Foreign correspondents and the Irish revolution 1919-1923
The Irish revolution of 1918-1923 not only led to the establishment of
an independent Irish state; it is also recalled for the notoriety of the
Black and Tans, the gendarmerie of war veterans recruited by the British
government to fight a war of reprisals against the IRA. Historians have
held that public perceptions of the war in Ireland were crucial to its
outcome. In particular they cite critical press coverage as instrumental in
turning the British public against the government's policy in Ireland. But
there has been no study which thoroughly examines the work of
journalists and writers who went to Ireland at this time.
This thesis uses the published work of journalists and writers, evidence
from archives in Britain, Ireland and the United States, journalists'
memoirs and contemporary press criticism to explain the role journalists
played in the conflict. It shows how British and American newspaper
correspondents were able to report from Ireland with far greater freedom
than they enjoyed during the First World War. Aided by their sympathy
for the Irish cause and splits among the political elite in London, British
correspondents set out to restore their reputation as crusading truth
tellers by making visible practices of colonial warfare that would usually
have remained hidden. American correspondents were enlisted by
British officials as mediators. The war occurred in an age when the press
and public opinion were thought to have a crucial influence on politics.
Both the British government and the Irish revolutionaries tried to define
the news. While examining the professional assumptions and rituals of
the correspondents, the thesis examines the impact of wider political
ideas on journalism. And it looks at how famous literary journalists used
Ireland as a site for debates about their own societies.