Education- It’s cool; Breaking the invisible barrier 

Tony Blair said very little of substance during his leadership of the Labour Party- but when he uttered the words “education, education, education”, he was absolutely correct. 

Countless academic reports have studied the educational underachievement of young Protestants, especially young Protestant boys. 

I attended school at Bangor Academy secondary school. It was, and is, a fantastic school. There is a wonderful mix of teachers with fresh ideas and approaches to the broadly defined term of ‘education’. 

I focus on Bangor Academy as an example because firstly it is the school I attended-therefore have some intimate knowledge of- and secondly because it is situated within my local community. 

The school recognises that education is defined far more broadly than the somewhat narrow, and traditional, academic definition. This is important because it provides opportunities for young people to explore all of their talents- whether that be academic, sporting or other. 

Situated within the home town of the DUP Education Minister, Bangor Academy should be held up as an example of a school trying to provide modern education and ensuring that the benefits of education are promoted within the community. 

It is by such positive promotion of education that real change can come about. Quite often there is a resistance to education within working class Protestant communities. The reason for this could be debated until kingdom come, but it is widely accepted that there is some form of invisible barrier that makes young Protestants believe that education isn’t something that should factor high on the priority list.

That is why it is essential that schools such as Bangor Academy, and others similar, reach out into the community and ensure the message that education is positive, is spread far beyond the school walls. 

When looking at secondary schools it is important the education authorities realise that some of their most positive results may not come in exam papers, but rather in slowly changing attitudes towards education within the wider communities from which many of their pupils come. 

Education is cool. Education is important and most importantly it provides the tools that you require to promote real change and improve yourself. 

I am not an expert on education, but I do know one thing; once you change your attitude towards education it can unlock intellectual potential that otherwise would have remained hidden behind the invisible barrier that many young Protestants believe is saying; “you are not good enough”. The fact is such an invisible barrier doesn’t exist in reality, it is a social barrier that is effective in reducing potential because more often than not young people chose to believe the myth. 

It’s time for young Protestants- or anyone else feeling educational isolation- to embrace education. It is time to realise that drinking until you fall over, taking drugs or engaging in anti-social behaviour isn’t positive or a measure of social standing. 

What is positive is educating yourself, empowering your community and leading real change in whatever chosen profession or field you decide to engage in. 

11 vital questions- #Nama scandal 

This past week has seen more Nama allegations substantiated in the mainstream media, by virtue of the excellent BBC Spotlight program by Mandy McCauley. 

This, once again, makes a mockery of the useful idiots unyielding defence of that “pillar of the establishment”- Mr Frank Cushnahan.

There are a number of questions that are relevant at this time. 

 Gareth Robinson worked as a lobbyist for Lagans, who benefited from Sammy Wilson’s political influence being exerted on Nama in relation to Millmount. Lagans have recently got the Millmount site after Paddy Kearney ran into financial difficulties. Ian Coulter also now works for Lagans.

1) Gareth Robinson was paid professional fees by Lagans. What for? 

B) Did Lagans make any cash payments to Gareth Robinson for his lobbying? 

C) Did any representative of Lagans meet with Sammy Wilson or Peter Robinson? 

2) Did Gareth Robinson, in his annual returns, make a declaration of cash payments he had received from John Miskelly? If not, why not? 

3) As a PR lobbyist, what was Gareth Robinson’s expertise in a financial deal involving property developers. What services did he provide? Or was Gareth Robinson’s role to act as a conduit for his father, Mr Peter Robinson, in selling political influence for cash?

4) Mr Paddy Kearney received extraordinarily strong political support from Peter Robinson. Did Mr Kearney- or his fixer Alan Mains- make any cash payments to Mr Cushnahan or Gareth Robinson or meet with either? 

5) The Miskelly tapes cover under the table cash payments totalling up to circa £700,000. Who else received these payments and for what ‘services’? 

6) Frank Cushnahan said Gareth Robinson was to be sorted out from “the other thing”. What other thing? Was this reference to the £7.5m fixers fee that was to be split 5 ways? Was Gareth acting as the conduit for his father Peter Robinson’s slice of the money? 

