Death Knell for Lá Nua

It seems that Foras na Gaeilge has decided to pull the plug on Lá Nua, the daily Irish language “newspaper”.
Foras are about to announce a public competition to select a company to publish a WEEKLY newspaper and to provide an online service. They’re offering up to €400,000 per annum to the successful applicant.

Foras rightly say there aren’t enough readers at present to sustain a daily newspaper. Lá Nua’s sales figures demonstrate that the market is simply not big enough, they say, adding that “that is not to say that the market will never be big enough.”

While Lá has earned its place in history, the current manifestation is, to put it mildly, doing a disservice to the Irish speaking community.

It will be interesting to see if anyone challenges Foinse 12-year run.

  • I don’t know who ‘sound bloke’ is but he is doing more than a disservice to Lá Nua with his sneering tone. If it’s true that the Foras is about to announce a competition for a weekly newspaper and an online service and that it intends to end the daily experiment – that’s more an indictment of Foras na Gaeilge than it is of Lá Nua/Lá.

    The team of editor and journalists and subeditor at Lá Nua has done its best but between the Foras and its refusal to adequately support the newspaper and the management’s failure to stand up to the Foras sensibly and effectively, they have been poorly served.

    What Foras should remember is that Lá/Lá Nua was there before the Irish language agency – which has failed to publish annual reports after 2003! – and if the agency is going to do no good, and there’s no way of saying that it has, it should at least do no harm.

    I was privileged to be the editor of Lá Nua until earlier this year and when I left we had achieved all that Foras na Gaeilge had set before us to achieve, even though they had not provided the investment which would have enabled us to do this sooner and to properly market the vastly improved newspaper. My departure meant the team was down one – and that vacancy was never filled. Yet the newpaper continued to publish, and remained as relevant as the more amply funded Foinse.

    Lá Nua didn’t have the luxury as English language newspapers in Ireland enjoy of filling their pages with agency copy from the UK and further afield with little relevance to people in Ireland.

    The reality is that an Irish language newspaper cannot survive because of the high production costs, major difficulties regarding distribution and a hard to break tradition among Irish speakers to buy the English language newspapers, for the simple reason that until Lá/Lá Nua came along, there was no attempt at all at a daily newspaper.

    If the Foras is actually proposing now to fund an online news service, it is merely following the advice of Lá Nua from February which proposed this course of action, at my behest. We proposed to publish a pdf version of Lá Nua online only, with a weekly omnibus edition in print to be distributed to subscribers. All that was required was for Lá Nua to be funded at the same level until the end of the year, the end of the newspaper’s contract with Foras. Foras stuck to the letter of the contract and entered into no serious negotiations with the newspaper – and now we have this result, if ‘sound bloke’ is sound regarding his information.

    I think rather than sneering at Lá Nua/Lá, the staff of the newspaper should be thanked sincerely for their efforts and given every assistance in seeking to keep the newspaper’s name alive online, if not as proposed in February in some format.

    I also think that the management at Lá Nua should be thanked. They have invested a great deal in this, not least finance in the hope that Foras na Gaeilge would join them in fulfilling an ambitious vision for the Irish language community.

    Foras na Gaeilge were found wanting in this regard….

  • Steve

    I wonder who this “fit bloke” is as well

    Sock puppet for a registered commentator?

  • Richard James

    Did the Englezes not put enough job adverts in it?

  • Rory

    “It will be interesting to see if anyone challenges Foinse 12-year run.” (sic)

    I have not been a subscriber to Lá Nua but I do log on to Slugger on most days so what “will be more interesting to see” for me is whether or not Sound Bloke develops better editing skills than this in any future postings.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    First Lehman Brothers and now this….

  • Pancho’s Horse

    It was obvious that deeply committed people tried hard to make a commercial success of Lá srl. but the bottom line is that the market is not there. In my opinion, it was a mistake to try for a daily. It was unable to provide ‘breaking news’ and degenerated into a magazine/supplement type of publication.I do believe there is a market for a quality weekly. Again, it reminds me of the campaign to force the banks etc to provide chequebooks as Gaeilge. Another good idea ignored by the Gaeilgeoirí.

  • ggn

    Just to point out that the competition for funds runs periodically, La will be in it just llke the others.

    The dog in the street knows that La was better weekly, and in my opinion had become a very very good weekly before the jump to daily.

  • ggn

    One more thing, I am sure La will continue in some form or other.

    Sure it is not everyones cup of tea but it did carry out functions that Foinse didnt.

    Foinse is fine but a bit light for me. Having said that I found that being based in the north disadvantaged La as they attempted to function on an all-Ireland basis, the truth is many in the south down want to know about the north, and certainely would prefer to ignore talk of rights, struggles, attacks from unionists etc. No no, better read Foinse and hear about Eamo doing some great for Inis Dha Dhuine.

  • Darren J. Prior

    “and certainely would prefer to ignore talk of rights, struggles, attacks from unionists etc. No no, better read Foinse and hear about Eamo doing some great for Inis Dha Dhuine.”

