Foras lets go of Foinse’s final lifeline…

If the golden rule of government intervention is only to move in where there is market failure then, the pulling of funding from Foinse by Foras is a disastrous policy decision. Particularly when it leaves many of us not understanding clearly what the inscrutable cross border body actually does do for its money. iGaeilge was one of the first to report the news last night, and carries a quote from Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, noting the tragedy of the situation. The burden of carrying news as Gaeilge will fall to a handful of projects that continue to press on like Beo.ie, Gaelport, Inside Ireland, and more dynamic, news based blogging like An Druma Mor. But it is also going to require some lift from Irish civil society too.

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  • GGN

    “the pulling of funding from Foinse by Foras is a disastrous policy decision.”

    Mick,

    God knows I am not one to stick up for Foras na Gaeilge but the War on Facts really gets to me. This is the second time this week.

    I understand people’s frustrations but ignoring the facts wont help anyone.

    Foinse wanted more money, Foras wouldnt give it. That is not the same as ‘pulling the funding’.

  • GGN

    http://www.gaelport.com/sonrai-nuachta?NewsItemID=2466

    Fact is Foras na Gaeilge offered MORE money to Foinse. That is not approval or disapproval but fact.

    However, I know a few boyos who would put out a quare weekly newspaper for €355,000.

  • séamus mac seáin

    a GGN is cosúil go bhfuil Údaras na Gaeltachta ar aon intinn leat mar gheall ar ionmharthánacht FOINSE nó tá siad sata seilbh a thógáil air.Práinn thart??

  • Ray

    Please show me just one postive accomplishment that Foras has done since its inception, just one.
    Foras does not believe in transparency.
    There have been no accounts published since 2004. The reason behind that was to cover up all the millons/tens of millions that were “laundered” to Sinn Fein on behalf of the Irish government for dubious “language projects” in the North when everyone knew the money was going to maintain Sinn Fein “workers” who could barely speak two words of Irish and who spent full time on party business.
    And by the way, how many people work for Foras? 70 or 80? And what do they all do?
    Foras is against anything that benefits the language and is for everything that destroys the language.
    Its CEO, Feirdia Ma An Ailí, does not have one accomplishment to his professional vita and that is why he was chosen in secret as the CEO of Foras away from the normal public interviewing process required of all public bodies.
    Let’s put an end to this civil service chirade now and save the Republic!

  • GGN is spot on. Foinse was a respected publication, and received strong backing from FnaG over the years, but it was unrealistic to expect that its grant would be increased in the present climate. There is a priceless quote from Mairtin O Muilleoir over on the BBC website, claiming that FnaG is `clearly out of its depth in dealing with business ventures’. This is the same guy who managed to shut down both an English and Irish language daily in the space of two years. He applied for and was given a grant to produce La Nua for a specific price, accepted the contract and almost immediately said it was inadequate. Irish language media ventures are fully entitled to seek backing from FnaG, but the idea that there is a bottomless pit of public money out there is ludicrous. Foinse is definitely a loss, and may hopefully be revived, but La Nua was a shambolic effort which frequently failed to even provide the main GAA scores in its Monday edition. FnaG would be letting everyone down if it did not demand reasonable standards along the way.

  • Concubhar

    La nua was by no means a shambolic effort – and it always reported on big GAa matches in its Monday edition – at least while I was editor.
    You would think ggn had the first clue about newspaper production the way he was talking but he doesn’t. I have the utmost respect for those behind ventures such as Nuacht 24 and nos – but the people doing the work aren’t getting paid and if they were getting a fraction of what they were worth there wouldn’t be much change from
    €355k a year to pay for printing and distribution.

  • Concubhar, you came out of the whole debacle with your dignity intact, but come on. It was not just GAA match reports which went missing from the Monday edition but the basic scorelines. Towards the end, the back page lead in an Irish language daily was from Italy’s Serie A rather than Croke Park. The whole project had become an huge embarrassment long before the plug was pulled. Was it the only daily newspaper in the world which needed to fill space by republishing its front pages from the previous week in case we had missed them ?

