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Summary of chapter. The press was well-developed Ireland having been started a century earlier. The various newspapers reflected various strands of political thought. Government attempts to influence newspapers, never very great virtually ceased. But editors could still be caught if they breached the law against seditious libel, namely by publishing writings likely to lead to a breach of the public peace. Newspapers in provincial towns were quite numerous.
newspapers date back to the beginning of the eighteenth century, and the Belfast Newsletter, over 250 years old,
has some claim to be the oldest daily newspaper in the British Isles.
improvement in post and packet systems after 1691 led to daily newspapers, the
first of which is claimed to be the London Daily
Courant of 1702, a single sheet measuring 13 inches by 7 inches. The Tatler was started in 1709 and the Spectator was started in 1711. A British
Stamp Act (1712) killed off most of the early British newspapers. A regular
bi-weekly newspaper was published in Dublin from the beginning of 1704 with
several octavo pages. Its contents consisted of excerpts from British and other
newspapers. Soon there were several newspapers circulating in Dublin that seem
often to have been pirated copies of London news-sheets. The first to enjoy long-term success was
Pue’s Impartial Occurrances the first
issue of which appeared at Christmas 1703. Richard Pue, the owner of Dick’s
Coffee House, published it. The Dublin
Intelligence of Francis Dickson of the Union Coffee House appeared about
1705. By about 1720 the size of the page had been increased to quarto size with
four pages and this format was retained for the rest of the century
the beginning of the nineteenth century the chief interest catered for was the
commercial one, and a large part of the available space was given over to
advertisements. There was usually a column containing snippets of foreign news
like 'British victory in Egypt' or 'Napoleon defeats Prussians at Jena'.
Another column would contain items of domestic news like 'outbreak of agrarian
crime' (frequent), or 'Work resumed on the Grand Canal'. After the
advertisements the greatest space was devoted to the reporting of Parliament,
and with the development of shorthand systems, the reporting became more
accurate. Occasionally court cases of particular interest were reported at
length. From time to time there were descriptions of the seventy or eighty
rounds in boxing matches given in the jargon of the ring. After a drawing room
by the Lord Lieutenant there were detailed descriptions of the ladies' dresses.
(Some 'lady of rank' may have been earning a few shillings with her pen.) There
were occasional editorials couched in vitriolic language the points of which
were not always obvious. Editors had a propensity to use violent and extreme
language especially when attacking the Government, and this was to lead to a
series of prosecutions by the Government for seditious libel as well as suits
for common libel.
was done by contract by independent printers. Steam presses were introduced to
Ireland in 1833. Before that hand presses with an output of about 250 copies an
hour were used. If a large number of copies were required a second machine with
a duplicate set of type had to be used. It is doubtful if any Irish newspaper
had to use a second machine. The type
used by the contracting printers rapidly improved in the nineteenth century but
Saunders' Newsletter always managed
to look old-fashioned. The type used by country printers was always poor, so we
can assume that they bought their fonts second-hand from Dublin printers.
papers began printing shortly after midnight, and several editions were printed
before midday. The evening papers could not be finally set to type until the morning
mailboat had arrived and the editor had a chance to glance at the London and
foreign newspapers. The first edition had to be ready, made up in packets, and
handed into the General Post Office by 5 p.m. so that they could be dispatched
by the night mailcoaches to the country areas. Registered newspapers were
carried free to every part of Ireland so the Post Office inspectors opened a
sample of them to see that no communication was enclosed. At first newspapers
being sent to England were charged one penny each, but this charge was later
removed. Papers to the colonies were charged at three pence each.
Daily newspapers, which were morning papers, sold best in Dublin. The evening papers, which were tri-weeklies, sold best in the country areas. A tri-weekly had to have twice the circulation of a daily to match its total sales. The popularity of the evening papers in country areas is explained by the fact that they were ready just before the departure of the mailcoaches, that the annual subscription for them was half that of the dailies, and that country people did not mind waiting an extra day for the news. No Sunday newspapers seem to have been published in Ireland. The imported British Sunday newspapers were denounced as 'vehicles of profaneness and trash' IFJ 21 Aug 1819. The Farmers’ Journal itself carried pious readings suitable for Sundays. The denunciation of British Sunday papers was still being repeated a century later.
sales of newspapers can be determined with reasonable accuracy from the number
of stamped copies of newsprint each editor bought from the Stamp Office.
