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Daily Ireland: The Andersonstown News goes large (then small again)

John McAnulty

14th June 2005

On the 10th of June it was announced that a quarter of the staff at the new paper Daily Ireland had been made redundant. While the paper has some chance of surviving in a different form, the project, to build a mass circulation nationalist paper across Ireland heavily influenced by Sinn Fein, appears to have failed, despite the large amount in ‘peace’ funds provided by imperialism to launch the new paper.

By itself the fall of Daily Ireland is just another media story in a market where new titles usually fail. What is significant is the extent to which an analysis of its failure indicates the problems that Sinn Fein will face in completing its attempted transition to a major capitalist party, freed from the taint of its revolutionary nationalist past.

It might be helpful to consider why it is so difficult to establish a new title. The media reflect the class forces in society and normally the niche for each class, and for sectional interests within classes, is filled up. A new newspaper usually means the arrival of new social movements and the displacement of old ones.

At first sight the electoral rise of Sinn Fein might seem the perfect vehicle for a new paper. In fact this is not the case. The growth of Sinn Fein is not based on the dramatic advance of republican policy but rather on the decay of that policy and the shift of the organisation to the programme of bourgeois nationalism. Therein lies the problem. Irish nationalism already has a number of papers, both North and South, that are well established and with a secure social base. Daily Ireland attempted to use generous allocations of grant money to force the existing titles aside and replace them.

The formula consisted of the tried and tested elements of nationalism: a strong GAA sports coverage, an Irish language section, details of the folk scene, a few opinionated columnists, a strong padding of international stories lifted verbatim from the press agencies and a leavening of ‘left’ stories about civil liberties in the 26 counties, carefully lacking any detailed critique of the existing order. For example, attacks on Michael McDowell are all aimed at the individual and never stray into criticism of the Fianna Fail government in which he is a minister and whose policies he implements.

Holding Daily Ireland back in its rush to displace the current press is a sheet anchor of its old republican base. So decayed is the whole republican project that no significant opposition has arisen as the policy of revolutionary anti-imperialism was abandoned. The leadership is constrained not so much by the fear that its old base will rise up as by the fear that it will collapse. It is also constrained by the fact that its members have never had any honest assessment of the process they find themselves in or of the need for unconditional capitulation to imperialism. So the new paper is unable to offer the same wholehearted support to the new political settlement that its rivals offer but is simultaneously unable to offer any real critique or challenge. It refuses to support the ‘new’ PSNI/RUC but any criticisms are peripheral – after all, the aim of Sinn Fein policy is to be able finally to support the force!

This need to support the day-to-day changes in tack by the republican movement lead to a rather stiff and narrow style. This contrasts sharply with the rather more organic structure of the other papers and their long-standing network of correspondents and with the ability of those papers to provide an apparent openness and independence which hides their unswerving support for the interests of nationalism. For example, when the IRA yet again took its offer to decommission off the table, Daily Ireland reported the statements and Sinn Fein statements in depth. Unlike the rest of the press, it did not carry much in the way of commentary and did not carry reports of the reaction of the unionists, British, Dublin government and the other political parties.

But the contradictions of representing the two faces of Sinn Fein – the ‘republican’ and ‘left-wing’ face for its supporters and the conservative, capitalist face for all the elements of the new alliance it is attempting to build, is expressed above all in its ability to lie. This is, after all, from the stable of the Andersonstown News, a paper that described the kidnapping of a dissident republican as ‘a brawl in a bar’ and had a major scoop when it established that Freddie Scappaticci was not the informer ‘Stakeknife’. (It asked him and he said no, it wasn’t him).

So the front page of the Daily Ireland is sometimes remarkably similar to that of the Daily Sport or other spoof papers. Instead of ‘Freddie ate my hamster’ or ‘I gave birth to an alien’ we have headlines such as:’ US backs IRA peace formula’, ‘Time to put the pressure on DUP’ and a week of comment on Adams’ call on the IRA to adopt wholly peaceful means where all the commentators, surprisingly enough, agree with Adams, giving detailed philosophical explanations such as ‘it’s time to move on’.

This sort of pap, where the republicans move tirelessly and triumphantly on to defeat and humiliation followed by more defeat and humiliation, can only be consumed by the ultra-loyal supporter, ordered to buy the paper. The ordinary punter, even without a strong interest in politics and even with the continued widespread support for the wreckage of the Good Friday deal, finds it too strange and exotic a dish to consume.

The fate of the paper gives some indication of the difficulty of the political transition that Sinn Fein has to complete. The movement is not the republican revolution baying at the gates of Irish capital, but Ogra Fianna Fail, supplicating a junior place at the feet of the Irish bourgeoisie. Too strident a declaration of loyalty could leave them without a section of their traditional base and end the pretence that they are a left force, ready to represent the workers, too great a reluctance to wholeheartedly support the capitalist and imperialist assault on Irish workers could leave them isolated.

In real life, as in the paper, the response of the republicans is to develop a codified language of spin, always facing in two directions at once and becoming so wrapped in a web of deceit that it is not even understood by working people, let alone believed.


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