  • Concubhar

    I don’t think it’s fair to judge La nua by what was happening at the end when it’s staff was reduced To such an extent that all it could do was fill the pages as quickly as it could so
    it would make the deadline. On top of that I know how it felt to be working in the sure and certain
    knowledge that the paper would be closed and your job gone in a matter of months/weeks/days. It isn’t easy.

  • Ciarán

    No wonder its so easy to close down Irish language projects. There’s always someone ready to blame them for the mismanagement and manipulation of government bodies and the self interest of politicians. The fact that Lá Nua produced a paper every single working day for over seven months after the staff had been told it would be closed down is a testiment to the personal determination of the staff, all of whom were working on reduced wages. All of whom could have been doing something else. And by the way, have to say personally I couldn’t give a toss for the GAA resuts. If that’s what makes a newspaper I might as well go back to the Cornflakes box. We should be a little more careful how we talk about the work of people with the kind of dedication Lá Nua’s small team showed in such difficult circumstances. It is starting to look like Ó Cuív and Sinn Féin have a strategy, basically putting an end to funding for anything in Irish that they do not control. If this is the case, organisations with expertise and the ability to communicate ideas and standards – to shape public opinion – are all in the firing line. That’s what shutting down two newspapers is about. There is worse to come.

  • My understanding is that Údarás na Gaeltachta are coming to the aid of Foinse and that it looks like the newspaper will emerge from this crisis. It should learn the lesson however that it needs to change and improve and make more impact on its readers and the wider community. It supposedly was purchased by 4,000+ per week yet only 1,000 signed the petition to save it.

    It badly needs a redesign and some new energy with new younger or if that’s ageist, more energetic and opionated columnists to give it a fresher more contemporary edge. It needs to be leading public opinion -not merely reflecting it. If it doesn’t change and take on board some suggestions to improve drastically the product, it will have learned nothing from this crisis and it will be back in the same position sooner or later.

  • GGN

    “You would think ggn had the first clue about newspaper production the way he was talking but he doesn’t.”

    As I predicted, a wee personal attack on me. Why.

    Because Mick has misreported the story, yes I know about ‘higher truth’ etc. but is it not the duty of the media to report accurately?

    Any neutral obsever will see that the fact I pointed out is indesputable. Yet, even this is heresy for some.

  • Concubhar’s honesty in accepting that La Nua effectively became a space-filling exercise is admirable, but a point is being missed here. The paper’s management sought and signed a contract which stipulated that they would provide a news service at a specified price. They were unable to stick to their side of the deal, so it is little wonder that FnaG were unimpressed. You have to feel sorry for the staff, but the post from Cairn above neatly sums up the confused thinking involved. People who are interested in the Irish language tend to be interested in Gaelic games. If an Irish language newspaper cannot provide basic GAA results coverage, which a junior reporter could supply, it is out of touch with its readers and will not survive. At the risk of disappointing Cairn, it is as simple as that and there was no conspiracy at work. Daily Ireland failed in very similar circumstances, because it was a poor product, so the whole story was fairly predictable.

  • It’s not a personal attack on you, GGN, it’s a statement of fact. I thought you were interested in talking about higher facts.

    As for Oldhack, you can hold on to your opinions about Lá Nua, I just wanted to place the circumstances in which the editor and staff were working on record, in fairness to them. As for the BMG, they invested – and lost – a lot of money (circa £300k) in the newspaper. They can hardly be blamed for cutting their losses as they ‘fulfilled the fixture’ – but it left the staff of the newspaper in an invidious position.

