Staff members, family, friends, and supporters, including local councillors and Oireachtas members, took part in a street march yesterday to protest at the shock closure of three midlands newspapers this week.(Thursday ).
Some 25 employees of three newspapers The Athlone Voice, Roscommon Champion, and Longford News — all part of the Alpha Newspaper Group all ceased publication this week after company owner and former Unionist Minister John Taylor decided to close the publications.
Due to access issues the Athlone staff protested at the Roscommon Champion office.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser yesterday (Thursday ), National Union of Journalists (NUJ ) secretary Seamus Dooley said that staff from the three papers were currently in consultation with Mr Taylor and his representatives, but that these meetings were not negotiations. “They are just asking staff to give their views on alternative solutions to the problem at hand.”
“The Alpha Group said they will be responding to these meetings today [Friday]” he added.
Mr Dooley said that the mood from employees of the three midlands’ papers was understandably sombre. “We want to keep the papers going. If they cease to be printed then it’s going to be harder to sell them.
“If closure is the option then he should at last ensure that staff are treated with fairness and respect. That means entering into negotiations with their union and offering redundancy terms which recognise their loyalty and dedication, loyalty that up to now has not been reciprocated,” he added.
The Athlone Voice was founded in 2003 by Midmedia Ltd and was bought by Mr Taylor and the Alpha Group in 2005. The Roscommon Champion was also bought by the group in 2005, and had been in existence for a full 83 years, making it one of the stalwarts of the Roscommon print media. The Longford News has been published for some 50 years.
Staff and NUJ representatives are now hoping that the Alpha Newspaper Group will continue to print the three weekly newspapers until new owners are found.