Lá to close down..?

JOURNALISTS at the first daily newspaper in Ireland to be published in Irish – Lá Nua – have received their notice. Love it or loathe it, the newspaper fought the corner fiercely for the Irish language community, and its demise is something that would be pretty heartless to celebrate.

  • slug

    Why would anyone celebrate it?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I’m guessing that you’ll find out if we get enough comments on the thread.

  • Garibaldy

    A great shame.

  • LURIG

    It’s a shame that La has gone under but was there a market for it?

  • Lá Nua hasn’t gone yet. It will be published until the end of February.

    The nub of its current problems arise from mounting costs associated with printing and distribution and, it has to be said, the failure to get any state advertising north of the border.

    As a means of tiding it over until the political climate turned slightly in its favour Lá Nua proposed to Foras na Gaeilge that it would publish on the internet only on a daily basis, with a weekly omnibus print edition to be distributed among subscribers and from Irish language centres such as the Cultúrlann in Belfast and similar centres throughout Ireland.

    Foras na Gaeilge didn’t respond to this proposal until it was announced on the paper’s front page on Monday morning. It was intended to begin on March 3 and given that Lá Nua has pioneered the PDF edition in Ireland and now it can be read in full animated technicolour it wasn’t an entirely unreasonable or unattractive proposition. The PDF version can also, of course, be printed and in this greener climate it actually might not be a bad idea that newspapers were only printed as required, particularly when it’s a newspaper in a minority language we’re talking about.

    Post haste an email was despatched from Foras na Gaeilge headquarters to point out that this proposal breached the contract Lá Nua has with its main funder and if LN were s to go ahead with this proposal the Foras would be compelled to halt payment of the remainder of the grant aid.

    As the Belfast Media Group, LN’s 50% shareholder, projected it would be left with an unpaid print bill of £100,000 by the end of 2008 if it were to continue, protective notice would be issued it warned LN”s ten employees yesterday.

    Lá Nua won the contract to publish a daily Irish language news publication after a public competition in which the only other contending bid came from the Irish News. It did so in the expectation that it would attract a small – but significant – amount of public notice advertising from Executive Departments. The actual grant itself wasn’t a significant advance on its then funding of £150,000 approx per year. The new grant aid amounted to £200,000 per year.

    In September the Ulster Unionist Health Minister Michael McGimpsey announced that his department would be discontinuing any Irish language advertising. This would lead to a saving to his department of £150,000 per year. Not that Lá Nua was getting a fraction of that business – perhaps ten percent – as most of it was being spent senselessly on bilingual advertisements in the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News.

    SInce September, we have seen the further filleting of the Irish language budget as the Irish Language Act proposal was shelved and, most significantly, the funding for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund would be ended following the conclusion of its four year term in March 2009, it was uncovered by Lá Nua in advance of the budget’s publication (even in draft form).

    This is of course all part of the DUP and, in lesser part, the UUP anti Irish language agenda. Or perhaps it’s about ensuring that the Irish language is reduced to the same level of Ulster Scots, those parties’ version of equality.

    But the nationalist parties shouldn’t feel smug about this either Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP hold ministries which would be reasonably expected to publish some public ads for the Irish language community and Lá Nua would be the natural – and most economic – media in which to do this. This hasn’t happened. Coupled with this the nationalist parties failed to defend effectively against the ending of the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, a failure to which they are being held account in Lá Nua and Lá Nua alone.

    to be continued

  • Like Lá Nua or not, it was the only media in which the Irish language could be read afresh on a daily basis. More and more now the Irish language will only be read in official documents translated from English. Needless to say the official documents aren’t read in English.

    The threatened closure of Lá Nua follows in the heels of the decision by Foras na Gaeilge to cease funding the Irish language magazine Comhar, the monthly literary and political periodical which first gave the likes of Máirtín Ó Cadhain a platform.

    It would be a consolation to think that Lá Nua’s place at the front line of Irish language journalism will be taken by a newspaper such as the Irish News but as the Foras moves exceedingly slow in these matters, the Irish language community and wider fans of Irish (Lá Nua’s internet PDF edition was attracting a readership of up to 30,000 per month, coupled with sales of approximately 2,000 copies per day) may have to do without for a considerable time.

