Northern Ireland news

State papers: British agreed to fund Irish-language daily newspaper

The British government was prepared to fund Ireland's first Irish-language daily newspaper
Éamon Phoenix

THE British government was prepared to fund Ireland's first Irish-language daily newspaper on the condition that it was not based in west Belfast's Conway Street Mill.

In 1985 the secretary of Irish-language group Glór na nGael (The Gaelic Voice) applied for funding for the newspaper Lá, citing an upsurge of interest in the language in west Belfast.

But a Stormont official expressed concern that Lá proposed to base its activities in the Mill when the government had recently refused to fund businesses there due to alleged "paramilitary influences".

Pat Carvill of the Stormont Central Secretariat sought a decision from the new Northern Ireland secretary Tom King on whether grants could be paid to Lá.

The official felt there was no reason to withhold a grant "although the secretary of state will note that Sinn Féin has recently acquired a small number of shares in Lá", state papers show.

This had been announced publicly by then Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who is now Stormont's finance minister.

In November 1985 a Northern Ireland Office official told ministers the Irish government had turned down a funding application from Lá but solely on budgetary grounds.

"The Irish government believe the paper is eminently worthy of support and they would see political advantage if HMG were able to provide some funds," he said.

In January the following year King confirmed that grant aid could be given to Lá provided it was not located in the Conway Street Mill.

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