ACIS Logo British Newspaper Coverage of the Irish Question after the Passage of the Government of Ireland Act in 1920

What is the Irish question? Centrally, it concerns Ireland’s constitutional relationship with Britain. Yet its definition, like any other political question, is dependent on the historical context and climate of opinion of the time. The period following Armistice saw the Irish question compete for the British government’s attention along with a new set of issues arising post-war. During this time, as Irish republicans capitalized on the traction of self-determination seen during the Great War and declared independence from Britain, the British government was forced to readdress the outstanding issue of Home Rule.

Through a case study of eleven British newspapers, this paper examines British press coverage of the Irish question after the passage of the Government of Ireland Act in 1920. The passing of the Act followed a long history of attempting to implement a version of self-government for Ireland via Home Rule and created a two-parliament system for the North and South of Ireland respectively. This paper considers the ensuing press reporting, editorials, and use of cartoons and how such coverage illuminates British press characterizations of the Irish question post-war. This paper argues that despite known shortcomings with the Act and differences in opinion on what the Irish question was and who was responsible for its resolution, for the British press, the greater goal of seeing settlement achieved via British constitutional politics was paramount.