"Unanswered (question) because it seems no one in the Dead Tree Press is asking them.
I was drawn a fortnight ago to the Minister of Defence Willie O’Dea's entry in the register of Oireachtas members interest. The minister as many people will know has a weekly column in the Sunday Independent. Now, politicians writing the occasional column or making the odd television appearances is not uncommon nor should it be discouraged. However, a weekly column is a platform for promotion of his electoral chances much like any other piece of advertising and it suggests employment. So why is there no reference to this engagement in his return.
The absence to any reference to his column begs the following questions.
Is the minister actually employed on contract my Independent News and Media and is he paid the going rate for this column? – and why is this not listed on his return?
If not then does he pay a market rate for the advertising space he is being given to convey his political message to the public each week?
If not then this space is being given as a gift from Independent New and Media to the minister and why was it not noted as such on his return?
Those are the only real options.
A senior minister takes up an offer of assistance from a major commercial organisation. An offer that will assist his re-election chances and he then doesn’t declare it in his entry of the register of Oireachtas members’ interests. You would think that this would be headline news, right? Well, while we’ve had the usual prurient interest in who owns how many houses and perhaps the exotic shareholders of some Oireachtas members, there are been no mention of this cosy relationship."
Willie does seem to have a special status with the Sindo, one that has been ongoing as long as I have been in journalism. Ministers (or to be accurate, their civil servants) write op-ed pieces for newspapers all the time. No money ever passes hand.
But Willie's scribing for the Sindo is a horse of a different colour. He writes a column so regularly for them that for a while we had high hopes that Aengus Fanning would recruit him as one the famous 03 team.
Anyway, his people told me last night that Willie gets no payment for his weekly column (I hadn't realised it was so regular). Which is fine. But if he's writing a weekly column, he shouldn't be doing it for free. That's not a good precedent for our profession.
If he wants, he can donate the fee to charity. And it's arguable that the column (a regular free platform for Willie's world view) could and should be declared to SIPO.