Government ad snub puts jobs at risk

By Dominic Ponsford

Nationalist Belfast newspaper Daily Ireland will cut up to ten jobs unless it can attract government advertising.

According to Daily Ireland’s owner, Andersonstown News Group, it is
the only one of the four daily newspapers in Belfast not to attract
government advertising.

The title was launched on 1 February as a
morning paper with a pro-united Ireland agenda, covering Northern
Ireland and four border counties in the Republic.

Managing
director Mairtin O’Muilleoir said: “We have said to the government that
they should give us the criteria and policy for placing public notices
and government ads.

“If they don’t advertise with us after the
ABC figures are announced we will have to cut staff, probably around 1
July,” he added.

He said he was expecting the paper’s first
official ABC circulation figure to be announced later this month. And
contradicting reports that Daily Ireland’s sales had been very low, he
predicted it would be “well into five figures”.

Northern Ireland
legislation outlaws discrimination on political or religious grounds
and O’Muilleoir said the company had already lodged a complaint with
the Equality Commission.

He said: “We will cut our cloth
accordingly until we have won this argument. It’s a huge amount of
money, the government is the biggest advertiser in Northern Ireland.”

He
added: “It is no coincidence that the current practices discriminate
against a newspaper which is based in West Belfast and reflects a
strong nationalist point of view.

There are four local newspaper
groups with daily newspapers. Three get ads, one doesn’t. “If four
people are seeking three jobs in the civil service, equality law says
that the government can’t always give the jobs to the people it
favours. That would be illegal. With four newspaper groups seeking
goods and services from the government, it can’t simply give those
goods and services to the newspapers it favours. That is also illegal.”

Irish NUJ secretary Seamus Dooley described the paper’s claims of discrimination as “deeply disturbing”.

He
said: “The NUJ supports the concept of editorial diversity and any
discrimination against a newspaper on the grounds of politics would be
totally unacceptable. The NUJ will be raising this issue with the Irish
and British governments as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesman from
the Northern Ireland Office said: “A new publication must have an
audited circulation figure before government can consider advertising
in it.”

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