    It’s my view that the only viable way forward for publishing in Irish is on the internet in the form suggested by Lá Nua and what will finally be provided will be what Lá Nua proposed, an internet edition which can be read in PDF form as well as in news site form. There simply is no space on the shelves of newsagents crowded with English language newspapers and magazines for an Irish language oddity.

    Perhaps the Foras has a greater vision – but they haven’t unveiled it as yet. It’s also a pity that Lá Nua is to bow out at this stage, having survived the Troubles and political vetting and other misfortunes (such as the burning (accidental) of its base office in the 1980s.

    It’s my hope that this serves as a wake up call to the Irish language establishment. The public doesn’t need Irish language versions of unread annual reports (though annual reports from Foras na Gaeilge from 2003 to the present day would be useful), if Irish is to survive as a language of literature it needs newspapers not unlike Lá Nua and others, it needs Irish language magazines about subjects ranging from gardening to amateur photography. People who are interested in Irish are interested in the same wide spectrum of interests of English langauge and Italian Languae (and onwards) speakers.

    Perhaps the board of Foras na Gaeilge will be able to do something about this. They could start by convening an emergency meeting in February to see whether there’s any way out of this situation if only to tide it over until a new contract can be tendered for. If they wait until March, their next scheduled meeting, it will be too late. The least Lá Nua and the Irish langauge community deserves is that courtesy from the body which is supposedly aimed at promoting the Irish Language.

    Any questions

  • BonarLaw

    “Foras na Gaeilge cease[d] funding the Irish language magazine Comhar, the monthly literary and political periodical which first gave the likes of Máirtín Ó Cadhain a platform.”

    Why should public money fund a “political periodical”?

  • URQUHART

    OC: “Lá Nua won the contract to publish a daily Irish language news publication after a public competition in which the only other contending bid came from the Irish News. ”

    In retrospect, not the best decision Foras has made?

  • DK

    Room surely for whatever the Southern equivalent of Lá is to step in? What other Irish langauge daily papers are there? Anyone know?

  • willowfield

    Sad news. Seems the “Irish language community” isn’t as big as is claimed if it can’t support a newspaper? Couldn’t they reduce the frequency of publication and keep going?

  • Mick Fealty

    None DK. La was it. North and south. The loss of Comhar is bad news too. It was an excellent publication.

    BL,

    Where would you draw the line at public funding for publications? Given any publication worth reading has to make some order of political decision.

    Or is it the case that nothing should get to print that the market cannot support?

  • “nothing should get to print that the market cannot support”. Spot on.

    If the Gaelic means that much to people they’d pay a little bit more on the cover price to support it. Clearly it doesn’t mean that much to that many.

  • interested

    There is obviously a market aspect to it, there’s no doubt about that. Clearly if the paper had sold more copies it would have survived.

    There are plenty of small circulation papers which would like to have Government advertising – its not always some grand political point when they dont get it.

    However, I notice a slight contradiction with the whole Irish language thing. For months and years I was under the impression that the Irish language was growing, indeed flourishing for that is what I was being told. Apparently there were children battering down the doors of the Irish medium schools to get in and both the cultural and linguistic aspects of Irish were on the up and up.

    However, apparently at the stroke of a pen, or more accurately the non-stroke its all changed. It would seem that the lack of an Irish Language Act seems to have been the catalyst. Now all we hear that the Irish language is in danger of dying out. Why’s that then? It still gets millions of pounds of funding – more then other languages here yet there’s no word that they’re suffering in the same way.

    I’ve been told by Irish language enthusiasts that Irish is the first language of (allegedly) many people in Northern Ireland and they do much/all of their daily business in it, particularly when socialising etc. If that truly is the case then why are we told that the language is in danger?

    Also, if all these Irish medium schools have been churning out people for quite some years now then how is the language in danger? Surely you can’t have it both ways, telling us that there has never been a greater demand for Irish education on one hand and that the language is in danger of being lost on the other seems something of a contradiction.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

  • Hill16FantasticView

    How many of you buy a daily newspaper? (not including the Sun/Star/Mail etc.)
    I think here is a case of the rise in popularity of checking your favorite daily paper online rather than picking up a copy on your way to work. I know its what I do. I still buy my sunday papers but during the week its a lot easier to have a read online first thing in work or on my lunchbreak.

