AS Daily Ireland – the latest pro-republican newspaper from the Andytown News stable – launches this week, the Guardian takes a look at the crowded local market and sees worried competition. The most direct competition is the Irish News, set to go tabloid, as is the Belfast Telegraph with a new morning edition. The News Letter‘s layout has also changed dramatically recently. A busy time for subs desks all round…
It is no coincidence that this hardline paper is appearing now. Sinn Fein has become the overwhelming choice for nationalist voters in Northern Ireland, which presents a problem for the Irish News, long held as the voice of the moderate SDLP. O’Muilleoir may make all the right noises about an island-wide paper, but he knows the majority of his readers are going to come, initially at least, from the north. At the centre of the scrap between Daily Ireland and its more mainstream rival will be a battle for the hearts and minds of a nationalist community in flux. The Irish News, says Belfast-based media commentator Mike Philpott, has been “advertising its Irishness quite aggressively” recently in an attempt to retain potentially fleeing readers.
Noel Doran, the Irish News editor, is circumspect about the chances of his new rival. “It’s difficult to see how every new title can prosper. It depends on whether the product is good enough.”
However Doran and his team are obviously worried. One of their most vigorous campaigns of late has been to shout down Daily Ireland’s application for a £3m start-up grant from the government. “Newspapers stand on their own two feet,” he says.