NUJ concern at use of Dáil privilege to attack journalists

The National Union of Journalists has expressed concern at the decision of Tánaiste Micheál Martin to use Dáil privilege to attack journalists working for the Ditch website this week.

Speaking from the union’s delegate meeting in London this morning Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, described Mr Martin’s comments as “an unwelcome and unedifying departure”.

NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley

Séamus Dooley said: “I was extremely disappointed to see Dáil privilege used by the Tánaiste to attack a news website in this way. It is an unwelcome and unedifying departure from normal parliamentary procedure.

It is inevitable that there will be profound disagreements between those who exercise power and those who seek to hold them to account.

Journalists who criticise or challenge public figures can expect criticism. Media organisations, across all platforms, are not above scrutiny and are capable of responding robustly to criticism.

Journalists and publishers understand the tension that exists in a democracy between the media and government.

A diverse, challenging media is important and in Ireland we are fortunate in having a range of media across all platforms. No media organisation has a monopoly on concern for transparency or accountability.

It is not acceptable for politicians to make criticism under Dáil privilege against named individuals.

The media operates within the constraints of extremely restrictive defamation laws.

Politicians who wish to challenge the accuracy, efficacy or bona fides of any journalist or media organisation should do so within the same constraints and without the protection of Oireachtas privilege”.