Tag Archives: Today With Seán O’Rourke

St Mary’s Hospital in Phoenix Park, Dublin where 11 residents have died, ten of whom who tested positive for Covid-19 and one who is suspected to have had it

Earlier today.

On RTE’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.

Mr O’Rourke spoke to Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond, Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan, Irish Daily Mail and Sunday Times columnist Brenda Power, and Irish Examiner special correspondent Mick Clifford during the show’s The Gathering slot.

They were discussing Covid-19-related deaths in Irish nursing homes, of which there have been 253 to date, when some of the panelists had this exchange.

[There have been 486 Covid-19-related deaths recorded to date]

Seán O’Rourke: “Brenda Power, do you agree with the suggestion that the authorities where, the nursing homes were considered certainly, may have taken their eye off the ball? Just because they were concentrating on the acute hospitals?”

Brenda Power: “Although, you know, for a start, I do know from friends who have parents and so on in nursing homes, they did, a lot of them did take action quite early on before there was any obligation on them to do so, to restrict visiting and so on. So, I do think it’s unfair to blame the staff or to point the finger in any way at the staff of the nursing homes.

“I was talking to a GP friend of mine, asking, you know, how come the attrition rate is so high. Well, first of all, you’re talking about a very vulnerable cohort which, of course, you could say, well it should have been foreseen.

“But, also, you know, they fall, they get sick, they break hips, they have to go into the general hospitals and they were bringing back the virus with them before anybody knew how widespread it was. So, you know, yes, of course, we’re playing catch-up. But, god Seán, in so many areas, in regard to this, this, these unprecedented times, we’re doing the best we can. We really are.

“And I mean I wonder if, I do wonder if whether the numbers, losing their lives in the nursing homes, is in particularly stark contrast to the relatively small numbers dying in the communities, compared to say the UK, Wales and Scotland included. You know, I think it may look an awful lot worse. And, plus, I think we’re being more honest about them to be honest.

“Because I think it’s emerging that the numbers in the North, for instance, that they’re not releasing the correct numbers or there might be a bit of massaging of figures of the people dying in nursing homes going on.”


O’Rourke: “Brenda Power, the other thing is that we’ve seen the coroners say that they need to maybe be a bit more rigorous in identifying Covid-related deaths to that, as opposed to maybe having, putting on the [death] certs respiratory issues or whatever.”

Power: “Yeah, well, I mean, again, I’d be reluctant to categorise that as any attempt at fudge or cover-up. I believe they have up to three months, for a start, to certify a cause of death.

“And, secondly, I would say it’s probably the case that people are dying with Covid-19, in some cases, and maybe not necessarily of it. So it may be, it may be a case of semantics in some instances.

“Again, I’m reluctant to go down the line of assuming that there’s any attempt to… fudge…”

O’Rourke: “No, no, that’s not being suggested. But there maybe needs to be a bit of rigour, the way, about the way this thing is being approached. What would you say to that, Mick Clifford?”

Michael Clifford: “Yeah, I suppose there could be, Seán. But I would tend to agree with that, that you know, you are dealing with a scenario whereby an awful lot of these people have underlying conditions, unfortunately.

“And the reality is that, unfortunately, is that life expectancy for a number of them would not be great. And therefore, along comes this, and in some instances, it’s not recorded specifically like this.

“I mean, I don’t think there’s an underhand attempt to cover it up or anything but you are dealing with a pretty chaotic situation as we can see. Particularly, we’ve seen a couple of [nursing] homes in Dublin and Portlaoise, for instance, where you’ve large numbers of people losing their lives. And I can understand why, in that scenario, there could be some shortcomings in that regard.”

O’Rourke: “And I suppose…”

Power: “Seán, can I just say…”

O’Rourke: “Yes, Brenda…”

Power: “…before we terrorise people, you know, let’s remember that 70 per cent of nursing homes have no virus, they’re free of the virus. I know it’s desperately worrying for the people in the 30 per cent bracket but that’s still quite an impressive statistic in the circumstances.”

