Access All Areas campaign launched in Ireland
29 March 2017
The union has launched a campaign for greater transparency among local authorities in Ireland, North and South.
The 'Access All Areas' campaign will include a survey to establish the level of so called 'in committee' meetings held by city and county councils. Local authorities frequently exclude the press and the public from their deliberations by going into 'committee', sometimes referred to as 'in camera'.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, launched the campaign, the centrepiece of the NUJ Irish executive councils contribution to the union-wide local news matters week of action.
Séamus Dooley said:
"It is a fundamental tenet of democracy that administration of government, national and local, must be conducted in public and that the media, acting on behalf of the citizens of this state, must be granted access to the decision-making process at every level. We have anecdotal evidence that this issue remains a problem at local authority level and we regularly get reports of private discussions held 'in committee'. One council refers contentious issues to 'seminars', a code word for 'not in front of the press'.
"Our survey is straightforward and is intended as a health check for local councils. We also want to explore the level of local government coverage by the Irish media. With the right to access comes the responsibility to act on behalf of citizens by acting as a democratic watchdog.
"In Ireland, and in the UK, there is evidence that reduced editorial resources are impinging on coverage of local government. The right of access is not just a right enjoyed by the media; it's a right of citizens to public information through the media, which purports to act on their behalf."