Note I have fixed a slight grammatical error since I originally posted this – it can be hard to be coherent while emotional
To Kevin O’Sullivan, editor, the Irish Times
Dear Mr O’Sullivan,
I don’t normally conduct my correspondence in public but in this case I feel compelled to make an exception to highlight how you have betrayed my friend, Kate Fitzgerald, and her memory through the actions of your newspaper over the past week.
Despite what your article implies, I am not motivated by a desire for retribution. Such an exercise would be futile because I doubt that any of us will ever know why Kate decided to take her own life.
My actions are solely motivated by a value that Kate held dear –integrity. This attribute is one that your newspaper appears to be unfamiliar with, judging by your attempts to censor Kate’s final words and then, on Saturday, to attack her good name.
Although your newspaper claims – indeed continues to claim – that it holds integrity dear, events of the past week have demonstrated that, in reality, it is beholden to vested interests with a side order of cowardice.
This yellow streak is so pronounced that when you published Saturday’s apology, you couldn’t bring yourselves to publish Kate’s name. It is so intense that you, the editor of the newspaper, cannot even name the interest that your newspaper is beholden to. Can the name of Kate’s employers, the Communications Clinic, really be that hard to write?
Indeed, you are so committed to protecting this company that you have deliberately sought to muddy the waters by falsely claiming that Kate had alleged in her article that her friends had failed to support her in her fight against depression. This falsehood has caused all of us much grief over the past couple of days: from the onset of her illness, those close to Kate sought to do everything in their power to support her through it and get her the necessary treatment.
In general, I can only conclude that your newspaper’s claim to act with sensitivity when handling stories such as Kate’s is some form of elaborate sick joke. You attacked Kate’s integrity on the very day that her friends gathered at Dublin City University to remember her contribution to their lives.
Although you claim to have held Kate’s family at the forefront of editorial decision-making during this sad affair, you conspicuously failed to inform them that you were publishing an apology that would defame their dead daughter. But then again, we both know as journalists that they had no comeback – under Irish law, you can’t defame the dead and Kate could hardly exercise her right of reply, could she?
There aren’t sufficient words to express the pain that your actions over the past week have caused Kate’s family and friends. When we should be grieving the loss of a friend and mourning the fact that she never achieved her full potential, we are instead battling to preserve her good reputation and ensure that her final message to the world is heard.
Although her case appears to have triggered a useful public discussion on suicide, her voice has effectively been silenced through your acts. It is impossible to access her original message – what remains on your website are a sorry appendage robbed of its sense. Other media outlets are unwilling to discuss key aspects of her story because the nature of your apology means that they have become toxic in a legal sense.
Although I do not believe in the value of retribution, I do believe in rehabilitation. The Irish Times still has the opportunity to reawaken its dormant sense of integrity and fairness and honour Kate’s memory. You still have the power to republish Kate’s final words in their original form. You are still capable of admitting your mistakes and apologising for the pain that they have caused.
Kate never realised her full potential but she did leave us with a powerful final public statement that may allow us to remove the stigma surrounding depression so that others may escape it and go on to achieve their goals. Do you really want to be remembered as the newspaper editor that fought to silence it?