“Sometimes your voice does not carry as much as a man. You have to work a lot harder.” Martina Fitzgerald serves as a beacon to aspiring journalists and women in the sphere of Politics. She came to UCD and spoke on her career as a journalist, her No.1 bestseller book ‘Madam Politician’ and her time as a student in UCD.
On Tuesday March 3rd, renowned journalist and former RTÉ Political Correspondent Martina Fitzgerald visited UCD’s Politics & International Relations Society (Polsoc). The former Polsoc Auditor received an Honorary Membership Award from this year’s committee.
Fitzgerald was named as one of the most influential Irish political journalists on Twitter in 2018, she worked for RTÉ News & Current Affairs for 18 years, she reported on all the major elections, referenda and political scandals between 2007 and 2018.
As her extensive career was summarised by committee member Clelia Li Vigni, it was clear from the start why Polsoc chose Fitzgerald to receive the prestigious award. Interviewed by Aisling O’Connell, Fitzgerald began by reminiscing fondly upon her years in UCD. Having studied History and Politics, she “loved being Auditor of the UCD politics Society” and regards that time as one of the highlights of her undergraduate studies.
Located in the Newman’s B109, the fantastic views of the sun going down on Belfield provided a nice backdrop to the evening. Although the views were bittersweet when one realised the room used to house UCD’s much loved staff Common Room, which was shut down by UCD management before the marred opening of the exclusive University Club.
Fitzgerald took us through her career up until now, portraying an uphill battle as a woman in journalism and politics, emerging in an Ireland far culturally different to today’s. Fitzgerald talked extensively on her experiences in a male dominated political arena, as well as the subjects of her latest book ‘Madam Politician’.
Her bestselling novel, released in 2018, saw Fitzgerald interview 17 of the 19 women appointed to government cabinet in the history of the state, as well as former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. Her book chronicles the experiences of these women from their political beginnings to their experience on cabinet.
Fitzgerald spoke of the headlines she made by reporting an incident that saw former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey pull the bra strap of ex-Fine Gael minister Gemma Hussey during a Dáil debate on rape. She also spoke about the “sexist” comments made towards Mary Robinson in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Fitzgerald also spoke about how difficult it can be as a woman in politics, with former female cabinet ministers being traditionally left with family responsibilities as well as government obligations.
Jumping forward to today, Fitzgerald talked about the current state and future of the media. She fears that social media has increasingly polarised people globally and as a journalist “it puts you under so much pressure to always be on.” She is also concerned about the frequency of political journalists leaving their field due to the increasing stresses of instant online reporting. She also sees journalism eventually moving exclusively online, with the decline of print media likely to render the traditional newspaper extinct.
Following a warm reception and brief award ceremony for the accomplishes journalist, the evening ended with plenty of wine and political chats between staff, students and journalists.
Conor Capplis – Editor