Irish journalists have held politicians accountable throughout this pandemic

Niamh McGovern

From the beginning of the pandemic, individual media organisations have played their own part in covering the pandemic, keeping the public informed concerning rising case numbers and daily deaths. Inclusive in their reporting is how the pandemic is affecting the common citizen and holding politicians accountable for their actions.

If you’re an active Twitter user, you’ll be familiar with the Virgin Media trio, Gavan Reilly, Richard Chambers and Zara King who have managed to keep the public informed at a rapid pace.

Accurately and fairly reporting on changing events throughout the pandemic, they have continuously highlighted the different levels of lockdown Ireland has been forced to undergo. The newest feature to their reporting involves updating the public on vaccination numbers.

Nenagh Hospital was recently brought to the forefront of news in order to alert the public of frontline workers who have not been vaccinated. Ultimately creating a balance in their reporting, straying away from political persons, and focusing on the average citizen.

Continuously exposed to governmental malpractice, Richard Chambers on January 11th questioned Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on following advice from NPHET.

Health Minister Donnelly claimed cabinet followed public health advice from day one, yet Chambers explained this was not the case. Holding politicians accountable for their decisions, especially in a volatile situation like the pandemic where deaths are occurring daily, is a major responsibility for reporters.

Additionally, Colette Fitzpatrick questioned Taoiseach Micheál Martin live on Virgin Media on January 15th over his decision to open both hospitality and allow household visits when it was advised to permit one or the other.

The Taoiseach agreed “in hindsight” with rising cases and deaths – opening both during the Christmas period should have been avoided.

He said no one predicted the level of “community transmission we are currently experiencing in the country”, however, NPHET attempted to alert the government of the impending crisis in December.

Contradicting the Taoiseach, Collette explained, “medic after medic has expressed their concerns and said this was entirely predictable and entirely avoidable”. Clear evidence shows the Taoiseach did not follow recommendations and ignored all signs.

As a result of both Stephen Donnelly and Micheál Martin, the journal.ie published a fact find (a new phenomenon, resulting from Donald Trump’s constant lies) observing whether the government followed NPHET’s advice heading into December.

Holding an unprejudiced view, explaining “this fact find will not make any conclusions on whether the right decisions were made, or the impact that different decisions would have had.”

RTÉ’s Twitter page lacks in Covid-19 content compared with Virgin Media, whose page is constantly filled with updates. RTÉ predominantly focuses on people affected by the pandemic.

The Irish Independent sectioned off a part of their website for live updates on coronavirus, keeping readers updated on a formal and accessible platform.

However, some have claimed the media are responsible for causing mass hysteria, releasing information before government officials have made announcements.

As political journalists, having access to information coming directly from Leinster House, what is the difference between reporters announcing it earlier, providing the public with time to make necessary arrangements and government officials announcing same? Both are simply doing their job, reporters just in a timelier manner.

Niamh Mc Govern

Image Credit: RTÉ