Midlands branch of the Journalists’ Charity attend annual reception in the capital

Members of the Midlands branch of the Journalists' Charity at the Embassy of Ireland reception for the charity. Pictured, back from left, are Derek Inman, Steve Dann and Enda Mullen. Front, from left, are Lois Burley and Val Deeley.

Members of the Midlands branch of the Journalists’ Charity at the Embassy of Ireland reception for the charity. Pictured, back from left, are Derek Inman, Steve Dann and Enda Mullen. Front, from left, are Lois Burley and Val Deeley.

By Gabriel Filan

Members of the Midlands branch of the Journalists’ Charity attended the charity’s annual reception at the Embassy of Ireland in London on January 30.

Chief guest at this year’s event was Defence Minister Anna Soubry, who regaled members, supporters and friends with tales of her early days as a trainee reporter on the bi-weekly Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser and Journal in Stirling.

Ms Soubry was welcomed by the Ambassador of Ireland, Dan Mulhall, who spent eight years as a press spokesman for the Irish Government and who said he was delighted to welcome guests at an event in the embassy that brought together so many British and Irish journalists and their friends.

He said the Embassy of Ireland was proud to host an annual reception that celebrated the many close connections within the British and Irish media world.

Ms Soubry, MP for Broxtowe and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, described her initial training as a journalist as one of the happiest years of her life.

She said: “It was fabulous experience. I learned shorthand and passed my shorthand test and completed my indentures…I am not suggesting there are improper journalists but I like to think I am a proper journalist…I cut my teeth doing court reports.”

After two years as a reporter and presenter at Grampian Television in Aberdeen, she joined Central Television as a reporter and presenter and worked with Journalists’ Charity chairman Laurie Upshon.

Given the centenary this year of Great War, Mr Mulhall said it was fitting to recall the great role played by Irish war correspondents.

William Howard Russell from Dublin, who became a member of the Newspaper Press Fund, was sent to the Crimea by The Times after cutting his teeth reporting Irish general elections in the 1840s; in the 1880s two Irish journalists, Frank Power and Edmund O’Donovan, lost their lives in the Sudan.

He said: “There is a long and distinguished record of Irish journalists contributing to British newspapers and it is entirely appropriate that the Journalists’ Charity should come here once a year so that the embassy can host this event.”

Mr Mulhall promised that 2014 would be another great year for British-Irish relations. The President of Ireland Michael Higgins would be paying the first ever state visit to the United Kingdom in April.

“There has been outstanding progress in our relations in the last couple of decades,” he added. “The Good Friday agreement lifted a burden from British-Irish relations, providing the basis for close neighbourly relations and genuine friendship.

He said the two countries had recognised that British and Irish history had overlapped when Irish people fought and died on the battlefields of the Somme and Gallipoli and the other battlefields of the Great War.

Mr Mulhall added that last month the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Prime Minister David Cameron had visited the cemetery in Flanders and seen the graves of Irish soldiers who had fallen in the Great War. To mark the 100th anniversary a Commonwealth war cemetery will be established this year within the Irish national cemetery at Glasnevin.

Mr Upshon thanked the ambassador for his hospitality and said it was fitting that the Embassy of Ireland reception should be the event that launched the charity’s150th anniversary.

* The Midlands branch of the Journalists’ Charity is holding its annual Celebrity Lunch featuring Channel 4’s Jon Snow on March 28 at Villa Park. A number of tickets are still available, along with corporate sponsorship and raffle prize opportunities. For details contact Val Deeley on 01562 883290 or email val.deeley@live.co.uk.