7) Was there more than one off shore account that held Nama fixer payments? An account in the name of the wife of one of the key players in the scandal perhaps? 

8) What was the next part of the tape after Frank Cushnahan received the £40k from John Miskelly? Was the £40k to be split between Frank Cushnahan and a prominent political figure? 

9) Frank Cushnahan was “up working behind the scenes” with Sammy Wilson. Did Frank Cushnahan have a Stormont access pass, if so what party gained this for Mr Cushnahan? 

10) Can Frank Cushnahan confirm that prior to moving to Grahams bookmakers, he held an office in a firm controlled by Mr Brendan McGinn, a key player in Fortress? Did Mr Cushnahan communicate with his colleague Mr McGinn, who worked for Fortress the under bidder, during the bidding process? 

11) Brendan McGinn- business associate of current Finance Minister and from whose office Frank Cushnahan previously worked- was paid a large fee for carrying out due diligence on Fortress’s Nama bid. What was this fee? Was it in the region of £800,000? 

The above 11 questions are just the tip of the ice berg. There are huge questions- with enormous political ramifications- for the current Finance Minister. These questions will be published 24 hours prior to his appearance at the DFP committee. 

Responding to petulant McGuinness- He can keep his trust 

“I take the comments by Martin McGuinness on BBC Talkback today as a huge compliment. I would have to seriously reconsider my political position if the day came when Sinn Fein were singing my praises.

” The petulant nature of the comments by McGuinness quite clearly display his anger at the fact his party has lost an MLA, a Cllr, a party worker and upwards of 18 party members; all the while Sinn Fein’s millionaire golden boy, the Finance Minister, remains under serious political pressure. 

” I intend to press on with seeking a public inquiry into Nama and exposing the corruption around it; as well as presenting some public questions for the Finance Minister pertaining to the Nama issue. 

“Sinn Fein, in my view, took their foot of the Nama pedal as a trade of to secure political breathing space over the IRA murder of Kevin McGuigan. 

” Sinn Fein now find themselves in the political slaughterhouse alongside Frank Cushnahan and the useful political idiots that colluded with him. Poetic justice.

” As for the Deputy First Minister, he can save his trust for his partners in Government.”

Red faces for the Nama colluders and useful idiots..

Red faces for the Nama colluders and the useful idiots…. 
Last nights Spotlight has, once again, vindicated my so called ‘pantomime’ DFP committee hearing appearance and the ‘tainted’ evidence. 

I am quite sure there are some with red faces this morning, not least the lackey’s that were blind to the bigger picture and got themselves all worked up in recent weeks writing illiterate ‘critiques’, skulking about with spray cans and exposing their own lack of political sense. Such fools! 

There will, however, be none more red faced this morning than Sammy Wilson; Frank Cushnahan’s useful idiot. Used by ‘£40k Frank’ to negotiate with the Irish Republic in order to drive the Nama price down for Peter Robinson’s golden circle.

This is, of course, the same silly Sammy Wilson that filled the airwaves in recent weeks waxing lyrical about anyone talking to Sinn Fein- the DUP’s partners in Government! 

Sammy Wilson and Peter Robinson, as part of a joint enterprise with upstanding citizen Frank Cushanahan, were working in collusion with the ‘grey mists of the Irish Republic’. Who is laughing now? 

Robinson’s ‘fixer’ Frank Cushnahan, who was sent to Nama by Sammy Wilson, even sought to ‘coach’ a potential DFP committee witness and a suspect in a police inquiry. 

After the fury of recent weeks, there really is rapidly shrinking and narrowing political ground on which to shield the Sammy Wilson Nama nominee, poor old Frank the fixer, the coacher and the £40k brown bag man!  

Such a shame that Sammy Wilson narrowed the political ground on which he could move- in relation to ‘coaching’- by virtue of his own mouth in recent weeks; he simply couldn’t help himself. He painted himself into a corner. 

The DUP- whilst still under Peter Robinson’s leadership- and Sinn Fein, had come to an agreement last year prior to Christmas. The DUP would lay off the continued existence of the IRA in return for Sinn Fein easing off on Nama. 

