Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ex-Trimble aide Steven King's career in balance over blogger 'plagiarism'

Columnist is accused of copying work by blogger Brendan O’Neill and passing it off as his own for his column in the Irish Examiner

The future of former First Minister’s adviser Steven King as a newspaper columnist was in the balance last night after claims of plagiarism.

Mr King, an ex-aide of former UUP leader Lord Trimble, was locked in negotiations with the management of Cork’s Irish Examiner over the allegations.

Currently on leave from his job based in New Delhi, the Oxford University, Queen’s University and University of Ulster-educated King — who was also involved in talks leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement — said he did not want to make any comment while the discussions continued.

But Examiner editor Tim Vaughan told the Belfast Telegraph he anticipated a “quick resolution” to the controversy.

The paper suspended Mr King’s column — which he has been writing since 2006 — after the claims that Mr King had submitted strikingly similar paragraphs on several subjects to comments written by Brendan O’Neill, who runs an internet magazine called Spiked.

But the Examiner said it had not been able to contact Mr King for days. A spokesman for his firm said he was on holiday leave.

Yesterday Mr Vaughan confirmed Mr King had been in contact on Monday. He said: “He rang the person who deals with the columnists and was speaking to them and then I spoke with him.

“I am expecting an email from him today and I expect a quick resolution to all of this, which has been unexpected and highly regrettable.”

In an email to the Belfast Telegraph Mr King said: “You will have gathered that I have not spoken to any media on this matter while I am in discussions with the Examiner.”

The paper is understood to have put Mr King’s previous columns through a computer fitted with plagiarism-detection software.

Mr O’Neill said if the allegations were proven to be true, the behaviour could not be excused. The plagiarism claims first surfaced in the blog Critical Press.

It alleged similarities between an October 2010 speech by Mr O’Neill on population and a column written by Mr King last month.

Now a director in APCO Worldwide’s New Delhi office, Dr King has had a broad range of experience in global public affairs and strategic communication, according to the company’s website. “He has worked with a number of government and corporate clients internationally and heads the services to government practice in APCO’s India offices.

“Before taking his current post in India, Dr. King worked in APCO’s London office for a number of health care, energy and technology clients as well as on the services to government team. Prior to his appointment with APCO, Dr. King was external relations director at the influential centre-right UK think tank Policy Exchange.

“Dr. King has also been chief political advisor to Nobel Peace Laureate and First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble, having worked as an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) negotiator on equality, human rights, security and cultural issues in the multi-party peace talks leading to the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

“Educated at Oxford, Queen’s and the University of Ulster, Dr. King holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, a Master of Social Science in Humanities and a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science.”

Some claims against King:

King’s column in July:

The crusade against trafficking looks less and less like a serious attempt to assist migrants and increase their options, and more like a super-moralistic fantasy campaign against evil and perverted Johnny Foreigners

O’Neill in January 2008:

The crusade against trafficking looks less and less like a real-world attempt to assist migrants and increase their freedom of movement and choices, and more like a super-moralistic fantasy campaign against evil and perverted Johnny Foreigners.

Mr King wrote last December:

Today’s information incontinence among the powers-that-be in much of the Western world — which is now so bad that a couple of years ago an internal US government document about the problem of leaking was later leaked — springs from institutional incoherence amongst the political class.

Earlier last year O’Neill wrote:

Today’s information incontinence amongst the powers-that-be in much of the Western world – which is now so bad that a couple of years ago an internal US government document about the problem of leaking was later leaked — springs from political disarray and institutional incoherence amongst the political class.

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