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Title: Selling the Good Friday Agreement : developments in party political public relations and the media in Northern Ireland
Author: Kirby, Shane Christian
ISNI:       0000 0001 3600 2356
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2005
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This study documents the rise of party political public relations in Northern Ireland and explores its impact on the media and the peace/political process more generally. While this research primarily charts and describes the chronological development of public relations pertaining to Northern Ireland's four main political parties (the SDLP, Sinn Fein, the DUP and the UUP), it also explores the media-source relations or interactions between journalists and public relations personnel. Significantly, political public relations has expanded considerably in Northern Ireland since the mid-90s, and political parties are increasingly utilising PR to enhance their media relations capabilities and improve their image (or `brand') with the public. What was once mainly the remit of the British government and its agencies in Northern Ireland (that is, political public relations) has now become an area in which the four main political parties (to varying degrees of success) have become increasingly more professional and well-resourced. The result of this expansion of party political public relations has seen the regional media in Northern Ireland become increasingly more vulnerable to the promotional efforts of `spin doctors' or media relations personnel from all four parties. This research, while acknowledging that there are undoubtedly multiple factors involved in how people decide to vote, argues that the 71.12% Yes vote in favour of the Good Friday Agreement can be partly explained by the significant impact of public relations strategies and techniques employed by a number of key behind-the-scenes players and conducted publicly by influential, high-profile figures. Essentially, it challenges the argument prevalent in the vast majority of literature on elections that public relations campaigns have very little `effect' on voting behaviour or that those changes of voting behaviour are due either to other factors or to long-term media campaigns and influences. This research also argues, on the one hand, that the electoral success of both Sinn Fein and the DUP in recent years (the two parties `hungry' for political power, who became the leading political parties in nationalism and unionism respectively) can be partly explained by their `courting' of the media and their development of strong and efficient communications structures. On the other hand, the recent electoral failure of both the SDLP and the UUP can be partly explained by their laissez-faire or complacent approach to both public relations and the media, and their weak and inefficient communications structures in comparison to both Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Northern Ireland Politics and government 1998- ; Great Britain Treaties etc. Ireland 1998 Apr. 10 ; Great Britain Relations Ireland ; Ireland Relations Great Britain ; Peace movements Northern Ireland