Expressions of interest are being sought for new business backers for the Belfast Media Group - the West Belfast-based conglomerate which publishes the Andersonstown News, North Belfast News, and South Belfast News as well as the Irish Echo in New York.

The Irish Echo, established in 1928, is not part of the sale offer.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, an MLA in South Belfast and a civic leader in Belfast, said that with the decline in print media and falling advertising revenue it was time for a “new chapter” with a “progressive partner or purchaser” who could build for the future.

He described the Andersonstown News, established as a community news sheet in 1972 in order to protest internment without trial, and North Belfast News as “institutions which provide a first-class news service while building up the community they serve.”

Ó Muilleoir said he had met with the Belfast Media Group team and partners last week to agree on the best way to secure jobs and attract fresh investment to ensure a “sustainable business.”

He said that was the best way to ensure the titles could continue to provide a top-quality news service, adding that it was business as usual until then and that he was ”confident of a positive outcome.”

KPMG in Belfast has been commissioned to lead the search for a publishing partner, investor or purchaser and it is believed the financial services firm has already reached out to prominent Irish Americans.

The media group employs 20 people and has a hard-won reputation for speaking out for the community of West Belfast in particular during the darkest years of the conflict.

As well as representing Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Ó Muilleoir also served as Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2013-14 and held the Finance portfolio in the short-lived Stormont Executive which collapsed in January 2017. He is the founder of the New York-New Belfast and Belfast International Homecoming conferences.

"It's time to bring in some fresh investors or partners to start a new era for this newsgroup," he said.

"Our mission of giving a voice to the communities of Belfast remains more vital than ever in this era of fake news and social media extremism," he said. 

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