  • Concubhar, no doubt the editor and staff had to struggle manfully with limited resources, but you seem completely unwilling to address the central issue here. The A’town News/BMG management applied for a grant which they assured everyone would be sufficient to produce a daily newspaper. It wasn’t and they couldn’t. They lamentably failed to fulfil the fixture, and they can hardly blame anyone else if it cost them some money. In any case, they already had an operation which had been built up through significant amounts of public funds in the first place. Their only solution was to seek yet another huge cheque from FnaG. Someone made a huge misjudgment here – do you really think it was FnaG ?

  • GGN

    Concubhar,

    I believe that facts are facts, there is no higher or lower form.

    People tend to subject facts to their own conceptions of higher truth on occasion.

    That is their right but I feel that true understanding of a situation requires careful examination of facts and evidence.

    This thread however is based on “the pulling of funding from Foinse by Foras”. Something which is patently not true, no matter what ones opinion of the matter.

    Anyone trying to understand the situation from that starting point will fail.

  • You were talking earlier about ‘higher facts’???

    From my point of view, and this is now a moot point given the intervention of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the description by Mick was an accurate one. After all, when Foras and Lá Nua were both being published, Foras were allocating at least €500,000 per year to Irish language newspapers. The offer to Foinse – and Foinse alone now that Lá Nua is gone – was €355k. That seems to me like a pulling of at least €150,000 per year!

    No doubt Pádraig Ó Céidigh played a bit of a game here – and he obviously played a blinder, though he was aided by the wind of being located in the Minister’s constituency – as he has now probably got a better deal which will allow him to continue. You and Foras na Gaeilge seem to think he’s duty bound to trade at a loss – which is what he would have to do if he had accepted Foras na Gaeilge’s original offer. That’s naive in the extreme.

    Foras na Gaeilge are only in this game for the furtherment of Foras na Gaeilge. They have used the money saved by the departure of Lá Nua to augment their staff to levels approved by the NSMC several years ago but hardly justified now, especially in light of an embargo on public service recruitment elsewhere in the public sector.

    As to Old Hack’s points, I would make the following response. You may recall that Lá won the contract to publish a daily news publication in 2006 when the Foras advertised for same. This placed Lá in the position of competing for a public tender to continue work we had begun three years earlier when we launched Lá as a daily paper. The Irish News was also in the competition. It had a few years previously applied for a grant from Foras na Gaeilge to the tune of £500,000 to publish a weekly supplement as Gaeilge for a year. That grant application was rejected as too expensive. I have no doubt that the tender of the Irish News for the daily publication contract was significantly more expensive than Lá’s – even though I have no detailed information of either as I wasn’t involved in the preparation of either or the negotiations which followed.

    That was the why of Lá Nua’s triumph. Foras would have liked a daily publication – they probably would have preferred the Irish News tender as that would have fitted in with their ‘policy’ of language normalisation – but they didn’t want to pay the full whack for it. The Foras calculated, cynically, that Lá Nua would be prepared to add to their investment their diligence and ‘for the cause’ mentality and that would be the best and cheapest bet for the Foras and they went for that option.
    As for Belfast Media Group, after the debacle of Daily Ireland, failure wasn’t an option and they figured, I believe,that if SF got into power this would unlock the floodgates of public advertising in the north and this would benefit not alone Lá Nua but all the titles in the group. This didn’t happen as SF were and remain largely ineffective.
    As for the Lá/Lá Nua team, we were faced with a stark choice. Accept the half loaf option or face the dole. I don’t think we took the wrong choice but our workload increased exponentially as we strove to meet the Foras targets – by the end of the first year of Lá Nua in 2007, the paper was up from 12 pages daily to 16, despite losing a number of staff who weren’t replaced during that year, and the circulation doubled to well over 2,000 copies daily in that year, as well as attracting a significant increase in web traffic.
    While nobody’s owed a living, my personal opinion is that to force someone to enter a competition for their own job in this way is invidious and unjust – but that’s what it boiled down to.
    It’s very easy for those who sat on the sidelines to criticise Lá Nua and the efforts that were made and the mistakes too because there were many and some of them costly errors. But when you’re involved it’s very difficult to stand back and take the time to evaluate because if you know anything about producing a newspaper and particularly a daily one, there isn’t time for such circumspection. it’s full throttle all the way.