Listen back in full here

Related: Coronavirus kills 11 residents over two weeks in Dublin care home for the elderly (The Irish Times)

Previously: The Reporting Of Deaths

Counting ‘Every Death’ That ‘Involves A Positive COVID-19 Test’


From top: members of The Black and Tans ; Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, right, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, centre, with Minster for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys, left, and Minister for Rural and Community Affairs Michael Ring (second from right) at a Fine Gael ‘think-in’ last September; a tweet from the taoiseach this morning.

This evening.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has released the following statement:

“As a Government, we have at all times sought to have a national programme of commemorations that is authentic, sensitive and inclusive.

“We very much support the recommendation that there should be specific State-led initiatives to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP).

“However, given the disappointing response of some to the planned event on 17th January, I do not believe that the event, as planned, can now take place in an atmosphere that meets the goals and guiding principles of the overall commemorative programme.

“Therefore, I am announcing its deferral.”

“I know that, regrettably, this decision will be a cause of hurt and upset to many people. I commit to proceeding with an alternative commemoration in the months ahead.

“As a next step, I will consult further with the expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemoration, with the all-party consultative group on commemoration and with other stakeholders, with a view to organising an event that is inclusive and fully respectful of all the traditions and memories on this island.”

Govt defers RIC commemoration event (RTÉ)




Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin released the following statement in respect of the controversial ceremony to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police on January 17 in Dublin Castle…

“Over the last twenty years a model of inclusive commemoration has been developed and implemented by successive governments. Central to this has been the role of public consultation and expert advice.

“The government has caused an unnecessary controversy around this RIC/DMP event by abandoning this approach.

“Recommendations on the commemoration of the War of Independence and Civil War were submitted to government by an all-party and expert group two years following a widespread public consultation.

“These recommendations were accepted by government. While these recommendations included the sensible view that the role of the RIC should be remembered in some way, there was no discussion involving the most appropriate method of doing so.

“An all-inclusive event, remembering all who died during the War of Independence is already scheduled and it was understood by all involved that this would be an appropriate moment to demonstrate that we also remember those who did not support the struggle for national independence which was secured by the men and women who are the focus of many other events.

“It is important to explore every element of this period and use this time as an opportunity to properly discuss every aspect of a complex history.

“It is also undeniably true that many decent people joined the police force of the day for legitimate reasons but found themselves on the wrong side of history. Indeed, elements of the RIC worked closely with those fighting for Irish freedom at great personal risk.

“I am acutely conscious also of how this controversy, and some of the language being used in the debate surrounding it, will be received by different traditions in Northern Ireland.

“We need to have a calm and mature discussion. In my view, the event organised by the Justice Minister is not the appropriate vehicle to explore such complex themes.

“It was an error of judgement compounded by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their reaction to those who have decided not to participate.

“They should withdraw their accusation that, to quote Minister Flanagan, those who choose not to attend this event are abandoning “mutual understanding and reconciliation”.

“The years ahead will have many anniversaries that will pose difficulties and confront us with challenging questions about the country’s journey to independence.

“It is critically important that we come through this process in a spirit of honesty and reconciliation.

“We need to rediscover the generosity that informed the 1916 commemorations and return to the open engagement and consultation of that process.

“This event will go ahead, and those who wish to participate in it should be fully respected in doing so.

“However, I also believe that the special cross-party committee on commemorations should be reconvened to consult on future commemorations and that it be asked to look again at the question of how we appropriately appraise and remember the activities of the RIC and the DMP over the course of the coming years.”


From top: Dublin City Council Fine Gael councillor Anne Feeney; How Dublin City Councillors voted last night on the motion to boycott the RIC commemoration service;

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, presented by Cormac Ó hEadhra.

Fine Gael councillor on Dublin City Council Anne Feeney spoke to Mr Ó hEadhra about last night’s vote by the council to boycott the national commemoration service for the Royal Irish Constabulary.

The motion to boycott the event was passed by 38 votes to ten.