Ironically Robinson/Wilson- and those they colluded with in these corrupt dealings- now end up in the political slaughterhouse alongside Sinn Fein, for matters connected to the Nama scandal. Poetic justice some may say. 

Tonight’s Spotlight is the tip of the iceberg, there is much more to come. 

A full, independent public inquiry is required. 

Statement: Nama allegations 

Immediate Release 

” There has been much commentary in recent days around the revelations that have surfaced in the media. 

” I wish to place on record that I was, in no shape or form, the leak of this back channel. I suspect there is a more sinister agenda behind that particular issue. 

” Nevertheless, I in no way regret my engagement in such communications and furthermore I believe that it benefitted me and assisted my preparations for my appearance before the committee which resulted in vital public interest evidence being aired. 

” I am as opposed to Sinn Fein as I ever was. My enemies enemy was never my friend, but rather a useful tool in my pursuit of a vital public interest story. If Sinn Fein were manipulated, as what is in the public domain appears to suggest, then that is a matter for Sinn Fein. 

” As for those who have read headlines and somehow convinced themselves I am in someway a friend of Sinn Fein, they display their own lack of political awareness and inability to see the wood for the trees. 

” Almost every political party, apart from Sinn Fein, have now claimed the DFP committee inquiry is tainted. Prior to this development Sinn Fein are on record calling for a public inquiry. 

” Accordingly, I have began the legal process of making an application to the Secretary of State under the inquiries act, asking for a full public inquiry into the Nama scandal. I would be astounded if all political parties would not also support such a public inquiry. 

” If the Secretary of State refuses to initiate such an inquiry the option to judicially review this decision will be open, and therefore the opportunity to air much of the Nama evidence in court will surface. 

” I stand over every piece of my evidence to the DFP committee. 

” On the foot of legal advice I will be making no further comment on the allegations carried in the media given that the entire Nama issue will now be subject to an application to the Secretary of State for a full public inquiry.”  

‘Leaks’ naming Sean Hughes as an informant designed to hide the real agent #Kingsmill 

The Sunday Independent yesterday reported that a British informant had been ‘outed’ in South Armagh. The finger was pointed, reputedly by security forces, at the OC of the South Armagh Brigade. 
This report in the Sunday Independent appears to jigsaw identify Sean ‘The Surgeon’ Hughes as the alleged informer. 
This report comes after months of this blog revealing details of the real agent in the South Armagh IRA, Co Louth republican Colm Murphy. 

The desire of security sources to leak details of the alleged outing of the South Armagh OC comes 48 hours after the arrest of Michael ‘Micksey’ Martin in relation to the Kingsmill massacre. He is a long time associate of the South Armagh based former IRA Chief of Staff- Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy. 

The 59 year old republican served a prison sentence for explosives in the Republic of Ireland in 1975, was jailed for 16 months for weapon procurement in the USA in 1989 and was later held on remand in London’s Belmarsh prison in 1994. There are no forensics linking the veteran republican to the attack. His prints have been held on file for decades. 

PSNI legacy detectives were forced to re-open the investigation into Kingsmill after a bizarre development a number of months ago. 

Colm Murphy was named on this blog as being one of those responsible for the massacre in January 2016; this claim was followed up by a denial by Murphy in the Irish News the following day.  

Following this media coverage, a relatively low level forensic officer asked his superior if he could re-test the Kingsmill palm print held by the PSNI. 

The first set of prints the officer attempted to match were those of Omagh bomber Colm Murphy. This match had previously been buried at the insistence of MI5, who had recruited Murphy as an agent around 1985. 

However, a positive match was made and logged, which meant the PSNI had no option but to reveal the existence of the palm print forensic match, and thus a game of intrigue began with claims and counter claims. 

This blog once again named Colm Murphy as the owner of the palm print match. Following this, the Co Louth republican gave an extensive interview to the Irish News, which the PSNI sought to block via an attempt to obtain a court injunction against the Belfast based paper. 

