Section 9: Using Newspapers as a Source

Think about the newspaper accounts here and then list the advantages and disadvantages of using newspapers as a source for studying history.

Image A is an extract from the Down Recorder, 4 December 1920, about the internment of IRA and Sinn Fein members in Ballykinler camp.

'Sinn Fein prisoners are being interned in Ballykinlar camp….This is the first of several concentration camps to be opened in the country. The Press Association’s Dublin Correspondent interprets this as a tacit acknowledgement by the authorities of a ‘state of war’ in Ireland and a concession on the part of the Government to the demand of the I.R.A. to be treated as ‘prisoners of war’. Gaol congestion, however, seems a more reasonable explanation; prisoners will not be prisoners of war because they are in camps and not in gaols…….Remembering the discomforts of the trenches as well as the brutality of the German allies of Sinn Fein, an Ulster soldier has written to the press:
 
"I venture to protest that the first camp to be opened should be in loyal Ulster that we should have thrust in our midst, if not the actual assassins of the  police and soldiers, many of whom are our own Ulster kith and kin, then their sympathisers and accomplices, aiders and abettors of horrible crimes. Let the Government take of  the kid gloves and give the I.R.A. prisoners the only treatment they understand, instead of bolstering them up with comfortable quarters, good food, butter instead of margarine that many of our loyal Ulster people and ex-soldiers cannot obtain.'"

Why is the letter writer angry at the treatment of the prisoners in Ballykinler ?

Would you say the newspaper is sympathetic to the prisoners or not ?
 
Image B is an extract from the Frontier Sentinel, 17 May 1919

'As reported in our last issue the men (Sinn Fein members) were released from Derry Jail on yesterday week, when but seven weeks  of the six month term of imprisonment to which they had been sentenced had expired…….The returned men received a very cordial and enthusiastic welcome on their arrival in Newry. They were met at /Edward Street, Newry by a vast assembly or people who cheered lustily and waved tricolours as they jumped on the platform form the train…Mr J. H. Collins solicitor, said he considered it his duty to come there and join in doing honour to those brave men who had a most cruel sentence passed on them for voicing their opinions….It was because of the actions of men like the prisoner who were prepared to suffer for principle that the case of Ireland stood where it did.'

Why does the speaker, J. H. Collins admire the prisoners ?

Would you say the newspaper is sympathetic to the prisoners released from Derry Gaol or not ?

Think about the newspaper accounts here and then list the advantages and disadvantages of using newspapers as a source for studying history.
  • Image A
  • Image B