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. The reason Lá isn’t read much in the Republic is because the paper focuses too much on the North. The Irish language community in the Republic have moved away from rights based marches and struggles although one Irish language organisation would try to have us believe that they haven’t.

    Also most pointedly the paper is absolutely tiny which almost makes it ridiculous for some. That said there was a plan to increase it’s number of pages.

    Lá has/had some very good journalists and should I suppose be published as a weekly so that northern gaeilgeoirí at least have a paper.

    The Irish News (in combination with Foras na Gaeilge?) is great for the language although the two pages it is supposed to have in Irish every day sometimes has articles in English does it not? This is something that should be focused on.

    Given that we already have Foinse, why isn’t this €400,000 spent as an account to have articles in Irish in newspapers that currently don’t like The Irish Examiner, the Indo Group’s newspapers and the English ‘papers?

    Lá never marketed properly in Dublin. I once got a few ‘Lá ar díol anseo’ stickers and put three of them up in shops in my community and a handful up in another few places including most visibly Easons on O’Connell Street in Dublin. If the people in charge of Lá were good they would have set aside some time for someone to do this work. I know they haven’t got the money they want but surely they could have looked at the issue. If a paper isn’t marketed properly it is a marginal paper. That’s what Lá is in the Republic and soon it will be officially gone as a daily.

  • :o)

    Anyone got a round figure of how much public money has been wasted to date in pretending Irish, in Northern Ireland, is a thriving language?

  • Glencoppagagh

    Surely one Irish language paper for the whole island is quite enough given the size of the potential market.
    The big difficulty with minority language newspapers is always what they are trying to be. Should they be the same as any other newspaper just in a different language, and even then do they appeal to a broad audience or aim to be a ‘quality’ paper? Or should they concentrate on the issues specific to that language community.
    This problem might account for the failure of La Nua to achieve a decent circulation.
    Alternatively, it could simply demonstrate that commitment to the Irish language for many ends when it involves putting their hand in their own pocket.

  • Darren J. Prior

    This might sound funny but it’s more of a paper for the Irish language movement instead of the gaeilgeóir community generally.

    Some people may laugh at it’s size but as I said it does have some good journalists and frankly Irish wouldn’t be an official language of the EU without it. The paper played a very encouraging central part in that campaign.

  • RG Cuan

    There’s no death knell for Lá Nua yet, ná baol air.

    As has been pointed out Foras na Gaeilge are announcing a contract for a weekly paper and online service, something which Lá Nua can and should bid for. There is no other Irish language media group in the country that has the same experience of producing news to the standard or intensity do which Lá Nua has done.

    With a renewed focus on marketing south of the border, Lá Nua can be very successful in the new proposed format.

  • Cuairteoir

    Anyone got a round figure of how much public money has been wasted to date in pretending Irish, in Northern Ireland, is a thriving language?

    Hardly any compared to indigenous languages in most other European countries sunshine.

    Irish speakers pay taxes too and in reality most Gaelic language projects are funded and maintained by us, the Irish-speaking community.

  • Darren J. Prior

    I, for one, would buy Foinse every day if it was a daily.

  • ggn

    “You’ve hit the nail on the head. The reason Lá isn’t read much in the Republic is because the paper focuses too much on the North.”

    Please dont misunderstand me Darren, I dont agree with you.

    My point is that La is necessarily all-Ireland, that is the way it should be, to ignore the north would be ridiculous in my view.

    If the fact that La choses to stand up for the rights of Gaelic speakers in the north annoys more partition minded Gaeils in the south, tough I say.

  • ggn

    “The Irish language community in the Republic have moved away from rights based marches”

    Yes, that would be because the aims of thoses marches were achieved.

    An Conradh Abú

  • Reader

    Tap into a mass market with news and tittle-tattle. Once there actually is a daily readership, you might get a chance to start a quality paper. And a campaigning paper is a weekly proposition.

  • According to Máirtín, over on the balcony, this fight isn’t over yet:

    Foras na Gaeilge announced yesterday that they will replace the current two newspaper at around €200k per annum grant each next year with one annual grant of €400k for a weekly newspaper linked to an electronic news service. I look forward to studying the statement in depth, speaking with the Foras to get the detail and just as eagerly, I’m looking forward to the new tender process. €400k is still off the £500k per annum the Irish News sought to produce a daily insert in their paper (a demand laughed out of court by the Foras) but it’s a considerable sum and could be used to produce a premium service. Until the new set-up comes into force next April, Foinse as a weekly and Lá Nua as a daily will continue to publish as normal.

    Perhaps Sound Bloke is too quick off the mark?

  • inis beirte

    I hope Foras fund 2 or 3 publishers. Foinse, Lá and maybe another. Paper and web. To keep them on their toes.

    Left with a monopoly, Lá would be just become Provoda, and Foinse get even more up it’s literary arse.

