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January 15, 2014updated 16 Jan 2014 8:41pm

Alpha Newspaper Group closes the 131-year-old Carrickfergus Advertiser with the loss of nine jobs

By Darren Boyle

The Alpha Newspaper Group has announced it is closing the 131-year-old Carrickfergus Advertiser and Ballyclare Gazette with immediate effect.

The two newspapers are based in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland. 

Managing director Jonathan Taylor told Press Gazette:  “We are about to enter into negotiations with our staff and unions. The Carrickfergus Gazette was closed by its previous owners in 1991 and reopened by the Alpha Newspaper Group.  We have been subsidising the newspaper since it reopened and we cannot continue to subsidise it any longer.”

The closures will impact eight full-time staff and one part-time cleaner.

131-year-old Carrickfergus Advertiser along with the Ballyclare Gazette, which opened in 1994, are to close with the loss of six journo jobs

— NUJ­­­­_Belfast (@NUJBelfast) January 15, 2014

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It is understood that six journalists will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

According to the National Union of Journliasts, staff on both newspapers were told that they would cease publication on Friday.

NUJ President Barry McCall described the planned closures as "another sad chapter in the history of journalism".

He said: “Two of the three titles in the East Antrim Gazette division of Alpha are to close with no apparent regard for the impact of the decision on the staff or local communities. This is a blow to the life of the local communities in these towns and the East Antrim region. I hope other options could be considered. We have witnessed far too many communities being left devoid of locally edited titles reflecting the news in their own area.

"The Carrickfergus Advertiser was founded in 1883 and has survived through periods of great turbulence. The paper was acquired by the Alpha Group in 1991. The Groups own website makes a compelling case for retention of the Advertiser, describing the newspaper as ‘a very popular paper with all sections of the community throughout the Borough of Carrickfergus'.

"The business case for retaining both titles is also captured on the website, which notes that Carrickfergus is ‘an historic borough with a significant tourist industry reinforced with a new leisure boat marina’. The company also identifies East Antrim as ‘a major growth area of Northern Ireland with many new residential developments in Carrickfergus and Ballyclare.’

"In this context it is disappointing that the group, which is headed by Lord Kilclooney, should decide to close down such significant newspapers rather than embarking on strategic

Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish organiser, said the staff, an editor, three reporters, two photographers and two advertising representatives, have been advised that they will receive only statutory redundancy entitlements, with no opportunity for redeployment.

She said: “It is extremely regrettable that the company has decided on further closures and redundancies without negotiations. This mirrors our experience of Alpha Newspapers in the Republic of Ireland, where a swathe of regional titles were eliminated in one fell swoop.”

Bob Miller, Belfast and District branch chair, said news of the closures was a major disappointment to journalists in Northern Ireland: “Lord Kilclooney has an intimate knowledge of Antrim and is aware of the importance of the role these newspapers play in the community and civic life of East Antrim. The loss of both newspapers is significant but the closure of the Carrickergus Advertiser, a historic newspaper in a town steeped in history is especially poignant.”

The Alpha Newspaper Group is owned by former Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney.

However, it is understood the newspaper group is working on a new digital strategy which is in the development stage.

The Carrickfergus Advertiser last posted an ABC headline figure of 3,465 in December 2008.  

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