Taoiseach: The Echo continues to serve the people of Cork so well

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin shares his thoughts with Elaine Duggan on the role The Echo has played in the life of Cork’s history, politics, community and sport, to mark the paper’s 130th anniversary this week
Taoiseach: The Echo continues to serve the people of Cork so well

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Picture: JULIEN BEHAL PHOTOGRAPHY

TO me ,The Echo was part and parcel and remains part and parcel of my life and our lives. When I was a young lad in Turners Cross, we were close to the city centre, The Echo was a must get. Your mother would send you out to the local shops, there were local shops all over the place then, to get The Echo with other messages.

Or if you were in town then you would hear The Echo Boy and it kinda created the six o’clock Echo. You would hear them outside the GPO, there would be certain young lads who would have perfected the ‘ Echo’... It was part of the character of the city.

I think what The Echo retained from the time I remember is news. I know the world is changing with social media and everything - but The Echo always broke great stories.

A STRONG SPORTS

For me, as a person involved in sport - the sports pages of The Echo have always been superb. People like Billy George - he was a great sports writer - Plunkett Carter, Michael Ellard in GAA, Jim Sullivan and others, going way back. You must have The Echo to get their assessments and today it is the same, with Mark Woods and others – how would Cork do next week? That kind of thing.

I would have been a supporter of Cork Celtic in the ’70s – you wanted to get The Echo to see what the analysis would be, both pre- and post-match.

So I think that sporting dimension would have always been a very strong feature of The Echo.

And even today it is still very strong - all sport – that reflects the obession people of Cork have with sport. Cork people have a geneinue interest – they might have a particular favourite sport – but they have a general interest in all sports. The Echo reflects that.

SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES

The Echo has developed a very strong community presence. I remember when I started out in politics in the late ’80s, SouthGate and NorthGate were developed. These were two supplements withinin The Echo – and ye still do that to this day – with the likes of the Ballyphehane page - covering the different areas.

MY FIRST ECHO STORY

My very first story was with John Murray, who is now with RTÉ, he worked with The Echo – it was around the need to close up an alley in Desmond Square.

I went up to meet a group of residents and The Echo reporter came up with me to meet them. It was before the local elections of 1985.

So The Echo has always been particularly effective in breaking community stories, highlighting and giving profile to community groups and issues that affect communities across the board. That is a very strong strength of The Echo. And continues to be.

It is a quintessential part of Cork.

STORIES THAT STAND OUT

I have great memories of The Echo. I can recall in 1977, if I am not mistaken, after Jack Lynch’s victory in the general election - I was just getting into politics. I was in 5th year in Colaiste Chríost Rí, my father would have been intersted in politics – I remember a photo in The Echo of Jack and Maureen Lynch, I have that image in my head, after the election, down in West Cork on a headland. You get those moments.

Then various Cork All-Irelands, Cork Celtic in the 1970s winning the league, and the All Blacks versus Munster game in Thomand.

So The Echo captured some great historic moments in politics, in history, in community, and the ups and downs of life in Cork city, particularly around Christmas time.

From a city person, The Echo was always the key publication.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEDIA AND POLITICS

This is a relationship that is fundamental to democracy.

I have always had a strong, good relationship with The Echo from back in the ’80s and ’90s - we had very good relationsip with lots of political journalists.

But there has to be a healthy tension between media and poltics and it has to be at arms’ length.

That is why the future of media is important for government – because media is changing, we see in other jurisdictions how it can be manipulated. We need a strong, independent media.

It very challenging for print media in the current situation – with the advance of online technology and so on, I think it is incredible that The Echo continues to serve Cork so well.

The funding for media is important and will be examined by The Future of Media Commission, set up by Government. The key issues are the funding, but also how we retain that independence between government and media.

Media needs to be independent. It is the critical factor in democracy, that politicians are held to account, I think that is very important.

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