The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

"Fury At Community Newspaper Funding"
British Government Funding Post GFA Republican Newspaper

"Perhaps the most obvious political effect of controlled news is the advantage it gives powerful people in getting their issues on the political agenda and defining those issues in ways likely to influence their resolution."- W. Lance Bennett

Carrie Twomey • 8 July 2004

A hornet's nest has been stirred in the halls of the British government as it now comes to light that at least since the signing of the GFA, West Belfast newspaper the Andersonstown News has been paid by the British government on average at least £110,000 per year.

Today's Andersonstown News led with a front page rebuttal employing its typical victim mentality, which many residents of West Belfast have been complaining about for years. "If them 'uns can have editorials about Unionism, why cant us 'uns have editorials about Nationalism?" (paraphrased), managing editor and millionaire Mairtin O Muilleoir whinged, while failing to disclose the amounts received by the so-called Republican newspaper from Her Majesty's Government.

O Muilleoir's personal fortune was exposed publicly earlier this year in an article in the Irish Independent, which reported him as the sole proprietor of the Andersonstown News Group which has an estimated worth of £10 million. It also reported that the Andersonstown News have received funds of €400,000 from an un-named British government funded body, and that O Muilleoir had complained after the Belfast Regeneration Office, another British government funded body, failed to give him more money.

O Muilleoir attempted to deflect criticism by lying about other newspapers' funding. He is quoted in the Irish News suggesting that all of the main newspaper groups in the north had quite properly received government funding to which they are entitled.

Written Answers to the House of Lords on 7 July show this to be untrue. The papers funded by the British Government during the period 1999-2004, including the Andersonstown News Group's paper, were shown to be the Shankill Mirror (£156,575; 2002-2004) the East Belfast Observer (£250,464; 2003), the Big List (£11,273; 2000-2001) and £5963 in 2000 to the Mirror Group, for Employment Learning. The amounts given to the Andersonstown News dwarf what was awarded to the other newspapers, none of which, apart from the Mirror Group, would be considered a main newspaper group. The East Belfast Observer, launched in March, is a brand new paper that has yet to establish itself.

Refuting O Muilleoir's spoofing, the Irish News issued this statement, lest it be thought that the Irish News was also government funded:

“The Irish News has heavily invested in the company’s expansion in recent years and has not received a single penny of public funds. We were, in fact, informed that we did not qualify for assistance of this nature. In the last five years no daily newspaper in Northern Ireland has received any public funding while Mr O Muilleoir’s group has been handed in excess of £500,000 from the British exchequer during this period.”

It has not yet been looked into how much the Andersonstown News has also been subsidised by other establishment bodies such as the EU and the Irish government, both of which are heavily invested in the success of the Good Friday Agreement, nor has it been disclosed how much, if anything, the Andersonstown News Group has received from the US government and American business donors, with which the Andersonstown News has close ties. Nor has it been yet confirmed how much, if any, monies the Andersonstown News Group has received from Belfast City Council, which has run into controversy over funding the community paper the Vacuum £5,000. It would be interesting to learn how much, if anything, the Arts Council, also a British government body, has funded the Andersonstown News Group, as it has also funded many projects to which the Andersonstown News has ties and heavily promotes. Just how much money the Andersonstown News Group has accumulated from government bodies under various guises is not yet known; one suspects the half million pounds from the British government exposed today is but the tip of the iceberg. This especially seems so when the monies from Foras na Gaeilge brings the total closer to £1 million.

It is not just the UUP that should be asking questions regarding the funding of the Andersonstown News Group. In fact that it is the UUP and not the republican community which the West Belfast paper claims to serve should be deeply embarrassing to republicans. Given the strong editorial stance of the paper that supports Sinn Fein party policy and bullies anyone who disagrees, questions should be asked why the British have an interest in funding the paper and why a paper with a so-called republican position would turn to the British to have its bills paid. Since when are Irish Republicans 'entitled' to British government funding? A few former Irish Republicans who felt they were entitled to British government funding come to mind - Freddie Scappaticci being but one.

In addition the Andersonstown News Group is reportedly notorious for its low pay and working conditions which leads to a relatively high staff turnover. In building Teach Basil, was British money used to contract the Rooney Brothers who are known to pay ex-prisoners a paltry £2 an hour? How do staunch republicans such as Robin Livingstone and Danny Morrison feel being paid by the British exchequer?

How critical of a government can a publication be when it is funded by that government and the livelihoods of its workers depend on that funding? O Muilloeir boasted about 45 jobs created by government funding; that's 45 people now in hock to the British government, and the publication's freedom of expression curbed. While it is good that new jobs have been created, and one would hope they are decently paid jobs, that the jobs are dependent on the good-will of the government funding them leaves the employees to ransom. The financial security of 45 people now depends on how well the publication tows the government line.

As we see with the questioning by Lord Laird and Lady Hermon, when it is public funding, the public's representatives will expect the funded to do what the government wants. The arts magazine Vacuum has run into this problem with the Belfast City Council by publishing a dual issue, God and Satan. The Satan issue has raised hell with some council members who now want to pull funding.

The UUP appear to be coming at the funding of the Andersonstown News from the position that because the paper is republican the British government should not be funding it. They have a point, albeit if they are coming at it backwards. Regardless of its politics if the Andersonstown News is to be a newspaper that reports on issues of government, can the public trust it as long as it is funded by the same government it is reporting on?

