The Irish Daily Star newspaper is under threat of imminent closure as a major row escalates between shareholders over topless photos of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge.
The paper is a joint venture between Ireland’s Independent News and Media and Britain’s Northern & Shell publishing giant.
The decision to print topless photos of Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, in Saturday’s edition of the tabloid has now caused massive consequences.
Both managing director Ger Colleran editor Michael O’Kane have defended the decision to print the photos which first appeared in a French magazine.
But a livid Northern & Shell chairman Richard Desmond has said he will close the joint venture with immediate effect. Independent News and Media, the other owner, has condemned the decision to publish the photos.
Desmond will address an emergency board meeting on Tuesday with staff at the paper’s Dublin offices to be addressed by senior management on Sunday.
An outraged Dennis told reporters: “I am very angry at the decision to publish the photographs and am taking immediate steps to close the joint venture.
“The decision to publish these pictures has no justification whatever and Northern & Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”
Desmond is keen to distance his British newspapers, including the Daily Star and the Daily Express, from the fall-out as the British Royal family threaten to sue the Irish Star.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have already said they will sue the French managzine which first published the photos, taken from a tree almost a mile away from their holiday villa.
An Italian magazine has said it will publish another 20 photos of the princess on Monday.
Irish Daily Star Editor Michael O’Kane defended his decision to print.
O’Kane told the BBC: “I am taken aback by the reaction. The duchess would be no different to any other celeb pics we would get in, for example Rihanna or Lady Gaga.
“She’s not the future queen of Ireland so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK.
“Of course people are going to be interested in this. She’s married into the Royal Family, she’s one of the most photographed people in the world, and she decides to partially disrobe on a balcony where it can be seen from a public road and she’s stunned now, or the palace are annoyed, that people are interested in this.”
Irish Daily Star managing director Ger Colleran added: “What we do in the Irish Daily Star is to produce an Irish newspaper for an Irish audience. The photographs of images taken from the magazine were not printed in our Belfast edition and there were two reasons for that - sensitivity to our British partners, Express Newspapers, and a slightly different legal regime.
“The issue here is that one is somewhat surprised about the furore that’s been created, particularly in a British media that gave freedom of speech to the world and is rightly called the Mother of Parliaments, underwritten by freedom of expression and a free press.” said Mr Colleran.
The Independent Group in Dublin has distanced itself from management at the Star and their decision to publish the photos.
INM chief executive Joe Webb said: “This was a poor decision. These pictures should not have been published. I understand the anger that many Irish citizens feel at the offence caused to the British Royal family, especially in the light of the visit of Queen Elizabeth last year.
“That visit was an important culmination of the work of the Peace Process. Since then Ireland has regarded the Queen and her family in the warmest light. Kate Middleton is a member of her family and on behalf of INM, I wish to offer her my deepest apologies.
“We have noted Richard Desmond’s statement and we will be launching an internal inquiry to ensure there will never be a repeat of this breach of decency. However, we will be doing everything in our power to safeguard the 70 jobs at the Irish Daily Star.”
Northern & Shell are consulting their lawyers ‘as a matter of urgency’ over what they believe to be a serious breach of their contract with INM.
Gareth Morgan, the editor of the Daily Star Sunday in Britain, also slammed his Irish colleagues.
Morgan said: “We are absolutely horrified here in the office. I am not just talking on behalf of the Daily Star Sunday but the four other responsible titles in Northern & Shell.
“This has no merit as an editorial decision. This has no merit morally. Frankly, it’s a morally horrible decision.
A Royal spokeswoman condemned the publication by the Irish Daily Star’s.
She said: “There can be no motivation for this action other than greed.
“We will not be commenting on potential legal action ... save to say that all proportionate responses will be kept under review. Any such publication would serve no purpose other than to cause further, entirely unjustifiable upset to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.”
Politicians on both sides of the Irish Sea have also condemned the Irish Daily Star.
Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan tweeted: “Irish Daily Star disgraces itself yet again by now publishing Kate photos. Neither shame nor standards.”