Newspapers could hold extra stocks, or could borrow some stamped paper from a
fellow editor, but over the year the sales of copies would not differ much from
purchases of stamped paper. The newspapers were heavily taxed especially in
wartime. In 1798 the editor of Saunders’
Newsletter remarked that two pence out of the cover price of three pence
went to the Government in taxes.
1788 there were 37 Irish newspapers of which 13 were in Dublin. Saunders' was then the only daily. In
1831 there were 46 newspapers in Ireland including weeklies and provincial
newspapers. Of these four were dailies. Scotland at the same time had 28
newspapers, none of them dailies, while England had 16 dailies, 8 in the
morning and 8 in the evening.
In 1815 The Correspondent
was claiming the highest sales (over a fifteen month period) of 540,000 stamped
copies, while The Freeman's Journal
had 352,000, The Evening Post
338,000, and Saunders' Newsletter
308,000 (The Correspondent 30 March
1815). By 1820 Saunders' was claiming
the lead with weekly sales of 19,000 copies against the 10,000 of its nearest
rival Carrick's Morning Post. In 1826
the newly-founded Evening Mail was
claiming the largest annual sales in Ireland with 395,000 copies to Saunders' 300,000. The re-launch of The Correspondent as the High Tory Evening Packet cut into the sales of the
Mail so that in the Thirties Saunders' was ahead again with sales of
444,000 against the Mail's 425,000 and
the Packet's 223,000. (The latter two
of course combined exceed the former, but Saunders'
was moderate Tory in views while the other two were High Tory.) The Whig paper,
and by the 1840's the only Whig national newspaper remaining, the Dublin Evening Post, had annual sales of
270,000 in 1815, 242,000 in 1824, and 164,000 in 1835. The leading Whig
newspaper in 1815, the Freeman's Journal,
had annual sales of 280,000. By 1835 it had become a Repeal newspaper and its
sales had dropped to 165,000. In 1835, the leading Tory papers had a combined
sale of about one million copies, the Repeal newspapers about a half a million
combined, while the sole surviving Whig paper 164,000.
of the leading Dublin papers were about 870,000 in 1821. In 1826 the combined
annual sales of the 18 Dublin newspapers that purchased stamps was 2,046,348 or
40,920 a week. The circulation of 47 provincial papers was 1,426,666. Sale of
stamps to all newspapers was 5,782,851 in 1839. The number of titles of
newspapers and stamp-paying periodicals peaked about mid-century. There were
121 titles listed in 1835 but only 102 in 1870 including monthlies.
Sales of provincial papers were not
so large. In 1825 The Cork Southern Reporter sold 137,000 copies (2,700 a week), while its rival The Cork Constitution sold 132,000.
Belfast's two leading papers, The Belfast
Newsletter and The Belfast Commercial
Chronicle sold 136,000 and 119,000
copies respectively. The Limerick
Chronicle also had sales of over 100,000 copies annually (or 2,000 a week),
for its circulation reached 138,000.
the Forties, the editor Gavan Duffy claimed an enormous success for the new
nationalist weekly The Nation with
its weekly print run of 10,000 against an average of 2,900 for the Mail and 2,500 for Saunders’. But a fairer comparison could be made with the sales of
other weeklies. The High Tory weekly, The
Warder sold 7,200 copies a week, while the Weekly Freeman, the weekly edition of the Freeman's Journal sold 7,150 copies.
