Political Chronology of Ireland and Media Presence

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Introduction

Considering the immense impact media has on the people at present times, it becomes important to bring under the scrutiny what is being consumed as ‘news’ and how is that shaping our knowledge and perception of the world we live in. This study gives an overview of Irish news media as well as attempts to critically examine its state and nature by analyzing the tone, placements and selection of the news stories in the newspapers. It includes the content analysis of some of the most read national and political newspapers of Ireland with an aim to understand the difference in the reporting as well as the ownership patterns.

Political History of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is a part of the island of Ireland which is located in North-Western Europe off the coast of England. Ireland has a rich history when it comes to Politics. Ireland was first occupied by the Celtic tribes who settled down in ireland around the 6th Century BC. This was followed by the arrival of St. Patrick, also known as the patron of Ireland, bought with the religion Christianity. After seeing many invasions by Vikings and the normans, the Island was invaded by King Henry II of England who declared himself as the king of Ireland in the 16th century. It was at this point when the island came under the direct rule of britain and was no longer a free nation. Most of the bristish and Irish population were catholics which changed after the Protestant reformation in the 16th century. Majority of the britain population became protestants leading to the imposition of the same on the irish catholics. The forceful imposition led to public outrage and the people of Ireland started a rebellion against the English which resulted in the eruption of violence in the island and a huge number of loss of life. What gave further led to the Penal laws against Catholics were introduced which banned them from working in high paying jobs or even holding office.

In 1914, Ireland was supposed to gain independence from the British monarchy but due to the fact that the World War 1 broke out, it did not happen until 23rd April 1916, when the Citizen volunteers and Irish Citizen Army proclaimed Irish Independence and staged an armed rebellion against the English. The rebellion group lost, and the British executed several of the leaders who led the rebellion which angered the Irish citizens who at first were not so opposed to the English rule. However, in the 1918-1919 elections, the pro-independence (Sinn Féin) party won and they set up the government in Dublin instead of taking their seats in the British Parliament. This was led by Eamon de Valera (Head of state and later, President of Ireland). He also led the War of Independence (1919-1921) which ended with the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty at the end of 1921. The once united Ireland is now divided into North and South, the north part of Ireland which consists of 6 counties belongs to the United Kingdom, whereas the southern part of the Ireland is independent, consists of and has come to be known as The Irish Free State. Between 1921-1923, a civil war occurred between people who supported the treaty and between people who opposed it. The civil war shaped and determined political allegiances for decades: the two largest political parties in Ireland are descended from pro-Treaty (Fine Gael) and anti-Treaty (Fianna Fáil) parties. The Irish constitution was enacted by the people in 1937, and the Irish Free State became a Republic with a Parliament (known as the Oireachtas) in 1949, which led to several connections with the British monarchy to be cut off. Ireland was neutral during the Second World War, although large numbers of Irish citizens fought in Allied forces. Ireland joined the UN in 1955 and became a member of the now European Union in 1973. The head of the government in Ireland is known as the Taoiseach who is also referred to as the Prime Minister. The current Taoiseach is Leo Varadkar TD; he took office on 14 June 2017, following his election as leader of Fine Gael on 2 June 2017. The current President of Ireland is Michael D. Higgins who is also the Head of State. The current government in Ireland is formed by Fine Gael in coalition with the Independents. The ruling party’s ideologies include Christian democracy and Liberal conservatism and are positioned at Centre Right.

Media in Ireland - An Overview

The Printing Press first arrived in Dublin in the year 1550. The first book to be printed and published was Aibidil Gaoidheilge agus Caiticiosma in Irish in the year 1571. The first paper to be published in Ireland was in the year 1659 was An Account of the Chief Occurrences in Ireland, which was a periodical news-sheet. Early form of media in Ireland was very communal in nature. In the 18th Century, the housing of printing works in coffee house was very common. It was common culture for the readers to discuss the topics in the newspapers not only with each other, but the editor of the paper as well as he worked. It was also common culture,for leaving half the newspaper blank so that readers could fill up these parts of the paper with their opinions and comments. This newspaper would be left for the next reader to read. This created a public sphere of discussion for the readers as well for the people who published the articles. This was the start of a media becoming a major player in creating public opinions regarding public affairs.

The oldest existing newspaper currently in Ireland is the News Letter of Belfast, first published in 1737. It still publishes newspapers everyday except on Sundays. Over the years, other newspapers that have been published include Dublin Newsletter (1685), Dublin Intelligence (1690) and the well-known Faulkner’s Dublin Journalism (1725). Print Media in Ireland is still popular as 90 percent of the adults prefer to read newspapers, according to a recent National Newspapers of Ireland and Joint Readership Survey. Dublin, for a long time considered to be the centre for printing and publishing newspapers in Ireland. There are both regional and national newspapers in ireland. The national press consists of four dailies, two evening newspapers, and five Sunday newspapers. There are approximately 60 regional newspapers, most of which are published on a weekly basis.

Censorship in Ireland:

The Censorship of Publications Act 1929 led to the formation of Censorship of Publications Board that examines and reviews n.p.s books which are free to publish any content that does not break Ireland’s strict defamation (Libel) laws.

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Press Freedom Index:

Ireland currently ranks at 15 on the Press Freedom Index score card. The concentrated nature of media ownership remains the single largest threat to press freedom in Ireland. Independent News and Media (INM) controls much of the daily and Sunday newspaper market, while broadcasting is dominated by the semi-state company RTE.

