Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Journalist accused of being 'unprofessional' after reporting on quad theft meeting

Stock pic
Stock pic
FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

The Mayor of Limerick has accused a journalist of being “unprofessional” for reporting on crime affecting farmers, after he asked her to leave a meeting which was convened to deal with the issue.

The remarks about the Limerick Leader journalist, which were made by Mayor of Limerick City and County Council Stephen Keary during a local area council meeting this week, have been strongly criticised by the editor of the paper, Eugene Phelan.

Councillors were prompted to distance themselves from Cllr Keary’s remarks after an outburst during the official council meeting this Tuesday, at which the journalist in question was in attendance.

He said: “I think it was very poor journalism and very unprofessional of the journalist that, when asked to refrain from making a comment on the meeting, she didn’t do so.”

Cathaoirleach of the district, Cllr Richard O’Donoghue, said that he was “disgusted and disappointed” in Cllr Keary for chairing a meeting on the topic after the public representatives were asked to allow gardai to follow lines of inquiry, and for not inviting the other councillors.

Journalist Maria Flannery was invited by local farmers to attend a meeting on August 31, which was attended by almost 30 members of the public, farmers, as well as Mayor Stephen Keary and two garda representatives.

At the farming meeting, Cllr Keary insisted that the gathering was private, telling farmers that they may make their statements to the press outside the meeting. The farmers voted to continue the meeting without the press present, and Ms Flannery left.

A story on quad bike thefts appeared in the Limerick Leader the following week, after the journalist was contacted by victims of theft who shared their experiences.

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“There was a clear indication from the show of hands that they [the farmers] did not want a member of the media at the meeting. I asked her to leave, and she did,” said Cllr Keary at this week’s council meeting.

“So I was most disappointed when I saw it on the front page of the Limerick Leader last week,” he added.

Independent Cllr Emmett O’Brien distanced himself from the comments about the journalist, saying “I don’t think it's fair to call into question the professional integrity of members of the media”.

“They have a job to do, we have a job to do”.

Sinn Fein Cllr Ciara McMahon did not want to be associated with the comments and said “there is no such thing as a private meeting”.

“I’m not going to target any individual. You were asked to maintain integrity on that issue by the gardai, and the rest of us kept it private.

“It’s very hypocritical to give out to the media about being asked to keep something private, when you made that a public issue,” she told Cllr Keary.

The mayor’s party colleague Cllr Adam Teskey also disassociated himself from the comments.

Editor Eugene Phelan said that the mayor had no business “seeking to effectively censor” the local press.

“After having to apologise for controversial remarks about migrants prior to taking office as mayor, one would have thought that Cllr Stephen Keary would have learnt his lesson. Unfortunately not,” he said.

“To call a young journalist doing her job unprofessional is entirely unacceptable. He succeeded in getting Maria Flannery ejected from a meeting of farmers concerned about thefts, and felt we should not be writing about crime.

“Cllr Keary will not decide what goes in the Limerick Leader. This was a matter of public interest and as such, the public had a right to know about the concerns regarding farm thefts in County Limerick.

“I hope Cllr Keary will have the good grace to apologise,” added the editor.

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