It is almost 18 months to the day since the great and the good of the Irish community sat down for a celebratory meal to mark the 40th anniversary of the Irish Post. Now,Thomas Crosbie Holdings, the owners of the Irish Post, have announced that it will cease trading, with the loss of 12 jobs. So what went wrong?
The Irish Post was founded in 1970 by journalist Breandan MacLua and accountant Tony Beatty. It was the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland which had by then extended to Britain. Irish living in England, Scotland and Wales felt part of a suspect community, every time a bomb went off in Britain eyes seemed to turn to those people of Irish descent, staffing the hospitals, working in the schools and building the roads. The British establishment media ran government propaganda about the Troubles, two feuding tribes with the army trying to keep the peace between them. The Irish community needed a voice.
It was the Irish Post that came to provide that voice under the stewardship of Brendan MacLua and later editor Donal Mooney. The staff worked hard to bring out a high quality product that gave the Irish a voice. It told the truth of what was going on in the north of Ireland and campaigned relentlessly on injustices such as the Birmingham Six, Judy Ward and the Guildford Four. Later it played a significant role in bringing to wider attention cases like those of John Mathews, who would otherwise have become the new miscarriage of justice victims. The paper also covered other aspects of the community, the cultural side with events like Irish dance,the language, poetry and sport. There were other needs like those of the elderly, the homeless and prisoners. The Irish were strong in the trade union and labour movements - this was reflected in the paper. The Irish Post worked, it performed a public service and turned a healthy profit.
The paper continued to prosper. Somewhat ironically it was the ending of the Troubles that spelled some problems. The Troubles meant that events in the north of Ireland dominated much of the national news agenda over 30 years.
They transported what was otherwise, for the British media, a regional backwater to become the dominant national news story. As peace took hold, news from the north subsided to regional status as far as the national media were concerned. It also provided less of a focus for the Irish Post.
The paper adjusted covering much news from the Republic, as well as focusing on more peaceful matters in Britain. The paper continued to campaign, covering the deaths of Irish prisoners in Brixton prison and surprisingly for some the abuse of British soldiers in barracks. The deaths at Deepcut and other barracks featured early in the pages of the paper.
The readership, though ageing, remained loyal. Executives at the paper looked to draw in the new generation of younger Irish emigrants coming to work in Britain. This was a difficult ground for the Irish Post to crack, it did not seem a natural buy for this computer literate generation.
A big break came with Ken Livingstone's election as Mayor of London.
Livingstone had always been loyal to the Irish community, playing his own part in the past at exposing injustices. So when elected, he introduced the St Patrick's Day parade in London. The Irish Post under new editor Norah Casey became a key player, gaining much needed public profile. The event has grown and the Irish Post prospered from the association.
The ownership of the paper has changed hands twice, first being bought by Jefferson Smurfitt and then by Thomas Crosbie Holdings for £1.3 million in 2003. Sadly, sales have been on the decline, going from around 30,000 a decade ago to around 17,000 today.
The paper though has continued to serve the community, providing a cohesion and space for its issues. The paper championed the Federation of Irish Societies (FIS) campaign to get the Irish to register for the census earlier this year. A couple of years ago the paper gave much coverage to the dangers to the Irish of proposals effecting British citizenship. The paper has provided one of the few fair voices on the plight of Irish travellers and prisoners.
* For more information see