Desmond Fisher Photo: NCR/Pam Bauer

This is the sixth anniversary of my father’s death. The following obituary appeared in The Irish Catholic on January 5th 2015, written by the Editor, Michael Kelly. Today a tweet by him brought the news of the death in Dublin of former Milltown Parish Priest Monsignor Tom Stack. He was a friend of my father and they would meet along with other Vatican watchers Seán Mac Réamoinn RIP, Louis McRedmond RIP and John Horgan, usually over a glass of wine, to discuss the state of the Catholic church post Vatican II. Mgr Stack said Mass when my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary which was followed by a family reunion at Milltown parish hall. Tom Stack also had a keen interest in the Monaghan poet Patrick Kavanagh.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh na n-anamacha.

Death of Vatican II and RTE journalist Desmond Fisher

The late Desmond Fisher, former London Editor, The Irish Press Photo: © Michael Fisher

Des Fisher’s ‘incisive’ work gave Irish Catholics an insight into the momentous event that was Vatican II, writes Michael Kelly.

The death of journalist Desmond Fisher on December 30th at the age of 94 can truly be described as the end of an era.

For decades, Mr Fisher was a prominent journalist who travelled extensively. He made a remarkable contribution to religious affairs, particularly during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) where he reported from Rome for a time. In retirement, he was an occasional contributor to The Irish Catholic.

His reporting was acknowledged as incisive, with Vienna’s Cardinal Franz König reportedly saying that he learned “more of what is going on at the council from your superb reports” than he heard “while on the spot”.

Mr Fisher, as editor of The Catholic Herald, was in Rome in 1962 before the council opened. He also wrote for the Irish Press, giving Irish Catholics an insight into the momentous event that was Vatican II.


According to Arthur Jones, who worked closely with Mr Fisher, when the latter resigned in 1966, an anonymous article in Herder Correspondence described the backdrop.

“Many bishops in England and Scotland, plus Dublin’s overbearing Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, had strongly opposed Fisher’s interpretation of council events – McQuaid called it ‘very objectionable.’ “When Fisher resigned, dozens of other bishop-attendees wrote to say quite the opposite,” according to Mr Jones.

He was born in Derry in 1920 and his first foray in to journalism was at the age of 25. Mr Fisher and his wife, Margaret (Peggy), wed in 1948 and marked their 65th wedding anniversary in 2013. For four years, Mr Fisher was with the Irish Press, and in 1952 became its London editor and daily columnist. He became the Press political correspondent and travelled widely in the early 1960s.

In 1962, he wrote in The Catholic Herald that a lay-owned and independent Catholic paper had “a freedom that is journalistically necessary if it is to carry out what it conceives to be its function and which relieves the hierarchy and the clergy generally of any responsibility for opinions expressed in its columns”.

It is a sentiment very close to the heart of The Irish Catholic.

He began working for RTÉ in 1973 and was, for 14 years, Ireland correspondent for The Economist.

Desmond Fisher died peacefully in Blackrock Hospice after a short illness. He is survived by his wife Peggy, daughter Carolyn, sons Michael, Hugh and John, daughters-in-law Evelyn, Ruth and Carmel, grandchildren Sarah, Clare, Sam and Lucy, sister Deirdre, sisters-in-law Nuala Fisher and Sr Nora Smyth, nephews, nieces and a wide circle of friends.

Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace.


Investigation into Larry Goodman’s €4bn business empire wins 2020 Guild of Agricultural Journalism awards

Agri Guild Awards were hosted by RTE Broadcaster Damien O’Reilly and Chair of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists, Amy Forde

The Guild of Agricultural Journalists in Ireland has announced the overall winner of the 2020 Guild of Agricultural Journalism Awards went to Lorcan Allen and Hannah Quinn-Mulligan from the farming newspaper the Irish Farmer’s Journal for ‘Larry Goodman’s finances’, a three-week investigative series which ran in July 2020. The feature series explored the corporate structures behind ABP Food Group. The investigation was the first time detailed financial information on the profits, asset values and corporate structure within the ABP Group was published in the public domain in Ireland and was selected by an independent judging panel of industry and media experts as the overall winner from a shortlist of thirty entries.
Commenting on the winning entry, chair of the judging panel Johnny O’Hanlon, Director of Local Ireland said: “While this has been an extraordinarily difficult year, it certainly didn’t deter the enthusiasm of journalists and industry communicators, judging by the volume of entries received across all categories and that the judges were struck by the high categories of entries across the categories. On this year’s judging panel, I was joined by Professor Karina Pierce (Enterprise Ireland), Anna Marie McHugh (National Ploughing Association), Richard Wright (former BBC NI agriculture correspondent) and Declan Malone, former editor of The Kerryman. We enjoyed plenty of lively discussion and debate to reach agreement on the shortlist of entries across each of the categories. Indeed, the liveliness intensified when it came to agreeing the category winners and reached a crescendo when it came to the arduous decision of who would be awarded the prestigious and much coveted Bull.