was another matter. Newspapers were then printed on strong paper, and it was
estimated that each copy was read by from eight to ten persons. In country
areas parts of the newspapers were read aloud. O’Connell, realising this, often
composed his speeches in the form of letters to the people of Ireland, to be
read aloud to them. They make turgid reading but were probably effective when
regard to staff, the newspaper proprietor employed an editor, and probably a
couple of clerks to deal with advertisements, subscriptions, etc. No reporters
or staff writers were employed at first but these were introduced gradually in
the course of the century. Weeklies depended more on able staff writers or
contributors than dailies that had merely to compile news from whatever resources
were to hand.
every point of view except appearance the best newspaper was Saunders' Newsletter (1753-1879). For
the historian a single line of unadorned fact from Saunders' is worth more than whole columns of obscure diatribes
from others. Its tone was moderate Tory, and a family named Potts owned it.
These opposed the Union until 1829 and its rare editorials up to that date
expressed this fact. After 1829 they supported the Union. Early in the century
editorial comment was virtually non-existent, but later it adopted the valuable
habit of reprinting editorial comment from the more judicious London papers.
These were usually Tory papers but Whig papers were not excluded. The editor of
Saunders’ was scrupulous about his
facts. His reports of events like the meetings of the Catholic Association were
models of accuracy, conciseness, and fairness. On the reporting of happenings
outside Dublin as late as the Forties Saunders'
copied an editorial from the London Times
complaining about the difficulty of establishing what was actually happening in
the worst famine-stricken areas. Two reporters, eyewitnesses, writing within a
fortnight of each other about conditions in the same workhouse flatly contradicted
each other. One said that the place was remarkably filthy, the other that it
was remarkably clean. It was obvious that the reports were deliberately
distorted for political reasons, and Saunders'
wished to make this clear to its readers. Altogether an excellent newspaper.
The Freeman's Journal (1764-1924) was a
Whig newspaper in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Three Dublin
merchants founded it, and its first editor seems to have been a writer named
Henry Brook. The paper was chiefly associated with the irascible 'patriot', Dr
Charles Lucas, who contributed to it and attacked the various Tory Governments.
At the end of the eighteenth century it supported the Tories. In 1804 it passed
into the hands of Philip Whitfield Harvey one of the ablest newspapermen of the
time, who made it one of the most progressive papers in the United Kingdom. He
employed capable editors, and collected around him a permanent staff of good
writers. He anticipated developments in London by adding an extra column to
each page thereby increasing the size of the paper by 25%. On Harvey's death in
1826 the ownership of the paper passed to his daughter, the wife of Henry
Grattan, junior. In the Thirties it passed to other owners who adopted the
politics of Repeal. Thereafter rhetoric replaced reliable fact.
Dublin Evening Post (1732-1875) was
nearly seventy years old when the nineteenth century began. It was established
by a man named Theophilus Jones apparently as a commercial venture with no
political content. Towards the end of the eighteenth century it was acquired by
the erratic (or half-mad) John Magee who used it as a vehicle to attack his
personal enemies. The paper was Whig (or at least anti-Tory) in tone, and its
vigorous (to say the least) editorial style made it a target for prosecutions
by the Attorney General. The paper always supported the Catholic cause. In 1812
Magee died and his son, also called John succeeded him. O’Connell mercilessly
abused the young man's inexperience and the trust placed in him. Magee, relying
on O’Connell to keep him within the law was several times charged and found
guilty of libelling the Government, and finally was sent to prison. O’Connell
and his associates left him in prison. The Magee family hastily transferred the
ownership of the paper to John's brother James, and brought in a new editor to
keep the paper within the law. The Government was more anxious to catch the
authors of the libels than the editor of the newspaper. When these did not come
forward Magee was eventually released. The new editor was Frederick Conway who
was to be the most outstanding editor in Ireland in the first half of the
century. Conway later bought the Post.
As a young man he had supported Repeal, but gradually came to see the benefits
of the Union. He always supported the Catholics, and was the only editor to
support Archbishop Murray against the Repealing clergy. He gave a cautious
support to O’Connell on various issues, but never forgot how he had left John
Magee, and in a different case a printer named Harding Tracy, in prison.