Ms Feeney was one of the ten councillors to vote against it.

This morning, shetold Mr Ó hEadhra:

“Firstly, what I want to say, I want to acknowledge the great job that state and the country and Government, and all parties involved, did, in relation to the commemoration of the 1916 patriots and events.

“We did that with great respect and with great dignity.

“And I think people generally felt part of that. And many of us remember the relatives who fought and sacrificed in relation to that.

“We’re now heading into much trickier water with the forthcoming commemorations around the War of Independence, the Civil War and various others.

“And I’m not sure we’re ready for this.

“My personal view is that we maybe should reconsider these commemorations in terms of what we’re trying to achieve. And are we just opening up division and derision which I’d hoped we were leaving behind in relation to how Irish we are.”

Asked if she’ll stay away from the commemoration or if she’ll attend, she said:

“Well I wasn’t invited, so that hasn’t arisen at this point. But, you know, I prefer to look forward and I prefer to…”

When she was asked if she thinks it’s a “good thing to commemorate the RIC”, she said:

“It depends on the commemoration really. And it depends on the appetite for it in the country. You know, I think we have to listen to people, we have to listen to the public and certainly there were very decent people in the RIC as well as rogues.

“And, you know, I think, for a family of deceased members of these, some form of commemoration that would be apt for them, at least appropriate. But I think we need to take, you know, take on board the temperature and listen to people.

“A lot of people feel it’s not appropriate at this point.”

It was put to Ms Feeney that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who supports the initiative, suggested that councillors or mayors who do not wish to attend should “at least allow someone in their stead”.

Ms Feeney said:

“Well I think they should allow them go. But I think, you know, it’s up to individuals to make up their own mind in relation to it.

“And what Minister Charlie Flanagan has stated is, is that this commemoration is to commemorate the role of Irish men in the RIC police force in Ireland, not the black and tans, not the rogue ones, not the dysfunctional ones.

“Now that’s the official line on that but we just need, we all need to be sensitive and respectful of each other as we go forward.

“I think as a nation, we should have matured that much.”

Listen back in full here

Earlier: “Obscene”

Pic of votes: Claire Dunne

From top: Social Welfare office; RTÉ Montrose; Sean O’Rourke (above left) and  Paddy O’Gorman

This week.

A 100 per cent “Christmas Bonus” social welfare payment is paid to all recipients of long-term social welfare payments.

In light of this, there was an item about this payment on RTÉ Radio One Today with Seán O’Rourke with Paddy O’Gorman earlier today, during which Mr O’Gorman chatted to some people who were receiving it.

Further to this..

Frances Byrne tweetz:

It’s ‘double social welfare week’ according to Today with Seán O’Rourke and there’ll be a Paddy O’Gorman piece this morning with people receiving this annual payment.

I’ve tweeted before about these radio pieces which usually take place at welfare or post offices, or outside District Courts or prisons.

Why somebody in RTÉ thinks these reports are a good idea is completely beyond me.

Somebody, somewhere in our national broadcaster thinks that the only places you’ll find poor/working class people are when they’re collecting their welfare payment or outside a court or prison.

In the latter case, having themselves committed a crime or visiting someone who has.

Maybe they also think these pieces are the only way to include poor/working class people on the media.

That this is how a public service broadcaster ‘does’ inclusion.

I am an avid radio listener (and I believe it’s vital that Ireland has a well-supported public service broadcaster).

But I have never, ever heard a regular piece on Irish radio or television which tells us about the tax breaks received by middle class people. Why?

There are ways those of us with good incomes benefit from various breaks and very wealthy people can avail of myriad of write-offs etc.

Where’s the focus on this? Why is one group singled out while everyone else gets off the hook?

Why are poor/working class people seen as ‘other’ and therefore deserving of this level of scrutiny & only in the aforementioned places?

It’s very concerning and is part of a much wider problem across the Irish media which reinforces stereotypes about welfare, crime and taxation.