‘The Bull’ trophy for the overall winner of the 2020 GAJ Awards

The awards which are held every two years and supported by FBD Insurance aim to encourage excellence in the coverage of farming, food and rural life on the island of Ireland. Chair of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists, Amy Forde said: “As Chair of the southern section I was delighted to see over 200 entries for this year’s awards, with best news article and best feature article attracting almost ninety entries between them. To reflect the year, we also introduced two new categories – best COVID reporting and best COVID communications – acknowledging how we as communicators had a very important role to play. Rising Star is another new category which was added as the Guild wished to recognise those that will take the industry forward.”

“We are incredibly grateful to our judging panel who had a mammoth task in both selecting the shortlist and the overall winners. I would like to thank FBD for thier support once again, I would like to commend all of those who entered our awards for doing your part in encouraging healthy competition and promoting excellence in the reporting of agricultural and rural issues year round.”
John Cahalan, Chief Sales Officer, FBD Insurance plc added, ““I’m delighted to virtually support and celebrate the 2020 Guild of Agricultural Journalism awards. FBD is proud of our longstanding relationship and sponsorship of this event, which celebrates excellence in agricultural journalism. In a world with so much information and misinformation surrounding us on a daily basis, never before has there been a greater need to support, recognise and reward quality journalism. It is very positive to note, with the high number of submissions, that this competition continues to go from strength to strength.”

The awards also featured an address by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, “To be recognised by your peers as being the best in any field is something that professionals strive for their entire career but only a few can achieve. To win an award of this nature is a tremendous achievement.

“I am heartened by the state of the agricultural media at present – storytelling is needed more than ever and to have such a depth of talent in the sector can only be good for us as consumers of media. I congratulate all involved in the Guild of Agricultural Journalists Awards 2020 and I extend a special word of note to all the winners.”

The overall winners in each category were:

Best news article
Over 28,000ac of farmland controlled by vulture funds – Hannah Quinn-Mulligan, Irish Farmers Journal

Best visual report
Cashel Mart – Paula Williams & Helen Carroll, Indiepics – Ear to the Ground

Best feature article
Larry Goodman’s finances – a three-week investigative series – Lorcan Allen & Hannah Quinn-Mulligan, Irish Farmers Journal

Best audio report            
Potato harvest – Fran McNulty, RTÉ

Best technical article
Natural capital – Odile Evans, Irish Farmers Journal

Best COVID reporting 
COVID-19 virus knows no borders – Michael Fisher, The Northern Standard

Best targeted campaign
ABP Angus youth challenge Northern Ireland – MF Communication

Best COVID communications
Certified Irish Angus repositioning campaign in the year of COVID – Gemma Smyth Communications

Best photograph
Wild Atlantic – Valerie O’Sullivan

Rising Star
Hannah Quinn-Mulligan, Irish Farmers Journal


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 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.


A good explanation of why the Dons Bond is now being issued to help fund the shortfall for construction of the new stadium. There is also a good explanation about how it differs from the recent Seedrs crowd funding initiative that has raised over £3 million.

The Wimbledon Way

The Plough Lane Bond has been launched!

This supporters’ initiative now being operating by the Dons Trust offers the very best possible vehicle for funding the development of Plough Lane and retaining control of the club we have ploughed so much time, money and effort into, since reforming Wimbledon in 2002.

Tangible progress is being made on the fantastic main stand. Wimbledon supporters can see how close we are to achieving the goal of returning to Plough Lane as a trust-owned football club. The whys and wherefores of accepting outside investment have been debated at length elsewhere. But the incredible efforts of Wimbledon supporters from Finance and Investment backgrounds has offered a concrete alternative to selling the football club. The Bond gives supporters and the wider community a chance to lend funds and continue progress on the stadium. It also opens up other credible avenues of financing the build which…

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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: 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 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.