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Judge's comments called 'crime against humour'

27 November 2008

The NUJ's Irish Secretary has called on Supreme Court Judge Adrian Hardiman to apologise after the top judicial figure had referred to Irish female journalists as "cowgirls" during an outburst at an awards ceremony.

Speaking on RTÉ's Livelive programme, Séamus Dooley said the judge had made valid observations, but his overall point was lost by his attitude towards individual journalists and his use of the term "cowgirls".

Presenting the Law Society of Ireland's Justice Media Award, Mr Justice Hardiman criticised the Irish media for what he termed "inadequate" and "uninformative" coverage of the courts. He accused the media of rushing to comment on judges' rulings without properly examining or understanding them and appeared to suggest that journalists should have legal qualifications to report legal matters effectively.

He also accused journalists of frequently leaving court early, before proceedings are completed.

Mr Justice Hardiman used the lyrics of a song from the musical Oklahoma! – "the farmer and the cowman [sic] should be friends" – to explain the relationship between the legal profession and journalists. In this context, he referred on several occasions to female legal affairs journalists as "cowgirls", while taking them to task for what he said was their inaccurate coverage of cases or judgments.

Speaking about the incident, Séamus Dooley said:

"The judge had behaved in a sexist manner and his comments were inappropriate. He also ignored the factors which determine how court reporters operate and the constrains on court correspondents, including time and space."

He described the judge's reference as "a crime against humour". Since the programme, the Irish Secretary has spoken to a number of NUJ members who attended the function who had found Judge Hardiman's comments, including unreported comments, unacceptable.

Tags: , sexism, supreme court ireland, women, court reporting, law society, women in the nuj, awards, ethics