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Public relations and the Northern Ireland peace process: Dissemination, reconciliation and the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ referendum campaign

Somerville, Ian and Kirby, Shane (2012) Public relations and the Northern Ireland peace process: Dissemination, reconciliation and the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ referendum campaign. Journal of Public Relations Inquiry, 1 (3). pp. 231-255. [Journal article]

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DOI: 10.1177/2046147X12448370


This study analyses the public relations strategies employed by the mainstream politicalparties during the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ referendum campaign in Northern Irelandin April/May 1998. Using data from elite interviews, triangulated with content analysisfrom campaign literature, we assess the communication strategies of the pro- and anti-Agreement parties who were attempting to persuade the people of Northern Irelandto vote Yes or No to the Agreement. Key findings of the research include: first, incomparison to the ‘normal’ political culture in Northern Ireland, there was a significantincrease in the deployment of public relations expertise in the referendum campaign;indeed, for many of the political parties it represented their first major investment inpolitical public relations. A second key finding pertains to the communicative modeladopted by the key actors. All parties, in different ways, adopted a ‘dissemination’model rather than a ‘dialogic’ one to communicate with allies, rivals and the generalpublic. In our view this is an entirely appropriate approach to political public relationsand we suggest that the communication model of the Social Democratic and LabourParty is particularly noteworthy because it was an approach underpinned, we argue, bydissemination and reconciliation. Moreover, we also suggest that public relations basedon dissemination and reconciliation to difference offers a more realistic and appropriateapproach, than the currently fashionable dialogic model, for the kinds of communicationand information exchange required in contemporary democratic societies.

Item Type:Journal article
Keywords:dialogic communication, dissemination, Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland, peace process, public relations, reconciliation
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Communication
Faculty of Social Sciences
Research Institutes and Groups:Institute for Research in Social Sciences > Communication
Institute for Research in Social Sciences
ID Code:23558
Deposited By: Dr Ian Somerville
Deposited On:09 Oct 2012 07:59
Last Modified:23 Apr 2013 10:04

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