    That may explain to you where I’m coming from here. I think Pádraig Ó Céidigh was right to stick to his guns and make the State stump up for a newspaper – and not to force him to trade at a loss. He’s entitled to make a profit and anyone who gets involved in this game in future is entitled to make a profit because they’ll have to work damn hard for it. Not so the translators who can sit back and translate reams of documents at their leisure, without ever worrying about sales or circulation or the marketplace. That’s where the real money is being thoroughly wasted in the name of the ‘promotion of Irish’….that and the silly and apparently expensive hobby of explaining to us what our placenames mean.

  • GGN

    “You were talking earlier about ‘higher facts’???”

    This is inaccurate as the record above clearly indicates. The term in quotations is used only by yourself on this thread.

  • Concubhar

    ‘This is inaccurate as the record above clearly indicates. The term in quotations is used only by yourself on this thread.’
    whatever. The basic fact is that you haven’t the understanding of the economics of newspaper production and the business end of La Nua or Foinse. Foras seems to think, and it appears you agree, that business people should get involved in publishing Irish language newspapers on a not for profit or even a loss making basis. La and Foinse pre existed Foras na Gaeilge and Foinse only survived the ‘partnership’ by the grace of being located in the Minister’s Galway West consituency. These were and should have been treated as flagship projects but all those involved were treated shabbily by a Foras more interested in feathering its own nest than supporting the frontline projects and people who were and are doing their work for them.

  • Ray

    Why did the CEO of Foras, Feirdia Ma An Ailí, go on TG4 to say La Nua only had 150 subscribers when the actual number was 4X that amount and over 2,000 copies were being sold in the shops?

  • Concubhar

    Why indeed? Probably the sales in the shOps of La Nua when it closed were very low – I don’t know how low – because of the Foras’ lack of support for La Nua during February 08 when the endgame began and the consequent cutbacks in staff and resources. In February 08 La was selling 2k copies plus subscriptions daily. It seems to me that Foras want to show that their decision not to renew the contract for the daily paper was in the public interest – instead the CEO rather neatly illustrated the need for informed media to hold public bodies such as Foras to account – and that is something the English language media don’t seek to want to do. Is it that the failure of Foras to publish accounts for 2005-8 isn’t newsworthy, a period during which they received € 80m? Only La Nua asked awkward questions of FnG and SF? The entire Foras effort is geared toward secrecy and to avoid being accontable? I’ll leave it to readers to surmise the reason for that.

  • Ray

    Concubhar,
    “…Only La Nua asked awkward questions of FnG and SF? The entire Foras effort is geared toward secrecy and to avoid being accontable? I’ll leave it to readers to surmise the reason for that…”

    The reason for all of this is that the Irish government used Foras as an conduit to launder millions to Provisional Sinn Fein under the guise of Irish language projects under the exclusive control of Sinn Fein.
    Previous to this Sinn Fein would not dirty its hands working for the language at community level. Sinn Fein never believed in taking any risk on behalf of the working class community.
    I would imagine the management of Foras is criminally liable for involvement in money laundering.
    That is why the accounts of Foras have not been published since 2004.

  • i don’t know about ‘criminal liability’ for ‘involvement in money laundering’ but the absence of published accounts leaves unanswered questions to be sure. It’s time the questions were asked and answered – but the Irish and Briish Government appear to be playing dumb, and the English language media aren’t doing any better. You’d have thought that the fixation the likes of the Sunday Indepedendent have with Sinn Féin and, as evidenced last Sunday, the Irish language, that they would have put two and two together and come up with something… is it because the Sunday Independent itself got €65,000 from Foras na Gaeilge last year for distributing a ‘How to learn Irish CD’ that they’re not rocking the boat?