Journal (1725-1825) proved unsuccessful in the nineteenth century and came
to an end amid the flood of new titles in the Twenties. In the early years of
the nineteenth century it was leased to a man named Jack Giffard with very
anti-Catholic and pro-ascendancy feelings. Conway of the Post recalled the Journal’s
claim that it circulated 'in all places known and unknown in the world, in
Constantinople and Eyre Connaught'. The Hibernian
Journal (1770-1820) was similar in tone. Both were Tory and pro-Government
and for this reason received considerable assistance from the Government. When
these subsidies were withdrawn from newspapers both these papers folded.
that attacked the Government had usually better sales in Ireland than those
that supported it. Two different Irish Secretaries tried to launch moderate but
pro-Government papers. The first of these was established when the Whigs were
in office in 1806, and it was called the Dublin
Correspondent. It was a well-produced paper, with a clear layout, an
excellent font of type, and printed on good paper. For a brief while it had the
largest circulation in Ireland. When Wellesley Pole was Secretary he made a
second attempt to launch a pro-Government paper. This was called The Patriot and it lasted just as long
as it was supported by subsidies. By the time Peel was Irish Secretary there
was dissatisfaction with what the Government was receiving in return for its
advances, and by 1820 these were brought to an end.
result was to promote the growth of vigorous new papers, both Whig and Tory,
entirely independent of the Government. The Dublin
Evening Mail was set up in 1823 to promote the Protestant interest and to
oppose the policies of the Marquis Wellesley. It boasted that it received no
assistance at all from the Government. It soon had the largest circulation in
Ireland. Its editor was Remy Sheehan, a cultivated man and often liberal in his
views that were always expressed in moderate and reasoned language. The Correspondent was re-launched in 1828 as
the Dublin Evening Packet and it was
generally similar in tone to the Mail
though the two papers disagreed over particular policies. In the second half of
the century these two were amalgamated. A knowledge of these two papers is
essential for insight into the minds of a majority of Protestants.
The Morning Register was founded in 1824 by a former editor of the Freeman's Journal, Michael Staunton, as a Whig newspaper. He was closely associated with O’Connell and the Catholic Association. The Register had a reputation for being boring and being filled with statistics compiled by Staunton which some found credible and others considered politically biased. When O’Connell began his Repeal campaign the Register supported him.
the Emancipation campaign was at its height there was talk of launching a
specifically Catholic newspaper. As nothing came of this a Protestant named
Richard Barrett launched The Pilot in
1828 to express the Catholic viewpoint. It was often regarded as O’Connell's
newspaper but he had no connection with it. He always gave advance copies of
his long turgid Letters to the People of Ireland to Barratt. The paper
reproduced O’Connell's speeches at inordinate length, but presumably its
readership appreciated that. It supported O’Connell through thick and thin and
so came to be supported by many of the Catholic clergy. It backed him and the
Catholic Repealing bishops against both Young Ireland and Archbishop Murray. As
befitted papers largely circulating in rural areas both the Pilot and the Post
provided excellent coverage of the state of the crops and of farm prices.
of the best papers published in the first half of the century was the
short-lived satirical weekly, The Comet.
Publication began in the early Thirties and it attracted perhaps the ablest
group of writers of any newspaper. These spurned the names of Catholic and
Protestant, Orangeman and Ribbonman, and sought only to enlighten and entertain
the public. The paper introduced novelties like a 'Poets's Corner' and 'Replies
to Correspondents' which were later adopted in The Nation. The lively satirical style led to prosecution by the
Government for libel. The young writers lacked financial backing and the paper
did not recover from the lawsuit.
