propaganda in Northern Ireland



Throughout the history of civilized societies and governments in the world propaganda has played a large part in their affairs. "Propaganda is the deliberative and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognition’s, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist" (O’Donnell and Jowett, 53). Propaganda’s purpose is "weighted in favor of the propagandist and not necessarily in the best interest of the receiver" (O’Donnell and Jowett, 53). Almost always performed by institutions and governments, propaganda takes on many forms. In particular, North Ireland, which is the focus of my paper, both historically and recently has not been immune to propaganda and its effects. With involvement on behalf of the media, individuals, governments (of both Ireland and the British), and political action groups, propaganda has taken many forms throughout Ireland’s history.
It would be impossible to discuss the history of propaganda in Ireland without first examining in some detail the history of the country itself. Ireland’s history is filled with deep religious and political disputes. Beginning with the Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1169, England started it’s earliest involvement with taking part in Irish affairs and Irish Kings soon submitted to Henry II of England. Later on in 1556, England established many land colonies for Protestant landlords, especially in North Ireland, for the Protestants to act as loyal subjects to England in ruling over the predominantly Catholic population of Ireland (Blanshard, 18). These English settlements continued throughout the country, all of this causing numerous rebellions and uproars throughout the 1800’s between the Catholics and Protestant subjects who pledged loyalty to England (Blanchard, 26).
Eventually in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the Irish nationalist movement began with the development of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) "in reaction to several hundred years of English rule" (Hamilton, 367). In 1905 a more extreme Irish nationalist group called Sinn Fein (meaning "our-selves") emerged (Blanchard, 28). "Vigorous political campaigning and violent military action by military nationalists resulted in the British legislature passing the Government of Ireland Act in 1920, which partitioned Ireland into two separate states," the Republic of Ireland (Eire) and Northern Ireland (Hamilton, 368). This settled many of the early disputes as this treaty was worked out between the British and Irish nationalists such as Lloyd George, Arthur Giffith, and Michael Collins. An agreement was reached recognizing an "Irish Free State for the Twenty-Six Counties of the South with dominion status, and independent affiliation of the Six Counties of the North with Great Britain" (Blanshard, 334). Soon after, the Republic of Ireland declared Eamon de Valera as President. Since this partition was never fully accepted by many of the citizens, both Catholic and Protestant, on both sides of the border, the next seventy years up until now would be filled with uprisings and rebellions. There were many affiliations that still would not be happy with this agreement and so propaganda became a large part of their fight to win their viewpoint.
Ever since its wide spread influence, propagandists have used the media to their advantage in spreading propaganda messages. "The media can, under certain circumstances, have a strong influence on public perceptions of contemporary political issues and allow the powerful to legitimate their actions" (Cottle, 292). It is undeniable that the British and Irish governments have both interfered, directly and indirectly, with media coverage of Northern Ireland. Media institutions on all sides of the troubles in Ireland have been involved in the spread of propaganda. However, when considering the role of media in the troubles one must consider the role that terrorism has played. "Terrorists secure attention, recognition and legitimacy through media exposure" (Cottle, 284). The mass media effectively serve as a propaganda platform for terrorists and their causes. "Approached thus, the media may indeed be a crucial factor in the development or inhibition of terrorism in so far as it provides a public forum for the communication of grievances and political aims" (Cottle, 285). In the media, the term terrorism acts as a label to delegitimize the political aims and actions of those engaging in the violence. Such labels serve the propaganda interest of those opposed to certain groups and their political aims. "Clearly the role of the mass media is of central concern here, constituting