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Irish BDC condemns cuts and seizure of journalistic materials

10 October 2011

During the morning session of the Irish Biennial Delegate Conference (BDC) on Saturday, delegates condemned the latest BBC cuts and highlighted in particular the threat to 70 Belfast job and attacks on local radio.

Conference discussed the importance of protection of sources in journalism and opposition to the seizure of journalistic materials. Delegates expressed concern at the growing tendency of An Garda Síochána to seize images.

Delegates also called on the Irish government to introduce legislation to defend trade union rights and prohibit discrimination against trade union members. There were strong attacks from Norma Prenderville, conference chair, on the Competition Authority over its actions in preventing collective bargaining for freelance workers.

The conference closed with a message of solidarity for the UK joint-union strike action on 30 November and demands for a co-ordinated robust response to attacks on pensions in Ireland.

Tribute to Irish journalists

Attendees gathered on the eve of Conference with a tribute to the veterans of Irish journalism at the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Museum in Dublin.

The NUJ honoured a group of journalists who have each attained 40 years membership of the union. Life membership certificates were presented to senior journalists from a number of media organisations, including Tomás Mac Ruairí, Mark Kennedy, Frank Khan, Olivia O'Leary, John Walshe, Vivion Kilfeather, Sean Boyne, Geraldine Kennedy, Brendan Farrelly, Brian Brennan, Brendan Keenan and Judith Elmes.

As part of the event a special portrait of the late Sean Kilfeather was presented to the GAA. The portrait of the former NUJ activist and Gaelic Games correspondent of The Irish Times will hang in the Croke Park Media Centre.

Dublin branch chairman Martin Fitzpatrick presented the portrait to GAA President Christy Cooney. Sean Kilfeather served as Dublin branch chair, as a chapel officers at The Irish Times and was a long-time member of the NEC and the Irish Executive Council.

The event was reported in The Irish Times and The Irish Independent.

Minister Rabbitte at NUJ Conference

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte addressed the BDC. Mr Rabbitte stressed that an active and diverse media sector both in terms of ownership and content is a prerequisite of a democratic society.

Pat Rabbitte said:

"Diversity of ownership is critical because it allows for the representation of dissimilar, and often contradictory, positions in the press. And diversity of content is critical because it ensures that the full spectrum of views, interests and concerns prevalent in Irish society are represented fully in the media. If either of these is threatened, then so are central elements of our democracy."

Furthermore, he said:

"Pressing issues around the ownership and control of media have led the government to pursue the development of revised media mergers legislation, the heads of which have already been brought to government by my colleague, Minister Bruton.
"My department is now working on the draft of this Bill in conjunction with the Department of Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise, and we expect to publish a draft early next year."

RTÉ News: Government to pursue media mergers bill

Greenslade and President looks to the future

The Guardian commentator Roy Greenslade  and Donnacha DeLong, NUJ President, debated the future of the media during a lunchtime seminar.

Media matters: serving the public interest

The impact of the News of the World hacking scandal on journalism was also discussed during conference.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, gave an overview of the media landscape in the UK and called on the authorities to support the NUJ's calls for a conscience clause and public interest journalism.

Karen Coleman spoke in the debate about her experience as a broadcast journalist for over 20 years and argued that public interest journalism includes quality and investigative work – difficult to do without the necessary funding and resources.

Karen Coleman also highlighted the lack of trade union rights and NUJ representation in some parts of the Irish media and the existence of a climate of fear amongst journalists without a recognised trade union in the workplace.

Michael O'Toole of the Irish Daily Star examined the culture of secrecy in Ireland. He has been a member of the NUJ for 18 years and said that joining the union was one of the proudest moments of his career. He urged journalists to join the NUJ and stick with the union.

Michael O'Toole said that it is increasingly difficult to serve the public interest because Ireland has closed ranks and has become more secretive. Sources are being bullied with threats of sanctions or dismissal and this has stopped people talking to journalists.

Irish journalist Gavin Sheridan said that serving the public interest was a key motivation for his start in journalism. Gavin Sheridan made strong claims about access to information and argued the public has a right to know and a right to see public records.

The final agenda debated at conference.

Tags: , irish biennial delegate conference, cuts, bbc, belfast, protection of sources, police, rights, life members, gaa, dublin, irish times, irish independent, pat rabbitte, ownership, rté, news of the world, phone hacking, public interest, recognition, garda, government ireland