Current Affairs Politics

British Journalism And The ‘Agreed Narrative’ On News From Ireland

There is a highly critical post by the British journalist and media lecturer Roy Greenslade in his Guardian blog today, where he brings the British news media to task for yet again ignoring a story from Ireland that does not suit the agreed narrative on Irish affairs promulgated by Britain’s media establishment. In this case the story is the remarkable address by the Reverend David Latimer, a Protestant cleric and former chaplain with the British Armed Forces, to Sinn Féin’s annual Ard-Fheis held last weekend in Belfast.

‘I doubt that many of you have ever heard of the Reverend David Latimer…

And it would appear that Britain’s national newspapers are determined to ensure that he remains unknown to you.

Yet Latimer made history last Friday evening by becoming the first ordained Protestant minister to give an address to the annual Sinn Féin ard fheis (conference).

In so doing, he called Martin McGuinness one of the “true great leaders of modern times”. It brought the republican audience to its feet.

Indeed, the party was also making history of its own by staging the event in Belfast, the first time its ard fheis has taken place in Northern Ireland.

And another first – the Prince’s Trust charity, founded by Prince Charles, had a stand in the lobby at the Waterfront Hall.

I would call that trio of firsts a news story of no little significance.

But there was nothing in The Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Independent,The Guardian and the Financial Times.

The BBC covered the story online in several articles, such as here (with video) and here and here (a good overview by Martina Purdey, the corporation’s Northern Ireland political correspondent).

The story was covered in the Irish media,in the Irish Times and in the Irish Independent. It was the splash, as shown here, in Belfast’s Irish News and made headlines in the Belfast Telegraph.

But this was not just a local story, nor even just an Irish story given that Northern Ireland is, whether one likes it or not, part of the UK.

So why was it absent from our London-based papers? If a bomb had gone off in Belfast on Friday you can bet that would have been covered.

Are we to imagine that editors believe positive political news from Northern Ireland is of no consequence? Or is it due to an absence of correspondents in Ulster’s six disputed counties?

Even if that was the case, the Press Association reported the speech, so it certainly passed across the screens of the nationals.

I have written many times before about the failure of the British press to cover Northern Ireland properly, and its major consequence – an absence of knowledge among British people about the realities of life there.

This further example is particularly significant because it shows how good news is ignored in favour of bad news.

Latimer’s appearance was the kind of bombshell political intervention that was momentous. But the British electorate don’t know that.’

There is very little in Professor Greenslade’s words that one can disagree with. British news coverage of Irish affairs, and the conflict in the north-east of the country, are notoriously poor and agenda-driven. Indeed for most of the last 40 years that agenda has been simply one of propping up British rule in Ireland with little in the way of journalistic ethics. It is only with the adevent of the Peace Process, and some ten years on, that a handful of British newspapers are beginning to seriously examine just what was done in Ireland and in their name.

2 comments on “British Journalism And The ‘Agreed Narrative’ On News From Ireland

  1. hmm Latimer said very little of substance- think the fact that the Prince`s Trust were at the ardfheis was more significant. Latimer`s fawning over McGuinness in recent months hasn`t stopped his newly renovated First Derry Presbyterian in the cityside of L`derry from being paint bombed already.


    • Fair point, Alan.

      I know the opinions of the British minority community in Ireland over Reverend Latimer’s speech have been quiet divided and indeed divisive. Understandably so. The Comments’ section of sites like Slugger O’Toole, as well as the phone-in shows, seemed to go into meltdown last weekend and early this week. However, in general, I welcomed Latimer’s speech as a very honest and generous one, and do not read any underhand or selfish motives into it.

      Then again, though, I suppose I would (as you would no doubt point out to me).

      Only time will tell. I prefer to see it as a positive rather than a negative but as an Irish Republican for me it can only be a plus. I can understand why some (many?) within the British minority, whether separatists or not, might view it otherwise.

      Thanks for the Comment and feel free to offer your views whenever you wish to.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: