October 11th 2021

David Booth

Today’s Speaker is David Booth ‘Polio Plus, the need to continue’

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Oct 11th Bonn Rotary Video Link with Tours and ourselves 6 p.m. Irish Time ‘The China Threat’
Oct 18th Katrina Buckley, Men’s Aid
Oct 25th Public holiday – no meeting
Nov 1st Business meeting
Nov 6th & 7th Visit by members of the Rotary Club Bonn. Nov 8th Shabnam Vasisht - Digging up the Raj in Deansgrange cemetery.
Nov 15th Dr Richard Conway – Disorders of the immune systems – a mystery
Nov 22nd The Egyptian Ambassador
Dec 6th Special General Meeting
Dec 13th Christmas lunch
20th to 22 May 2022, Copenhagen Rotary Club: The 2022 Premio Leonardo da Vinci meeting

President Alexander was in the chair at our last meeting.
Visitors and Apologies
At last week’s meeting we had 23 members in attendance.
Apologies were received from 12 members as follows:
Eamonn Allen; VP Delma Sweeney; Caroline Barnardo; Emmanuel Barra; Derek Bell; Sinem Balta; Patrick Fanning; Hon Treas Dermot Knight; Kevin McAnallen; Mary O'Rafferty; Alan Harrison and David Horkan.
The 3 Guests attending were introduced by PP Bernadette. They were Nasir Barakzai; Cormac Trant (soon to be a member) and Ola El- Garawany who was sponsored by PP Mariandy
Induction of a new member.
President Alexander was happy to induct our new member Ms. Ola El- Garawany. Ola is originally from Alexandia in Egypt and came to Ireland to complete her studies before opening her own community based pharmacy in Rathoath where she offers a full range of diagnostic tests.
PP Mariandy made the welcoming speech, saying that she had joined Rotary in the Philippines in 1996 and she was immediately thrown in to a very demanding and stressful project dealing with training people to deal with sexually abused people. This started her interest in stress management. She moved to Germany and from there to London where she not only re-joined Rotary and met our President Alexander but gave up the chance of becoming President to marry an Irishman. She relishes being engaged in projects, giving of yourself in service and in recruiting new members.
Thought for the Day

The 'Thought for the Day' was given by PP Bernadette Mulvey who told us that October was her favourite month. Many of us were now in the autumn of our lives and we should make the most of the lovely weather, the most of the fabulous colours of the leaves and the most of our friends, some of whom may not be in the best of health.

Rotary Rangers’ Schedule
October 12th Paddock Hill, Laragh October 19th Fananerrin Ridge, Glenmalure Valley October 26th Black Hill & Sorrel, West Wicklow.
Hoping that you will make an effort to support these walks with your presence.

President’s Announcements
President Alexander informed us that he would be going to the 50th anniversary lunch of Inner Wheel the following Tuesday.

Members Wishing to Speak
Delma Sweeney said that her appeal for support for the Samaritans staff training project had raised about € 2,000 and thanked everybody who contributed.
Speaker for the Day
Our guest speaker was Peter Feeney, the Press Ombudsman invited by Mary O. and introduced by Tom O’Neill.
Peter Feeney said that this was his first time addressing a live audience for 18 months due to the Covid Pandemic and it felt good to be back in front of a real people. He served for 7 years as Press Ombudsman and before that worked with R.T.E. for 7 years and before that was a university lecturer in Belfast.
So what is happening to the press? So many people and especially the young people are no longer buying newspapers but getting all their news on line. Most newspapers and magazines now have an on-line edition and so life goes on. It’s not necessarily bad for journalists as there is still work but what are they being asked to do? They have to catch the attention of those people you see scrolling down their phones as they travel to work on public transport, giving a quick glance at the various headlines, and rarely reading any article for more than 10 seconds. That appears to be their attention span. And even when they do read an article it’s rare that they will stay with it for 5 or 10 minutes. Everything they look at is just for a moment. A serious reader has to invest time. The recently released Pandora Papers were covered by about 15,000 words in the Guardian and only 5,000 words in the Irish Times. Is that all we’ve time for? With printed newspapers there is the early edition and a couple of later editions, but with on-line media the headlines can change every hour. The editor decides which breaking news story is the most interesting to their readership. With lower circulation there is less income and so fewer advertisers want to advertise and it’s a vicious circle. The implications are that fewer resources are available and fewer journalists are employed and there is less investigative journalism. Journalists may cover a story where someone is brought before a court but may not be there to report that the same person has been acquitted, so we don’t get the full picture and someone’s reputation gets damaged.
The usually polite public discourse over the last 20 years with a certain level of decorum has been replaced by social media where people can shout and threaten and remain anonymous. Politicians are more likely to be abused and many people are put off going into public life. Whenever there is a call to stop bullying or exploitation on-line the social media companies keep saying that they are taking measures to address this issue. They say with millions of tweets an hour it’s very difficult to police. Journalists don’t have time, for example, to attend County Council meetings and often just get their stories from the Internet. Editors know that if you have a story about Boris Johnson and one about Leo Varadkar, the one about Boris will be the one that readers will look at first, even though the one about Leo would be far more relevant to Irish people’s lives.
The Irish Press was a fine paper and it was very successful until its readership aged and the paper was unable to attract younger readers. The same is happening with RTE. Viewers are aging and young people are not watching. Will that change? There is a danger of not being informed. Journalists should hold government to account and freedom of expression is so important. That freedom is severely curtailed in Hungary at the moment. People should be knowledgeable about what works and what does not work in our society and a vibrant press that people read is an essential part of that.
Ted Corcoran said that if RTE claimed that he had embezzled Rotary Trust funds he could sue them but if that was put up on social media he couldn’t. Peter said this was very relevant. Facebook and Twitter say that they just host content but we must make them take responsibility and take down harmful or inaccurate content. They have algorithms to do this but they are not yet very good at it. They pay people € 15 an hour to clean it up but they don’t have the experience to know what to delete.
Frank Bannister said that until you can successfully sue big IT companies nothing will change. It’s like the failure rates of parachutes not opening go down to nearly zero when you start packing parachutes beside their users at airports. Algorithims should be better. They could charge a few cents on every email to cover the costs of better policing because it’s a worldwide problem and needs resources. He guesses it will be 5 or 10 years till the media companies will clean up their acts.
The vote of thanks was delivered by PP Mark Doyle who thanked Peter for a most interesting if worrying talk. He confessed to reading the Irish Times on his Kindle but tried not to flip onto the next story all the time. He agreed that social media had limited public discourse and this was regrettable.