The career killer did not deny that the print was his in his Irish News interview; but rather appeared to confirm his own knowledge of the print by questioning why it had only surfaced now. 

High-level meetings have taken place between the PSNI and MI5 in order to decide how to deal with the situation. The implications of Murphy’s outing run much further than the Kingsmill investigation. They stretch to the murders of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, the Docklands bomb and the Omagh bombing. 

After Murphy was outed the Secretary of State requested a closed hearing during a Judicial review into the failure to hold a public inquiry into the Omagh bomb. It is believed this closed material concerns the existence of a key informant in the Omagh bomb team; Colm Murphy. 

It is understood the PSNI legacy team have devised a strategy to conduct a general ‘re-investigation’ of the Kingsmill case and this will involve interviewing, as a starting point, the main suspects initially identified by the RUC in 1976. This strategy is designed to string out the investigation and give breathing space for the security services to find a way to hide the Murphy palm print link. 

Colm Murphy was one of the RUC’s initial main suspects and was referred to as Suspect A in a 2011 HET report. 

Suspect A was believed to have been one of the gunmen in the Kingsmill attack, as well as one of those who hi-jacked the getaway minibus in the Republic of Ireland. 

It is understood that Murphy was not masked whilst hi-jacking the vehicle.

It is now clear that the ‘game’ is on. The leak in the Sunday Independent, attempting to point the finger of suspicion at Sean ‘The Surgeon’ Hughes, is an attempt to create a smokescreen around Colm Murphy. 

The senior IRA terrorist  questioned over Kingsmill revealed 

The high profile Provisional IRA terrorist arrested in connection with the Kingsmill massacre can be revealed here, for the first time, as Michael ‘Micksey’ Martin.
The 59 year old republican has been released from custody pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service. The career terrorist was one of the main 7 suspects initially identified by the RUC following the brutal attack on a bus carrying Protestant workmen. The one Catholic on the bus was ordered away form the scene by the IRA gunmen.

Martin previously worked as a lorry driver for his long time associate, Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy- who is currently serving a prison sentence in the Republic of Ireland for criminal charges. 

‘Micksey’ Martin has long been suspected of involvement in the deaths of over 100 people. He is believed to have organised the Bishopgate bombing on 23 April 1993, along with South Armagh IRA terror boss and current senior member of Sinn Fein, Sean ‘The Surgeon’ Hughes. Martin was also implicated in the Docklands bombing, which at the time broke the fledging IRA ceasefire. 

The South Armagh terrorist previously served prison sentences in the Republic of Ireland in 1975 for explosives offences and was jailed in the USA for arms procurement in 1989. Martin was also arrested and held on remand in Belmarsh prison in 1994. His fingerprints have been on the security forces system for decades. 

It was, however, Colm Murphy, who is 63, that hi-jacked the getaway vehicle used in the Kingsmill attack. The republican gunman was also involved in the Narrow Watter attack in 1979. It was after a period of imprisonment in the United States that Murphy was recruited by MI5 around 1985. 

Following his recruitment as an MI5 asset, Murphy took part in the 1989 murders of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan and provided the mobile telephones to the Omagh bombing team in 1998. 

It is believed the arrest of ‘Micksey’ Martin is to be the first of a number of arrests of those identified by the RUC in 1976 as initial suspects, following the re-opening of the investigation. 

Don’t shoot the messenger- NUJ row is down to their own criteria 

The debate around my membership of the NUJ has rumbled on for almost a week now. 

The controversy around the issue first arose when the Belfast and District branch, entirely unprompted, intervened and claimed I wasn’t a member- further to this, they stated I wasn’t a journalist (ironically, I agree) in an attempt to give the impression that I would not be welcome in their union. This is despite the fact that the NUJ definition of a journalist captures me under that category. 

The Belfast branch also claimed, in a statement to the Nolan show, that I would have to earn ‘my living’ from journalism. Clearly, if one assesses the temporary freelance membership criteria, quite the opposite is the case. Once again, this comical error demonstrates the ham-fisted nature of this ludicrous intervention. 

