In a speech to the Association of European Journalists on Friday, January 11, the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker) John O’Donoghue said the commercial pressures on the media meant that they constantly needed “news” about events that happened “yesterday”. However the most momentous political achievements – such as the building of the EU and the Northern Ireland Peace process – were the result of long, slow processes and therefore did not fit easily with these demands of daily newspapers and broadcasters.
“The question I would like to pose today is whether the demands of daily journalism can lead to a certain trivialisation of politics”, he said. “Do the momentous changes which have happened over periods of many years in European politics, in Northern Ireland, and indeed in relation to the Irish economy, get under-reported on a daily basis?
“The old saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ applies to all political endeavour. Political change is a slow process, the passage of legislation through the Oireachtas is a slow process. Does it therefore not suit the daily news media to report it well, and is there anything we as politicians and you as journalists can do to change this?”
In relation to politicians he asked: “Are there changes we could make to our procedures that would make the work of the Oireachtas more understandable, and more open to media coverage, without compromising its seriousness?
“I am encouraged by the fact that the Whips of the main parties have had a number of meetings since the current Dáil was elected and they are examining whether there are some changes to Dáil procedure they might consider. I am very pleased to have been able to use the Office of Ceann Comhairle to facilitate and encourage these discussions on Dáil reform.”
In relation to the media he said: “I wonder do the demands of daily journalism lead to a certain trivialisation of politics, and a failure to portray the big picture.” He said the daily reportage of minutiae meant the “big picture” of slow but steady political development could be missed.
“The Houses of the Oireachtas consider legislation over many days and weeks. The challenge for politicians is to ensure that this is done in a way that can interest and engage people.
He said the Houses of the Oireachtas were planning to set up a system to better inform journalists on what exactly Oireachtas committees are doing, which ones were due to make significant decisions on any particular day etc. “We have encouraged regional newspapers to publish a weekly report of events in the Oireachtas and this is going well. As I said, discussions are taking place on the possibility of Dáil reform.
“And in a constructive rather than a critical spirit I am asking the media to reflect on their own political and parliamentary coverage. Do the demands for those “something happened yesterday” stories sometimes prevent you from informing your readers of significant events and changes that are taking place in the Oireachtas? Do your readers know about important legislation that has been passed recently by the Oireachtas, or is being debated there at the moment? And if the answer is not always yes are there changes you can make to your processes of selecting news that will both increase public awareness and understanding of the work of the Oireachtas, and improve the service you provide to your readers as well.”
For further Information please contact:
Special advisor to the Ceann Comhairle
Ph: 087 2430315
Or the Public Relations Office
01- 618 3066/3166