David and Goliath' battle for Irish 'Today' goes legal

Andersonstown News: Belfast title

The Belfast-based Andersonstown News Group is facing a legal challenge from News International over its bid to launch a nationalist daily paper called Ireland Today.

The Sun and News of the World publisher is due to challenge the use of the name Ireland Today at the High Court in Dublin on June 10. NI boss Rupert Murdoch bought the now-defunct national paper Today in 1986.

Andersonstown News managing editor Mairtin O’Muilleoir described the dispute with News International as a “David and Goliath” confrontation.

He said: “To pit us against the biggest newspaper group in the world is daunting but we have had some experience in facing up to opponents who are intimidating in their size.”

Andersonstown News hit back against Murdoch in this week’s edition with the front-page headline: “Dirty Digger vows to bury Ireland Today.”

O’Muilleoir said Murdoch’s company was claiming to have global copyright over use of the word Today.

But he said he had found a host of examples of newspapers and websites using it in their titles.

He said: “It’s like trying to copyright the word news. He doesn’t seem to have come down as hard on other people using the word Today. I think the reason for that is they don’t like the type of paper that we are proposing.”

Andersonstown News Group currently runs three newspapers in Belfast serving mainly the nationalist community.

O’Muilleoir believes that the new paper would be viable with a daily circulation of 20,000 and advertising sales of £1m a year. If sufficient financial backing can be found, O’Muilloeir said he wants to launch the paper in the next six months.

He described it as “a national paper but covering the 12 northern counties of Ireland in a cross-border way”.

He said Ireland Today would reflect the political viewpoint of Sinn Fein and feed on the growing popularity of the party in recent years.

The new paper is seeking Government as well as private sector funding leading to concern from editors of existing Irish dailies that it could have an unfair advantage.

Responding to this point O’Muilleoir said: “The Belfast Telegraph received substantial Government funding for its extension in Belfast and the Irish News receives Government funding for training.

“We are located in an area of high unemployment and we are creating jobs in an area of need. Anyone else who wants to come here and locate in an area of need are welcome to do so.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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