May Day Parade in Belfast

No, it’s not about the general election! Nor is it an encouragement to vote repeatedly! When it comes to the election of two representatives from the Republic of Ireland on the National Executive Council of the National Union of Journalists, it’s very much one fully paid-up member, one vote!

NUJ group in Belfast May Day Parade

This is a final reminder to everyone who has not completed their ballot paper, posted out before Christmas, to do so now. Vote 1,2,3,4 in order of choice. Place the completed form in the pre-paid envelope that was provided and send it in the post NOW to the electoral company in London that is running the ballot on behalf of the NUJ. The latest posting date in order to ensure your vote is included is effectively tomorrow, as the envelopes sent by air mail must arrive by midday on Wednesday 29th January. The count will then take place.

Michael Fisher (second right) outside the High Court in Belfast with NUJ members from Belfast Branch and Derry and District Branch supporting Trevor McBirney and Barry McCaffrey.

Many thanks to all those who have participated already, especially if you gave me a number one (or two) vote. For the record, there are four candidates (seven people) seeking election to the to seats. The others are Dara Bradley and Damien Tiernan (jobshare), Gerry Curran and Fran McNulty (jobshare), Emma O’Kelly and Saoirse McGarrigle (also jobshare).

Michael Fisher of the NUJ (NEC member for Republic of Ireland) addressing a meeting in Belfast to mark United Nations World Press Freedom Day organised jointly with the UN Association of Northern Ireland entitled “The Media and Democracy – why journalism matters.” Photo © Kevin Cooper

I am seeking your first preference vote for the following reasons:

FUTURE OF THE UNION                                                                                                 There is an urgent need to examine closely the union’s finances. The NEC Finance Committee of which I am a member has considered proposals, which I have commented on at meetings and supported. If the union is to remain an independent voice for journalism rather than be merged with a larger union, members must now take urgent action and decide on an increase in union subscriptions.   

PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING                                                                                 The future of public service broadcasting is an important issue. At our recent Biennial Delegate Conference in Dublin, a campaign was launched, “It’s your RTÉ: Save it! Sabháil RTÉ: Is leatsa é!” I was pleased to support the campaign along with some of my former RTÉ colleagues who were being awarded NUJ life membership. I was among the speakers at Conference criticising successive governments that have refused to provide adequate funding for RTÉ by reforming the licence fee. RTÉ management has failed to present a realistic, strategic plan for the organisation.   

REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS                                                                                                I served on the Irish Executive Council (IEC) representing regional newspapers 2017-19. The union objected to the proposed acquisition of Celtic Media by Independent News and Media.  I made a submission to the Broadcasting Authority, stressing the importance of diversity of ownership. At the IEC biennial delegate conference (BDC) in November 2017, I spoke on reports that the businessman Denis O’Brien of Independent News and Media (INM) was attempting to take over Celtic Media Group (regional newspaper company). I said there must be a limit to which the likes of Denis O’Brien could go. “Local newspapers are at the heart of communities, reporting sports, courts and council matters. The whole future of this coverage is at threat because of ownership structures and that is why we need changes to the current (Irish) competition legislation.” As a journalist with a Co. Monaghan paper, I continue to represent my colleagues at chapel level.

MEDIA FREEDOM                                                                                                           Following the killing of Lyra McKee I attended vigils in Derry and Dungannon and helped organise an NUJ tribute at her funeral in Belfast. A few weeks later, I took part in the annual Irish Congress of Trade Unions May Day parade in Belfast. This year I acted as a steward. The previous day, UN World Press Freedom Day, Belfast and District Branch organised an important conference in conjunction with the United Nations Association (Northern Ireland) on safety for journalists, which I spoke at. On the NEC Finance Committee, I commended the legal officer’s work to support investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney in the aftermath of police raids on their homes and office arising from their documentary “No Stone Unturned”. The Belfast High Court decision quashing warrants for their arrest was a significant vindication of the NUJ Code of Conduct. Trevor and Barry continue to need our support.        

UNION OFFICES                                                                                                              I am Chair of Irish Eastern Branch and currently represent the NEC on the Irish Executive Council, of which I am a former Cathaoirleach. Since joining the London Radio Branch in 1974, I have held chapel and branch offices in Birmingham, Dublin, Belfast and now Monaghan. I am a life member. I attended and participated in Delegate Meetings on various occasions since Glasgow in 1989. Other offices held include Chair of the IEC Northern Ireland sub committee 2009-2014 and NI representative on the Council. I have served on the Broadcasting Industrial Council, Ethics Council, and was a member of the Appeals Tribunal. 


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