There have been calls for Mayor Stephen Keary to apologise
THE Mayor of Limerick has accused a Limerick Leader 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, which were made by Mayor Stephen Keary during a local area council meeting this week, have been strongly criticised by the editor of the paper, Eugene Phelan (see comment below).
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 Maria Flannery 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.”
Ms Flannery was invited by local farmers to attend a meeting on August 31 over thefts from farms in the county.
Almost 30 members of the public, farmers and farming representatives attended the meeting, as well as Mayor Stephen Keary and two senior gardaí from the Newcastle West district. Ms Flannery was also in attendance.
At the farming meeting, Cllr Keary insisted that the gathering was private, and asked farmers to vote on whether they wanted the press there or not. Cllr Keary said that farmers may make their statements to the press outside the meeting. They voted to continue the meeting without the press present. Ms Flannery left.
A story on quad bike thefts appeared in the Limerick Leader last week, after the journalist was contacted by victims of theft who shared their experiences.
“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. I was most disappointed when I saw it on the front page of the Limerick Leader last week,” the mayor said at this week’s council meeting.
Cathaoirleach of the district, Cllr Richard O’Donoghue, said that he was “disappointed” in Cllr Keary for calling a meeting after the public representatives were asked to allow gardai to follow lines of inquiry.
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 at that meeting, 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, it appears 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.”
COMMENT | Our journalist deserves apology from mayor
CLLR Stephen Keary, the Mayor of Limerick City and County, owes an apology to Leader journalist Maria Flannery.
An outstanding young reporter, Maria wrote a story last week about deep concern over the theft of dozens of quad bikes from farms in County Limerick. She had been asked to attend a meeting in Rathkeale called over the spate of thefts. It was attended by more than 30 farmers, gardai from the Newcastle West division — and Mayor Keary. Without any justification whatsoever, Mayor Keary called for a vote seeking to have our reporter excluded from this important meeting — even though she had been invited by some of the farmers present.
Mayor Keary’s vote was passed — but thankfully it did not prevent our reporter from informing you, our readers. Like any good journalist, she spoke to several of those present and reported their concerns accurately. Incredibly, however, the mayor saw fit to denigrate our journalist at a local area council meeting this week, claiming she had been “unprofessional” in reporting the facts, after he had sought to exclude her from the meeting.
For this, he was rightly condemned by his council colleagues, who also wondered why they were not invited to the same meeting. This was a matter of public interest and Mayor Keary had no business seeking to effectively censor the local newspaper.
It is not up to him — or indeed any other politician — to decide what the Limerick Leader does or does not publish. The least Mayor Keary should do is apologise to a journalist who was only doing her job.