John Douglas of the Mandate trade union coined the phrase ‘Solidarity Payment’ for the so-called Christmas Bonus. He was right. That’s how all social welfare should be described.

A decent society should be proud of its publicly-funded safety net and those who need it shouldn’t be shamed.

P.S. It’s on. Paddy only met lone parents on this occasion. And is allowing himself to ask why they didn’t use contraception. And judging them for buying expensive toys for their children. My blood is now BOILING.


Listen back in full here


On TG4 at 9.30pm.

RTÉ’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Orla O’Donnell will present the story of Amy Dunne on Finné.

Amy became pregnant when she was 16 and took the State to court as she wanted to travel to the United Kingdom for an abortion after learning her foetus had anencephaly.

Amy spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One this morning (top) and her interview can be watched back in full here.

Finné: The Story of Amy Dunne aka Miss D (RTÉ)

Then Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe on the Today with Seán O’Rourke show in October 2016

This afternoon.

“On Wednesday next, the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will be here taking your calls on Budget 2020.

“Whether it’s carbon tax, income tax, social welfare, the price of a pint or a packet of cigarettes or something else entirely – this is your chance to put your question directly to the minister on air.

“Email your question to todaysor@rte.ie – leaving a contact number.

“That’s the Budget Phone-In next Wednesday at 10am. We look forward to hearing from you.”

RTÉ journalist and broadcaster Seán O’Rourke speaking in an ad just played on RTÉ Radio One.

Previously: A Phoney Phone-In (2015)

Standard Practice (2015)

Meanwhile In Montrose (2016)

David Carroll, of The Great Hack

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.

Mr O’Rourke had a discussion about data protection concerns with David Carroll, professor at Parsons College in New York who sued Cambridge Analytica to access data the group had on him.

Unfortunately, they did not discuss the Irish Government’s intention to appeal the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision on the Public Services Card which found the use of the card, which has been issued to more than three million citizens, for many Government services had no basis in law.

Mr Carroll is one of the main subjects of Netflix documentary The Great Hack and will be in Dublin tomorrow to speak at the Tech For Good conference.

He is attending the conference as a guest of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties which has vowed to fight the Government over its decision to appeal the Data Protection Commissioner’s report…

From their discussion…

Seán O’Rourke: “A lot of concern, obviously, about data being scraped from people who had not consented but I mean advertisers, surely, and politicians indeed, they’ve been collecting data about voters for a very long time, to target them and persuade them.”

David Carroll: “Yes the practice has been going on and it gets sort of, each election cycle, it gets more and more sophisticated, aggressive. The volume of data increases. The pace of technology  goes faster than any of us can even understand its roll-out. And so it’s the concern that the trajectory of this is to become increasingly aggressive unless we do something about this.

“The general concerns, related to the democratic process, are the general idea of are candidates choosing voters or are voters choosing candidates?

“And then are advertisements related to elections so precise and targeted to such small audiences that you’re not having a community-wide discussion about the issues that two neighbours or two members of one household are seeing totally different things? So, how could we possibly have a conversation about who we want to elect, or the issues that we are debating in our communities?”

Listen back in full here

Tech For Good conference (Eventbrite)

Earlier: Put It On The Card

Pic: Netflix

From top: a certificate of character signed by An Garda Síochána for George Gibney’s US visa application in 1992; former Irish swimming coach George Gibney; journalist Irvin Muchnick (right)

This morning.

American sportswriter and journalist Irvin Muchnick spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One about former Irish swimming coach George Gibney.

Mr Muchnik is visiting Ireland this week as he launches the second eBook edition of his book about Gibney.

Gibney was charged with 27 counts of indecency against young swimmers and of carnal knowledge of girls under the age of 15 in Ireland in April, 1993.

However, he moved to the United States in 1995, the year after an unusual and controversial decision by the Supreme Court led to the quashing of these charges.

He was also granted a visa during a visit to the United States in 1992 – seemingly aided by a Garda character reference – a year after people who had been abused by him started to speak up and organise themselves.

