Belfast Telegraph

This year's Christmas appeal can't fail to touch your heart

By Paul Connolly

The annual Christmas appeal is a traditional newspaper campaign at this time of year. I've found nothing that sheds light on how this long-standing tradition began, but it seems to stretch back into newspaper history and probably just dissolved into practice down through the decades.

The Belfast Telegraph's appeal this year is the Baby Hearts Appeal, run by well-known charity Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke.

Many, if not most, newspapers mount an annual seasonal appeal and the only common thread that I can ever deduce is that the proceeds go, of course, to charity and that donations rarely, if ever, go to controversial causes.

This year, for example, The Times' Christmas appeal is raising funds for Sightsavers, an international charity fighting preventable blindness, the Abbeyfield Society, which provides housing, support and care for older people (and has an office in Belfast) and Prostate Cancer UK.

The Financial Times, by contrast, is raising money for The Global Fund for Children, which works with the world's most vulnerable kids.

The Belfast Telegraph chose the Baby Hearts Appeal earlier in the year after looking at a range of subjects. The aim is to help fund Belfast-based research into congenital heart disease in babies by raising at least £20,000.

Anyone who has read the case histories of children affected, like Joe Degnan, from Larne, who needed surgery at just two days old, can't have been anything but moved.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in children born in Northern Ireland with, on average, 250 children per year born with one.

We've had brilliant support from a wide range of people, including Eamonn Holmes and Malachi Cush. But there's more to do.

Our target is to enlist 800 supporters who will donate £25 each, which will cover research costs for 110 babies. Donating is simple: either go to, or telephone 028 9180 2080, or fill in the coupon in today's paper (page 5), or on the website.

Meanwhile, we are heading into a new year that is likely to be an important one for the history of the UK's news media.

I wrote last week that the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life have signed up to the newspaper industry's tough new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which is replacing the Press Complaints Commission. Some 90% of publishers in the UK have signed up.

The position regarding Northern Ireland's other newspapers wasn't clear last week, but the situation is slowly clarifying itself.

The Irish News has now told me it is "likely" to sign up to Ipso as well. The News Letter is part of the UK-wide company Johnston Press, which looks set to sign. The Sunday World hasn't made a decision, but I understand it is likely to join, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Trinity Mirror, which publishes Ulster and Irish editions of the Daily and Sunday Mirror and The People out of its Belfast offices, has already signed up to Ipso.

All of which means that, assuming a fair wind, the main daily and Sunday newspapers in Northern Ireland are all highly likely to be Ipso members, in theory putting them at odds with the Government's Royal Charter on the Press.

The editors and publishers of the more than 20 local weekly papers across Northern Ireland will presumably have to make a call. It will be interesting to see which way they fall.


Even more interesting is the stirrings of a debate over the constitutional status of Royal Charters in Northern Ireland.

If, as seems to be the advice, the Royal Charter on the Press doesn't automatically apply to the province, does that mean that other royal charters don't apply here, either?

If that is the case, then there may well be legal ramifications. Watch this space.




About our appeal... And what you can do

OUR AIM: to help fund Belfast-based research into congenital heart disease in babies by raising at least £20,000 through our campaign

OUR TARGET: to enlist 800 supporters who will donate £25 each, covering research costs for 110 babies in Northern Ireland

HOW TO HELP: you can make a donation via or alternatively telephone 028 9180 2080

USE YOUR COUPON: just print out the coupon below , fill in your details below and send it to the address at the bottom to make a contribution to this vital three-year study


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