Today I received good news from my union.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) formally communicated to me that a complaint that I had made about another NUJ member, a Mr David Leggat, had been upheld.
I have been in trade unions since I had my first job as a teenager in Glasgow in the 1970s.
Being in the National Union of Journalists means a great deal to me and I enjoy hugely the voluntary effort that I put into the NUJ.
I have been a member of my union for many years and I am currently on the Irish Executive Council, the New Media Industrial Council and was recently appointed the editor of the Irish Journalist.
Within the NUJ I see two things that I consider to be essential to any functioning democracy; a free press and trade union organisation.
The solidarity principle is inimical to the neo-liberal globalised world where everyone sees themselves as out on their own against everyone else in the world of work.
Central to the NUJ since the 1930s is that the union’s members sign up to our code of conduct.
In the aftermath of Leveson it is even clearer than ever that an absence of NUJ organisation in a media workplace can lead to an ethical vacuum.
I would wager that if the NUJ had been recognised and established within News International then no one would have thought it a good idea to hack into a missing child’s voicemail.
When I decided to lodge a complaint against Mr Leggat in November 2011 it was not something I did lightly or without a great deal of thought beforehand.
This is the first time I have ever taken such a course of action against anyone in the NUJ and I trust I will never have to do this again.
However, I felt that I had no choice given the way in which Mr Leggat was persistently characterising me on his blog.
I do not know Mr Leggat and he does not know me.
We have never met.
This is the first time I have ever written about Mr Leggat and I do not intend to write about him again.
If he was still writing for a newspaper within the United Kingdom then I would have sued that title had any of his blogs about me been filed as copy and passed for publication.
Two other members of the union also complained about Mr Leggat to the NUJ and these complaints were heard together.
Brian McNally of the Sunday Mirror complained at the same time as myself and latterly so did Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News.
Both Brian and I submitted written evidence to the Ethics Council that alleged that Mr Leggat’s writings about us were, in part, motivated by anti-Irish racism and we believed that this could be clearly discerned by examining his blog.
The day before the hearing was about to take place Mr Leggat resigned from the union.
However, the hearing went ahead regardless.
I have been told that the following statement will go into the NUJ’s house magazine:
“Following an Ethics Council investigation of a Rule 24 complaint, the NEC upheld the ruling that David Leggat had breached the union’s code of conduct and agreed that the former NUJ member will be subject to the maximum fine specified in the Rule Book which at the 2013 rate is £1,000. It was also agreed that a note shall be placed upon his previous membership record to the effect that he is not considered by the union to be a fit and proper person in respect of his eligibility for membership. However, should David Leggat wish to make an application to re-join the NUJ at some future date, the matter should be put before the NEC for consideration.”
I am very satisfied with how this process has been managed by the lay members of my union and by the fulltime officers.
Moreover, I am happy that Mr Leggat is no longer in the National Union of Journalists and I now consider the matter closed.