Trusted Independent journalism scoops total of seven awards
THE explosive Anglo Tapes and the Irish Independent's innovative reporting of their contents landed two prestigious prizes at the National Newspapers of Ireland Journalism Awards.
Journalist Paul Williams's expose of the toxic lender landed him Scoop of the Year – one of seven awards taken by the Irish Independent, 'Sunday Independent' and Independent.ie.
The group dominated the annual industry awards in a demonstration of its ongoing commitment to breaking stories of international importance, both online and in print.
Special Correspondent Paul Williams was awarded Scoop of the Year for his work in obtaining recordings from inside Anglo Irish Bank as it teetered on the brink.
The groundbreaking treatment of the Anglo Tapes in the newspapers was backed up on Independent.ie which brought the story to life by running audio excerpts from the tapes. The international impact of the story brought hundreds of thousands of readers to the country's leading news website.
This saw the Independent.ie team win the NNI's Digital Award for their breaking news and expanded coverage of the conversations recorded at the lender during its dying days. It was presented to Fionnuala O'Leary, executive editor of Independent.ie, and Paul Williams.
Stephen Rae, editor-in-chief of the Irish Independent, 'Sunday Independent', 'The Herald' and Independent.ie, welcomed the seven awards.
Mr Rae said: "We're thrilled. It's a tribute to the trusted journalism of the Independent brand, both in print and online. I'm absolutely delighted for all our individual winners."
Paul Williams spoke of his delight at the award. "I am really deeply honoured to have achieved these awards. The Anglo Tapes would not have had the impact they had, I believe, if published in any other forum apart from the Irish Independent."
Other awards for the group included Best Foreign Coverage for the Irish Independent and Independent.ie's Jason O'Brien who was smuggled over the border into war-torn Syria.
He was commended for coverage of the stories of personal heartache, which "shone a spotlight on the real cost of war".
Mr O'Brien, who worked closely with photographer Mark Condren on the trip, thanked the Irish Independent editorial team for their support and also aid charity Goal for its information on the ground in Syria.
The Irish Independent's Fiach Kelly won Political Reporter of the Year for his campaigning stories that uncovered the worst excesses of the previous government.
Mr Kelly thanked his colleagues in the Irish Independent newsroom, and also the press gallery in Leinster House.
Neil Francis, of the 'Sunday Independent', was awarded the prize for Sports Columnist of the Year for his "deep understanding" coupled with a "creative writing style", while Barry Egan landed the title of Showbiz Journalist of the Year.
Regular contributor Eoin Butler was recognised as Feature Writer of the Year for his "natural capacity for storytelling".
A special award was also presented posthumously to inspirational teenager Donal Walsh for his outstanding contribution to public debate.
Brendan O'Connor, of the 'Sunday Independent, who presented the award to Donal's mother, Elma, said the young teenager's words were a reminder to "count our blessings and be thankful for the simple things in life".
"Donal, the Celestial Tiger, will forever burn bright in our memory for teaching us to value what we have – when we have it," added O'Connor.
Donal had actively campaigned against teen suicide before his death in May after battling cancer since 2008. He penned a letter outlining his battle with the disease and had called on teenagers to appreciate life in several interviews.
The award for National Journalist of the Year went to Kitty Holland of the 'Irish Times' for her reporting of the Savita Halappanavar story which went on to create headlines around the world.
Michael Brophy, chair of the judging panel, said great stories had "great consequences" and kept the audience spellbound.