Roy Greenslade and the IRA: Guardian columnist responds to outrage

Greenslade responds to outrage over IRA views: “I did nothing more than scores of journalists”

Roy Greenslade

The revelation from former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade that he “supported the right of the Irish people to engage in armed struggle” via the IRA throughout the 1970s and 1980s has prompted a furious response from many in the industry.

And yesterday the fallout from his article in the British Journalism Review prompted him to resign his post as an honorary professor at City University.

Greenslade today responded to the row telling Press Gazette: “I did nothing more than the scores of journalists who keep their political views to themselves.”

Greenslade wrote a weekly Guardian column on the media from 1992 to 2017, and for ten years (from 2007 to 2017) he wrote a daily blog about journalism for The Guardian.

Greenslade’s frequent criticism of the shortcomings of the industry has prompted many on the receiving end of that criticism to condemn him this week.

Concerns have also been raised that until 2018 Greenslade had a key role in educating journalists and teaching ethics at City University in London, which is considered by many to be the UK’s leading post-graduate journalism university.

While working as a sub-editor at The Sun his views were strongly at odds with that of the paper, but he said he chose to “button my lip” and carry on to pay his mortgage.

He said: “I came to accept that the fight between the forces of the state and a group of insurgents was unequal and therefore could not be fought on conventional terms. In other words, I supported the use of physical force.”

The BJR piece has also shed new light on how, in 1989, Greenslade used subterfuge to pass on possible misinformation to The Sunday Times for its investigation into This Week’s Death on the Rock report on the killing of three IRA members by the SAS.

Questions have also been raised about The Guardian not reporting on the  Greenslade article. Greenslade has not written for the title since March 2020.

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan said: “The Guardian’s been very vocal about media pundits recently, yet when its own media pundit for 30yrs, Roy Greenslade, reveals he was a secret IRA supporter the whole time and backed its murderous terrorism, they don’t say a word in today’s paper. As cowardly as Mr Greenslade.”

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie was more forthright on Twitter: “I always knew Roy Greenslade was a shit. I didn’t know he was a pro-violence IRA-supporting shit. In the Sunday Times he reveals that while working for me at The Sun, editing the Mirror and being a media critic he backed IRA scum killing our people. A complete c***.”

He added: “For decades the untalented turds at the Guardian employed Roy Greenslade as a newspaper commentator to pour a bucket on their competitors. Now their media star has revealed he is in favour of IRA bombings what have they said? Nothing. The silence shows they are shits like him.”

Greenslade was features editor at The Sun working under MacKenzie as editor in the late 1980s. Greenslade left to join the Daily Mirror as editor in 1990.

David Higgerson, chief audience officer of Reach (which publishes Greenslade’s former title the Mirror) said on Twitter: “Is it not odd that the Guardian hasn’t reported the whole Greenslade thing? I mean, they gave him a pulpit on which to pass judgement on the press for such a long time, it seems odd they are just ignoring it now?”

And Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire noted that in a 2014 Guardian comment article, Greenslade was critical of a BBC Spotlight documentary about a woman who was raped by a member of the IRA.

But he failed to disclose his Republican sympathies in the piece and the fact that he had written for Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht.

Maguire said: “Writing this was unethical when Roy Greenslade didn’t disclose his IRA support and that’s a big problem for The Guardian.”

A spokesperson for The Guardian said: “The Guardian’s independent readers’ editor has received a complaint from Mairia Cahill and is investigating this issue. The readers’ editor will also be reviewing other historic Roy Greenslade articles concerning Northern Ireland, to ensure that they meet the Guardian’s editorial standards and are sufficiently transparent.”

Leading freelance journalist and former Independent deputy editor Ian Birrell was also among those to voice concerns on Twitter: “Greenslade gave me my first job on Fleet Street. Although few journalists will be surprised by this confession, it is remarkable he was given a platform to pontificate on journalism ethics by both a national newspaper and a leading graduate school of journalism.”

Former City University students have also condemned Greenslade.

FT Whitehall editor Sebastian Payne shared a link to The Sunday Times article revealing Greenslade’s IRA sympathies and said: “As a former student of Roy Greenslade, this makes me feel deeply sick.”

Another former City University student Tom Goodenough wrote today in The Spectator: “What qualifies Roy Greenslade to lecture students on media ethics? It certainly doesn’t appear to be his own attitude towards telling the truth. When he taught me at City, Greenslade liked to hold forth on the vices of the tabloid press. He was quieter on his own red top past, neglecting to often mention his rise to the top of the ranks at the Sun and the Daily Mirror. Nor, too, did he talk much about allegedly having a hand in faking a spot the ball competition.

“It is now clear there was something else Greenslade was eager not to talk about during his long career in journalism: his secret support of the IRA.”

Asked by Press Gazette whether his views on terrorism disqualified him from teaching ethics, Greenslade said via email: “The furore underlines the main point of my article: to have come clean in the 1970s with my beliefs would have rendered me unemployable.

“I did nothing more than the scores of journalists who keep their political views to themselves. My opinions did not affect my journalistic work, nor did they affect my university teaching. As many of my more attentive students would surely recall, I was open about being a republican.”

Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette


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