Dara fights to save his student newspaper

Comic set up journal 17 years ago

Dara O Briain is campaigning to save the student newspaper he founded while at university in Dublin.

The comic set up the University Observer in 1994 while he was studying maths and theoretical physics at University College Dublin.

But the student union is now threatening to pull the €50,000 a year funding which editors say keeps the newspaper afloat.

The latest issue of the Observer carries an open letter from O Briain urging students to oppose any attempts to close the paper.

He wrote that when he set the paper up with Pat Leahy – now a political reporter: ‘We felt that the college needed a professionally run, regular newspaper that would use the best student journalism to do all the things a great newspaper can do; to campaign and entertain and investigate.

‘Right from the start we said that while this paper would be funded by the Students’ Union, it would be editorially independent from it, even if that independence often led to clashes with the Union.

‘Now though, some within the Union want to take this part of college life and shut it down. They are proposing a referendum to be voted on by yourselves, to remove their obligation to fund a newspaper for you. They want you to help them to kill off this paper.

‘Now, I have no idea what the specific beef is with the paper. These fights come and go, almost as fast as Union officers, and newspaper editors, come and go. Importantly though, these squabbles and spats have never threatened the long-term existence of the paper. No short-term gripe has been deemed sufficient to close down the college paper. That is, until now.

‘I am deeply proud of the talent and energy and almost 20 years of student effort that have gone into building this paper. You should be proud of it too. In fact, all within the Students’ Union should be proud of it. If it comes to a vote, I hope you can remind them of that.’

However students' union President Paul Lynam ccused O Briain of scaremongering and of making misleading statements.

He told the Irish Independent: ‘It is hard to justify why it needs €50,000 a year. Other papers, which are to my mind superior, in other universities, operate on far smaller budgets.’

Published: 20 Feb 2011

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