  • Ray

    Concubhar,
    It is called greasing the skids to protect your arse. You cannot have loose ends flying about.
    Foras was set up to funnel money to Provisional Sinn Fein. It had nothing to do with furthering the language.
    Sinn Fein created “Irish language organisations’ and “Irish language projects” which all got the most favourable attention from Foras and huge sums of money.
    The true Irish organisations on the ground were all shut out of funding. The purpose was sectarian control by Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church, another organisation which has never been a friend of the language. Sinn Fein had no problems jumping into bed with the Catholic Church so as to destroy the worthy language organisations on the ground that poised a “threat” to their control.
    Sinn Fein does not believe in economic development. They believe people should be kept on their knees just like the Catholic Church.
    If you notice, the first Chair of Foras was from the Catholic Church.
    The media needs to open up the money laundering. If you had nothing to hide, you would be transparent. That is what a democracy is supposed to be all about. Foras has not published accounts in five (5) years.
    Millions were poured into Sinn Fein by Foras to support the SF party structure to the detriment of the language in the North. Only a few of the Shinners could speak two words of Irish and that applied to the “Irish language project” people who were funded by Foras.

  • This has been a fascinating thread, and Concubhar’s honesty and directness has been striking throughout. As a result, we know now that Daily Ireland was regarded as a debacle at a senior level in the A’town/BMG. It’s also emerged that BMG confidently expected a major financial windfall when Sinn Fein moved to the centre of the devolved adminstration, only to find that they were not entitled to privileged treatment after all. Perhaps it’s not surprising thath Concubhar is no longer an editor in the BMG.

    However, there still seems to be an attempt among some contributors, including Concubhar, to paint FnaG as the villain of the piece.

    The big mistake FnaG made was allowing itself to be talked by BMG into supporting an Irish language daily which was not and never could be viable, but at least the penny eventually dropped

    FnaG could have doubled its grant to La Nua and the money would still have gone straight down the drain.

    The fact is that BMG launched an English and an Irish language daily, and both collapsed. That’s why it’s so hilarious to find the BMG MD claiming it is FnaG which was `clearly out of its depth in dealing with business ventures.’

  • Just to be clear, my opinion of the Daily Ireland episode is my own alone. I used to be editor of Lá Nua but I had little to do with Daily Ireland apart from contributing a column on weight watching and occasional articles on other topics.

    Foras na Gaeilge is clearly the villain of the piece -but I see where you’re coming from I happen to disagree with you. It’s never hilarious to see people lose their jobs.

  • No one said that losing jobs was hilarious – what was funny was seeing the only publisher in Irish newspaper history who managed to shut down both an Irish and an English lanaguage daily claim that La Nua’s sole benefactor was out of its depth. La Nua and Daily Ireland were sister titles. If the editor of one offers the unsolicited view that the other was a `debacle’, it’s pretty telling.

  • It’s the same thing. You have your view of the BMG and I have mine – the Daily Ireland project was a disaster – but only in the opinion of a sad individual is it ‘funny’ to talk about a publisher who ‘managed to shut down both an English and Irish language daily’. No doubt you bear your own grudges towards BMG. That’s fine – I don’t bear them any grudges and I resent you twisting my words into an attack on them. It’s dishonest.
    They took risks with Daily Ireland and Lá Nua and lost a substantial amount of money but in the process provided people with employment.
    As for Foras na Gaeilge, a publicly funded body that doesn’t publish its annual accounts (until five years after the fact) and that lets down Irish language groups and entrepeneurs, well they are out of their depthy.

  • So, in your view, Daily Ireland was a `debacle’ and a `disaster’, but you are upset at any suggestion that you might be criticising the people responsible for it ? La Nua offered jobs which were unsustainable, and a substantial amount of public money was wasted as a result. The same group launched both projects, and it was not FnaG.