Justice Roderick Murphy’s later Government-commissioned report into sex abuse and Irish swimming in 1998 concluded that Gibney’s accusers “were vindicated” by the accumulation of Garda evidence.

These accusers included a woman who alleged she was indecently assaulted by Gibney on a swimming trip to Holland in 1990 and, the following year, raped by him in Florida in June 1991.

From this morning’s interview…

Sean O’Rourke: “I gather that you believe that this year, 2019, might signal some changes in this case. Tell me why.”

Irvin Muchnick: “Well, the reason is that widespread scandals in the Olympic sport programmes in the United States have come to light through the USA Gymnastics scandal and there are federal investigations of racketeering and insurance fraud involving USA Swimming , USA Taekwando and other groups and those are the real reasons why 2019 I think is going to be the year of reckoning for George Gibney.”

“We’ve learned from a Freedom of Information Act case that Gibney unsuccessfully applied for American citizenship in 2010, I believe, hoping to inoculate himself from these ongoing serial efforts to get him extradited and brought back for justice in Ireland.

“And in a quirk, he was denied citizenship because he lied on his application about his Irish past but, strangely, nothing happened in terms of his Green Card and his permanent resident/alien status in the United States.

“So, what my new reporting has uncovered is that there’s not just paperwork issues with George Gibney but perhaps other acts he committed while he was in America.

“He was the leader of a church group, medical mission, to Peru that involved a strange Catholic sect called the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and those are some of the things that are coming to the fore for federal investigators right now.”

O’Rourke: “Coming back, you say he tried in 2010 to get American citizenship but he was declined it or denied it on the basis that he had filed false information?”

Muchnick: “Right. What the Freedom of Information case documents revealed is that US Citizenship and Immigration Services kicked his application back to him and said ‘you want to give this another go?’ because you have to disclose not just whether you have ever been convicted of a crime but whether you’ve ever been arrested, charged, indicted.

“And evidently he didn’t comply because his citizenship application was denied.

“But the weird Catch-22 is that, at the same time, another federal agency in the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out a letter that said he could not be removed from the country because he had never been convicted.

“So this is the conundrum that we face this year.”

O’Rourke: “And how is he getting on, living in the United States? I mean you and other people have shone a lot of light on his background here in Ireland and on the questions that have been asked. So how has he been doing? He’s there now over quarter of a century?”

Muchnick: “Right it’s a front-page story in Ireland, it’s kind of crickets in major media. I have a small outlet trying to shine light on this and he’s basically hiding in plain sight. He coached briefly, we think, because of a recommendation from the American Swimming Coaches Association – which should be accountable, as should be USA Swimming.

“But after his Irish past was exposed locally, in Colorado, in 1995, he backed away from his swimming career but he’s had various jobs. He’s now living in Altamonte Springs, Florida, we believe, just north of Orlando.

“And I call it hiding in plain sight.”

O’Rourke: “But is there any reason to believe, I mean, you say, you talk about this background of scandals in gymnastics and taekwondo and US Olympic circles, but why should that, or how might that be brought to bear and turn up the heat on George Gibney?”

Muchnick: “Well the reason is that there are federal investigations looking into all these things. I think the FBI and other federal agencies are a little bit embarrassed that they were asleep at the switch on the gymnastics scandal. So they’re looking to, to make good on that, and clean up the Olympic programmes in some way.

“So I think, paradoxically, by not having this intense focus just on Gibney, he’s marginally out there and I do know that investigators have been reading my reporting and have determined to act on it.”

O’Rourke: “And is there a sense that what he might face would be deportation or would it be extradition?”

Muchnick: “Well it would be extradition. It’s kind of thing where the Americans are saying ‘after you, first’. And the Irish are saying ‘we want you to do something’. The Garda and American law enforcement have to start talking to each other under EU protocols and share information.

“We know that Gibney had one known crime on American soil in 1991 in Tampa, Florida, and so that could be a basis for…”

O’Rourke: “Is that a conviction now?”

