A roundtable discussion on censorship and freedom of the press drawing on the experience of the Northern Irish Troubles.
The event is being run online and in-person. If you'd like to join the livestream, follow this link:
As violence escalated in the Northern Irish conflict in the 1970s and 1980s, the governments in both Dublin and London implemented restrictions on the media. In the Republic of Ireland, orders issued under the 1960 Broadcasting Authority Act prevented interviews or reports of interviews with the IRA, other parliamentary organisations, and Sinn Féinmembers, from being broadcast on radio or television, from 1972 to 1994. A similar ban operated in the UK from 1988 to 1994, with broadcasters famously circumventing the legislation by recruiting actors to dub the voices of banned speakers.
While some deemed these measures a legitimate method "to deny this easy platform to those who use it to propagate terrorism", others declared censorship to be "incompatible with a free society" and mounted unsuccessful legal challenges. Looking back at this era in the context of a new global media landscape, and in the centenary year of the founding of the BBC, we ask a panel of journalists, academics, and legal experts: were the broadcasting bans a proportionate response or a dangerous precedent? Do such restrictions protect or undermine democracy, and is media censorship ever justified?
The event is hosted by the Schuler Democracy Forum in partnership with the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Boston College.
Please register here.
Roger Bolton, British television producer and TV and radio presenter
Across his career, Roger Bolton has presented Feedback and Sunday for BBC Radio 4; edited Panorama and Nationwide for BBC and This Week for ITV; served as Head of the BBC’s Network Production Centre and Controller of Factual Programmes at Thames Television, and worked as an independent producer. Roger won a BAFTA for his programme Death on the Rock and is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society.
Tommie Gorman, Irish journalist and former RTÉNorthern Editor
Tommie Gorman has worked as a journalist since 1977. He retired as RTE’s Northern Editor in April 2001 after 21 years based in Belfast. He served as RTE’s Brussels-based Europe Editor from 1989 to 2001. His first RTE posting was as North West Correspondent. He was named Ireland’s European of the Year in 2001 and was awarded an Honorary Degree by NUIG in 2009.
Ailbhe O’Neill, Ussher Assistant Professor in Law at Trinity College Dublin
Ailbhe O’Neill is a Senior Counsel at the Bar of Ireland. She is the co-author of Media Law in Ireland and lectures Media Law at the School of Law at Trinity College Dublin.
Robert Savage, Professor of the Practice of History at Boston College
Robert Savage is a professor in the Boston College History Department and a former Trinity Long Room Hub Visiting Research Fellow. He has published several books and articles exploring contemporary Irish and British history, including Northern Ireland, the BBC, and Censorship in Thatcher's Britain (2022), The BBC's Irish Troubles: Television, Conflict and Conflict and Northern Ireland (2015), and A Loss of Innocence? Television and Irish Society 1960-1972 (2010).
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