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DM2014: NUJ members of honour celebrated

Members of honour Mike Holderness, Mary Maher and Eddie Barrett  -  © Mark Dimmock

12 April 2014

Two pioneering trade unionists from Ireland and the NUJ’s Mr Copyright were awarded membership of honour for their contribution to the union.

Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, said:

"Mary Maher is regarded as the First Woman of the NUJ in Ireland. Her career has been marked by a number of firsts; records set and broken, glass ceilings smashed by dint of hard work, determination, good humour and dedication to her union."
Mary arrived in in Ireland and the Irish Times in 1965 from the Chicago Tribune.  When asked if she was joining the NUJ, her reply was an emphatic “but of course”.

She then went on to become involved at every level of the NUJ – MoC, branch chair, Cathaoirleach of the IEC, NEC member and long-time NUJ delegate to the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and to the ICTU Biennial Conference, where her skills were greatly appreciated as a member of the Standing Orders Committee.

Séamus said:

"Mary become the first woman in The Irish Times to return to work on getting married and subsequently became the first woman to benefit from paid maternity leave. She broke the glass ceiling of The Irish Times chapel with a firm thud of her stiletto when she was elected the first Mother of the Chapel.  One male colleague asked if he could call Mary 'Father'. The first woman elected MoC in an Irish national newspaper assured him that would not be a problem, provided she could call him 'Mother'."

In 2001 she received a retirement knockdown from the print unions at The Irish Times, a loud, exuberant tribute traditionally reserved for printers. She was the first woman and only the second journalist to be accorded this honour.

Séamus said:

"As a reporter, sub editor and editor, a published author, with an acclaimed novel to her credit Mary Maher has enriched Irish journalism. All of Mary’s activities are informed by her abiding commitment to the principles of the Larkins; Jim and Delia. Since 1966 she has brought us bread and roses, song and laughter and has inspired many brothers and sisters not just in the NUJ but in the wider trade union movement."

Former president, founder of the Republic of Ireland Industrial Council and pioneer broadcaster during the Irish Troubles, Eddie Barrett has made a huge contribution to the union.

Barry McCall, NUJ president, said:

“Doing justice to the span of Eddie Barrett's many achievements during his career as a journalist and trade unionist inside five minutes is a near impossible task.”

Eddie joined the union in 1965 when he began working as a reporter for The Irish Times. He then moved three years later to the fledgling RTE, Ireland's national TV service which was just seven years old at that time. With the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Eddie soon found himself in the thick of the most tragic events in recent Irish history, including Bloody Sunday.

When the Irish Government introduced a repressive law banning interviews with members of the IRA and Sinn Fein, Eddie defied it. Barry McCall said he also showed his courage during the early 1980s when as Irish NEC member and incoming vice-president, he was asked for his position on the union's policy on a woman's right to choose abortion.

“There were no cop-outs or dodges from him - he stood on a conference platform and declared himself to be in favour, even though he knew it could cost him his  seat on the NEC.”

As a founder member of the Republic of Ireland Industrial Council (forerunner of the Irish Executive Council) in 1976 he worked tirelessly to negotiate improved terms and conditions for members in every sector. When Eddie moved to England, he began a fresh career first in broadcasting and then as communications director of the T&G. More recently, he was the acting editor of The Journalist while Christine Buckley was on maternity leave.

Barry McCall said:

“I can think of no one more deserving of the highest honour this union can bestow on a member. Eddie stands for everything which is good about the NUJ and has for almost 50 years offered service without ever seeking reward – an example for us all to follow.”

Mike Holderness's renown within the NUJ is as a pioneer of the freelance website, and its Rates for the Job feature, plus his reputation as one of the UK's leading experts on copyright.

Tim Dawson, in-coming vice-president, said:

“We are here today to honour a true warrior. He may look like a mild-mannered, middle-aged anarchist – but he is in fact a warrior who indulges in hand-to-hand combat on behalf of members in ensuring they benefit from the fruits of their work.

"Mark Getty said, 'intellectual property is the oil of the 21st century'. Mike is the man who has made sure that the copyright robber barrons did not have it all their own way and that ordinary writers and photographers got the benefit they deserved from their work.
"His leisure interets are famously cerebral. I once caught his seeking light relieve during a lacuna in the cut and thrust of a delegate meeting absorbed in Kant''s Critique of Pure Reason. He is proficient, quite probably fluent, in several European languages - but I sense that he is always happiest expressing himself in machine code or html.

"Because of all of those qualities, I have an enormously deep well of affection for Mike.  But it is for his work on interlectual property that I am enormously grateful to him - as  know are thousands of members of this union, and indeed creators all over the world.  That is why we are honouring you today Mike - and to let you know grateful as we are for the quarter of a centrury of tireless work that you have put in, but that we will be relying on you, supporting you and cheering you on over during the next quarter century too."

On behalf of Edinburgh Freelance Branch, Joyce McMillan, chair of Edinburgh freelance branch and Nick McGowan-Lowe, from the Freelance Industrial Council, said:

"His work on the freelance fees guide has put tens of thousands of pounds into freelance pockets, and has done so a time when every penny counts. His work on Rate for the Job has not only helped prevent the slide in rates, but in doing so has safeguard staff positions by ensuring freelances are not seen as a cheap alternative."

Tags: , eddie barrett, mary maher, mike holderness, freelance, irish, dm2014, members of honour