Muchnick: “No, it’s not.”

O’Rourke: “Strictly speaking, you cannot say someone has a known crime unless they’re convicted of it.”

Muchnick: “That’s correct and that’s always been the difficulty at getting at this. But my understanding is that in Ireland there’s been a revisiting of that controversial 1994 Supreme Court ruling that effectively quashed his indictment and that could be looked at again. There could be new victims…”

O’Rourke: “There could be new victims coming forward or new claims that will have to be investigated.

“Do you know, as of now, whether there is a request for George Gibney, submitted to the US authorities by the gardai here or by the Director of Public Prosecutions, for his extradition to this country?”

Muchnick: “I think we know pretty clearly there is not one as yet. However, in 2015, TD Maureen O’Sullivan did ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to look at this again. And I understand that that matter is ongoing.”

O’Rourke: “I know that every time this case is discussed, it causes distress to the victims. They must feel disheartened that it drags on. I think some of them have found a way of just putting it behind them in so far as is possible. And accepting that they’re not going to see justice. But, you know, with no apparent resolution, I’m wondering why you continue to pursue it, Irv. Do you actually think you’re getting somewhere?”

Muchnick: “I do and I’ll tell you why in a moment. But I am looking forward to meeting a victim while I’m on my Dublin visit tomorrow. I do understand the pain that they’ve endured for many years and I do understand that many of them are ambivalent at this point, having had their hopes dashed so many times in the past, as to whether this is even good for them to do this.

“But my message to the Irish is that this is not just about the victims, this is about a system of institutions in global sport that enable bad actors, like George Gibney, to do what they do. And so it’s so important to hold accountable Swim Ireland, USA Swimming, most especially the American Swimming Coaches Association and so I hope that we can work together on that, moving forward to clean up sports.”

O’Rourke: “And what about the current climate in which, for instance, you have President Trump speaking out strongly against, I suppose what he would describe, generally, as undesirables. I mean might that somehow contribute to increasing the pressure on George Gibney?”

Muchnick: “That’s a great point and a great question and I think that it’s the real reason there’s hope right now. That even though Donald Trump has weaponised the immigration question and he’s demonised Central Americans and Muslims, not so much white Europeans, there’s still a movement there is some indication that bad guys from Ireland have been sent back, other than George Gibney.”

O’Rourke: “But do you know, or do you know of particular individuals in the United States’ system of immigration and law enforcement, whatever you want to call it, who are on this case?”

Muchnick: “Yes. I know that there are federal agents who are involved in these swimming investigations who are taking a specific look at George Gibney right now.”

O’Rourke: “OK, well no doubt you and we will continue to keep an eye on this situation and bring any developments to our audience. Journalist, investigative journalist, Irvin Muchnick, thank you very much for coming in.”

Muchnick: “Thank you for having me.”

Listen back in full here.

Previously: ‘There Is No Excuse’

Unreasonable Delay

Minister for Health Simon Harris; Quest Diagnostics

Last night.

It emerged that approximately 800 women who had CervicalCheck tests carried out between October 1, 2018, and June 25, 2019, have not received their test results because of an IT issue at a Quest Diagnostics laboratory in Virginia in the US.

It followed one woman affected making inquiries about her own test results.

Most of the women affected were getting repeat tests for the human papillomavirus HPV – which can cause cervical cancer – because Quest had previously carried out HPV testing on the women’s initial smears beyond the 30-day limit.

RTÉ have reported that the HSE told the Department of Health on Wednesday that it became aware of the IT problem in June.

This morning, Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly told Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ’s Radio One:

We need to understand why the HSE took so long to inform the department. We know last year, when CervicalCheck [scandal] broke, that actually the Department and the HSE had been going back and forth and it was in reference to preparing the minister for the fact that Vicky Phelan’s case was about to break and that that could lead on to knock-on implications as of course it did.

We want to know why the department wasn’t informed. And, indeed, maybe they were informed but they were informed informally.”

