Andytown funding faces legal challenge

An Observer report states that “It is understood senior executives at the Irish News lodged legal papers last week to challenge the British government’s willingness to help fund a rival” – funding which has risen to over £1million since 1999 after “the British Government’s decision to give an extra £450,000 of taxpayers’ money to a west Belfast-based private newspaper group [which, it is claimed,] was linked to talks between Sinn Fein and senior Downing Street negotiators.”The Observer also says, “The Irish News is exploring the possibility that the donations may be illegal under European laws established to prevent state interference and influence on privately owned, independent newspapers.”

In terms of that political influence, perhaps the most damaging references come at the end of the article – “Sources at Stormont told The Observer that Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy is uneasy about the decision to continue funding the [Andersonstown News] group. They said the go-ahead for the finance package ‘went all the way to Number 10’.”

Mairtin O Muilleoir, managing director of the Andersonstown News Group, is a former Sinn Féin councillor in Belfast and is the Sinn Féin nominated member of the Maze Consultation Panel.