'Political Story of the Year' award for Times Journalist Ellen

Ellen Coyne Journalism

Ellen Coyne graduated from USW’s Journalism degree in 2013 and is now senior reporter for the Irish Edition of The Times. She recently won ‘Political Story of the Year’ at the News Brands Ireland journalism awards.


Changing history, influencing policy

“I won the award for a story I broke about the ownership of St Vincent’s, a new maternity hospital in Dublin.

Despite being built using 300million euros of taxpayers’ money, ownership of the hospital would be retained by the Religious Sisters of Charity, an organisation which owes millions of euros in child abuse compensation.

The reaction to the story was huge – there were protests and a petition, which quickly went viral. People were incredibly angry that that a religious organisation would have ownership over a hospital dedicated to maternity care.

As a result, the Sisters of Charity backed away from the project in a historic move, ending a 183-year involvement with the healthcare group, and transferred ownership of three Irish hospitals, including St Vincent’s, to an independent company.

The Irish Government is now undertaking an independent review to look at the role of voluntary organisations, including religious organisations, in publicly funded health services.

It was great to win the award but the impact and the long-term changes that have happened as a result are much more important. I think the anger over the story was a big social moment for Ireland and it’s great to have your work be part of that.

My time at USW

I came to study in the UK to give myself more options of working as a journalist in both the UK and Ireland. I loved that the journalism course at USW was so practical. There were lots of opportunities to get out and about finding stories, which really appealed to me.

I had the opportunity to focus on my interest in women’s issues. In my second year, I set up The Phoenix, a student newspaper, which gave me invaluable experience and the opportunity to write about the issues I was passionate about.

Working at The Times

If I could create my dream job, I couldn’t create anything more perfect than what I do now.

Being a reporter at The Times is fast-paced and full of variety. I tend to spend Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Irish parliament, but have the rest of my week free to investigate other stories – this can make the work and hours very unpredictable but I love that freedom and flexibility.

My final major project at University was a documentary on the access to abortion for women in Ireland. Five years on from this, in 2018, Ireland will have an historic referendum on abortion. This will be a huge social and political moment for Ireland, as abortion has been illegal since 1861. It’s an incredibly exciting time to a journalist.

Image credit: Andres Poveda