“…Why wait until an hour after the Dáil goes into recess to let the information out publicly. Why, if it’s not a big deal, were the minister, or the HSE, a no-show on Morning Ireland this morning?

If this is not a big problem then we need to hear from the political leadership and the administrative leadership to explain that.”

Mr O’Rourke told his listeners that his programme also asked both the minister and the HSE for a spokesperson but neither were available.

Listen back in full here

800 women did not receive CervicalCheck results after IT issue at US laboratory (RTE)


Clockwise from top left: Áine Kerr, Mark Hennessy, Kate Shanahan and Ian Kehoe

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.

There was a segment on the future of news following on from the news that 17 of 20 positions at The Times Ireland edition – which is owned by News International which also owns The Sunday Times and The Irish Sun – will be made redundant.

It’s being reported that the journalists who will be chosen for the three positions will be required to produce four to six news or politics stories a day for the online edition that will remain.

On the panel was Irish Times news editor Mark Hennessy, COO of Kinzen and former Irish Independent journalist and former head of journalism partnerships at Facebook Áine Kerr, former editor of the Sunday Business Post Ian Kehoe, and Head of Journalism and Senior Lecturer at Technological University Dublin Kate Shanahan.

From the discussion…

Áine Kerr said:

“We are coming out of this moment of ‘move fast’ and ‘break things’ and during that moment of the last 15-20 years, platforms built algorithms, based on emotion, based on click bait and for newsrooms to keep up with that and find their audience on these platforms, they had to build faster content everywhere.

“And what has happened is that people are overwhelmed. They’ve had enough and people are saying ‘less is more’ and that’s the future of journalism. It’s going to mean quality, leaner but slow news.”

She later added:

“I think you have to accept that the adverting model, as we know it, is broken. And people are clearly saying that. One in 10 people are blocking advertisements online. 66% of Americans are saying ‘we feel overwhelmed’. Something like one in 10 users are changing their privacy settings because they’re saying ‘I don’t want to be tracked across the internet by these advertisers’ so we have to rethink the models here.”

She also said:

“We, as journalists, tend to obsess on the supply of our journalism and not think about the demand. And amplifying why is journalism important. And there is a moment here where we have to listen to people and see the research that’s shown us that the millennial generation will pay for news.

“There’s been a green shoot in the US from 4% to 17% in the space of a year. The Netflix, Spotify generation are paying for news.”

“…they are saying very clearly – we want a transparent journalism, we want to understand how the sausage is made, we want to see local journalism, we want to see diversity in your newsrooms so that people see themselves represented in it.

“They want to see a people-powered journalism – that you go out to the community and say: what is happening, what should we be covering?…”

Mark Hennessy said:

“You [Mr O’Rourke] said earlier that nobody is increasing circulation. I would point out to you that The Irish Times’ circulation revenue increased by 2% last year…we look at print and digital together…and our digital revenues are increasing at a rate which is higher than our print circulation losses. So it depends on the product which a publisher puts forward.”

Asked how many people are working in The Irish Times now, when it’s circulation is around 60,000 compared to when it was double that,  Mr Hennessy said:

“I think the figures today are around 200 and the figures previously would have been around 250 but I’m open to correction on that.”

Mr Hennessy also told the show that he returned to The Irish Times in Dublin after working in London in September 2015.

He said he spent a lot of time working in courts and that, over the 18 months prior to his move back to Dublin, England lost a third of its court reporters.

He said:

The public, not the press, the public needs people in councils, at inquests, at trials, at all of the issues of public administration. This isn’t the plea for our existence. If media isn’t wanted by people, people will go off and do something else. That’s not the issue at hand.

“[Thomas] Jefferson said, faced with between the choice of a free government or a free press, he would take a free press.”

Mr Hennessy later added:

Print will always exist in our working lifetimes. The audience is going to change…”

Mr Kehoe said:

“When I was editing the Business Post you were hit with trying to maintain your print sales and grow digital sales and cut costs, it’s quite an uncompelling job proposition but that’s what most newspaper editors are asked to do – it’s kind of those three things.