    RnaG has had a monopoly for too long and it shows. Surely the day cannot be far off when it announces the socraithe sochraidí of it’s last announcers, and frees up some spectrum.
    Nuacht TG4, though hit and miss, has shown it up for the pensioners day centre it has become.

  • Báta is bóthar

    I think I’m getting the hang of this. Get politicians to found a Language Board so the same politicians can control who says what, who does what, who gets what funding in the Gaelgeoir circles. Get rid of the ones you don’t like. Set up a new round of projects to extend your control. If ten years on, they start getting uppity, start all over again!

  • According to Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, Foras chief executive, speaking on Raidio na Gaeltachta this morning, the intention is to fund just one newspaper, a weekly newspaper, and an online news service. One company, he said, would provide the whole package for a princely sum of €400,000.

    Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh is the chief executive of Foras na Gaeilge which has failed to publish annual reports or annual accounts for the years 2004-7. In any other country he would be answering for this failure in front of Dáil and Assembly committees. Imagine if another publicly funded agency failed to comply with these basic statutory requirements…

    The last annual report it published, for 2003, was published on 14 May, 2007….and they consider themselves experts on the publishing business so that they can put the likes of Lá Nua, who were there before Foras na Gaeilge ever came on stream, out of business…..

    In his interview Mr Mac an Fhailigh stated the reason for this decision was the lack of demand for a daily newspaper as Gaeilge. Lá/Lá Nua sold/sells more copies on a daily basis than any Irish language book ever….Guess who’s responsible for selling Irish books – Foras na Gaeilge! If the reasoning applied by Ferdie and his Foras colleagues was applied to the publication of Irish books, no Irish language book would or should be published. But then that would mean that Foras would get less of a grant to fund the employment of less bureaucrats.

    If you want to kill off a language you consider superfluous to modern requirements, there’s no more effective way to do this than to put it in the hands of bureaucrats like Foras na Gaeilge. They’re doing a far better job than the DUP could ever envisage. And guess what, there are at least four Sinn Féin nominees on the board…..

    Shame on Foras na Gaeilge.

  • ggn

    It seems to me that Lá Nua may pay the price for being hostile to FnaG and keeping them under the microscope (isnt that their job?). Foinse I think have kept their nose cleaner.

    FnaG does not want a radical paper reporting on the language struggle in the north or highlighting discrimation in the south, no, no, get some pics. of a poetry meeting instead.

    Foras na Gaeilge has been a disaster and a lesson in why it is necessary to ensure that the Irish Language movement should always strive to be in front on the issues.

    How did FnaG come about?

    For example, the reality is that aside from perhaps Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin parliamentary part have no idea about the Irish language.

    The SDLP, aside from two exceptional people are neutral to hostile.

    Foras na Gaeilge is the natural outworking of this.

    I have previously invited comment on whether it was time for a Plaid Cymru style party, though I myself, having given it alot of thought do believe that it is not a good idea.

    As FnaG is tied in to the GFA I really havent a clue how it can be taken out. Frankly, I turn to Eamó, his determination and brute ignorance to try and get us out of this.

    The other alternative is to get back to basics, to get back into the Conradh, Gaeil Óga etc. and get back to self funding and voluntary work.

    The best work still comes from this sector in my view, best social events? – Gaeil Óga, unfunded.

    Bilingual signage in South Armagh, well it sure as hell isnt funded by FnaG.

    I have been saying in for years and have been dismissed as a crank and a lunatic,people have walked into a trap, the British and Irish governments are not going to pay for a revival of Irish.

    People have been bought, and cheaply. Radicals silenced by £20,000 a year. Visions suppressed by lack of imagination and burocracy.

    Rights and entitlements comprimised on because of promises of funding and a new photo copier.

    http://gaelgannaire.blogspot.com/2007/12/irish-above-politics.html

  • It’s time for Foras na Gaeilge to leave the stage – one bureaucrat and an accountant could do the job they’re doing and do it better. How much of their annual budget goes on their own salaries, expenses, running costs? A hell of a lot more than they allow for in the organisations they ‘fund’….

    I recall one time the previous chief executive of Foras na Gaeilge, Seosamh Mac Donnchadha, saying that it was time for a partnership approach between the funder and the fundee. This is some partnership approach – the funder reserves the right to stab the fundee in the back when a newspaper does its job.

  • barnshee

    According to Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, Foras chief executive, speaking on Raidio na Gaeltachta this morning, the intention is to fund just one newspaper, a weekly newspaper, and an online news service. One company, he said, would provide the whole package for a princely sum of €400,000

    Should not be a problem then- that`s only- what €10 a year (or 15p a week) divided across the 40000 “irish” speakers.

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/language/macgiollachriost00.htm

    If you can`t raise 15p a week from the claimed irish speakers there may be a lesson there somwhere.

  • Tazia Doll

    “Hardly any compared to indigenous languages in most other European countries sunshine.”

    Like Latin in the Vatican? I think you are right,

    if you speak Italian and have a Swiss passport, they’ll also give you a pointy stick.

    Their footie team, is not the best.