Given the apparent rebellion by the Belfast branch, against the rules and criteria of the NUJ, in jest I questioned whether they were staging some form of breakaway NUJ faction. I termed this the Continuity NUJ. 

In an utterly transparent attempt to deflect from their woeful handling of the situation, a particular NUJ office bearer, Bob Miller, took to social media to claim I was calling Belfast NUJ officials ‘terrorists’, by virtue of the use of the word continuity. Bizarre, I know. 

Given this is, quite obviously, an intelligent man; I can only conclude that he was cynically trying to turn the tide. 

Mr Miller’s assertion that I likened NUJ officials to ‘terrorists’ is utterly false, baseless and defamatory. It is, quite simply in my view, a malicious lie. I will be seeking him to urgently clarify his remarks and apologise. 

I also pointed out, rightly, that many of the Belfast NUJ officials are no more ‘journalists’ than I am. If, as is apparently the case, they are going to rebel over me meeting the criteria for membership, then some of them should asses their own journalistic circumstances. 

There must be, and I have long argued this point, a mechanism to recognise the difference between professional journalists and self-appointed journalists. At the moment, there isn’t such a mechanism. That isn’t my fault; if anything my membership of the NUJ has highlighted this enormous flaw and, quite clearly, there is a need for reform. 

The journalists who have offered me their support in relation to joining the Belfast branch agree with me that there is a woeful equivalence being made between professional journalists and those of us who aren’t. 

Bloggers, and self published public platform contributors, aren’t journalists. Yet, the NUJ criteria is so wide that all public platform contributors, whether they be professional or otherwise, fall under the same umbrella. That is utterly abhorrent and demeaning to professional journalists. 

Professional journalists are supporting me for one reason only; because I meet the criteria. It isn’t my fault the criteria is flawed, therefore I shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because I am me. 

This is not an argument around whether I am a journalist or whether I should have equivalence with a professional journalist, I shouldn’t. But the NUJ criteria and the trend of society says otherwise. 

There is only one issue upon which I should be treated equally to a professional journalist, and that is on the protection of sources. And, when such a matter eventually comes before a court, it will be at that stage a legal precedent will be set upon what actually constitutes a journalist. I will argue that my public interest publications fall under the category of journalistic practices, and will point to the criteria outlined by the NUJ to justify such an assertion. 

The NUJ, on the very day their Belfast branch was launching their ill-conceived intervention, once again debited my monthly dues payment to the union. The insanity of the Belfast NUJ’s ‘campaign’ to keep me out is highlighted by the fact that whilst they were busy trying to devise a way, any way, to block my membership- the NUJ central organisation was collecting my membership dues. 

It is clear there is a need for reform, but that’s going to be extraordinarily messy. That, however, is not my fault. I merely highlighted the point. Don’t shoot the messenger. 

Response to the Belfast branch of the NUJ 

At lunchtime yesterday the Belfast Branch for the NUJ issued a statement to the Stephen Nolan show claiming I was not a member of the Union. 

It appears this morning, by virtue of a public tweet, the Belfast branch have now somewhat rowed back from this position and claimed I was not a member of the ‘Belfast branch’. I am amazed at their need to do this, I never claimed to be a member of their Belfast branch. 

The intervention by the Belfast branch of the NUJ is a surprising one; more so given that they appear to be taking a completely different view on the criteria for NUJ membership, than that of the parent organisation itself. 

I applied for membership of the NUJ and was informed that within 60 days a branch would be suggested for me to join. This choice of branch, I was informed, was a matter of choice for myself. 

I have spoken to established professional journalists who have recently joined the NUJ and who consider themselves, and are treated as, members. These journalists went through exactly the same process as me, and no one has sought to challenge their status as a member. 

Since the time of my application the National Union of Journalists have taken monthly direct debits from my bank account. Copies of bank statements verifying this have been provided, in confidence, to the Nolan show. 

I have also been in receipt of the monthly NUJ newsletter, which reads in its first line “Dear NUJ member…”. 

I wonder what kind of union the Belfast NUJ believe they are part of; in their mind it appears to be one that takes monthly money from someone, and addresses them as an NUJ member in correspondence, but then denies that the individual-who is paying into the union- is in fact a member.

