In 2003, a legal advisory group on defamation - established by the Minister for Justice - recommended in its report that the defamation laws be reformed and a statutory press council established.
While the newspaper and magazine industry welcomed news that the defamation laws would be reformed, there was significant opposition to the concept of a statutory press council. The industry therefore came together and formed the Press Industry Steering Committee comprising representatives of the following organisations:
- National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI)
- Regional Newspapers Association of Ireland (RNAI)
- Periodical Publishers Association of Ireland (PPAI) - (Name changed to Magazines Ireland in 2009)
- National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
- Irish Editions of UK Titles
The Committee had one key objective - to agree a model for an independent press complaints mechanism. The Committee held their first meeting in January 2004 and operated under the independent chairmanship of Professor Thomas Mitchell, former Provost of Trinity College, Dublin. Senator Maurice Hayes acted as facilitator.
After that first meeting, the Press Industry Steering Committee worked over many meetings towards agreeing a model for the establishment of an Office of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council of Ireland. A Code Committee, comprising representatives from across the industry - including senior editors - agreed a Code of Practice. Complaints to the Press Ombudsman are based on articles thought to involve a breach of this Code.
Throughout the process, the Press Industry Steering Committee maintained contact and met on several occasions with the Minister for Justice and his officials to ensure that the Department's views were taken into consideration. With the establishment of the Press Council of Ireland in June 2007, and of the Office of the Press Ombudsman in January 2008, the Press Industry Steering Committee ceased its work.
The Press Council of Ireland has 13 members, each of whom is appointed by an independent Appointments Committee. The Committee was appointed in the first instance by the Press Industry Steering Committee. Future appointments to the Committee will be made by the Press Council.
The Appointments Committee seeks expressions of interest for the independent members of the Press Council by public advertisment, and chooses for appointment six of those who have responded. The Chairman is the seventh independent member of the Press Council. The Committee also appoints six members of the Press Council reserved for individuals with relevant experience of journalism and the press industry, on the basis of nominations received by the press organisations that participated in the Press Industry Steering Committee.
The members of the first Appointments Committee were:
Professor Thomas Mitchell (Chairman), Former Provost of Trinity College Dublin
Dr Maurice Manning, President, Irish Human Rights Commission
Dr Miriam Hederman O'Brien, Former Chairman of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the Commission on Taxation
Mr Kevin Murphy, Former Ombudsman and Information Commissioner
In August 2010 Professor Mitchell was replaced by the new Press Council Chairman, Mr Daithi O'Ceallaigh, and the late Mr Kevin Murphy was replaced by Mr David Begg in 2012.
With the establishment of the Office of the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council of Ireland, and with its objective achieved, the Press Industry Steering Committee ceased its work in 2007.
The first Chairman of the Press Council, Professor Thomas Mitchell, was appointed by the Press Industry Steering Committee at the time of the establishment of the Council in 2007. Subsequent Chairmen are appointed by the Press Council itself.
The second Chairman of the Press Council, Daithi O'Ceallaigh, was appointed by the Press Council in August 2010.