“…If you look at the advertising trajectory, people are pulling money out of the printed paper but that money isn’t going into the online product. Google and Facebook and a couple of the other social media giants are mopping up about 95% of all the online adverting revenue in Ireland…

“So RTE, The Irish Times, The Sunday Business Post – they’re all competing for that 5% of that, call it mainstream non-social media advertising revenue.”

In respect of reports that three journalists at Times Ireland website will be required to produce four to six articles a day, he said:

“This is my biggest concern about journalism. It’s people having to fill a newspaper – sitting at their desk, just rewriting press releases as quick as they can and putting it online. So people aren’t thinking about what a story actually means.

“They’re in a race against everybody else to get it up online without actually sitting back and saying ‘well, what’s the import and the importance of this story?’

Could you get five or six stories out of a journalist on a given day. Absolutely. Will they be any good? Probably not.”

Mr Hennessy responded to the latter point made by Mr Kehoe saying:

“There’s no value in that. I mean if that is the future of the business, we may as well go home. We went in, very deliberately, in terms of quality online. OK you get the occasional whimsical piece online but we don’t do cat videos or we might have done it once but I don’t think we’ve done it anymore.”

“...If you look at our highest figures, they’ve all been for really serious work.”

Mr Kehoe later called for the VAT rate on newspapers to be dropped to 0% – something which has been campaigned for by Newsbrands Ireland.

Kate Shanahan said:

“I think one problem newspapers have, and all media have is losing that relationship and Ian referred to it. If you’re out, sitting at your desk, rewriting press releases, getting the odd quote from a politician, you are not doing good journalism.

“You’re not on the streets, you’re not hearing what’s happening around the country.

I was down in Kerry last weekend, I’m reading all the local newspapers – which I absolutely love, the local newspapers down there –  and I’m telling you, I’m reading them and I’m going: I’m not getting this from the Dublin media. We’re not there.”

Meanwhile, earlier in the segment, as they were talking about the Times Ireland edition job losses, Mr Kehoe said:

“The tabloids across the News International portfolio had been struggling a little bit over the last two or three years and, you know, no one is really going to say ‘we’re going to take massive costs out of the Sun’ but so it was kind of low-hanging fruit to look at Ireland and say ‘well, look, has it made the traction we would have hoped?’. Perhaps not. ‘Is it going in the right direction?’ Maybe. ‘Can we get some easy savings there without really impacting on anyone in Britain or anyone in the tabloid market?'”

It should be noted around 13 people working in sub-editing and art desk roles were very recently made redundant in The Irish Sun.

Previously: Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

Listen back in full here

From top: Seán O’Rourke; Former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.

The former Tánaiste and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, along with the fellow former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, of Fianna Fáil, spoke to Mr O’Rourke ahead of Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May facing a leadership vote of confidence later today.

While speaking to Mr O’Rourke, Ms Fitzgerald spoke about the difficulties of confidence motions; how a minister usually knows their department “inside out”; how a Tánaite must be prepared for difficult questions; and how she was “vindicated” by the Disclosures Tribunal.

On her resignation as minister in November 2017 and her political future, Ms Fitzgerald had the following exchange with Mr O’Rourke:

Seán O’Rourke: “You saw the rough and the smooth, particularly the rough side of it.”

Frances Fitzgerald: “I certainly did, as Michael Noonan said to me ‘you were cut off in full flight’..”

Ms Fitzgerald laughs

Fitzgerald: “….which is very true.”

O’Rourke: “And you resigned amid that controversy over the treatment of Maurice McCabe and the handling of the tribunal, sorry, not the tribunal, but the inquiry presided over by Mr Justice whose name I can’t quite remember.”

Fitzgerald: “O’Higgins. It was the commission that there was a query about which turned out not to be a proper query at all.”

O’Rourke: “[Justice] Charleton then ultimately, he effectively vindicated the way you’d handled that. But do you think you’ll see the Tánaiste’s office again or what are your hopes…”

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