Tuning out the Troubles in Southern Ireland
: Revisionist History, Censorship and Problematic Protestants

  • Niall Meehan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis is an examination of the influence and impact of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, post 1968, on the practice of Irish history, on southern Irish broadcast media and on the southern Irish modernisation process. I will examine the uneasy and contested transition in systems of hegemony in a society where the state is not coterminous with perceptions of nationhood, where society is anxiously suspended between conservation of its existence and popular nationalist aspirations, where southern economic dependency interacted uneasily with northern political instability and sectarianism. The thesis examines the ‘Ulsterisation’ of the War of Independence by some historians and its aftermath as an ideological project. It pays particular attention, using the case-study method, to the imposition of a sectarian character on republican forces during the war of independence by the highly influential Newfoundland historian Peter Hart, and will explain why this research is ideologically problematic within Irish historiography. I will link this to (in a second case-study) the project undertaken in the early 1970s by Irish government minister (also an academic historian and political scientist) Conor Cruise O’Brien to undermine and eradicate from popular awareness secular anti-imperialist aspects of Irish nationalist consciousness, primarily through, in case-study three, the imposition of broadcasting censorship and support for repression. I question O’Brien’s positing of a ‘Catholic nationalism’ as an overarching basis for Irish statehood by, in case-study four, an examination the largely unexplored socio-economic position of Protestants in southern Ireland and the forms of social control imposed on and within that community.The thesis examines how official reaction to the conflict combined repression and broadcasting censorship during the 1970s to revise popular perceptions of Irish history and Irish society. Control of understanding of the present was combined with attempts to take control of perceptions of the past, in order to circumscribe the parameters of what is feasible in the present, so as to preserve the socio-economic status quo. It specifically explores the impact of the post 1968 Northern Ireland conflict on:• The attempt by proponents of Irish revisionist historiography to portray Irish resistance to British rule as ‘Catholic nationalism’ and as a mirror image generally of Ulster unionist sectarianism; in the context of• The simultaneous transformational change of economic direction in the southern Irish economy and society, which imparted to this project increased impetus, opportunity and political scope.
Date of Award1 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Miller (Supervisor)


  • Ireland
  • Troubles
  • Hegemony
  • Sectarianism
  • Irish War of Independence
  • Media Censorship
  • Conor Cruise O'Brien
  • Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act
  • Northern Ireland
  • Gramsci
  • Peter Hart
  • Roy Foster
  • Revisionism
  • Revisionist history

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