DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Irish publisher of the Daily Star on Sunday offered its "deepest apologies" for publishing topless pictures of the wife of Britain's Prince William but said it would resist efforts by its British partner to close the paper.
The Irish Daily Star on Saturday broke ranks with its British and Irish rivals by publishing shots of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge - the former Kate Middleton - that were originally printed in the French magazine Closer.
The pictures have reignited a debate over privacy and freedom of the press, especially in Britain, where media could face new regulations after a series of publishing scandals.
All British papers have refrained from publishing the photographs, including the Sun, the only British title to run pictures of William's brother Harry cavorting naked in a Las Vegas hotel last month.
Independent News and Media (INM), Ireland's biggest media company, on Sunday joined its British co-owner Northern and Shell in condemning the publication, which both owners said they had not authorized.
"On behalf of INM, I wish to offer my deepest apologies," INM chief executive Joe Webb said in the Sunday Independent, another of the group's titles.
"We are launching an internal inquiry to ensure there will never be a repeat of this breach of decency."
But he said he hoped to avoid the closure of the paper, whose future is under threat after Northern and Shell Chairman Richard Desmond said he was taking immediate steps to close down the joint venture.
"We will be doing everything in our power to safeguard the 70 jobs at the Irish Daily Star," Webb said.
A spokeswoman for Northern and Shell on Saturday the paper would no longer be able to use the Daily Star name and that its future was a decision for INM.
The paper's editor Mike O'Kane said he had published the paparazzi photographs as a service to the paper's readers and was taken aback by the reaction in Britain.
Closer's pictures, taken as the duchess - the future queen -slipped off her bikini top while sunbathing at a secluded French country house, already circulating widely on the Internet, were also picked up by other foreign publications.
Prince William's office on Sunday said lawyers for the royal family would be in a Paris court on Monday in a bid to prevent Closer magazine from further publication or distribution of the pictures and to seek damages against the publication.
It has declined to comment on whether legal action might be taken against the Star or other publications.
Prince William's mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Additional reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Angus MacSwan)