It seems strange writing about my mother and wishing her a very Happy 100th Birthday without being present in the family home in South Dublin where she has lived since 1968. But the coronavirus emergency means everyone staying at home and keeping in contact via video conferencing and other means. Thanks to my brother John we were able to share the birthday party and see the cards, cake and of course the letter from the President.

Peggy Fisher celebrating her 100th birthday

Margaret Mary Elizabeth Smyth was born at the family home at Conabury, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan (Big Tom country) on 31st March 1920. Her parents (my grandparents) were John F. Smyth, solicitor, and Elizabeth Smyth (née McCann from Aughnacloy) who was a nurse at the original St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin.

Birthday Cake

Mum was the third of nine children, four of them boys of whom two were priests, Fr Harry Smyth CM and Fr Reggie Smyth SPS. Both of the served on the missions, including Nigeria. The only surviving sibling is the youngest daughter, Sr Nora Smyth RSCJ, a Sacred Heart nun in Armagh. My mother attended the convent there as a boarder. Thank you to all the SH sisters who sent cards to Mum and remembered her in their prayers.

Back L-R (Fr) Reggie, Peggy, Eugene, Finbarr; Front L-R Nora, Dorothy, Fr Harry, Olive, Marie Smyth from Castleblayney



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. 



Extracts from an Irish Times article from May 4th 1998 written by Michael Foley.

“The leaders of Nigeria, Burma, Belarus, Cuba, and Indonesia are among the world’s “10 Enemies of the Press” named by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on World Press Freedom Day . Nigeria’s military ruler, Gen Sani Abacha, was named as the worst enemy of the press. Nigeria now holds more journalists in prison than any other African nation.

In Dublin, the Catholic Church’s development agency, Trocaire, marked World Press Freedom Day by calling on the Government to push at the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting for an oil embargo on Nigeria to protest at its military regime’s violations of press freedom.

The National Union of Journalists in Ireland called for an end of the widespread practice of local authorities conducting business in private, or “in committee”.

Local authorities and other bodies continue to hold meetings in private to discuss issues of major public interest, including planning, housing and the development of amenities, said the chairman of the NUJ’s Irish executive, Michael Fisher. He called for the end of Ireland’s culture of secrecy, the repeal of the Official Secrets Act and reform of Ireland’s “draconian” libel laws.

National Newspapers of Ireland, the lobby group for the main newspaper titles, said in a statement figures from the World Association of Newspapers show that 138 journalists are being held in prison in 24 countries.”



May Day Parade Belfast Pic. © Kevin Cooper

To NUJ members living in the Republic of Ireland: you should have received an email reminder today from headquarters to use your vote in the NUJ National Executive Council election and where relevant, for the following Councils:

  • NEC – Republic of Ireland ** TWO SEATS
  • NEC – Black Members’ seat
  • NEC – New Media seat
  • NEC – Photographers’ seat
  • Ethics Council – Freelance seat

The closing deadline for the election is at midday on Wednesday 29th January 2020, so please return your ballot paper now to ensure it reaches London by this date. A reply-paid envelope was enclosed with the voting paper and information about each of the four (myself and three job share) candidates. The others are Dara Bradley and Damien Tiernan; Emma O’Kelly and Saoirse McGonagle; and Gerry Curran and Fran McNulty.

Thank you for your support. It’s your union. Participation is vital and voting in an election is one way you can play your part, as it is on the wider stage with a general election contest underway.

VOTE FISHER #1 and then 2, 3, 4 in order of preference. Thank you to all those who have already voted.

If you have not received your ballot paper, please contact elections@nuj.org.uk who will issue a replacement straight away. A few people have already done so. If your address held on file by the Membership Department is out of date eg because you have moved, you must inform them of your new address.




Protesting in support of Dunnes Stores workers at the company’s HQ in Dublin June 2015: Joe Costello former Labour TD and Michael Fisher

NUJ MEMBERS: Have you voted yet in the election for two representatives from the Republic of Ireland to serve on the National Executive Council of the National Union of Journalists? If you live in the constituency (the 26 Counties) then you are entitled to a vote. The ballot papers were sent out from England before Christmas and contain a pamphlet with statements from all the candidates and a reply paid envelope for the ballot paper. So please VOTE NOW if you have not already done so.

Talking to one of the other candidates at today’s meeting of NUJ representatives in Dublin, and from speaking to a colleague, it appears that some members eligible to vote did not receive a ballot paper.

Please contact: elections@nuj.org.uk or telephone the office in London on: +442078433700 if you did not receive a ballot paper and arrangements will be made to send out a new one. What appears to have happened is that the central database contains addresses of members that are out of date. People might have moved on and not told the union about their new address. If you are in that situation please advise the NUJ membership department in London.

