Reporting on a momentous day for Northern Ireland

How did Northern Ireland’s newpapers cover last week’s order by the IRA to end its military campaign?

Daily Ireland

The staunchly pro-Republican Daily Ireland boosted its print run by
40 per cent on Friday and reported a number of sell-outs in strong
Republican areas.

It responded to the previous day’s IRA statement ending military
activity by publishing a 16-page pre-prepared supplement, which
included interviews with leading Republican figures.

Daily
Ireland also had an exclusive copy of the statement on Oglaigh ná
H-Eireann (IRA) stationery, which it reproduced on the front page.

Managing
director Mairtin O’Muilleoir said: “We were involved in a lot of
‘tick-tacking’ with Republicans beforehand, first to find out the date
of the statement and then to prepare our people for the event.

“Needless
to say, the contacts were very sensitive, but Daily Ireland had been
calling since April for a positive response from the IRA and we had
kept readers abreast of the internal Republican movement debate with a
string of exclusive stories.”

The Belfast Telegraph

Thursday’s midday statement from the IRA came too late for the first
edition of The Belfast Telegraph, but journalists took a gamble and
still had the story on the front page.

Editor Edmund Curran said: “Our political staff did a great job with
accurate speculation that gave us an early splash, which we changed to
a more emphatic front page for the later editions.

Our new
morning edition, the following day, came into its own with 20 pages of
reaction, analysis and pictures, and a poster-style front page headline
‘The End’.

“Some of our readers have told us they will keep it
for posterity and in that respect our front-page treatment of such an
historic moment takes on an extra dimension.”

The Irish News

The Irish News supported the IRA statement and called on loyalist paramilitaries to “disarm, disband and disappear for good”.

With expectations building of the statement, the paper had prepared
backgrounders and commissioned articles by Irish history expert Dr
Eamon Phoenix and columnists Brian Feeney and Roy Garland.

It
increased its print run by 15 per cent and dedicated 13 pages of news,
analysis, opinion and photographs, as well as setting up a comment line
for readers. Assistant editor Fiona McGarry said: “Our aim was to
provide comprehensive, incisive, balanced coverage that reflected the
broad range of views on the move. And while the editorial welcomed the
statement as a positive step that brought the goal of a lasting peace
closer, we felt it was important that victims had the opportunity to
express their feelings.”

News Letter

Pro-Unionist paper the News Letter treated the IRA statement with
caution. Editor Austin Hunter said: “There has been little
excitement or expectation in the Unionist community about the statement
and when it came out that is how we reacted. Unionist politicians say
it’s not the words that matter, it is the deed and action. Over the
next six months to a year, we will be keeping a very close eye on
events.”

The News Letter ran an editorial on the front with photos of
Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Ulster Unionist Party
leader Sir Reg Empey. Inside were 11 pages of news, reports and
reaction as well as an exclusive by Paisley and a piece by Empey.

The
News Letter tried to personalise events by interviewing widows of IRA
bomb victims. It also included an interview with Lord Tebbit, whose
wife was paralysed in the Brighton bombing in 1984.

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