Columnist Eoghan Harris has had his contract terminated by Ireland’s Sunday Independent newspaper over his role in a fake Twitter account. The account, set up in February 2020 under the name Barbara J Pym, posted about aspects of Irish politics. The journalist and former Irish senator confirmed his involvement, in an interview with RTÉ. Mr Harris has often commented about Northern Ireland and is a long-time critic of Sinn Féin.
He told RTÉ Drivetime that he was one of the founders of the Twitter account; but in recent times he had “moved to the background as more of an advisor”.
He said there were six people in total involved in tweeting from the account; but the other contributors wished to remain anonymous as they were “nervous of Sinn Féin”.
The Barbara J Pym account is currently suspended.
Sunday Independent editor Alan English told the Irish Independent that the paper encourages “the expression of strong, sharp and diverse opinions in the Sunday Independent; and Eoghan Harris’s column has been a must-read for a great number of readers for a considerable time”.
He added: “However, his position as a columnist became untenable when Eoghan confirmed to us this week; that he has had an involvement in the operation of a fake Twitter account.
“Regardless of where they stand on any issue; we expect our writers to put their views across in a transparent manner. Readers can agree or disagree with these opinions.
“We will not, however, tolerate hidden agendas.”
Mr English also said that Mr Harris had admitted being one of the founders of the account; as well as “one of a group of people that contributed to a Barbara Pym entity”.
“Many of the views expressed – such as opposition to ‘Sinn Féin pressure for a united Ireland’; are in keeping with those articulated by Eoghan Harris in his Sunday Independent column,” he added.
“Having reviewed the account this week I found it frequently went far beyond what I would describe as fair and reasonable comment. Under no circumstances would such material have been published in our newspaper or on Independent.ie.
“We regard Eoghan Harris’s involvement with this account as a betrayal of trust; and as such his contract has been terminated.”
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