Journalist denies accusations of selective reporting : The writer : Irish peace crisis

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The Independent Online
Matthew D'Ancona, the writer of yesterday's Times report faced accusations yesterday that he had set out to wreck the peace process during a delicate phase of the negotiations. Mr D'Ancona, 26, was accused on both sides of the Irish Sea of selectively reporting sections of the document with the aim of torpedoing the talks by alarming Unionist opinion.

The author, a leader writer and Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, has close associations with Unionist politicians and was the co-author of a report by the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies last year which argued that the IRA ceasefire "mayactually have destabilised Ulster".

That study, launched during the Conservative Party conference, said that "the character and composition of the United Kingdom itself may well be adversely affected by an ill-advised Ulster `settlement', in ways that may at present be unforeseen and incalculable."

He is regarded as being extremely bright and is already being talked of as a possible future editor of the paper. He joined the Times on its graduate trainee scheme and started writing leading articles almost immediately. He has also written on education.

Mr D'Ancona yesterday rejected accusations that his reporting was biased or lacking in the detachment usually associated with a news report.

"I emphatically deny that it was designed to wreck the peace process," he said."I am very annoyed by the suggestion that the report was highly selective. I think we gave fair space to the key points" concerning neutrality of the British Government on theconstitutional future of Northern Ireland.

Mr D'Ancona confirmed, however, that the Times did not have a copy of the draft framework document but that he had been shown one. He also rejected the suggestion that as a leader writer he was unsuited to the task of writing a news story.

"We were approached by a source," he said "and Peter Stothard [editor of the Times] approached me to write it because I have written a lot on the peace process."