The NUJ in their statement have also stated that before they would accept me into their branch they would have to be satisfied I earn a living from journalism. This criteria is entirely at odds with the NUJ’s own published membership criteria, which states as the criteria for my membership- temporary freelance member- the following; 

” If you are trying to establish or re-establish yourself as a full-time journalist, yet do not yet earn half of your income from freelance journalism and you don’t have another full-time job you can apply to join the NUJ as a temporary freelance member.” 

Far from earning a living from journalism, the criteria stipulates that for this type of membership you must not earn anymore than half your income from journalism. This could mean anything from 10p to £100,000. 

Further to this, the NUJ rules state; 

 “[t]he union shall consist of journalists, including photographers, creative artists working editorially in newspapers, magazines, books, broadcasting, public relations and information, and electronic media; as advertising and fashion photographers, advertising copywriters, editorial computer systems workers…”

At no point in the criteria for joining does it stipulate you must earn your living from journalism. The type of journalism you are engaged in and the amount you earn from it is only relevant in relation to the kind of membership band you are eligible for. It is not a condition of membership per se. 

On the NUJ website the union also states; 

” The National Union of Journalists is the voice for journalism and for journalists across the UK and Ireland working at home and abroad in all sectors of the media as freelances, casuals and staff in newspapers, news agencies, broadcasting, magazines, online, book publishing, in public relations, communications, and as photographers.” 

As someone who has published books, written columns online for established media outlets and published my own work online, I clearly fall under that criteria. 

Ironically I think the criteria is far too broad and is demeaning to qualified professional journalists, but that is a matter for the NUJ itself, it is not my fault for joining and, it seems, highlighting a major fault-line.

I question how many times the Belfast NUJ have got themselves so exercised about an individual becoming a member of the union? 

There appears to be no objections when all sorts of individuals, who, unlike me, actually think they are journalists because they write a blog, join the NUJ. It appears the NUJ welcome such journalistic imposters with open arms, yet due to my controversial profile they feel the need to take issue with me. 

I am glad this issue has come to the fore. At the very least it will expose the woeful equivalence being made between professionally qualified journalists and those who aren’t. 

I have been contacted by a number of journalists who have stated they would happily propose me for branch membership. Not because they agree that non-qualified journalists should be in the union, they don’t, but because they accept that as flawed as the membership criteria may be; I meet it, and therefore should not be excluded simply because some people may object to me as a personality. 

I point out the NUJ previously accepted former IRA prisoner Danny Morrison as a member and currently have convicted IRA life sentence prisoner Anthony McIntyre as member. I do not object to former IRA men being in the union, they are every bit as entitled to freedom of expression as I am, but I would be somewhat concerned if the NUJ were taking an unbalanced approach along sectarian lines. 

I look forward to the NUJ as a body clarifying this issue. As an individual paying into a union, I believe I am in the union. Should the NUJ take a different approach then we are heading for the High Court. 

Freedom of expression for all- why I joined the National Union of Jounalists

I read, with interest, Jim McDowell’s piece in the Sunday World this week musing about my recent decision to join the NUJ. 
Firstly, let me state that I am not a journalist; nor do I wish to be solely defined as a ‘blogger’ . I have long held the view that real journalists are those who work for publications and on traditional radio/television platforms. Real journalists are people who, for them, journalism is a career and pursuing the established principles of the profession is their foremost objective. 

‘Bloggers’ are people hopelessly devoted to that platform and who, quite often, believe themselves to be on a professional level with traditional journalists. I don’t for one minute put myself in that category. I am broadly speaking a ‘blogger’ at this point in time simply because it is an effective political tool and suits my purposes. If a better tool for publishing comes along I will use that as eagerly as I use ‘citizen journalism’, ‘blogging’ or ‘communications’. 

I am not impartial in the slightest. As I have already pointed out, most of my writings are done with a political agenda and purpose. 

