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Noonan's criticism of investigative journalists "off the wall"

8 July 2013

Comments by Michael Noonan, Ireland's Finance Minister, regarding the role of investigative journalists have been described as "off the wall" by the National Union of Journalists.

Following the publication of the 'Anglo Irish tapes transcripts', Michael Noonan said "other people should not be mucking around in Garda business." It has been confirmed that there is to be an investigation into the circumstances in which the tapes were leaked to the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, said Michael Noonan's description of investigation journalism was "reflective of a degree of arrogance and ignorance on the part of a senior government minister". He said:

"The Irish Independent and Sunday Independent have done a public service by revealing the contempt in which Anglo Irish Bank executives held not just the government but the Irish people. The tapes reveal uncomfortable truths, the essence of public interest journalism.
"In the world inhabited by Mr Noonan only state authorities would appear to have the right to ask questions, to shine a light into dark corners, to seek the truth. As Minister for Finance and as a former Minister for Justice, Mr Noonan knows that it is the function of an independent media in a democratic society to put in to the public domain facts which others may wish to hide.
"It would have been preferable if the unvarnished truth about Anglo Irish Banks had been made freely available, but, in the absence of such transparency, citizens rely on journalists to root out facts.
"The argument that only Gardai investigate wrongdoing is an insult to the work of investigative journalists in the print and broadcast media. Without the 'messing around' of Veronica Guerin, we would not have had the Criminal Assets Bureau, without the 'messing around' of George Lee and Charlie Bird, the wrong doing at the National Irish Bank would not have been exposed, without Prime Time Investigates, we would never have known about the vile abuse at Leas Cross Nursing Home.
"Veronica Guerin and, in Northern Ireland, Martin O'Hagan have paid with their lives the ultimate price for their public interest journalism. Throughout the world, journalists work against the interest of governments, financial institutions and other vested interests and it is never enough to leave investigations to State-appointed agencies or the security forces.
"Media organisations must always be aware of the implications of published leaked documents and Independent Newspapers have acted responsibly in the manner in which the Anglo Tapes have been put in to the public domain.
"An already enraged pubic has been left reeling by the revelation that public funds are to be devoted to uncovering the source of the leak to the Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent rather than a public investigation which exposes the truth.
"It is ironic that this announcement should come only hours after publication of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, also known as the Whistleblowing Bill.
"If this government is committed to open public administration, Mr Noonan and his colleagues must recognise that the essence of open government is genuine transparency complemented by a free media."

Tags: , government ireland, foi, investigative journalism, police, garda, irish independent, sunday independent, newspapers, veronica guerin, prime time, rté, broadcasting, martin o'hagan, independent newspapers (ireland), whistleblowers