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Editor suspended over Kate photos
The editor of the Irish Daily Star has been suspended from his role at the newspaper over the publication of topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Publishers revealed the decision to stand down Michael O'Kane while an internal investigation is carried out into the editorial decision to re-run the images.
The newspaper, co-owned by media baron Richard Desmond's Northern and Shell group and the Irish-based Independent News and Media, has been under threat of closure since publishing the pictures.
In a statement, the company behind the Dublin operation, Independent Star, announced the move.
"Independent Star Limited has suspended editor Michael O'Kane with immediate effect, pending an investigation into the circumstances that led to the Irish Daily Star re-publishing pages from the French magazine 'Closer', which contained images of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge," it said.
"Independent Star Limited has no further comment pending conclusion of the joint investigation by the newspaper's shareholders."
Mr O'Kane's suspension was announced just hours after Ireland's Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was reviving abandoned privacy laws on the back of the scandal.
The Irish Daily Star ran with the pictures in Saturday's edition.
The decision was robustly defended by Mr O'Kane in a radio interview where he claimed Kate was a celebrity like singer Rihanna, that the photos were taken from a public road and that it also highlighted a royal security issue.
Mr Shatter said some sections of the Irish print media placed no value on people's right to privacy.
"It is clear that some sections of the print media are either unable or unwilling in their reportage to distinguish between prurient interest and the public interest," he said.
Privacy legislation was proposed several years ago in Ireland and subsequently abandoned.
Ger Colleran, the newspaper's former editor and current managing director, at the weekend defended the decision to publish.
Mr Shatter hit out at standards among some of the print media.
"It is perceived financial gain as opposed to any principled freedom of expression that for some is the dominant value," he said.
"The publication by the Irish Daily Star in Ireland of topless photographs of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is a clear illustration of this.
"It is clear that sections of the print media believe that public figures are fair game and have no right to privacy in respect of any aspect of their lives."
Mr Desmond threatened to close the Irish Daily Star following the publication.
Insiders at his corporation warned: "He says what he means, and means what he says."
Independent News and Media - controlled by media and telecoms tycoon Denis O'Brien - is investigating the editorial decision to publish.
It has already warned that it viewed publication as a "poor editorial decision".
Up to 120 permanent and freelance editorial jobs are employed at the newspaper, a popular and profitable Dublin-based operation since its foundation in 1987.
It has a circulation of about 70,000.
Ireland's Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan said his office had not received any complaints about the publication of the pictures.
The Irish Daily Star did not refer in today's edition to the decision to re-run pages from French magazine Closer, the first to publish the images.
But it did carry photographs and a story about the latest stage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's trip to the Solomon Islands.
Mr Shatter said the lives of public personalities and private individuals are detrimentally affected by the actions of some papers.
"It seems that no value of any nature is attached to an individual's right to privacy," he said.
Mr Shatter will revive Ireland's Privacy Bill 2006. It will be reviewed to consider changes in the context of developments over the last six years.
"What is needed is balanced legislation that does nothing to inhibit proper investigative journalism, the reporting of news and the expression of opinion on issues of genuine public interest in a manner that respects the ethos and values of a constitutional democracy but which also prevents the abuse of an individual's human rights and flagrant violation of an individual's right to privacy," he said.
The National Union of Journalists in Dublin criticised Mr Desmond's threat to shut down the Irish operation and accused him of double standards on the basis of some of his business interests, including the adult Television X channel.
Meanwhile, Pat Rabbitte, Communications Minister in the Irish Government, branded the closure threat hypocritical.
"I don't think it was especially good taste by the Irish Star," Mr Rabbitte said.
"But I think there's a great dollop of hypocrisy on the part of the (British) part-owner of the paper."