15/09/2012 10:10 BST | Updated 15/09/2012 16:11 BST

Kate Middleton Topless Photos Published In The Irish Daily Star (PICTURES)

The Irish Daily Star has published pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless - leading to condemnation from its own owners and St James's Palace.

The Irish Daily Star's website went down after it emerged that the paper, partly owned by Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell and Ireland's Independent News and Media, has published the snaps.

But part owners of the Irish Daily Star Northern and Shell has disowned the action, saying they “abhor” the newspaper’s decision to publish topless photographs of Kate and “very much regret the distress it has caused."

Northern and Shell's chairman Richard Desmond has said he is so angry his is taking "immediate steps" to close down his joint venture with the paper.

Responding to the reports a St James’s Palace spokeswoman said: "There can be no motivation for this action other than greed."

St James's Palace condemned the reports about the Irish Daily Star publishing the pictures, saying they were motivated by "greed"

Mimi Turner, Northern and Shell's communications director, said: "We abhor the decision of the Irish Daily Star to publish these intrusive pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which we, like St James's Palace, believe to be a grotesque invasion of their privacy."

The editor of the Daily Star Sunday in Britain, Gareth Morgan, told Sky News: "It's absolutely disgusting. We're horrified here in the office and and as a company. I'm speaking for the Daily Star Sunday and for four other responsible titles in Northern and Shell. This has no merit as an editorial decision, no merit morally. It's frankly a horrible decision."

He later said the paper was so disgusted they would be "open to discussing withdrawing completely from this joint venture."

But Mike O'Kane, the editor of the paper, who also published pictures of Prince Harry partying naked in Vegas, told the BBC: "The Duchess would be no different to any other celeb pics we would get in, for example Rihanna or Lady Gaga.

"She's not the future Queen of Ireland so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK, and they are very, very tasteful pictures."

He said the UK had "given the world a free press" and suggested the Leveson inquiry had gotten the British press into a "muddle."

"Leveson has failed to do what it should really have done," he said. "Elites are being protected by the press."

Despite the palace describing the publication of pictures of Catherine in French magazine Closer yesterday as a "grotesque and totally unjustifiable" invasion of privacy, on Saturday it emerged that the Irish Daily Star paper was running the images in its Republic of Ireland edition.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier launched legal action for breach of privacy against the publishers of Closer magazine in France after it published topless pictures of Kate.

The pictures were taken last week while the couple were staying in Provence at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen's nephew, ahead of their Diamond Jubilee tour of the Far East.

Gossip magazine Chi is understood to be planning a 26-page photo special of the pair sunbathing in the south of France, to run in an edition next week.

Both Chi and the French edition of Closer are published by the Mondadori media group, which is owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge looked relaxed as they took in the scenery as their tour of the Far East continued on Saturday

Chi magazine's editor Alfonso Signorini said: "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."

The Irish Daily Star images were not printed in any title associated with the paper in Northern Ireland or Britain.

The Press Council of Ireland was unavailable for comment on the decision to publish the photographs, but its 10-point code of practice includes a section on privacy.

The guidelines state "privacy is a human right, protected as a personal right in the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into Irish law. The private and family life, home and correspondence of everyone must be respected".

The principle on privacy goes on to say that the right to privacy "should not prevent publication of matters of public record or in the public interest".

It adds: "Taking photographs of individuals in private places without their consent is not acceptable, unless justified by the public interest."

Independent News and Media tonight issued a statement saying: "The decision by the Irish Daily Star to republish pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from the French magazine Closer was regrettable and in poor taste.

"Independent News and Media had no prior knowledge of the decision to publish."

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Northern and Shell's full statement

"We abhor the decision of the Irish Daily Star to publish these intrusive pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which we, like St James's Palace, believe to be a grotesque invasion of their privacy."

She added: "The Irish Daily Star is a joint venture with Independent News and Media over which we have no editorial control.

"We were not given advance notice of the decision to publish these pictures by their management and we are consulting with our lawyers as a matter of urgency over what we believe to be a serious breach of their contract.

"Northern and Shell is profoundly dismayed at the decision made by Irish Daily Star, which would never have been made by any of the newspapers or magazines under our editorial control.

"We consider all aspects of privacy very carefully, and would never condone this action.

"When the recent pictures of Prince Harry were made available to UK newspapers, even though that was a very different and more public situation, we felt that there was no public interest in publishing those images.

"This is of course a far more distressing situation and while it has nothing to do with the Daily Star UK or any of Northern and Shell's own newspapers, we very much regret the distress it has caused."

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