Henry McDonald broke the news on Sunday that Fortnight magazine is getting squeezed simultaneously by two separate funding organisations, the Arts Council and the Community Relations Council. Fortnight has been around almost as long as the troubles themselves. Even in the darkest periods it has often been the only sane place were public enemy could converse intelligently and take soundings when there seemed little possibility of finding a lasting solution to Northern Ireland’s apparently intractible problems. Now, the loss of the relatively small amount of subsidy seems certain to threaten the paper’s immediate future.
Declaring my own interest. I’ve been an irregular contributor to Fortnight, and the magazine and its editor, Malachi O’Doherty, have been nothing but supportive of Slugger, right from its early days.
Northern Ireland has developed a habit of undervaluing its genuine public goods. The genuinely politically detached is routinely viewed with suspicion. It still makes me smile when I think of the response I got from one public funder when I asked about the possiblity of Slugger attracting a subsidy. I was told it was ‘too overtly political’.
We don’t know what criteria the funding bodies have used to make this decision. There is no doubt that there is a constant pressure to review and renew such criteria to match the needs of a changing society.
But, given the paucity of such spaces even today, at the very least it might come to be seen as careless inattentiion to have lost such an institution.