‘SADDENED’ Seamus Dooley, NUJ.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have criticised the removal of a cameraman from last Wednesday night’s public meeting in Achill.
Fergus Sweeney, from Blacksod, was in attendance for TG4 at the public meeting to discuss plans for emergency accommodation for asylum seekers on the island.
However, before the meeting got underway he was asked to leave by Achill-based Cllr Paul McNamara (FF). As Cllr McNamara asked Mr Sweeney to leave, a small section of the crowd shouted ‘out out out’ and cheered as Cllr McNamara escorted Mr Sweeney out.
In a social media post afterwards, Mr Sweeney said he found the experience ‘very intimidating’.
“It saddens me to say that in all my years of doing this job I have never been subject to such intimidation and abuse,” he said,
NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley said Cllr McNamara, as a public representative, ‘had no right to challenge Mr Sweeney’s right to attend a meeting which was of enormous public interest’.
He described Cllr McNamara’s actions as ‘deeply disturbing’.
“The issue of direct provision is of national importance and we cannot tolerate a situation whereby local public representatives decide what journalists are allowed or not allowed to cover meetings of this type,” Mr Dooley told journalist Lorna Siggins.
“There can be circumstances where individual speakers may wish not to speak in front of a camera or not wish to be identified, for legitimate interests.
“Journalists are well used to dealing with sensitive situations. There does not seem to have been any reason why Mr Sweeney was excluded, other than a desire to manage the nature of media coverage.
“The presence of print and broadcast journalists at similar public meetings elsewhere has been extremely useful in helping to understand the context of local opinion and in a least one case, highlighted attempts from external forces to influence local opinion.”
Cllr McNamara declined to comment on the matter when contacted by The Mayo News.