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Suzanne Breen

How journalists were given the strictest of instructions for the launch of a dull report

Suzanne Breen


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Journalists get a look at the RHI Inquiry Report in the
Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings yesterday

Journalists get a look at the RHI Inquiry Report in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings yesterday

Journalists get a look at the RHI Inquiry Report in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings yesterday

Forty journalists received the RHI report two hours before it was launched. We assembled on the plush red leather benches of Stormont's stunning Senate Chamber.

Before we were permitted entry to the room, a notice of undertaking had to be signed in which we pledged not to publish any details of the report, or comment on it, before 2pm.

Proceedings were organised by the inquiry's ever approachable and efficient media adviser, former Press Association Ireland editor, Deric Henderson. At 12pm, copies of the document were handed out.

It was huge. Three weighty volumes were thankfully accompanied by a much more manageable 70-page document containing the findings, summary and recommendations of Sir Patrick Coghlin and his team.

We were allowed to keep our mobile phones and laptops, and to contact our newsdesks to brief them on the report. But we were told that we could not leave Stormont with the document until 2pm. Nor were we permitted to wander around Parliament Buildings with it.

Trips to the canteen were okay, but the report had to remain in the room. There was little talk among journalists as we leafed through its 656 pages, underlining the important parts. But the mood was not electric to say the least. The findings felt rather flat generally, and the language employed by the authors seemed dull and dreary.

"Underwhelming" was the word most commonly used by the journalists present to describe the report.

During our two hours in the Senate Chamber, we typed our stories. At 2pm, we were free to file them, and to tweet away. There was generally not a frenzy of social media activity. RHI hit the headlines with a bang in December 2016, but it went out with a whimper.

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