Home, National Library of Ireland
Blog Archive

The Irish Bulletin Newspaper (1919-1921)

Friday, 7 November 2014

By Ian Kenneally, Historian, Author and Broadcaster. He is currently a PhD student at the History Department, NUI Galway.

The Irish Bulletin began publication on 11 November 1919 and ended publication in December 1921. During that period it was published as a daily newspaper. It was funded by Dáil Éireann; specifically the Department of Propaganda (renamed the Department of Publicity around February 1921). It was edited by Desmond Fitzgerald and, from February 1921, Erskine Childers. Frank Gallagher and, to a lesser degree, Robert Brennan provided much of the content for each edition. Another important figure was Kathleen McKenna who worked on the production and printing of the paper throughout its existence. Its initial print run was thirty copies, sent to newspapers in Britain and Europe. By May 1921 this figure had increased to 650 copies sent to newspapers and politicians around the world. By the time of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 this circulation had increased to around 900 copies.

Irish Bulletin, 11 March 1920 - Headline: 'Starving Irishmen into Emigration'


The paper was a publicity newspaper, whose goal was to place news of Dáil Éireann’s activities and those of the Irish Republican Army in prominent foreign newspapers. By so doing, the Dáil hoped to make foreign journalists and public figures aware of events in Ireland. The Irish Bulletin also highlighted the actions of the Crown forces in Ireland, specifically reprisals conducted by various sections of the police and the British army. In its early days the Irish Bulletin's contents were mostly confined to lists of raids and arrests. It was gradually expanded so that, from early 1920, the paper compiled more detailed and dramatic accounts of incidents believing that such reports would provoke more interest among journalists.

Desmond Fitzgerald by Shemus (Ernest Forbes), 1923

Desmond Fitzgerald by Shemus (Ernest Forbes), 1923

Desmond Fitzgerald, 1st editor of the Irish Bulletin by Shemus (Ernest Forbes), 1923


Fitzgerald, Gallagher and Childers believed that it was vital to use the limited funds available to the Bulletin to target persons in positions of influence, especially in Britain. This strategy achieved much success in the months after the ‘Sack of Balbriggan’ in September 1920. The paper was quoted in many English newspapers and its reports were cited in the House of Commons by Members of Parliament hostile to British government policy in Ireland. By using the Bulletin as a source these journalists and public figures enhanced the influence and reach of the paper far beyond its limited circulation.

The paper’s history is examined by Kenneally, Ian, ‘a tainted source? - The Irish Bulletin 1919-1921’ in Larkin, Felix and O’Brien, Mark (Eds), Periodicals and Journalism in Twentieth-Century Ireland, (Four Courts Press, 2014). Other publications to analyse the paper include Kenneally, Ian, The Paper Wall: newspapers and propaganda in Ireland 1919-1921 (The Collins Press, 2008) and Inoue, Keiko, ‘Propaganda II: propaganda of Dáil Éireann, 1919-1921’ in Augusteijn, Joost, The Irish Revolution, 1913-1923, (Palgrave, 2002). Kathleen McKenna wrote an important memoir of her time on the paper in ‘The Irish Bulletin’, Capuchin Annual, 1970. The Aubane Historical Society has published the first of a proposed multi-volume reprinting of each edition of the paper: Lane, Jack (Ed), Irish Bulletin: Volume One (Aubane Historical Society, 2012). Biographies of Fitzgerald, Childers, Gallagher, McKenna and Brennan can be found in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

The Irish Bulletin can be consulted on microfilm in the main reading room of the National Library.

Irish Bulletin, 11 Nov. 1920 - Headline: 'Lecture on Technical Education Supressed'

Irish Bulletin, 11 Nov. 1920 - Headline: 'Lecture on Technical Education Supressed'

Irish Bulletin, 11 Nov. 1920 - Headline: 'Lecture on Technical Education Supressed'


[This is the latest in a series of blogs connected to a joint project (Newspaper Descriptors Project) by the National Library of Ireland and the Newspaper & Periodical History Forum of Ireland (NPHFI). The project aims to provide short descriptors or pen notes for the newspaper titles listed in our Newspaper Database here at the National Library. The descriptors include such information as publication dates, proprietors and funding, editors and significant journalists, circulation figures (if known), comment on the newspaper’s political affiliation, and mention any histories written on the various titles - Justin Furlong, NLI Newspaper Librarian]