format and style were revived a decade later by Charles Gavan Duffy the editor
of The Nation. The size of sheets
used by the newspapers had been growing larger but Duffy reverted to a tabloid
format. Like all newspapers founded to promote strongly held beliefs it was
inspiring to those who held similar beliefs but turgid and repellent to those
who did not. This was, with few exceptions, especially true of the poetry it
published. Closer reflection might lead older and wiser heads to conclude that
its ideas were unworkable, and that vested interests on all sides would prevent
them from succeeding. Nevertheless, its message of hope in better things, in a
free Ireland where political corruption was unknown, where everyone strove for
high ideals, and where the whole country was prosperous, all expressed in
vibrant language, sent a thrill through its readers that can be experienced to
Catholic hierarchy defeated Young Ireland, and nationalism became Catholic nationalism,
and it became aimed chiefly at taking jobs and land away from Protestants to
give them to the Catholics. The Nation believed in educating all Irish
children together, and reducing religion to a state of private importance only.
Yet despite the great success of The
Nation there seems little doubt that most of its readers were closer in
sentiment to the Repealing bishops and that they looked to nationalism to take
the jobs and land from the Protestants and give them to them.
had existed in some of the larger provincial towns for almost as long as they
did in Dublin. The first Irish provincial newspaper was published in Waterford
in 1729, and the second was the Belfast
Newsletter published in 1737 by Henry Joy a paper-maker who introduced
paper-making to Ulster. From 1820 onwards they became numerous, each small town
acquiring two, a Catholic one and a Protestant one. Almost without exception
they were weeklies. Standards were almost universally low, though Ramsay's Waterford Chronicle was an
exception. They were poorly printed, with poor type on poor paper. News was
copied from the Dublin papers, and local news was non-existent. But they were
cheap, appeared but once a week, and carried local advertising. A notable
feature of the provincial papers was their strong editorial line. Early in the
century the Secretary of the Catholic Committee, Edward Hay, remarked that
people in Dublin did not appreciate the passion with which views were held in
the countryside. In the 1820's the local papers became, as they have remained
to this day especially in Ulster, strongly for or against Catholic claims. As
sources of local history up to 1850 they are virtually useless being filled
with obscure diatribes against local rivals. Their local advertisements were
always their most informative part.
aimed at particular specialist readerships were quite common but often
short-lived. They were usually well-written and contain an immense amount of
information on Irish customs, practices, and law of the time. Those devoted to
the promotion of agriculture were the most common, but several attempts were
also made to produce periodicals concerning the Irish theatre.
surviving collections in British and Irish libraries are purely haphazard ones.
Among the survivors may be mentioned the Irish
Agricultural Magazine of 1799. It contained little original matter, being
culled from contemporary British periodicals. The Irish Farmers' Journal was started in 1813 and folded about 1826.
It aimed at being a family magazine, complete with spiritual readings for
Sundays. It also gave some account of political events as they affected
farmers. In such cases it provided what was rare in Ireland, unbiased comment.
Its average sales while it lasted were about 1,000 copies a week. A revival of
interest in progressive agriculture was signalled by the establishment of the Irish Farmer’s Gazette in 1840.
railway boom in the 1840's brought two railway periodicals, also abounding with
useful facts and often unbiased comment. These were the Irish Railway Gazette, much the better of the two, and the Irish Railway Telegraph.
sporting periodical, the Racing Calendar
merely gave lists of runners at various meets, but about 1840 it was joined by
the Irish Sporting Chronicle that
gave descriptions of various sports.
theatre was a matter of perennial interest to the Dublin papers that often
carried acerbic comments regarding the theatres, the managements, and the
performances. About 1820 several short-lived attempts were made, one of them by
Conway of the Post, to provide a
periodical entirely devoted to the theatre. Among these were Nolan's Theatrical Observer (1822), The Stage (1821), and The Tatler (1834).
learned periodicals one can mention the Dublin
Quarterly Journal, the Dublin Review (Catholic), and the Dublin Quarterly Review of Medical Science.
common problem of all these periodicals was that the whole British Isles was
for all practical purposes a single publishing field, the readers within which
used a common language, had common aspirations, and faced common
difficulties. Irish periodicals were
therefore in direct competition with richer British publications, and unless
they could keep up a supply of local information they had noting distinctive to
of this subject has suffered more than most from deliberate political
distortions. Though its coverage is incomplete the chapters on Ireland in Politics and the Press by A. Aspinall
contain much useful and relevant material.
