Former Advertiser editor receives grant to report on development issues

Fiona McGarry.

Fiona McGarry.

A Mayo journalist has been awarded funding under a prestigious media fund, run by Irish Aid, the Government’s programme of assistance to developing countries.

The Mayo Advertiser’s first editor Fiona McGarry from Castlebar, a freelance journalist and lecturer in journalism at the University of Limerick, was awarded funds to travel to Haiti to highlight the plight suffered by orphans with disabilities and the contribution made by the people of Mayo from fundraising efforts after the 2010 earthquake. She will also document the experiences of a Mayo woman who has been working with Haitian orphans since 1993.

The Simon Cumbers Media Fund, which has provided the support for this project, was established by Irish Aid in memory of Irish journalist Simon Cumbers, who was killed in Saudi Arabia while working with the BBC in 2004. The aim of the fund is to broaden and deepen coverage of global development issues in the Irish media.

Under the fund, journalists are invited to submit proposals for coverage of a development issue, which will involve travel to a developing country. Two funding rounds – one in summer and one in winter – are held each year. A total of 39 project proposals were received for the 2011 winter round. After a thorough deliberation by a panel of independent expert judges, 17 applicants were successful in securing funding.

Following the announcement of successful applicants, outgoing Minister of State for Trade and Development, Jan O’Sullivan TD said:

“The media plays a crucial role in promoting public understanding of global issues. Coverage of developing countries tends to focus on news of conflict, of humanitarian disaster and of corruption. But there are also many positive stories to tell.

“The Simon Cumbers Media Fund provides an opportunity for journalists to travel to the developing countries and spend time talking to the people on the ground. With projects like that proposed by Fiona, the Irish media – and, indeed, the Irish public – have an opportunity to better understand the challenges communities in developing countries face; their hopes and plans, and progress being made. I wish Fiona every success with her project.

“Under the Simon Cumber Media Fund, members of the media are assisted with travel, accommodation, and other ancillary costs that are associated with travelling abroad to cover a story. In 2010, the average award made to each successful applicant was €3,200. The maximum allocation under the fund is €10,000.

“In early April this year, Fiona will travel to Haiti to follow the work of Gena Heraty in the Kay Christine Home where she looks after 29 children who are mentally handicapped.”

Further information and a list of previous projects funded under the Simon Cumbers Media Fund are available at www.simoncumbersmediafund.ie The fund also recently launched a student category which is currently calling for applications from all third-level students. The deadline for submission is Friday February 10. Further details on www.simoncumbersmediafund.ie/index php/students/.

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