Thank you to those who have already voted in this election.

There are four candidates, myself and three others who are all contesting the election as job shares. Vote 1,2,3,4 in order of preference. Dara Bradley & Damien Tiernan (Job-share); Gerry Curran & Fran McNulty (Job-share); Michael Fisher, and Emma O Kelly & Saoirse McGarrigle (Job-Share)


VOTE FISHER #1 in the election for the National Executive Council 2020. This is another reminder to those eligible to vote in the republic of Ireland to send in your completed ballot paper now. A reply paid envelope was enclosed with the election literature to send the form back to London.

THANK YOU if you have already voted. There is still time to vote. Four candidates including myself (three of them job shares between two people) are standing in the election.


NUJ seminar on proposed local radio bill (1983)

News conference on proposed local radio Bill 1983 with Dublin Broadcasting Branch officers including (R-L) Michael Fisher, Charlie Bird, Minister for Communications Ted Nealon, Patrick Kinsella, RTÉ Deputy DG Vincent Finn and Roberta Wallace.                        Pic. RTÉ Stills Library.

This “blast from the past” from the RTÉ Stills Library shows an NUJ (National Union of Journalists) seminar on the proposed local radio bill to end RTÉ’s radio monopoly, held at the Montrose Hotel, Dublin, on 6th October 1983. At the top table are (L-R): Roberta Wallace (NUJ Branch Secretary); RTÉ Deputy Director-General Vincent Finn; RTÉ News correspondent and Chairman of the NUJ Dublin Broadcasting Branch, Patrick Kinsella; Minister for Communications Ted Nealon; RTÉ News reporter and Vice-Chairman of the NUJ’s Broadcasting Branch Charlie Bird, and RTÉ News reporter and Branch Treasurer, Michael Fisher.


VOTE FISHER #1. I received my NUJ Life Membership in Belfast in 2014. I am standing for election to the National Executive Council to represent the Republic of Ireland. So if you have not yet voted, please do so now. Use the reply paid envelope that came with the ballot paper. Thank you if you have already voted. If you did not receive a ballot paper please contact elections@nuj.org.uk. If the union does not have the correct up-to-date address for you then it will have been sent to an old address and you will need to inform Headland House so that they can update their records.     VOTE FISHER #1.

Michael Fisher presented with NUJ life membership by Seamus Dooley  Photo:  © Kevin Cooper

Michael Fisher presented with NUJ life membership by Seamus Dooley Photo: © Kevin Cooper

At a meeting organised by the Belfast and District Branch of the National Union of Journalists a number of reporters and a photographer were awarded life membership of the union, having belonged to the NUJ for over forty years. I was presented with my certificate by the Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley and somehow I managed to receive two of them! Seamus pointed out that my (late) father Des was also a long-time NUJ member (he helped to start the Irish South Eastern Branch when he started work in Carlow) as is my sister Carolyn who also worked in RTÉ.

Michael Fisher presented with 1913 lockout centenary coin by Gerry Curran  Photo:  © Kevin Cooper

Michael Fisher presented with 1913 lockout centenary coin by Gerry Curran Photo: © Kevin Cooper

The Cathaoirleach of the Irish Executive Council Gerry Curran presented me with a limited edition coin, issued last year to mark the centenary of the 1913 lockout in Dublin, which I was very proud to receive in recognition of my contribution to the NUJ in Ireland and Britain. I joined the union in July 1974, becoming a member of the London Radio Branch when I worked in the BBC Radio Newsroom at Broadcasting House as a News Trainee. I later joined the Birmingham Branch when I moved to the West Midlands in 1975. I then joined Dublin Broadcasting Branch on taking up a position with RTÉ News in Dublin in January 1979. I transferred to Belfast in August 1984, becoming a member of Northern Ireland Broadcasting Branch, subsequently amalgamated with Belfast and District.

NUJ life member Michael Fisher with former RTÉ News cameraman Bryan Drysdale  Photo:  © Kevin Cooper

NUJ life member Michael Fisher with former RTÉ News cameraman Bryan Drysdale Photo: © Kevin Cooper

I remember the Broadcasting Branch Treasurer at the time was Austin Hunter of BBC Northern Ireland (now deceased). He was awarded life membership (44 years a member), along with two of his former BBC colleagues, David Lynas and Noel McCartney. Noel who had served on the union’s National Executive Council, was congratulated on the achievement by Gerry Curran.

NUJLOGOA fifth life membership went to photographer Alan Lewis, a familiar figure in Belfast media circles. He joined the NUJ over 40 years ago. He received his certificate from the President of the International Federation of Journalists, Jim Boumelha, another NUJ stalwart.