The editor of The Irish Daily Star Ger Colleran has expressed "extreme surprise" that the Press Ombudsman John Horgan is threatening to sue The Phoenix magazine. Horgan's office was created to help settle disputes between newspapers and members of the public without having recourse to the legal system.

On 2 July, The Phoenix published an article about a decision by the Press Ombudsman in a case where The Star had erroneously confused photos of two clerics of the same name. Defrocked priest John Kinsella made a complaint to the Press Ombudsman after his picture was mistakenly used in the newspaper as a priest "named and shamed" as a child abuser. The published story was about another priest with the same name.

Despite the fact the two clerics were both called John Kinsella and both had been embroiled in allegations of child abuse, Horgan ruled that The Star newspaper should issue a correction without explaining how it had made the error.

The Phoenix article criticised Horgan's ruling and also made the point that "the Press Ombudsman played a vicarious role vis-à-vis the courts in that complainants tend to seek redress from the Ombudsman's office when they have a case that would be unlikely to succeed in law".

The magazine pointed out that the complainant in the case could hardly have gone to the High Court as he had been the subject of multiple allegations of child abuse himself.

However, Horgan has claimed that The Phoenix inferred that he was "involved in clerical abuse" by using the phrase "the vicarious role of the Ombudsman".

Colleran said he was "extremely surprised" to hear of Horgan's action and added, "It is very important that I say that I am completely and totally in support of the Press Council regime. However I have had serious disagreements with decisions made by the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council."

Horgan's move has raised eyebrows across the media as his office was created and is financed by the print media as part of its campaign to avert expensive libel actions.

"It is a great pity that the great benefits that have been developed by the Press Council and the Ombudsman's office have not been reflected in this dispute between Mr Horgan and The Phoenix," said Colleran. Horgan remained tight-lipped about his action this weekend and told the Sunday Tribune, "I am not making any comment about that."