  • Hill16FantasticView

    Apologies I do get a paper on the luas in Dublin some mornings. The Metro or Herald AM papers which are given out free. Yup….i must be a cheap b*stard!!!

  • gaelgannaire

    Lá is in trouble, no doubt, but so would every newspaper in Ireland be if they didnt have government advertising.

    SF and the SDLP have already said what a great pity this is but you dont see any off the Stormont ministers instructing their departments to advertise bilingualy. This is is primarily due to them being from a pro-anglicisation political tradition.

    Now I dont want to say I told you so but at every public meeting for the last ten years that the public funding recieved by the language is a carefully laid trap.

    Lá was fine BEFORE they got a big FnaG grant. Now it is in trouble.

    It is an illusion.

  • gaelgannaire

    That should read …

    …Now I dont want to say I told you so but at every public meeting for the last ten years I warned people that the public funding recieved by the language is a carefully laid trap.

    People thought I was mad, we shall see.

  • No doubt the person who said it’s not a given right for a small circulation publication to get government advertising – but doesn’t it make more economic sense to publish Irish language ads in Irish language newspapers and English language ads in English language newspapers rather than publishing bilingual ads in English language newspapers?

    As for Interested’s point, it has to be said that the English language media is around a century ahead of the Irish language media on the development curve and that means that reading habits have become ingrained. It is thus very difficult for Irish speakers, however favourable they are to the idea of an Irish language newspaper, to get used to actually buying one.

    So the question is whether government, as a matter of public policy wants to make some effort to bridge the gap, and then, how.

  • “It’s a shame that La has gone under but was there a market for it?

    Posted by LURIG on Feb 05, 2008 @ 02:07 AM”

    Is the above not the curse of our age, everything and everyone must show a financial profit. For this Irish Language Paper to close is far more than a shame, it is a disgrace for as OC has already pointed out in his excellent posts, language needs to be a living thing which incorporates every day life, such as reading and producing a newspaper.

    Some business people have made more money than they could have dreamt about, yet not one seems willing to come forward to finance this newspaper. Where are those Irish millionaires who have made their pile from show business, is their no Irish version of Pater Cook willing to play godfather/mother to Lá Nua.

    I find it sad but amusing that when something as important as keeping the Irish language going, all those who normally sing the praise of neo liberal economics can do, is cry no profit no paper or look to the state to fund this project, so much for the trickle down effect.

  • Does this mean Oliver is out of a job?

  • Does this mean Oliver is out of a job?

    Chekov’s concern is touching.

  • pith

    They should never have taken Willie Frazer on as a guest Editor.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Sad news , especially when the likes of the Irish Daily Star and Irish Daily Mail continue to massacre innocent trees for intellectual vacuity. Hopefully it can continue in cyberspace

  • Dewi

    Real shame. The only Celtic language daily in the world. You have salute the hroic efforts of all concerned to keep it going so long.

  • Seimi

    Perhaps it should also be pointed out that the money given to LÁ Nua by Fóras na Gaeilge isn’t ‘public money’. FnaG are a funding body, created under the GFA to fund Irish language projects. This is not ‘public money’, as in money which the general public, or indeed any charity/community group can access. It can only be accessed by Irish language groups and businesses. Likewise, FnaG’s sister body, the Ulster Scots Agency, can only administer funds to groups which actively promote the US culture and language.
    To say that FnaG didnt make the best decision ever on this one is true, but not because it didn’t award the contract to the Irish News. The Irish News produces 1 – 2 pages in Irish a day. These pages are an excellent read, especially the lessons they print for learners, but 1 – 2 pages per day do not a newspaper make.
    LÁ Nua, as pointed out, is the ONLY Celtic language daily in the world, and for it to fold due to FnaG’s decision that it is in breach of contract, is an absolute disgrace. Fóras na Gaeilge need to re-evaluate this decision, and quickly. They are already an extremely unpopular organisation, but a U-turn on this decision might just gain them some respect back.

