Northern Standard

Northern Standard


MICHAEL FISHER is a former reporter with RTÉ News in Dublin and Belfast. He is a leading member of the National Union of Journalists, which has campaigned in support of local newspapers in Ireland and Britain……
When a group including local businessman John Harden started a campaign thirty years ago to save Monaghan general hospital I reported on the issue for RTÉ News. The Northern Standard through its columnns kept me informed of their activities and played an important role in mobilising support for the group. In June 1983 the headline on the front page read” “Hospital for Sale”. Since then, the Standard has carried hundreds of articles informing people about the issue and taking the politicians to task in its leading articles. Much attention focused on the actions of the health officials who decided that a general or county hospital did not fit the requirements of the 21st Century. The downgrading of local health services continues to make headlines in 2012. This story is just one example of the importance of having a strong local newspaper, prepared to challenge the politicians when necessary and to defend local interests. The archives of the Standard will also be important for any historians wanting to study the saga of the hospital campaign. Who said what and who has ultimately been proven correct. My interest in the story was because my grandfather as the new County Registrar (solicitor) had helped to establish the county hospital. His appointment in 1937 was in the news pages of the Northern Standard. In one of his diaries he recorded how he sent £1 3d to the Northern Standard to ensure he had copies of the weekly paper in 1964. He would post the paper to my uncle Fr Reggie Smyth when he was a missionary priest in Nigeria. Nowadays people at home and abroad have web sites and the internet to keep in touch. But many thankfully still reach for the hard copy of the Standard once it appears in the shops on a Thursday as they want to find out what happened in the county during the week. An important sections in any local newspaper is the one containing news from the villages and the Standard is lucky to have a network of correspondents to fill the relevant columns. This is where the reader will get a sense of what goes on in ordinary life and the slot provides a useful guide to the activities of different groups such as the ICA or the ramblers. Followers of sport whether GAA, rugby or soccer will also find extensive coverage of their teams in the local newspaper. Or if you want to know how to spend your weekend, look at the entertainment pages. The Northern Standard is one of the few Irish newspapers that remains a broadsheet and also in the ownership of a local family, who have always been dedicated to the cause of Monaghan in whatever sector. Let us hope it will continue to provide a valuable service as a paper reflecting events in the county and prepared to take up a cause when necessary in the service of local democracy.

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