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Irish Echo Is Sold

AS predicted here a few weeks ago, the Irish Echo has been sold to a Belfast-based company headed by former GAA President Peter Quinn.

The Belfast Media Group was formerly the Andersonstown News Group and published the ill-fated Daily Ireland which folded recently, as well as several local community titles in Belfast.

It is expected that Mairtin O Muilleoir, a former Sinn Fein councilor who now runs the Andersonstown News and has partnered with Quinn in the past, will be the day to day overseer of the publication. Quinn recently joined the board of the group which published an Irish edition of the Irish Echo.

Current Echo owner Sean Finlay retains a slice of the ownership according to the press release, and will also remain on the board. Other investors including unnamed Irish businessmen are also said to be involved. The asking price was said to be $5 million.

Last week the Echo had an advertisement for a new chief executive which means that current occupant Sean MacCarthaigh is likely returning to Ireland.

The Echo purchase continues its recent history of having Irish -based owners, an interesting trend. Finlay bought the paper in 2002 from the previous owner, Claire Grimes, who had inherited it from her late husband.

Irish Voice Buys Home and Away

MEANWHILE, the Irish Voice has bought Home & Away, the weekly bar and restaurant publication which features sports, Irish news and world events with a humorous twist.

Publisher Fergus Hanna has returned to Ireland after seven years at the helm of the highly successful weekly which has a circulation of 12,000 plus a huge pass along rate in over 600 Irish bars and restaurants in the tri-state area.

Home & Away has a huge following among soccer fans, not all of them Irish. It features news from all the major European leagues and from the Premiership as well as match reports from all the major games in Ireland.

"You would be amazed at how many people from all over Europe come looking for it," said Hanna. "We carry all the soccer leagues and our soccer information is unmatched in any sports weekly."

There are significant expansion plans for Home & Away in several other U.S. cities as well as in the tri-state area. Home & Away has become a fixture in local Irish restaurants and bars, and its features on local personalities have also increased its popularity.

Keough Honored In Ireland

THE setting was magnificent last Friday evening, Slane Castle, about 30 miles from Dublin in the heartland of Co. Meath. The occasion was a celebration for Don Keough, former president of Coca-Cola and Ireland's newest citizen.

Keough is also a huge figure in Irish America who has created the Keough/Naughton Institute of Irish Studies at Notre Dame and has been very active in many Irish activities as well as a key member of the Irish government's Economic Advisory Board.

Present were over 100 of Irelands top luminaries, including Foreign Minster Dermot Ahern, Health Minister Mary Harney, a slew of top businessmen including Bernard McNamara of the McNamara Property Group, now one of the largest in the world, and host Martin Naughton, the billionaire owner of Glen Dimplex, the world's largest electrical heating business.

It was wonderful occasion to witness the respect that Keough has earned from Ireland's business and political elite. He helped create the Celtic Tiger by putting Coca-Cola's major European plant in Drogheda, not five miles from Slane Castle, and he has been an ever present advisor to Irish business since.

There was a reception beforehand at Naughton's magnificent private home at nearby Stackallen, where the art collection alone runs into the millions.

All in all an overdue but very welcome recognition by the Irish government and business leaders of the exceptional role played by one man in furthering Irish and American relations.

Paisley Unlikely For U.S. Trip

IT looks like the Reverend Ian Paisley will not be making the trip to America at the end of the month to accompany Martin McGuinness to the Northern Ireland exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington.

There were hopes that Paisley and McGuinness, who have been getting on well, would make the historic trip together and give a much needed boost to Northern Ireland in the American media as they make a compelling story line.

However, at age 82 Paisley is slow on his feet and quite recently recovered from a serious illness, so it is highly unlikely that he will make the trip.

The North's Finance Minister Peter Robinson is expected to make the journey in his place. It will be the first time that Americans will have a chance to evaluate the new partnership between Sinn Fein and the Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, which stunned so many people when it was originally announced.

Despite the historic nature of the deal it has been quite hard to get the American media to focus on what has happened in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, it has become a source of frustration that what was really a ground breaking event has received little or no notice over here. No doubt McGuinness and Robinson will be trying to change that when they get here, or does it just prove that good news doesn't sell?

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