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Union raises concerns about Oireachtas inquiries amendment

The National Union of Journalists has raised concerns about the proposed amendment to the constitution, and its impact on journalists’ sources.

In the shadow of the Capitol dome in Washington, September 3, 1943, an Associated Press reporter encounters the mythical news source who recounts and interprets events in Washington (File)
In the shadow of the Capitol dome in Washington, September 3, 1943, an Associated Press reporter encounters the mythical news source who recounts and interprets events in Washington (File)
Image: AP Photo

A UNION REPRESENTING journalists in Ireland has raised concerns about the proposed amendment to the constitution to give powers of inquiry to the Oireachtas.

The Irish arm of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) says it is concerned that journalists may be forced to reveal confidential sources or documents to Oireachtas inquiries, if the 30th amendment is passed in tomorrow’s referendum.

The Referendum Commission has responded by saying that it would be up to the inquiries conducted by the Dáil or Seanad, or both, to “determine the appropriate balance between the rights of people involved in the inquiry and the requirements of the public interest.”

The NUJ’s Irish secretary Séamus Dooley had written to the chairman of the referendum commission to seek clarification on the amendment’s implication for journalists, but the NUJ has stated it is not taking a position on the referendum and will not be advising members how to vote.

Quoted on the NUJ website, which also published his letter, Dooley said:

As a union representing professional journalists we would be concerned at the prospect of the Oireachtas undermining the significant advances made in relation to the rights of journalists to protect confidential information, in the public interest.

Responding to the concerns, the Commission Secretary David Waddell wrote:

The Dáil and/or the Seanad would have the power to determine the appropriate balance between the rights of people involved in the inquiry and the requirements of the public interest.

In striking this balance they would be required to have due regard to the principles of fair procedures; these principles have been established by the Constitution and the Courts.

Column: A ‘Yes’ vote on Oireachtas inquiries will bring us a vital democratic function>

Column: 5 reasons to vote ‘No’ on Oireachtas inquiries>

What are the two referendums about? Your guide to the 27 October ballot>

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Hugh O'Connell

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