in security said to me ‘be very careful with your telephone communications’, ‘be very careful with this’, I would be naturally quite cautious anyway about emails and would have used my own email address a lot on this, but your never know.

“Obviously, when I worked there, I was communicating regularly with Independent News and Media – so yes, I am in one way, I’m a bit annoyed about it, but I’m certainly not surprised.”

Lawlor: “So now that you find yourself here and now that your name has been published in the paper, Sam Smyth, what do you propose to do?”

Smyth: “What I will do, is I will certainly take advice from people much more skilled in these things than I am. I really don’t have any detailed knowledge of the law on those things. I would have to take advice on that but when I heard about it, I certainly wasn’t shocked. You know I was, there was an air almost of inevitability about it. Because we had spoken about this for some time.

“Am I very annoyed? Not very annoyed, it’s the sort of thing I expected might well turn up some day.”

Lawlor: “And of course you’re a journalist who, in your long career, has dealt with so many stories, but one in particular has involved an awful lot of controversy and that’s the Moriarty Tribunal which you reported on at your time at Independent News and Media.”

Smyth: “Yes, I was very prominent in the coverage of that, I sat on the Moriarty Tribunal for ten years. I’ve often thought had I done a crime, I would have been out a lot quicker. But I sat there for 10 years, I certainly have a working knowledge of it and had written extensively about what was going on. And now, clearly, this upset some people…”

Listen back in full here

Gemma O’Doherty with Gabriel Mariya, European Commissioner in charge of Digital Economy and Society; Top: the expert group. from left :Wout van Wijk with Mariya Gabriel and INM’s Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae

Following the appointment of INM editor in chief Stephen Rae to an expert group on fake news.

Luke ‘Ming Flanagan writes:

You would expect that those appointed to a High Level Expert Group (HLEG) to advise the European Commission on ‘the phenomenon of fake news, defining the roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders, grasping the international dimension, taking stock of the positions at stake, and formulating recommendations’ (to quote their own website) would be vetted to ensure they meet the very highest standards of journalistic integrity, that they hadn’t even the most remote association with anyone whose own record on media integrity was open to question.

You would be wrong.

The appointment of Stephen Rae of the Independent News Media (INM) to that European Commission HLEG was the source of major concern in Ireland, especially among those familiar with the actions of the major shareholder in INM, Mr Denis O’Brien.

Yesterday, along with award-winning journalist Gemma O’Doherty (removed from her job by Mr Rae while she was investigating police corruption), I met with Commissioner Gabriel to discuss those concerns. This is what we learned:

1) The selection process was seriously flawed;

a. Who decided on the final 39 people, from the original applicant bank of over 300? Nameless people from the European Commission services.

b. For such a critical group, who did the background checks on the applicants, the due diligence? No-one – according to the Commissioner ‘we didn’t have the resources for that’! All CVs were accepted at face value, so that – for example – someone who in their own background would have had a history of disseminating fake news, and/or incomplete news, and/or blatantly biased news, could make it onto the final group.

2) The Expert Group has produced its report, and according to the Commissioner, has now completed its mandate. Or maybe it hasn’t. Technically they’re in place to the end of the year, and in their report they have recommended that they should in fact meet again. The Commissioner would not dismiss this possibility, yet also insists they have completed their work.

3) The Commissioner isn’t remotely concerned about having someone about whom there are so many questions, not even when it was pointed out that the majority of active Irish MEPs believe this individual is a questionable appointment, at best.

Is this an acceptable appointment, is this an acceptable standard from the European Commission for making such appointments? I

n both instances I believe the answer is no, this is NOT acceptable. In the first instance I will work to end that appointment, in the second I will work to improve this practice.

Luke ‘Ming Flanagan MEP

Calls for Facebook code of practice in fighting ‘fake news’ (Kevin Doyle, Evening Herald)

From top: Stepehen Rae; Tweet from Minister for Communications Denis Naughton

Stephen Rae was invited by the commission to join the group, which will advise the European Commission on all issues in relation to the spread of false information across traditional and social media, and how to cope with the consequences.

The group’s first meeting will take place in Brussels next Monday.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr Rae said: “We have seen the widespread damage that can be done by the wilful dissemination of false information on social media platforms.

“I look forward to meeting and exchanging views with my colleagues on the Expert Group as we advise the European Commission on dealing with this complex challenge, which has major social and political consequences for citizens.”

INM chief appointed to EU expert group against ‘fake news’ (RTÉ)

Previously: Meanwhile, On Denisty




Stephen Rae (top) Group editor Of Independent Newspapers; Former editor of the Sunday Independent Anne Harris (below).

“One evening in November 2012 – a Monday, my day off – I was summoned to an “off-site” meeting. I had misgivings about attending. The previous Saturday, at edition time, there had been an attempt to pull a story about a statement issued by Transparency International Ireland, which had complained to a UN special rapporteur about O’Brien’s serial litigations against journalists.

“Accordingly, on alert, I asked if I should have somebody with me. No need, I was assured. The meeting was attended by two men, one of whom was a senior INM executive. Things were bad with the company, he said.

Certain “temporary measures” were necessary. Then we got to the core problem: O’Brien, the majority shareholder, was not to be written about in certain ways. Then he issued a specific directive: any reference to O’Brien was not to be handled by me, but was to be referred to the managing editor. When I pointed out that this was censorship, I was informed it was “sensitivity”. I later asked for the directive in writing, but was refused.

“I did get a series of emails which confirmed the directive but tried to revise what had transpired at the meeting. One ridiculously stipulated the stricture was to cover references to “all” INM shareholders (there are thousands); another said it applied to coverage of the three largest shareholders, O’Brien, Dermot Desmond and Tony O’Reilly.

Contact with O’Reilly elicited an immediate response: the stricture was “repugnant” to him. (I should add that in my three years as editor, the paper had no representations from Desmond.) At subsequent meetings with management, any pretence that the stricture was wider than O’Brien was dropped.

Contemporaneous with these meetings was the drawing up of a charter or code of practice for INM journalists with its infamous clause stipulating there could be no repeated, sustained, adversarial criticism of a person or organisation without the written permission of the managing editor. The charter eventually faded because a restructuring of the newspapers rendered it unnecessary.

“At one of these attritional meetings, I asserted that the managing editor did not outrank an editor. I was informed that an editor-in-chief would, and such a post could be created.

It was. On June 24, 2013, an editor-in-chief [Stephen Rae] was appointed, and within days the structure of the Sunday Independent was dismantled. From then on I never again held a meeting with my own staff that was not attended by persons with strange new titles taking notes furiously.

At the meeting to announce the appointment of the editor-in-chief I asked who, now, would make the decisions on coverage of O’Brien. I got no reply.

Copious correspondence asking the same question proved equally fruitless. But I did get an answer, a painful one, on July 19, 2014. In an article published in the early edition of the Sunday Independent, I referred to O’Brien and control of INM. Without reference to me, the editor-in-chief stopped the page and removed a crucial sentence.

I rang him to protest. The paper was delayed while we argued. In order to get the pages running again, several minor changes were negotiated. But I had no part in the removal of the crucial sentence. Did O’Brien have any knowledge of these events? I don’t know. I asked to meet him. I was told that wouldn’t happen.

Anne Harris, ex-editor of The Sunday Independent, in yesterday’s Sunday Times (behind paywall).

Previously: Continuity Rae

Denis O’Brien’s Editorial Interference: The Smoking Gun?