free press was one of the glories of the British Constitution, and the Whig principles
of 1688 were universally accepted in Ireland by the year 1800. Any citizen was
free to attack the Government in print, a liberty not found elsewhere except in
Holland and the British colonies. There was no prior Government censorship, and
no Government spies. The freedom of the press was on a par with the freedom of
the mob to break the Prime Minister's windows. The Dublin Evening Post (25 Feb 1737) noted that the liberty of the
press was not specified in the Bill of Rights (1689) but it was acknowledged in
King William's reign when the Licensing Act expired and was not renewed. The
courts and the independent judiciary provided the only restraints on the press.
law of the land forbade only the printing of obscenity, blasphemy, slander, and
incitement to civil disturbance, or in legal terminology obscene libel,
blasphemous libel, slanderous libel, and seditious libel. Seditious libel is
more properly translated from legal jargon as a book liable to incite public
disturbance. Traditionally British (and later Irish newspapers) took a hearty
line with regard to the Government. Some attacks were sincere. In other cases
the editor abused the Government until he got the pension he was angling for.
If the attacks went too far, and became notorious, the Attorney General could
bring charges of seditious libel. With regard to the liberty of the press the Post in 1732 noted:
'From messengers secure no printer
regard to ordinary libel the accused could proceed either with an indictment
for a criminal offence, or by a civil action for damages. Libel was defined as
defamatory remarks in writing. Truth was not regarded as a defence for part of
the offence consisted in using language calculated to lead to a breach of the
peace, i.e. a challenge to a duel.
the French Revolution the Irish Parliament had begun to take measures to
control the excesses of the press. The Stamp Act (1780) was a fiscal measure to
raise revenue. It required that a copy of each issue of the paper be lodged
with the local stamp office. An Act passed in 1784 required that the publishers
of newspapers state their names. This was intended to make them liable for the
penalties for any libels that appeared in their papers. Other Acts were passed
in 1798 and 1800 against 'seditious' writings. Peel consolidated these Acts in
the legal side the Irish Government, like the Government in Britain, took a
firm line against seditious libel, and between 1810 and 1820 several suits were
brought by the Attorney General. An example of the kind of language the
Government had in mind was displayed in the libel suit against a publisher who
attacked the administration of the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Richmond
(1807-1813) with the words 'They insulted, they oppressed, they murdered, and
they deceived'. It was for a jury to decide whether this was a fair statement
of fact or incitement to disaffection and civil disturbance. It should be
remembered that agrarian crime was rife at the time.
The suits were not aimed at the proprietors,
editors, or printers of newspapers, but at the 'agitators' who were writing anonymous
articles. Two of these, Denys Scully and Daniel O’Connell, were leading
'anti-vetoists', but it should be remembered that the Attorney General, Saurin,
was opposed equally to vetoists and anti-vetoists. He was concerned not with the religious question
but with the point of public order. None of the anonymous writers ever admitted
responsibility for their writings, so the proprietors, and printers, were
prosecuted in accordance with the law. As mentioned earlier, O’Connell
shamefully abused the confidence placed in him by the inexperienced John Magee.
One of Magee's trials was extraordinary in that O’Connell, on the verge of
defeat, used language regarding Saurin that would normally provoke a challenge
to a duel. The judge on the bench understood what was said and told him he was
only harming his client's case. Magee instantly dismissed O'Connell and hired
many allegations of 'packed juries', the
Dublin juries of the period showed considerable independence of the Government.
By 1820 the Irish newspapers had moderated their language to some extent. It
was a cultural change, and the whole-hearted denunciations of the eighteenth
century became rare, though kept up at times by people like Archbishop MacHale.
In 1848 some newspapers were suppressed, but they could hardly complain for
they were openly preaching revolt against the Government.
