Has the number of Irish Ministers going abroad for St Patrick’s day increased?

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Ireland

Organisation: The Irish Times

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 3 Dec 2019

Credit: Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Project description:

Each St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) Irish ministers and other government members go abroad to promote Ireland and maintain links with Irish emigrants around the globe. This project looked at these visits since 2011-2019 (during the Fine Gael administration) and found the number of countries visited by the Government on St Patrick’s Day has increased sevenfold since 2011 with a greater focus on Europe, Asia and South America. 

Impact reached:

This project highlighted the changing and expanding nature of the Irish government’s St Patrick’s Day visits abroad since 2011. It highlighted how not only how the number of countries visited has expanded, but hand in hand with that, how the number of government members sent overseas to represent Ireland, has also increased significantly. 

Techniques/technologies used:

Google Sheets, Datawrapper and Tableau were the main tools used for this project. Google Sheets was used to create the working database and used for simple analysis on the data collected. Datawrapper and Tableau were used to create the charts for the article. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

The most difficult part of the project was compiling the database. The information was collected using government press releases, government expenses, individual minster’s newsletters, and Irish Times news articles to ensure accuracy of countries visited and the minsters who visited them. These measures were needed as often the final destinations or the ministers’ itineraries were changed (ie a Minister due to go to France may have ended up not goign at all due to an issue that cropped up in the days leading up to the trip) and a new press release was not issued with the updated information and so ensuring accuracy involved going beyond relying on the initial government release. I believe this project should be considered as it was a very fresh take on the annual St Patrick’s Day trips abroad and the data showed how the St Patrick’s Day  programme has been expanded in recent years to not only include a greater number of US cities, but also the Middle East and South America. 

What can others learn from this project?

Other journalists can learn that a story being covered each year will allow for a lot of data on the matter to be built up and that can allow for a fresh angle on the issue. 

Project links: