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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Lights Out



Anthony McIntyre • 22 August 2006

I was in London when a text message came through. It simply said that the news quality in the North had gone up - Daily Ireland had folded. I initially thought it was a joke. Throughout the day, joyous calls came through confirming the demise of the enterprise. Few would ever accuse it of being a serious newspaper but it certainly provoked extreme emotions. I was surprised less by the collapse than the timing. I had thought it would stay around long enough to help Sinn Fein over the brow of the hill and into the welcoming arms of the PSNI. But rather than the Joe Brolly interview being the first salvo, it was the parting shot.

Although the management-issued death certificate blamed the Brits it effectively expired from lack of public interest. While the British Government took out advertising space in other papers and not in Daily Ireland, placing the Teach Basil outfit at a certain disadvantage, any newspaper that can only survive on government funding really has little right to be in the game. Ostensibly a paper with a republican ethos, it failed to see the irony in its 'blame the Brits' explanation.

Just as the paper was being launched last year, a unionist academic commented to me that the Provos are very capable in many areas but it would be beyond them to sustain a daily paper. The first sign that all was not well was when it failed to reach its break-even plateau of 20, 000 sales daily. It seemed to scale halfway to that summit but never any further. Then it stopped producing its Saturday edition and had the chutzpah to tell its readership that it was merely consolidating. Time it seemed, and no vast expanse of it, was beginning to prove the unionist academic right.

A month or so before its downfall I had been told that Mairtin O'Muilleoir and Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty had been in and around Dublin trying to persuade people in the banking community to fund the paper. They met with handshakes but not hands in the pocket. Then in Derry at a commemoration for the hunger striker Michael Devine, I picked up that O'Muilleoir had been involved in sharp exchanges with Sinn Fein. He wanted the paper to have more autonomy whereas the party wanted it to be a ventriloquist's dummy. Particular pressure was said to have been applied to journalists from two of the main functionaries in the Sinn Fein press office. Holding to Clemenceau's maxim that there is no passion greater than the passion of a functionary for his function the duo are said to have berated and frustrated journalists who deviated in the slightest from the party line. All of this lent itself to a view that that difficulties were mounting and that the venture might not be long for the road.

Journalists losing their jobs is never a cause for celebration. The management at the paper must bear some responsibility for overlooking free flowing news in favour of managed news. Journalists found themselves as little more than propagandists. Had the management opted to produce a daily for Ireland rather than a flag for a particular section of opinion in Ireland, it could have reached the 20,000 mark and still be in business, with journalists' jobs secure.

It has long been said that Daily Ireland was a good idea in the wrong hands. Its lack of vigour and novelty meant that it could never compete with the Irish News. Shortly before the death rattle of its rival, the Irish News, flush with the vigour of life, announced that its sales were continuing to rise in a contracting market.

News reporting was atrocious. Its coverage of the longstanding Ballymurphy violence right on its own doorstep was appallingly tendentious. It did for the enlightenment of its readership what one hand does for clapping. One excellent article does stand out - Laura Canning's coverage of the crisis in the Republic's prisons. This one beacon in an otherwise dim news landscape shone precisely because there was little else. This particular exercise in the monitoring of power was unfortunately never extended to the power closest to the paper. Did it ever raise one serious question of Sinn Fein?

With the exception of perhaps two contributors, one from the Republic and the other in the US, the columns were appalling. Few readers are going to be excited by supposedly serious writers scribbling that the West Belfast festival just gets better and better. Whether it is or is not is neither here nor there. Either way, the public imagination was never going to be set alight by such mediocre on message musings.

There was a sense that the management was acutely sensitive to the shortcomings of the columnists. When the end approached its dying kick came in the form of a cruel joke at the expense of the West Belfast scribe Danny Morrison who was seemingly not given the heads-up about the pending demise. Consequently in his final column the nationalist Morrison lambasted republicans for being unable to put together a propaganda organ. While there was much in the Morrison swansong that republicans could learn from, none of it survived the widespread merriment that greeted the egg splattered face of the former Sinn Fein publicity director.

In the public mind the Daily Ireland ultimately amounted to little more than the Daily Provo, a term favoured by some of its detractors. There was nothing essentially wrong with the paper leaning Sinn Fein's way. But if it were ever to survive it had to be Sinn Fein plus rather than Sinn Fein just.








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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

25 September 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

DNA and Diplock: A Recipe for Injustice
Martin Galvin

Carrots and Sticks
Dr John Coulter

The Time of My Life
Ray McAreavey

Hunger Strikers for Sale on Ebay
Breandán Ó Muirthile

Strange Logic
Anthony McIntyre

Digging Up the Past
John Kennedy

The History of the Belfast Anti War Movement
Davy Carlin

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 11 & 12
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 13 & 14
Michael Gillespie

Lights Out
Anthony McIntyre

Papal in Glass Houses
Derick Perry

The GFA and Islam
Roy Johnston

Muhammad's Sword
Uri Avnery

We Are Not As Evolved As We Think
David Adams

Stone Me
John Kennedy

18 September 2006

Kick the Pope
Anthony McIntyre

When Saying Sorry Isn't Enough
David Adams

"The third camp is about real lives": Interview with Hamid Taqvaee
Maryam Namazie

John Kennedy

Sympathy for the Victims
Mick Hall

For The Victims of Britain's Holocaust in Ireland
Brian Halpin

Dreary Eden
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Legalize the Irish
Frank [Name Supplied]

Careful What You Wish For
Dr John Coulter

The Peace Process — A Children's Fantasy
Tom Luby

John Kennedy

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