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Online Irish Language Newspaper Scheme

December 17, 2013

Last week, Foras na Gaeilge announced the details of a new scheme which will provide funding to an online Irish language digital newspaper.

As two print newspapers were discontinued earlier this year, the Irish language community will rely heavily on this scheme to fill the current vacuum in the area of written news, as they pray that this publication will not be destined to the same unfortunate cycle as its predecessors.

The plug was pulled on Gaelscéal in February 2013, when Foras na Gaeilge announced they were to discontinue their contract with Toras na dTonn due to low sales figures. At that time, Foras na Gaeilge claimed the newspaper sold approximately 1,300 copies per week, a figure which was disputed by Gaelscéal editor, Ciarán Dunbar. Foras na Gaeilge were heavily criticised at the time, with people such as Doiminic Ó Brolcháin MLA accusing Foras na Gaeilge of having knowingly agreed unattainable targets with Gaelscéal at the outset of the contract.

Later this year, another axe was set to fall on the Irish language print media with the announcement that Foinse would not return to our shelves at the beginning of the school year in September. Foinse was founded in 1996, but when Foras na Gaeilge discontinued funding in 2009, the paper was remodelled and remarketed as a supplement in the Irish Independent aimed specifically at Irish language learners. Another twist in the tale came when the Irish Independent unexpectedly launched a successor to Foinse, Seachtain, a new supplement with a different team of editors and journalists.

In a statement from Foras na Gaeilge in February of this year, it was noted that a printed format is not the most suitable format to provide news to Irish language readers. After public meetings and focus groups, details of the new scheme which will replace Gaelscéal have now been announced.

Under the new scheme, the ‘newspaper’ will be provided on a weekly basis, in a digital format free of charge, and will focus predominantly on written reporting and commentary. The criteria set out in the scheme emphasises the necessity to serve the requirements of the entire Irish language community, with national and regional news, with regularly updated Irish language news.

The type of editorial slant to be employed by the paper is also referred to within the criteria, and this must be focused on an Irish language audience, and any direct translation from English language sources must be avoided. Along with providing a weekly newspaper, the successful company must also provide a “training, employment and a platform for a new generation of journalists with technological skills.”

In the application form, it is necessary to describe how the paper would seek to cover the following remits:

  • International, national and regional news
  • News relating to the Gaeltacht and the Irish language sector
  • A diary of events
  • Feature articles, articles of special interest, cartoons, and photographs
  • Sports news
  • Arts and Literature Reviews
  • Content for the Irish language diaspora
  • Content suitable for learners

With a budget of €1.2M over a four year period, a budget which is lower than that afforded to Gaelscéal, Foras na Gaeilge are hoping to achieve a lot. Not only will this new team of journalists have to provide news across a wide range of subject categories, but they will also be responsible for training the next generation of Irish language journalists. A tall order indeed and one would have to wonder whether Foras na Gaeilge are repeating the same mistake again, as they seek to provide a single publication which will cater to every market segment.

The small print of the scheme requires applicants to include screen grabs or mock-ups of the paper, which at first glance would appear to give an advantage to those already up and running who would therefore have access to the design tools required.

The deadline for applications is Friday, 24th January at 1pm. Once assessed, a shortlist of applicants will be invited to an interview by the Foras na Gaeilge Newspaper and Magazine Committee.