THE National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has lashed out at remarks by Finance Minister Michael Noonan who claimed that investigating the Anglo tapes was “mucking around in Garda business”.
NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said Mr Noonan’s apparent reference to the Irish Independent’s explosive revelations about the recordings – and his announcement of moves to investigate who leaked the tapes – saying the minister’s comments were “off the wall”.
Mr Noonan yesterday revealed that IBRC’s special liquidators have established an probe to determine the source of the tapes and it is understood that gardai may also be asked to investigate.
He said that he hadn’t made the decision to pursue the source of the tapes but took a swipe any investigation of the Anglo Tapes not conducted by the gardai.
Mr Dooley said Mr Noonan’s description of investigation journalism was “reflective of a degree of arrogance and ignorance on the part of a senior government minister”.
He said that “an already enraged pubic has been left reeling by the revelation that public funds are to be devoted to uncovering the source of the leak to the Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent rather than a public investigation which exposes the truth.”
He said the newspapers “have done a public service by revealing the contempt in which Anglo Irish Bank executives held not just the government but the Irish people and had acted responsibly in the manner in which the Anglo Tapes have been put in to the public domain.
“The tapes reveal uncomfortable truths, the essence of public interest journalism”, he said, continuing: “In the world inhabited by Mr Noonan only state authorities would appear to have the right to ask questions, to shine a light into dark corners, to seek the truth.”
The Anglo Tapes were released by the Irish Independent and Independent.ie last week. The contents of the tapes caused international headlines and have prompted calls for a banking inquiry.
According to Mr Dooley, the argument that only gardai investigate wrongdoing is an insult to the work of investigative journalists in the print and broadcast media.
He said: “Without the ‘messing around’ of Veronica Guerin we would not have had the Criminal Assets Bureau, without the ‘messing around’ of George Lee and Charlie Bird the wrong doing at the National Irish Bank would not have been exposed, without ‘Prime Time Investigates’ we would never have known about the vile abuse at Leas Cross Nursing Home.”
He pointed out that Veronica Guerin and, in Northern Ireland Martin O’Hagan, have paid the ultimate price for their public interest journalism.
Mr Dooley said it is “ironic” that Mr Noonan had commented only hours after publication of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, also known as the Whistleblowing Bill.
He said: “If this government is committed to open public administration Mr Noonan and his colleagues must recognise that the essence of open government is genuine transparency complemented by a free media.”