Outgoing Irish Times editor defends public's right to know

Outgoing Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy used her leaving speech to defend press freedom and the public’s right to know.

Kennedy originally announced she would be leaving the publication in September but handed over the reins to her successor, former news editor Kevin O’Sullivan, last week.

Kennedy said she wanted to be remembered as someone who ‘stood the line against attempts to fetter and control’the newspaper’s independent journalism.

She told staff: ‘I know that there are those, inside and outside The Irish Times , who found me awkward, exacting about our verification processes, keenly aware of our responsibility given our influence – but the guiding light always for me was to produce an independent, quality newspaper.”

The main challenges she faced during her nine years in charge were operating within ever-diminishing budgets and the ‘daily and incessant demand from diverse interests to control our editorial content”.

In 2006 Kennedy and the paper’s public affairs correspondent Colm Keena refused to reveal sources before a planning tribunal, following the paper’s story disclosing details of the investigation into payments to Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern while he was minister for finance.

They were then ordered to reveal their sources by the High Court in Ireland but took their fight to protect sources to the Supreme Court. The case is now with the European Court of Human Rights.

‘I wanted, in my time, to articulate a philosophy for the practice of journalism in our society, because reporters are always too busy, too caught up in the daily grind of producing stories against tight deadlines, to do so,’she continued.

‘Journalists like to think that press freedom is all about them. But it is not. It is about the public’s right to know; your right as readers and citizens.”

New editor O’Sullivan, 51, has been with the paper since 1997 and has been news editor since 2006.

He has served as night editor, special projects editor, editor of the Health supplement, and environmental and food science correspondent.

Before joining the Times he worked with the Connacht Tribune and the Tuam Herald .

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