Would I relentlessly pursue a story, in the purest form of journalism, if it damaged those on the same political page as me? Of course I wouldn’t! But then again, how many traditional journalists also allow their own views to seep into their pursuit of stories? That is not a criticism, but rather an appreciation that everyone has their own personal prejudices and views, rightly or wrongly. 

I decided to join the NUJ because, as I outlined, the tools I use in pursuit of my political aims, namely writing and blogging and publishing stories that I feel are in the public interest; fall under the membership rules of the Union. 

The NUJ rules state that “[t]he union shall consist of journalists, including photographers, creative artists working editorially in newspapers, magazines, books, broadcasting, public relations and information, and electronic media; as advertising and fashion photographers, advertising copywriters, editorial computer systems workers…”

I have written two books, occasionally written columns for established media outlets and also broke more stories, via my blog, than many mainstream media outlets. That means that membership of the NUJ is open to me. 

NUJ membership was also previously extended to Danny Morrison, the former Sinn Fein propagandist and editor of An Phoblacht. Danny’s writings for the republican movement were political propaganda to opponents, such as myself, but to supporters his writings and work were of important public interest. Whether one subscribes to the propaganda or public interest narrative; Danny’s work was carried out within the context of his right to freedom of expression. The key point here is that there are many competing narratives within the NUJ of what journalism, writing or communicating actually is. People join together not to support one and others work, or promote another’s agenda; but to support the wider principle of the right to freedom of expression. 

I view membership of the NUJ more as a means of protecting freedom of expression for all. Everyone should have the right to publish their writings and pursue- without fear- stories that are in the public interest. The ability to write and publish is available to almost everyone in the age of social media and digital platforms. 

Of course, there are both criminal law restrictions to freedom of expression and there are civil remedies for anyone libelled or defamed by another’s speech or writings.

This brings me on to another point Mr McDowell made in his column. He stated the following in the context of my blogging on the Nama scandal; 

“What he has put in the public domain- whether right or wrong- over the Nama affair would have the rest of us hacks hung out to dry by the courts by now.” 

And here lies the challenge for mainstream media. Would they have been “hung out to dry” for publishing much of what I put into the public domain over Nama? Quite often the mainstream media followed up my stories in the days afterwards. 

Anyone I named in regards to the Nama scandals, whether online or in my book, had a legal avenue for redress open to them. They chose not to pursue it. I say that is because what I said was true, and indeed the vast majority of what I alleged has been since independently verified. Others will say it is because there is no money in it for them; but I don’t accept that. Surely the core principle, in such a scenario as he Nama scandal, is about clearing your name? 

As we have seen recently in relation to Jim Wells; ‘bloggers’ and individuals can be pursued as readily as mainstream media outlets for what they publish. Digital contributors do not operate in a legal vacuum. 

I, by writing blogs, can throw caution to the wind in publishing public interest stories. I only have myself to account for; not an entire media organisation or fellow employees. I understand why some editors have to take a more cautious approach; but could this leave mainstream media constantly following up on ‘scoops’ that have already been published by individuals writing on digital platforms? 

Is there a challenge for mainstream media to push the boat out slightly, to resist the threat of legal action more often and go for it? Or would throwing such caution to the wind erode the professional standards of professional journalism? I don’t know, but I think it’s a relevant debate.

I try and maintain a level of professionalism in what I publish. I also, as a personal principle, always protect my sources of information at all costs. I do the former because the credibility of what I publish rests upon not publishing false stories, but rather factual stories that can be independently verified. I do the latter because in life, trust is everything. If I breach the trust of a single person that tells me something in confidence, then how could anyone ever trust me again? 

I consistently, whether I agree with their stories or not, argue that journalists and individuals have the right to publish their writings unhindered and without fear of threat, coercion or violence. Such publications can then be subject to challenges under the law if they can be proven to be false. All published works are also, quite rightly, open to critique and assessment in the court of public opinion. That’s a cornerstone of freedom of expression within a democracy. 

I support the principle of freedom of expression for everyone. I use broadly defined ‘journalistic’ tools within a political context. I publish many of my writings in the public domain. I, therefore, agree with the aims and objectives of the NUJ. That is why I am a member.