Midland’s Journalists’ Charity members visit Irish Embassy

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Committee members of the Midlands Branch of the Journalists’ Charity were among those who gathered at the Irish Embassy in London for an annual reception hosted by the ambassador.

The reception is held each year to raise awareness of the charity’s work and to help it raise funds.

Guests gathered at this year’s reception in a sombre and reflective mood, in the wake of the attack in Paris on the staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Guest speaker Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, described the terrible death toll as a tragic reminder of the importance of freedom of speech, of a free press and most importantly of a freedom to “offend each other”.

In the absence of the Ambassador of Ireland Mr Dan Mulhall, who was detained in Dublin, Mr Clegg, was welcomed to the reception by Mrs Greta Mulhall, Clare Brosnan, press officer for the Embassy of Ireland and Sue Ryan, the charity’s new chair.

The event on January 13 tops the charity’s calendar of social events and in her opening remarks Ms Brosnan said she understood how for journalists the attack on Charlie Hebdo had cast a shadow over the proceedings.

Speaking to the assembled gathering Mr Clegg said: “Whether you are a reporter holding the powerful to account, a foreign correspondent risking life and limb to show the world uncomfortable truths, a commentator contributing to our national debate or a cartoonist pricking the pomposity of politicians and public figures, or even religious figures – thank you. You make us freer.

John James, Enda Mullen and Derek Inman from the Midlands branch of the Journalists’ Charity

John James, Enda Mullen and Derek Inman from the Midlands branch of the Journalists’ Charity

“You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend each other. You don’t have to agree with everything, or even anything, that Charlie Hebdo published to ‘be Charlie’ – you only have to wish to protect the freedoms and rights that define liberal societies like ours.”

In her welcome Clare Brosnan said that 2014 had been a momentous year for both the Journalists’ Charity and the Embassy.

The charity had reached the milestone of its 150th anniversary and for the embassy it had been a year of firsts.
They included Michael D Higgins, the President of Ireland, paying an historic first state visit to Britain.

Also, the ambassador had laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, the two governments had worked together in Belfast to bring about the 2014 Stormont House agreement and trade between the two countries had topped £1 billion each week, confirmation, she said, that Ireland’s economic recovery was well underway.

Sue Ryan, in her first public role as the new chair of the charity, thanked Nick Clegg and the ambassador for the embassy’s continued support in hosting the event and acknowledged how important that had been during the charity’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

She added that there were huge challenges for the year ahead in that the charity had to drag its communications into the 21st century and address the future of the charity’s finances.