The Irish Times

The Irish Times is a daily broadsheet newspaper that circulates in the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Established in the year 1859, by Major Lawrence Knox, the ownership of the newspaper has been shifted thrice since its inception, leading to changes in the nature of the coverage and reporting. Established as a ‘new conservative newspaper,’the newspaper’s stance shifted to ‘unionist’ after it was bought by the Arnott family in 1873. Finally, in 1974, the Irish Times Trust was set-up to maintain the independence and quality of the paper. Since then, the political alignment of the newspaper has been ‘liberal’. The paper follows the standard format daily: three main news, a photograph of one main news, news digest and an ad. The overall paper is divided into home, world, sports and business sections.

On observing The Irish Times for almost two weeks, it is noted that Irish Politics gets an average of around 7 news articles a day. The coverage of world politics mainly includes news from the United States and the coverage of the Asian news is also directly or indirectly related to US. However, the american news coverage by the paper doesn’t essentially support or it can be seen that the newspaper does not support America, as the maximum percentage of news related to America was negative. Importance has also been given to the American-Iran issue. The articles don’t criticise anyone, they just quote statements made by people and lay forth a few facts. The criticism towards the government(s) is usually in the opinion section of the newspaper. The language used is simple and easy to understand. From 1986-2011, under the former editors Conor Brady & Geraldine Kennedy, the newspaper had both left and non-left opinions. This tradition, however, has been renounced since Paul O’Neill became editor in 2017.

Irish Independent

Irish Independent is a largest is a largest selling compact daily newspaper of Southern Ireland(Republic of Ireland) which is published by Independent News Media(INM), one of the biggest media organisations, based in Dublin. This media organisation produces national daily newspapers, regional newspapers, Sunday newspapers containing online medium for these newspapers. The largest shareholder of INM currently is Denis O’Brien.

Political History of Irish Independent

Irish Independent formerly called as Irish Daily Independent was first published in 1891 owned by William Martin Murphy. The year it was first established the newspaper was centre-right, nationalist and populist in nature since the publication came into existence solely to support Stewart Parnell (an Irish politician who was nationalist and had been an MP in the House of Commons of Great Britain and Ireland before the partition of Ireland) when there was a split in Irish Parliamentary Party in 18990-1891 which is an official party for the MP’s elected to the House of Commons. The split in this party occured when divorce action came on the party leader, Stewart Parnell and the party completely split into Parnellites and anti-Parnellites and in turn caused the decline in Irish Parliamentary Party.

In 1990’s the newspaper was taken over by Tony O’Reilly, who was a chairman of Heinz, a food processing company. The newspaper under his control started criticizing the ruling party for the sole purpose of the rejection of mobile phone license to INM by Fine Gael party. However, during 2012, the major shareholder of INM was Denis O’Brien. The newspaper is divided as Irish News, World News, Opinion, Sport, Entertainment, Business, Life, Travel, Farming. The colour of the flag of the newspaper changes everyday and is often related to the theme such as farmer’s life associated with green(fig 1) and some colours are displayed randomly(fig 2). The newspapers also contains an advertisement at the bottom left of the newspaper as shown in the figures below.

All the articles occurring in this newspaper follows the format of 5W1H in the beginning of the article. The major coverage of World news is given to European Union, UK and US with lesser coverage to other prominent countries which could be because of the political history of UK and ireland and the proximity between the same. In the case of the US, one of the reasons for the wide coverage of the news from the country are its strong political and economic relations due to its ancestral ties and trade relations. The coverage of local news is mostly human interest, wildlife, education and weather news apart from political news. In terms of political news, the coverage seems quite objective. However, the editorial page clearly suggests that there is a space for frequent criticism made against the government. Example: Infact, recently there was an interesting case found in Moriarty report that Micheal Lowry, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party from 1993-1994 had secured the winning of mobile phone license to Denis O’Brien and another case which states that Denis O’Brien had funded Fine Gael in the 1990’s to acquire mobile phone license for his company called Esat Digifone. However, O’Brien funded Fine Gael only for the purpose of acquiring mobile phone license and not in support of any party. Infact, during a water issue in Ireland, Fine Gael suspended water charges for which Denis O’Brien had criticised Fine Gael for the same and stated that “I really don’t care who’s in power, but I think there needs to be stability in Ireland.” Hence the journalists are free to deliver their opinion in the newspaper. Considering its coverage on some of the most sensitive issues like LGBTQ and minorites, the newspaper could be labelled as populist and conservative.

Interestingly, the newspaper provides a special column for President Donald Trump in its online edition which is mostly critical of the Trump government. During the 2016 US election, Denis O’Brien and his company Digicel had funded around $10m to $25m to Hillary Clinton’s foundation, Chelsea Clinton Foundation and they both have had close ties with each other since then. Hence Donald Trump had accused Hillary Clinton for having close ties with O’brien and released a press release which consisted of a headline-’Follow the money:Denis O’Brien, another corrupt Clinton friend”. This could be one of the reasons why the newspapers maintains a critical stand against the trump administration.

The Herald

The herald is tabloid published by Independent News and Media(INM) which was earlier called as 'Evening Herald' in 1891. The change from broadsheet to tabloid occurred in 1982. The title was replaced as 'The herald' in 2013 as it turned to a morning newspaper from evening newspaper. In order to understand the political coverage of Ireland by ‘The Guardian’ one of the leading british newspapers, this paper analysed the two week coverage of the same. The analysis of guardian’s coverage of Ireland suggested that it covers at least one news about Ireland daily most of which is about Brexit. The coverage doesn’t shy away from reporting on issues or events that show Irish disagreement with English and even the dissent among the minorities that has been there since ‘The Troubles’. But at the same time, the guardian has been portraying Ireland as a beautiful tourist destination. 3 out of 5 articles promoted some places to visit in ireland which people might like from across the world.

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