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Anti-Irish newspaper plans to launch edition here

FOR decades, it has published some of the most virulently anti-Irish journalism in Britain and in recent years sneeringly described this country as a land "based on the pig and the potato".

Now Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the loss-making Ireland on Sunday, is bringing its quintessentially English Daily Mail newspaper to Ireland where it hopes to pass itself off as a nativetitle.

Reviled by critics in the UK, the Daily Mail is to be re-launched in Ireland, with Irish columnists, an Irish political editor and a staff of general news and sports reporters. Some observers have expressed surprise that the paper, due out in January, has decided to target the Irish - so often the butt of itsmiddle-England prejudices.

The Daily Mail has a long history of anti-Irish abuse but editor-in-chief Paul Dacre has ordered Ireland on Sunday's English editor Ted Verity - a former Daily Mail royal reporter - to recruit a team for the planned launch in two months time. Dacre was a leading executive at Associated during the IRA's Nineties bombing campaign when the Mail's leading writers called for Irish people to be banned from UK sporting events and fined for IRA disruption to public transport.

The paper's failure to discriminate between right-thinking Irish people who opposed the IRA surprised few, as readers had become used to its trenchant attacks on everything from immigration to its hatred for the European Union.

Its anti-Irish tone has been unrelenting, whether it has been negative stories about the drinking exploits of the Irish football team or the State funerals of Ireland's founders. In 2001,the Daily Mail criticised the State funerals for Kevin Barry and his comrades. The paper labelled Ireland's national heros as murderers and accused them of killing unarmed British soldiers. Ireland on Sunday's sister paper the Evening Standard - which Dacre once edited - also regularly ran cartoons featuring Irish people with grotesque and simple features.

London's current mayor Ken Livingstone was so appalled that he boycotted the paper because of what he believed to be it's anti-Irish bias.

If the Mail's launch in Ireland mirrors its launch of the loss-making Ireland on Sunday, it will be accompanied by a huge marketing campaign. The Mail is likely to lower its cover price and there will be promotions and giveaways exclusive to the Republic.

However, that hugely expensive tactic has already cost Associated ?50 million in pushing Ireland on Sunday where circulation has plummeted to a low of 139,170 from a high of 161,000 two years ago. Mail executives are also currently trying to resolve a bizarre dispute with Irish Times printers over the cost of paying them to print a freesheet newspaper due out next week. Associated has had to foot the bill for 25 staff flown in from London who are staying at the five-star Berkeley Court hotel in Dublin. The staff have been seconded from Associated's Metro office in London to work on the new free paper but they will remain idle until the row with the Irish Times print workers is resolved.

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