The Irish Times led the way at the 2017 NewsBrands Ireland Journalism awards, with journalists from the newspaper winning seven awards, more than any other title.
In a ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House that, in duration at least, harked back to the mythical long journalistic lunches of times gone by, Fintan O’Toole was named best columnist (broadsheet) and described as “a writer of outstanding analysis” for his articles on Brexit, Donald Trump’s America and contemporary terrorism.
Patrick Freyne won best critic for the second year in a row for his Ticket columns on TV and popular culture, while Malachy Clerkin received the best sports writer award for his writing on GAA and on the death of Anthony Foley.
David Labanyi, who was the first journalist to uncover the Garda breath test scandal, won the award for Scoop of the Year, and crime correspondent Conor Lally was named best features writer (broadsheet).
The award for digital excellence was won by Ciara Kenny for her work on The Irish Times Abroad project, which provides a platform for news, emigrant stories and discussions for Irish people around the world.
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic received the award for best foreign coverage for his reports on the war in Syria and on the US presidential election.
The overall journalist of the year award was won by Catherine Fegan of the Irish Daily Mail and the Irish Mail on Sunday, while the crime correspondent of the Irish Daily Star, Mick O'Toole, won two awards for his work on the Irish connections of London Bridge attacker Rachid Redouane.
A special award for investigative research was presented to historian Catherine Corless for her work uncovering the existence of hundreds of bodies of infants buried at the old mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.
The chair of the judging panel for the awards, Matt Dempsey, said the standard of the 1,400 entries received was higher than ever before, and that even to get nominated meant "you must be a very talented journalist".
This year's awards were sponsored by the National Lottery, whose chief executive, Dermot Griffin, told the audience that a free media was an essential part of a democratic society.
Vincent Crowley, the chair of NewsBrands, the representative body for all national newspapers, print and online, said it was very important that journalism was protected by a legislative framework "that empowers journalists to do their work". He said he was hopeful that the current review of the 2009 Defamation Act would recommend a fairer regime "in line with our European neighbours". Mr Crowley also called for the appointment of a dedicated minister for media.
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said the Government expected to receive the report on defamation law "in the coming months".
Mr Naughten said he believed politicians had a role to play in the survival of a free press, "despite president Trump's best efforts to destroy it". He noted that, despite Mr Trump's attacks on the New York Times, the newspaper's share price and digital subscriptions had risen substantially since his inauguration.
NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards 2017
Business Journalist: Jack Horgan Jones – The Sunday Business Post
Business Story of the Year: John Meagher – Irish Independent
Broadsheet Columnist of the Year: Fintan O'Toole – The Irish Times
Popular Columnist of the Year: Lynda McCarthy – Sunday World
Crime Journalist of the Year: Michael O'Toole – Irish Daily Star
Crime Story of the Year: Michael O'Toole – Irish Daily Star
Critic: Patrick Freyne – The Irish Times
Digital Excellence: The Irish Times Abroad – Ciara Kenny – The Irish Times
Features (Popular): Catherine Fegan – Irish Daily Mail
Regional Journalist: Sorcha Crowley – Sligo Champion
Features (Broadsheet): Conor Lally – The Irish Times
Foreign Journalism: Ruadhán Mac Cormaic – The Irish Times
Front Page: Irish Daily Mirror 'What Have They Done'
Headline: Irish Daily Star 'Quarter Pounder with Sleaze'
Investigative Journalism: Michael O'Farrell – Irish Daily Mail
News Analysis: Daniel McConnell & Fiachra O'Cionnaith – Irish Examiner
News Reporter: Conor Feehan – The Herald
Political Journalist: John Lee – The Irish Mail On Sunday
Political Story: Ellen Coyne – Ireland Edition of the Times
Scoop of the Year: David Labanyi – The Irish Times
Sports Writer of the Year: Malachy Clerkin – The Irish Times
Sport Story of the Year: Martin Breheny – Irish Independent
Showbiz Journalist: Ken Sweeney
Showbiz Story: Nadine O' Regan – The Sunday Business Post
Young Journalist: Niall O'Connor – Irish Independent
Journalist of the Year: Catherine Fegan – Irish Daily Mail
Special Award for Investigative research: Catherine Corless