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Good Fridays, Celtic Tigers and the Drumcree Church Parade: Media, politics and the state in Northern Ireland

Thomas H Taaffe, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation ethnographically examines media-political power relations during the negotiations, ratification and implementation stages of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement marks the latest effort to construct an 'agreed-upon' state where none has previously existed. This effort is contextualized within the socio-economic changes brought about by an emergent 'Celtic Tiger' Irish economy and set against Unionist opposition to the peace process, as expressed by the Loyalist Marching Season and the annual violence around the Drumcree Church Parade. These processes are further contextualized within the long historical processes that gave rise to contending Irish and British nationalisms and the role of the news media in producing them. Drawing on Gramsci, Weber, Anderson, dialogic and articulation theory, this work argues that the nation-state is historically 'produced' and---if successful---its ideals are embodied by those who claim that nationality as a part of their identity. If so, then the project of producing the nation-state is ongoing process where the ideological ties that bind members of that community to each other and to the state must be constantly reinforced and re-articulated in order to sustain that nation-state. Hegemonic and coercive strategies are seen here as intertwined tactics of power that shape and define the social fabric of any cultural matrix---including historic blocs and nation-states---conditioning and shaping the terms of discourse and parameters of violence. As Foucault pointed out, these relations trace their way upward from the micro-physics of meaning/value production upward to larger social value/meaning systems, including news production and ethno-political struggle. This dissertation explores the ways the news media and the political realm---including international capital and the state---overdetermine each other and shape the terms of political discourse and the capacity to express violence. This work also explores the limits of media-based, political strategies to gain popular consent. In the intimate social landscape of Northern Ireland converges with the historically deep argument over national aspiration, to reveal the fragility and contingent character of the nation-state project and the limits of state-inspired propaganda campaigns to gain consent.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Mass media|Political science|European history

Recommended Citation

Taaffe, Thomas H, "Good Fridays, Celtic Tigers and the Drumcree Church Parade: Media, politics and the state in Northern Ireland" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3215758.