The editor of the Irish Daily Star has been suspended after the newspaper published topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Michael O’Kane has been stood down while an internal investigation is carried out into the editorial decision to re-print the images after they appeared in French magazine Closer.
The newspaper, co-owned by media tycoon Richard Desmond’s Northern and Shell group and the Irish-based Independent News and Media, has been under threat of closure since publishing the pictures on Saturday.
In a statement, the company behind the Dublin operation, Independent Star, announced the move.
“Independent Star Limited has suspended editor Michael O’Kane with immediate effect, pending an investigation into the circumstances that led to the Irish Daily Star re-publishing pages from the French magazine ‘Closer’, which contained images of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge,” it said.
Meanwhile, an Italian magazine has carried out its promise to publish the topless photos of Kate in a special 26-page edition.
Chi, which has the same owners as French Closer, the first magazine to publish the images, featured the grainy photos along with a series of articles on topics such as, “Kate’s breasts, natural or fake?”
The Italian magazine had a front-page headline that read: “The queen is nude!” The publication also complimented Kate’s “practically perfect” physique.
Chi’s editor Alfonso Signorini argued that the pictures represented “extraordinary reportage”.
“For the first time, the future queen of England was appearing in a natural way, without the constraints of etiquette,” he wrote.
“The fact that these are the future rulers of England makes the article more interesting and topical.
“This is a deserving topic because it shows in a completely natural way the daily life of a very famous, young and modern couple in love.”
Talking to Sky News, Mr Signorini listed the reasons behind his decision. He said: “As a journalistic scoop it satisfies the curiosity of the readers.
“It’s the first time that the future queen of England has been pictured in such a way, they are natural pictures, there is no morbidity about them.
“There is nothing that could affect the dignity of the person involved, the Duchess of Cambridge. And lastly they were taken on a public road by photographers on public land.”
The French version of Closer, which is run by a different company to the British edition, printed several pages of explicit images taken of the couple at a private hotel this month.
Chi and Closer are part of the Mondadori group, owned by Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and chaired by the politician’s daughter Marina.
Mr Berlusconi is believed to be trying to make a comeback to frontline politics, but an article in the Rome daily newspaper La Repubblica, which has been one of his fiercest critics, said the pictures would damage relations between England and Italy.
It is not the first time that the Royal Family has come up against Chi.
In 2006 the magazine, then under a different editor, sparked outrage when it printed a photo of a fatally injured Princess Diana being given oxygen at the scene of the high-speed crash in Paris.
Lawyers were due in court on Monday to seek an injunction to stop Closer magazine re-selling the images.
They are also expected to lodge a criminal complaint in France for invasion of privacy.
A royal spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the Royal Family was launching legal action against either Chi or the Irish Daily Star.
“All proportionate responses will be kept under review,” she said.