  • Dk

    Olibhear – I think you have hit the nail on the head with the govt. funding thing, but the problem seems to have been they were aiming at the wrong government. If Lá was an all-Ireland publication for the gaelic community, surely it should have been aiming at, er, the gaelic speaking community, who live overwhelmingly in the Republic, rather than Belfast which has only a few political-based speakers.

    Also, should it not have gone to the Republic’s government which actually has a mandate to advertise in Irish, rather than the British government which doesn’t.

    The fact it was based in Belfast and Northern Irish focussed makes me think that it has hamstrung itself. It should have been western coast focussed and based in Connemara.

  • willowfield

    It is public money: it’s provided by the taxpayers.

    By your reasoning, money allocated to the Health Service isn’t public money because it can only be spent on health.

  • Seimi

    It is money allocated specifically to Irish language projects. Health Service money is for Health Service provision. An Irish language body couldn’t avail of Health Service money for an Irish language project, unless the project specifically dealt with health issues, the same way the School of Nursing couldnt access Fóras na Gaeilge money for it’s admin costs, unless it’s admin was in Irish or bi-lingual, which isn’t going to happen.

  • Y Mudiad Iwerddig

    I’m rather sad about this. By way of comparison, they’re trying to launch a Welsh daily newspaper, Y Byd (The World): here’s the English version of the state of play http://ybyd.com/jan08.html) Launch in March – perhaps. Loads more people speak Welsh on a daily basis, and the television service (like TnaG) is pretty successful, but newspapers seem to be problematic.

  • xphile@outthere.com

    Lá criticises Sinn Fein their Irish language stance – and the next week or so they lose their funding from SF stacked FnG (Hello, Seanna et al). Coincidence?

  • reality check

    The failure of Daily Ireland and now La is a good thing for Ireland – both were used to propagate an anachronistic, sectarian cultural orthodoxy which eof eithervents have proven there is little appetite for in the latter part of this decade. That both blame the Brits for their demise is a bitter irony that surely even the most militant defender would privately accept?
    Those who want to speak or learn Irish have no impediment to doing so – but at least (increasingly) less of our taxes is being wasted to support cultural quangos like this which exist to provide jobs for the tiny minority of people proficient in the language and to bolster a silly mono-tribal cultural pipe dream.
    Speak and learn it all you want. Don’t expect anyone else to pay for it tho. It’s just not necessary in an age when so many other things are.

  • Seimi

    And while you’re at it LFM, ban Ulster Scots after that guy from their board went to America to do the same thing. Condemn a whole language because of one sick person who happens to speak it? Idiot.

  • URQUHART

    If Belfast Media Group cannot now produce the paper on £20k per month, can the Irish News be approached again and asked to pick up the pieces?

  • URQUHART

    Sorry, a GRANT of £20k per month. I don’t know how much they receive in ad revenue.

  • slug

    The circulation is a few thousand – less than most regional papers – so this is not a big loss on the grand scale of things. Though I am sorry for anyone who loses their job and hope that job losses are minimal.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    According to a poster on politics.ie re. distribution of Lá Nua:

    “Free Distribution at State Depts, Gaelscoileanna, Universities etc in Dublin
    at hotels, Gaeltacht, NUIG, irish language outlets in Galway

    That’s 1,500. It reaches the Gaeilgeoirí. It’s free. It’s costly for Lá Nua.

    200 Schools in the 26 counties were being sent 20 papers on a wednesday with the education supplement. That’s 4,000 a week.

    There’s a couple of hundred subscribers, a surprisingly high number are from outside the island of Ireland.

    There’ll be a low 4 figure number of people buying the paper in the shops too. Therefore any figure from 2,000 to 7,000 could be correct depending on the time of year.

    None of the above have been ABC certified and ABC certification is what advertisers look for. It is therefore much harder to get advertising revenue.

    The majority of papers & subscriptions are indeed sold in the south.”

  • The Devil

    OILibhear Chromaill wrote

    “The nub of its current problems arise from mounting costs associated with printing and distribution and, it has to be said, the failure to get any state advertising north of the border.”

