15 April 2010 Edition

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Mála Poist

Cuireann An Phoblacht fáilte roimh litreacha ónár léitheoirí. Scríobh i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla, 200 focal ar a méid. Déantar giorrú ar litreachta más gá. Cuir do litir chuig [email protected]
An Phoblacht welcomes readers’ letters. Write in Irish or English, 200 words maximum. Letters may be edited for brevity. Send your letters to [email protected] No attachments please

The future of An Phoblacht

I read with some dismay the decision to stop the paper production of An Phoblacht in favour of an online version. Whilst appreciating how difficult it is to make a paper pay for itself, I believe that the production of An Phoblacht – in paper format – has a greater significance in the building of the party than just having the ability to read the republican political analysis.
I would like to make a few points though this may be shutting the gate when the horse has bolted!
1. Delivering, buying, seeing An Phoblacht in shops supports  the physical presence of republicanism and resistance in the lives of people where it is sold and distributed. Here in the Six Counties this has been and continues to be very important. Over the years it has played an important role in connecting republicans, fostering a republican identity and informing and educating all of us. There is no physical presence when you have to use your expensive mobile or go to a computer to see the paper.
2. Buying, selling and delivering a paper has contact and connection between people at the heart of the process. Reading a paper online is essentially an isolated experience which does not foster contact. This runs contrary to the core process of connection as essential to party building and of collective organisation. Individualism is the hallmark of capitalist ideology promoted to destroy any collective identity and consciousness developing amongst the working class and the poor. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher “there is no society, just individuals...”
3. You can’t pick up a laptop for a casual read in places where you might come across a paper eg a club, pub, on a bus, in a friend’s house so there is no chance of this direct connection with others who read the paper.
4. Many, many people do not have access to the internet- particularly the poor and those who have not had the benefit of an IT education or training.  How does the party plan to make An Phoblacht available to them?
I am by no means a technophobe. I got my first computer in 1978. I use my computer every day and many times a day for a wide range of activities.  I’m lucky in that regard and can’t imagine life without the ability that my computer makes available to me.
I am not advocating that we should have one or the other. The online  presence serves a particular purpose, meets particular needs of the party and appeals to a particular readership. And rightly so. Going on-line may well solve financial, distributive and production problems and costs and we can’t ignore the seriousness of these. However, what it does not do is to provide a very important form of the republican presence in the areas. This will be lost and it may have been decided that this is the price to be paid to overcome these difficulties.
Maybe in a few years, someone will come up with the great idea (I hope) of relaunching An Phoblacht as a paper to sell round the doors to make the republican analysis available to a wider range of people to support the physical presence of republicans on the ground.
Beidh an lá linn,
Máire Nic Mhaoláin,
Béal Feirste. 

An Phoblacht will be both in print and online

The Editor replies:
Let me first stress to Máire and to other concerned readers that the paper edition of An Phoblacht is not being discontinued. The paper will go from a weekly to a monthly print edition. There will be an online daily news service and a generally increased online presence for An Phoblacht.
This change is happening in recognition of the continuing transformation of communications media with increasing numbers of people having access to the internet and an ever larger proportion of those people relying solely on that medium for news, political analysis and debate. As a direct result of this there has been a dramatic fall in the sales of newspapers globally and An Phoblacht is no exception.
We fully recognise the very important role that the distribution and sale of An Phoblacht has had as a key form of republican activism, connecting directly with people in their communities. As Máire rightly points out, the paper is also a focus for discussion and political education, in a collective as distinct from individualist manner. All of this should continue with activists promoting and selling the monthly paper. In fact a monthly edition gives Sinn Féin activists the opportunity to plan ahead better with paper sales and fit in those sales with the many other party activities.
There is such a volume of Sinn Féin and generally republican material available on the internet on a daily basis that even a weekly paper can only reflect a proportion of it. A monthly paper will be better able to condense and present an overview, selecting the best and most significant news and analysis and other features over a four-week period.
An Phoblacht is very much here to stay, online and in print.

An Phoblacht
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