Daily Ireland closes, blaming British ad boycott

Belfast-based newspaper, Daily Ireland, has failed in its bid to establish itself as a pro-nationalist cross-border voice.

Bosses of the paper claimed the British Government was partly to blame for Daily Ireland's failure because it refused to place advertising.

Ten journalists have lost their jobs following the sudden closure on Friday.

Editor-in-chief Máirtin Ó Muilleoir said that the British exchequer was the chief financial beneficiary of the venture — he claimed that of the £3 million invested in Daily Ireland since January 2005, £300,000 was paid in tax.

The final edition on 7 September ran to 44 pages with a front page splash about Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams meeting the leaders of Hamas.

The sudden nature of the closure meant there was no farewell, but the last editorial said: "For 475 editions now, Daily Ireland has argued that the unification of Ireland remains the most pressing issue of our time.

"For saying so, we have endured a government advertising boycott in the North and brickbats from the great and the good in the South."

Irish justice minister Michael McDowell claimed Daily Ireland was biased in favour of the IRA — prompting the paper to sue him for libel.

The launch of Daily Ireland prompted a frenetic period of activity in the Belfast newspaper market last year — with the publishers of the News Letter briefly publishing a populist daily morning tabloid and evening paper The Belfast Telegraph launching a tabloid morning edition.

Daily Ireland had a target circulation of 20,000 north and south — but in the latest round of ABC figures it only managed to reach an actively purchased sale of 8,736.

It was launched by the Andersonstown News Group which continues to run a series of weekly newspapers in Belfast.

Ó Muilleoir said: "When Daily Ireland launched on 1 February 2005, we had a realistic expectation that we would receive Invest NI start-up assistance. This was refused. We also expected to receive government advertisements on the same basis as the other local dailies.

"Instead, we were told we would have to receive an ABC certificate of distribution — a stipulation which never applied to any of the newspapers which were the beneficiaries for many years of huge amounts of government ad money.

"However, when we duly received our first — and very encouraging — ABC certificate in July 2005 the government then announced a review of its ad spending which was to last nine months. During this crucial period in Daily Ireland's development, we were the only local daily denied job advertisements.

"When the review was completed it was announced that government advertisements would be put out to tender for the first time ever, but we were told we could not tender on the basis of our group distribution figure.

"We have examined the implications of that decision and have concluded that it means it will be impossible for us to cover our costs going forward and so we have reluctantly decided to cease publishing from Friday.

"We will leave it to others to decide for themselves why the first-ever root-and-branch reform of the British Government's multi-million annual advertising spend in the North coincided with the arrival of Daily Ireland on the market."

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