Fresh calls for UL to drop legal action against Limerick Leader


Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Fresh calls for UL to drop legal action against Limerick Leader

Tom Felle, City University London and former head of journalism at UL, Bryan Dobson, RTÉ, NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Doooley, at the Journalism in Times of Crisis conference in UL Picture: Sean Curtin

THE Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists has made fresh calls for the University of Limerick to withdraw its High Court action against the Limerick Leader and its editor Alan English.

Secretary Seamus Dooley was one of some-30 journalists, academics and theorists who attended the all-day Journalism in Times of Crisis symposium at UL, on Thursday.

At a panel discussion on media ownership, chaired by RTÉ’s Bryan Dobson, Mr Dooley began the talk by strongly criticising UL’s legal action against the newspaper.

“I was delighted to get a letter from UL inviting me, because this University has failed to respond, at all, to any of correspondence from me in relation to the libel threat against the Limerick Leader, and I call again today for that threat to be withdrawn," he said.

“I think it is inappropriate, in particular, for a university like this to threaten to sue a local newspaper and, personally, the editor,” he added.

Former head of journalism at UL, Tom Felle, described it as a “bully-boy” legal action that was “ill-advised”.

“I would like to echo Seamus’ concern about the threat to the local newspaper in this city by the university. I think it is a very regrettable move that a university would threaten the right of the local newspaper to publish a story in the public interest," he said.

“I would call on wiser heads to prevail. And I think that there are structures around the Press Ombudsman that can be used, if there is a grievance between both parties. And, indeed, the National Union of Journalists has a role to play, as well. I think spending students’ fees on expensive lawyers is not the way to conduct business. I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest for the Limerick Leader to be threatened.”

Mr Felle, now a lecturer at City University, London, also discussed paying for news in the digital era.

Investigative journalist, Gemma Doherty, kicked-off the conference at 10am, discussing media concentration and power.

Coverage of the economic crash was discussed in the Millstream Building by a number of academics, including UL journalism lecturer, Henry Silke.

UL lecturer Fergal Quinn discussed coverage of the Carrickmines tragedy and how the Travelling community was represented in the media, in an afternoon political discussion alongside national academics.

The final panel discussion examined media coverage of Irish Water protests. Dr Eoin Devereux presented his research ‘The Reasonable People versus The Sinister Fringe’, which analysed the question of media bias on water charge protests. He was joined by TD Paul Murphy, Irish Independent journalist Ralph Riegel and UTV journalist Eric Clarke.

UL head of journalism, Mary Dundon said: “I think today’s conference has been excellent in raising serious questions about where journalism is going now, and it’s not only the threat of social media that is leading to the dumbing down of reporting, but also media organisations (that) are starving their publications of resources to do good investigative work.”