    Mairtin Mairtin Mairtin was that the best you could come up with, at the end of the day you have presided over the demise of two publications and have blamed the gross management failure on the woefully feeble excuse that the big bad BRITISH GOVERNMENT and its Northern representatives wouldn’t give you money for being a total failure.

    Any other business on this planet would be looking at the piss poor performance of its chief executive under any given equalised conditions.

    Perhaps if you had spent less time writing egotisical blogs and trawling slugger most of the day and spent a bit more time doing your job properly a lot of people would still be in employment and not on the scrap heap.

    Must be time foe a new car, that’s what normally happens

  • RG Cuan

    I very much doubt it’s the end for Lá Nua. Like all minority newspapers, it has a small but dedicated readership. Government funding is essential but the paper was also gradually increasing its presence in the south and its image as a northern-only paper was almost gone.

    The failure of Daily Ireland and now La is a good thing for Ireland – both were used to propagate an anachronistic, sectarian cultural orthodoxy which of eithervents have proven there is little appetite for in the latter part of this decade.

    Now that’s just laughable. Unlike DI, Lá Nua is not a politcally motivated newpaper – it’s a normal, left of centre publication which just happens to be in Irish. It has many columnists from different politcial viewpoints, including Unionist.

    Belfast which has only a few political-based speakers

    I, my colleagues and most friends here in Belfast are far, very far, from ‘political-based’ speakers. But you do have a point about more presence in the south.

  • Eireannach Saolta

    Is mór an trua é. Léamhfainn é an an idirlín beagnach achan lá mar ní raibh mé in ann cóip a cheannach anseo i mBéal Feiriste.

    Anyway what are the nationalist parties doing about it. Sweet ‘f’ all because the Sinn Féin are crooks and the SDLP are useless. What we need is some proper leadership from Fianna Fáil

  • the fool on the hill

    The reason the shinners aren’t raising a song and dance about this is that they don’t want to draw attention to yet another failure of their project. Especially following on from the DUP vetoing the one bauble they were ‘awarded’ from St Andrews sell out talks – an Irish Language Act.
    The blaming on the Brits is nothing new but no more risible for any real republican and gael.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Oilbhear,

    I have to say that I’m genuinely sorry to hear about the demise of La.

    On the other hand, it does make all that bollocks you constantly talk about so many people wanting to speak Irish, read Irish everywhere and do Irish until they’re blue in the face look like the load of horseshit, which is what it is. How can you justify an Irish Language Act when there isn’t enough enthusiasm about the Irish language to keep a small newspaper running ? How can you justify all this bullshit about Irish medium schools ?

    RG Cuan:

    Now that’s just laughable. Unlike DI, Lá Nua is not a politcally motivated newpaper – it’s a normal, left of centre publication which just happens to be in Irish. It has many columnists from different politcial viewpoints, including Unionist.

    It’s sad to say it, but much of the press and public talk about Irish is pushed by politically motivated people, including senior figures in Sinn Fein who can’t even speak it properly themselves. And it turns out that amongst the mass of Sinn Fein voters, barely any of them buy a newspaper catering to those interested in the Irish language.

  • Funny how this subject still creates such bile, the fact that ten people, who it seems were dedicated to producing the paper have lost their jobs is enough to be sad if it goes under, plus the fact that there will no longer be a daily produced in the Irish language.

    Am I the only one to think some people have got their priorities a bit wrong when they are quite correctly all for understanding the past by teaching history and having great history departments in schools and universities, yet do not seem to give a fig when this publication goes under.

    Surly the Irish Language is one of the nations most important links with the past, the more so if it is a living language. For when we hear it spoke one is hearing the language of the famine, tens of thousands of dirt poor rural workers, immigrants, etc etc.

  • Danny

    Yeah, that’s what we want. To associate the language with famine and dirt poor workers. That worked well in the past. ;p

    Perhaps it’s too early to say that Lá Nua is done. This is still pretty fresh so who knows what will happen? Maybe a last minute rescue?

    I also agree that having it based in Belfast (although there is the Donegal connection) was unfortunate. Just look at how many people from NI view the language. It’s different in the Republic. Still plenty of indifference, but not so much hostility and ignorance, I think.

