One of Ireland's biggest local newspaper groups is laying off dozens of workers due to the collapse of advertising income during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Journalists, photographers, advertising staff and other workers are being let go for six weeks from the end of the month and some workers are being made redundant. 

The Iconic Newspapers Group published a list of titles affected. 

The group is owned and controlled by the British businessman Malcolm Denmark. 

A statement from the company was expected this afternoon. 

Among the titles affected are the Donegal Democrat, Kilkenny People, Leinster Leader, Leinster Express, Limerick Leader, Longford Leader, The Nationalist, Tipperary Star, Tullamore Tribune and the Midland Tribune. 

Why are the local papers in trouble?

Iconic Newspapers is controlled by Mediaforce who are owned by UK media guru Malcolm Denmark. 

The pain being experienced by local newspaper staff and their owners in the last week is directly related not just to the Covid-19 outbreak but to the manner in which most of these papers changed hands since the lofty days of the Celtic Tiger period.

Four years ago Iconic Newspapers acquired Johnston Press Ireland, which was really suffering financially having been formed following the purchase of Scottish Radio Holdings' newspapers known as Score Press by Johnston Press in 2005 for a staggering £155 million.

Most media experts will tell you now, with the power of retrospective, that those 2005 sale prices for local papers in Ireland were really "off the wall" in terms of actual newspaper values. Not just inflated either but entirely unrealistic the view remains - despite what the market felt like at the time. 

The new buyers inherited local papers with very dedicated and hard working staff but, after the boom turned to bust, shrinking advertising and sales revenue followed - due to the growth of online media - so the last thing these papers needed was the body blow served by Covid-19 to what was left of their local advertisers this week.

Many see these redundancies as potentially ending careers in local media. Eyes will turn now to what happens to the papers in six weeks' time when the virus is hopefully under control but there are huge fears that staff numbers will never be the same again in the provincial press and that would be a huge blow to not just individual families but quality journalism in rural Ireland too. Let's hope they can bounce back - like everything else.

The National Union of Journalists has written to Mr Denmark seeking an immediate meeting.

In a statement this evening, Seamus Dooley NUJ said: "Given that the government announcement had been signalled in advance, and against the backdrop of Mr Denmark's circular, this move came as a devastating bolt from the blue. There has been no prior consultation and a number of loyal, experienced editorial executives and long serving reporters have been told they are to be laid off. The criteria for selecting who is laid off has not been explained.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the BBC is suspending plans to cut jobs in BBC News because of the demands of covering the coronavirus pandemic.

BBC director-general Tony Hall told staff about the decision during an all-staff call.

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed to the PA news agency that the restructure, which would have lead to around 450 job cuts, had been paused.

Its focus is now keeping a continuous news service on-air amid the challenges caused by the pandemic.