Grant row surrounds launch of Irish daily

Dan Milmo
Thursday January 20, 2005
The Guardian

A new daily newspaper for Northern Ireland and the Republic of
Ireland will be launched next month with its owners vowing to
continue a controversial campaign for public investment in the title.
The Daily Ireland, a nationalist title owned by the Belfast-based
Andersonstown News Group, will be launched on February 1 without a
grant from the government agency Invest Northern Ireland (INI).

Mairtin O'Muilleoir, managing director of the Daily Ireland, said the
newspaper would continue to seek government funding but admitted that
the INI had "reservations" about an application submitted last year.
The INI gave its verdict to the Andersonstown News Group last month
but has declined to reveal its decision on the grounds of commercial

"They [INI] now acknowledge that the business plan is viable and for
six months they have been trying to rebuff us," said Mr
O'Muilleoir. "Now we have to work through other reservations."

The Daily Ireland's attempts to secure public investment, and the
revelation that other Andersonstown News Group publications have
received government money, have angered rival newspaper publishers
and unionist politicians. The Irish News, the leading nationalist
publication in Northern Ireland, threatened to bring the matter to a
judicial review if the Daily Ireland received an INI grant.

Mr O'Muilleoir said he was confident the Belfast-based newspaper
would win financial aid from the government.

"What they have told us over the last year is that it will be
difficult to fund this project and every time they have thrown up an
argument we have demolished it," he said.

It is understood that the INI was concerned public money would
indirectly contribute to the poaching of staff from rival titles. The
Daily Ireland has recruited 40 staff and will be available on
newsstands in Northern Ireland as well as the counties of Sligo,
Leitrim and Louth in the Republic. Its circulation target is 25,000 -
half the sales of the Irish News.

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