NUJ welcomes move to end Convention secrecy

THE National Union of Journalists has welcomed the decision of the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention Mr Tom Arnold to ask members of the public who have accepted membership of the Convention to waive their right to anonymity.

Mr Arnold has written to the 66 members following adverse publicity concerning the decision to withhold the names and details of the representatives. Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said Mr Arnold was “responding to a public mood” and he expressed the hope that his request to participants would be met with a positive response.

He said: “Tomorrow is an important day in Irish history and it would be a pity if it were to be marred by this issue. Mr Arnold’s response augurs well for the future conduct of the Convention.”

Earlier, in a statement, Mr Dooley said: “The Constitutional Convention is a bold initiaitve which has the potential to bring about fundamental change in the political landscape of this Republic. The findings of the Convention could impact on the lives of generations of Irish citizens. For that reason the Irish Executive Council of the NUJ has called on the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the names of all participants are made available. We also beleive that the identity of all consultants engaged by the Convention should be made public.

At a practical level coverage of the Convention and indeed the live streaming of the plenary sessions will be severely restricted if the secrecy surrounding some participants is imposed.”

Mr Dooley added: “I have tremendous respect for Mr Tom Arnold, through his work with Concern and as Chairman of The Irish Times Trust and hope he will do everything possible to ensure that the Convention which he chairs will operate in an open and transparent manner. One of the fears expressed by citizens is that they could be bombarded or lobbied by pressure groups. It should be possible to assign email addresses and a central contact point for all members which would not compromise their privacy while facilitating legitimate lobbying by those who, like members of the Constitutional Convention, have a stake in the Republic.”