Government had various ways of bringing influence to bear newspapers that were
derived from the revenue laws. They could not be applied arbitrarily but only
through sentences by the courts. Newspapers were taxed in two ways, by a stamp
duty on newsprint, and by a tax on advertisements. Anyone wishing to start a
newspaper, because public revenue was involved, had to lodge with the
Government sufficient securities to guarantee that the tax revenue would be
paid. This was the usual procedure in tax affairs at the time. Secondly, all
pre-stamped newsprint had to be bought from Government stamp offices. Thirdly,
each proprietor had to lodge a copy of each edition signed by himself with the
Stamp Office. Failure to pay the taxes could result in the stoppage of
newsprint or even the seizure of the printing press.
the nineteenth century both Whigs and Tories wished to end the practice of
giving cash to editors. Charles James Fox took a principled, though some
thought unwise, stand against bribing editors. At the beginning of the
nineteenth century the Irish Government was unwilling to follow Fox's example,
and so it devoted a considerable amount of its funds to bribing editors. Though
in the circumstances of the time it is far from clear to what extent any of the
parties regarded this as anything more than common eighteenth century
corruption as far a public funds were concerned. Most of the money was paid out
of secret service funds and the editors were in theory to inform the Government
of any plots that came to their attention. Newspapermen seemed to have regarded
this as a normal part of their income, and Conway of the Post was for many years in receipt of a pension, though he
certainly could not be described either as a Government supporter or a
Government spy. The Government could support a friendly, or not too hostile,
editor in another way. Government notices and advertisements had to be placed
in newspapers, and the paper in which they were placed benefited in two ways.
Firstly, the Government paid at normal commercial rates, and then the public
had to buy the paper to read the notices. Very little is known about Government
policies with regard to the placing of the advertisements, a fact that has
never inhibited dogmatic comment. It seems however that some person or persons
connected with the Irish Government from time to time made efforts to prop up
pro-Government papers even at the expense of moderate Tory papers like Saunders'. One Whig and one Tory
Government, as noted earlier, gave support to attempts to launch a
pro-Government paper. It was alleged too at the time that the Government
favoured some papers by giving them an early view of Government 'expresses',
that is special mails delivered outside the scheduled times of the mailcoaches.
Government spokesmen always claimed that as there was only one copy available
it could only be given to one editor.
Peel came to Ireland he concluded that the Government was getting little in
return for its outlay. Gradually the amount of money spent trying to influence
newspapers was reduced until by 1830 it had virtually ceased. From 1822 onwards
the High Tory Evening Mail took its
stand against accepting Government money. By 1850 there was only one paper in
Ireland supporting Whig Governments, Conway's Post, and none which supported Tory Governments.
were those who supplied news to the newspapers. They imported and distributed
in Ireland the London and foreign newspapers. The Government also did this as a
national service, but the existence of the newsagents meant that any attempt of
the Government to abuse its position as a supplier of news could easily be
defeated. The Government also provided a free translation service for foreign
newspapers. The aim behind this was to give information to merchants regarding
the possibilities of wars in various parts of Europe and the Middle East. As all
the Dublin newspapers were relying for news on the same sources there was
little variation in the news they printed. The extent to which newspapers
relied on agencies even after they had begun retaining reporters is unclear. An
agency would be more likely to have a reporter with a fair knowledge of
shorthand at meetings for, example, of the Catholic Association. Saunders' prided itself on the
accuracy of its reports of those meetings and stood by them, but does not
indicate if its own reporter or an agency one made the report. During the
famous election in Clare in 1828 it is clear that the arrangements for the
swift dispatch of news by relays of post chaises was made by the agencies. A
few years later, one agent, Mr Johnson, chartered a special train from
Kingstown to Dublin to rush the first news of Peel's first speeches as Prime
The agents also placed advertisements in the Dublin and provincial papers. Any allegations regarding bias in the placing of these advertisements should start with the agencies rather than with the Government or the officials in Dublin Castle.
Copyright Desmond J. Keenan, B.S.Sc.; Ph.D. ;.London, U.K.