Northern Ireland, where Government Press Officers outnumber journalists…

If the first base in setting up a democracy is to get a critical mass of politicians to buy into standing for election and then (trying to help) run the country, then Northern Ireland passes that with flying colours. If the next step (and there is no reason these things have to be linear) is a free press to interrogate said public officials, then maybe we have a bit further to go. In any case, there was a nice spot by Liam Clarke the other day:

It was Roy Lilley, who edited the Belfast Telegraph in the rough years between 1974 and 1993. The paper came out even after it was bombed in September 1976.

Roy got the next year’s World Associations of Newspapers’ Golden Pen award for his courage.

However, the point he picked up on was the number of Press officers and spin-doctors at Stormont, who may well outnumber the province’s working journalists.

Roy told me he started as the Tele’s Political Editor in 1961, 50 years before I got the job.

“There were three Press officers in the whole of Stormont then,” he told me and, of course, the old Stormont got by with 52 members, where we need 108 MLAs.


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