The Irish News was rightly offended at what it termed O Muilloeir's "deeply misleading" comments, as he implied that all newspapers here are as in hock to the British government as his financial empire is. For a newspaper to be in hock to the government is tantamount to its reporting being reduced to little more than a mouthpiece for policy.

Ask yourself why totalitarian dictatorships find it necessary to pour money and effort into propaganda for their own helpless, chained, gagged slaves, who have no means of protest or defense. The answer is that even the humblest peasant or the lowest savage would rise in blind rebellion, were he to realize that he is being immolated, not to some incomprehensible "noble purpose," but to plain, naked human evil.
- Ayn Rand


From Hansard's Daily:
Lords Hansard full text database menu
Hansard (House of Commons Daily Debates)


Andersonstown Newspaper Group

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much public funding has been given to the Andersonstown Newspaper Group; from which departments it originated; and how much each has contributed. [179708]

Mr. Gardiner: The Andersonstown News Group publishes the Andersonstown News, the North Belfast News and the South Belfast News. It also has management responsibility for the publication of the Irish language daily newspaper "Lá" on behalf of Preas an Phobail Ltd.

Set out are details of the funding made available by the Northern Ireland Administration during the period 1999–2004.

Company Funder Amount funded (£)
Andersonstown News Department of Finance and Personnel 5,095
Andersonstown News Department of Social Development 347,375
Andersonstown News Local Enterprise Development Unit 7,500
Preas an Phobail Ltd. (Lá) (13)Department of Finance and Personnel/Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister 33,500
Preas an Phobail Ltd. (Lá) Local Enterprise Development Unit 30,026
Preas an Phobail Ltd. (Lá) (14)Foras na Gaeilge 128,139

(13) The Department of Finance and Personnel was responsible for funding until December 1999 when responsibility for funding transferred to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister under Devolution.

(14) Foras na Gaeilge (the Irish Language Agency of the North/South Language Implementation Body) is funded jointly by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA) in the Republic of Ireland. DCAL contributes 25 per cent. and DCGRA contributes 75 per cent (£384,419) of the funding. The total contribution from Foras na Gaeilge to Preas an Phobail for the publication of Lá during the period 1999 to 29 June 2004 was £512,558. DCAL contributed 25 per cent. of this amount—£128,139.

DCAL's contribution in each year is provided below.

Company Funding Year Funder Amount Funded
Preas an
Phobail Ltd
2000 Foras na Gaeilge £7,936
Preas an
Phobail Ltd
2001 Foras na Gaeilge £32,140
Preas an
Phobail Ltd
2002 Foras na Gaeilge £30,624
Preas an
Phobail Ltd
2003 Foras na Gaeilge £38,988
Preas an
Phobail Ltd
(covers up to 30 June 2004)
Foras na Gaeilge £18,451
British Government DCAL
Irish Government DCGRA
Foras na Gaeilge

Northern Ireland: Funding of Newspaper Publishing Companies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government: Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 17 June (WA 81), what were the amounts of the state funding for each newspaper in Northern Ireland in each applicable year.[HL3407]

Baroness Amos: Further to the information provided in the answer to WA 81, set out below are details of funding made available by departments of the Northern Ireland administration during the period 1999–2004 for newspaper publishing companies in Belfast.

Funding of Newspaper Publishing Companies 1999–2004

Company Year Funded Funder Amount Funded
Andersonstown News 1999 Department of Finance and Personnel £5,095
Preas an Phobail Ltd
2000 (1) Department of Finance and Personnel/ Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister £33,500
Flagship Media Group Ltd
2000 Local Enterprise Development Unit £6,773
The Mirror Group 2000 Department for Employment Learning £5,936
Andersonstown News Group 2000 Department for Social Development £70,000
Andersonstown News 2000 Local Enterprise Development £7,500
Andersonstown News 2000–01 Department for Social Development £277,375
Preas an Phobail Ltd
2000 Local Enterprise Development Unit £15,000
Preas an Phobail Ltd
2001 Local Enterprise Development Unit £15,026
Flagship Media Group Ltd
(The Big List)
2001 Local Enterprise Development Unit £4,500
Shankill Community Media Ltd
(Shankill Mirror)
2002–04 Department for Social Development £32,544
Shankill Community Media Ltd
(Shankill Mirror)
2003 Department of Finance and Personnel £95,429
East Belfast Publishing Ltd
(East Belfast Obsever)
2003 Department of Finance and Personnel £250,464
Shankill Community Media Ltd
(Shankill Mirror)
2004 Invest NI £28,602

(1) Department of Finance and Personnel had responsibility for funding until December 1999. This then transferred to the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister under devolution.


Total known funding listed here between British and Irish (DCGRA) Government bodies:
£936,054, or almost one tenth the estimated worth of the Andersonstown News Group.

That sum breaks down to £187,210 a year for the past five years.

Known British government funding alone (with figures as given above) amounts to £551,635 or £110,327 per year for the last five years.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.
- Reuven Brenner

Index: Current Articles

8 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

"Fury at Community Newspaper Funding"
Carrie Twomey

Don't Buy A British Lie
Geraldine Adams

Encouraging Debate
Mick Hall

Magpie's Nest
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Scargill in Ireland
Anthony McIntyre

Rev. Ian Harte
Davy Carlin

Family and Community Workers Concerned at False Reporting
Monkstown Community Resource Centre

Food, Trade and US Power Politics in Latin America
Toni Solo

5 July 2004

Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
David Adams

On Whose Side: Stakeknife
Mick Hall

Dogs and Lampposts
Anthony McIntyre

Towards a Republican Agenda for Scotland
Seamus Reader


The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices