Daily Ireland is the long-awaited morning newspaper emerging from the Andersonstown News group of papers published in Belfast. It will focus on the nine counties of Ulster as well as Sligo, Louth and Leitrim.
Unashamedly supporting a united Ireland, and expected to take a strongly nationalist editorial line, the paper was compared to Nazi propaganda last weekend by the Irish minister for justice, Michael McDowell.
The comments sparked a furious response from the newspaper’s management and from the National Union of Journalists, which said the comments could pose a risk to the lives of the paper’s reporters.
McDowell, in the course of a trenchant attack on Sinn Fein and the IRA’s alleged involvement in the Dec. 20 Belfast bank heist, had said, “Small wonder that the Provisionals are now backing a new daily newspaper heavily featured in last week’s An Phoblacht. Will it be to Irish democracy what the Volkischer Beobachter was to pre-World War II German democracy?”
In response, the new paper’s managing director, Mairtin O Muilleoir, said he had written to McDowell seeking a meeting “in regard to his scurrilous and dangerous comments, on which we continue to seek legal advice.”
O Muilleoir pointed out the paper had received a letter of goodwill from the taoiseach and that its accounts are audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“We stand on our record of community service and of consummate probity in all our business affairs,” he said.
“Daily Ireland will be assertively pro-united Ireland, anti-violence domestically and internationally, and pro-peace process. That combination has led to attacks from extremists North and South.”
One third of the paper’s total investment, he said, had come from prominent people in Irish America and without their support and business acumen would not have gotten off the ground.
But, he said, the kind of comment made by McDowell had led to “a series of death threats from loyalist paramilitaries,” adding that McDowell’s statement “increased the risk to our staff as they go about their work.”
That theme was taken up by the Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley, who said the criticism was over the top and beyond that expected in the normal cut and thrust of politics.
Journalists in any democracy, he said, must report all points of view and it was egregious for the minister to seek to link writers with the views of those they reported on.
On the wider issue of the paper itself, O Muilleoir said it would have remained at the starting blocks without substantial support from Irish-Americans.
“This is a time of great change in Ireland — socially, economically, culturally and politically — but those changes are reflected everywhere except in the print media,” he said. “There are pivotal times in all our lives and this, most certainly, is one. The opportunity now exists to create a newspaper which is committed to telling the whole story.
“In business, you often find a product searching for a market, but in this case, we have a market crying out for this product. The Andersonstown News Group is the fastest-growing newspaper group in Ireland. We’re passionate about all our newspapers.”