    Most native speakers don’t live in Northern Ireland anyway. Why not base it in Galway city and publish it in Conamara??

    “both were used to propagate an anachronistic, sectarian cultural orthodoxy which eof eithervents have proven there is little appetite for in the latter part of this decade.”

    Sure thing big guy. Speaking Irish in Ireland is sectarian. Just like speaking Swedish in Sweden. *hugs*

  • Comrade Stalin

    Am I the only one to think some people have got their priorities a bit wrong when they are quite correctly all for understanding the past by teaching history and having great history departments in schools and universities, yet do not seem to give a fig when this publication goes under.

    It went under because nobody reads it, Mick. Did you subscribe to it ? I’ll bet you didn’t. If not, why do you think it is someone else’s job to support it ?

    Reminds me of the story in the 1960s when several public leaders and trade unionists from rural parts of Ireland came up to Dublin to visit Todd Andrews at CIE, to stop him from closing the railway lines. After the meeting, Andrews asked the delegation for their rail tickets so that he could arrange a complementary refund. It turned out that not one of them had travelled to the meeting by public transport.

  • RG Cuan

    COMRADE STALIN

    How can you justify all this bullshit about Irish medium schools?

    People speaking a language and attending Irish medium schools (30,000 on the island) does not always equate to them buying a newspaper.

    Research from all over Europe points out the minority language media struggles beside the major language players. This is not only due to the relatively limited audience, but also because most minority language speakers in Europe are bilingual and can so access the better financed, bigger, more colourful newspapers in Spanish, French, English stc.

    How can you justify an Irish Language Act when there isn’t enough enthusiasm about the Irish language to keep a small newspaper running?

    Wales has a strong language act yet they don’t even have a daily paper yet!

  • I think an Irish Language Act without an Irish language daily newspaper would be an irony sure but my priority has always been a living language and an essential part of a living language is a lively press. And that’s what Lá Nua is, a lively press. Would that it were more – and I have tried might and main to make it more.

    I do admit that my faith in the revival of the Irish language, a vulnerable enough project despite all the positive signs, has taken a knock over this.

    The reality is that thousands of children are voting with their feet and going to Irish medium schools. There is a resurgence of interest in Irish – Lá/Lá Nua has only been published as a daily paper in its latest incarnation for five years, since April 28 2003. So it has a lot of catching up to do with the English language media before it becomes firmly established.

    it’s red tape and bureaucracy which is the real obstacle in the face of the progress being achieved by Lá Nua, which has been increasing its sales from a low base and developing its product, only to be hamstrung by its inability to break into the cartel like market of the daily newspapers in Ireland, north and south.

  • Danny

    Why does this RTE story (from January 17, 2007) come with the headline: “New Irish language newspaper launched”

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0117/language.html

    I thought La had been around since 1984 or so, and Lá Nua since last year.

    ??

  • Danny,

    You’re right. Lá Nua is actually the old Lá relaunched, in recognition of the new contract the newspaper won from Foras na Gaeilge in 2006. RTÉ are not quite up to speed in the Irish language media…..

  • Dewi

    It’s bad news all round. Did a vox pop in the office. 2 out of 7 buy newspapers every day. Many get the free Metro thing on the train – all look at BBC or paper websites lunchtime. The combination of technology and marketing changes make it difficult to compete.
    “Y Byd” now looks unlikely. Our culture Minister – Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid) has announced that an additional £200k a year for the next three years be made available for the Welsh Medium Press – no insistance on a daily paper (in direct contradiction with the formal coalition agreement with Labour).Y Byd reckon they would need more than this for a Daily Paper only. Some real anger amongst Plaid’s core support (many sponsors of Y Byd) – Watch this space but the sad news from Ireland is a blow to this as well.

  • Dewi

    A good read if you have an hour or so The study commissioned by the WAG into Welsh medium print.

  • BonarLaw

    Dewi

    did nobody in Cardiff Bay think naming the devolved executive after Cheryl Tweedy was a bad idea?

  • Dewi

    Bonar Law…yeah – many of us Lol.