By Sarah Donoghue 

It is often said that newspapers are pivotal in the history of this country. Newspapers were very important in the fight for Irish independence. Local and Republican newspapers acted as the voice of the people when the mainstream media was controlled by our English occupiers. Many newspapers we know today were set up by politicians to act as amplifiers for their agendas and were used to rally their supporters into acts of rebellion. Most modern Irish newspapers were set up during or before the War of Independence. The Irish Examiner. The paper was as set up in 1841 and the original aim was to help the fight for Catholic emancipation and tenant rights. This newspaper is the best example of the revolutionary past of most local Irish papers. 

Today, the Irish Examiner has dedicated itself to reporting on local and national stories. It prides itself on having a distinct voice providing audiences with different perspectives to national stories and reporting on stories not seen in the mainstream media. They have been praised for their award-winning journalism and have broken infamous stories like Golf Gate in recent years. This year, there’s a sponsor of the 2024 Student Media Awards or the SMEDIAS. Along with their modern day accomplishments, they directly aided in the emancipation of Catholics in the mid 1800s which was the beginning of the long road to Irish independence. 

The paper was originally named The Cork Examiner and was set up by John Francis Maguire in 1841. At the time Daniel O’Connell, who was from Kerry, was taking on the British government by trying to get the penal laws completely removed. The Penal Laws were a series of laws in Ireland set by the English government which were meant to keep Irish Catholics poorer, segregated from and less powerful than descendants of protestant planters. These laws ranged from bans on marriages between Catholics and Protestants, bans on Catholics teaching in schools, and bans on Catholics adopting or gaining custody of orphaned children. By the 1800s many of the penal laws had been abolished. However, Daniel O’Connell was fighting for all of them to be officially removed and for Catholic tenants to be given more rights, because, due to the Penal Laws, Catholic tenants had been left vulnerable and often abused by landlords. 

The paper was set up to amplify O’Connell ‘s beliefs across Munster. It was the only paper based in the South of the country, so it had a lot of readership and due to the fact O’Connell was from Kerry, there was a lot of interest in the content. In essence, the paper was used as a platform to support Daniel O’Connell’s campaign to be an MP in the British government.  

In the 1840s, a Commons main objective was the Repeal Association. The aim of the Repeal Association was to gain his support to repeal the Act of Union. The Act of Union, passed in 1800, was an act which combined the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland. This was the act which meant that Ireland could have its own government and the Irish government would sit in Westminster with the British government. O’Connor wanted full home rule for Ireland. This meant the Irish Parliament sat in Ireland and the British government had less influence over the Irish parliament.  

The Cork Examiner rallied the people in the South of Ireland. Mostly, it rallied farmers who did not own their own land, small businessmen and travelling tradesmen. The support for the Repeal Party began to grow and it got to the point where the ruling party in Ireland, the Whigs, needed the support of the repeal party in order to get things passed. The Whigs were the most powerful. Irish Party at the time but they needed Daniel O’Connell support. O’Connell was able to use this political leverage to work towards the fight for tenant rights and Catholic emancipation. With the help of the Whigs and his newfound support, he fought to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. He fought so Catholics could feasibly buy their own land and to make it easier for them to go on to third level education. 

Before the Irish Examiner was set up, a lot of O’Connell’s support was concentrated into the tenements in Dublin. While there were a lot of people who lived in the tenements, it wasn’t enough to gain enough support to make real political change. However, once the examiner was set up. O’Connell’s message and campaign spread across the South of the country. To some of the biggest counties within Ireland. The examiner helped recruit many farmers who lived outside of Dublin to O’Connell’s campaign. Unfortunately, in the years after the paper was set up the Catholics, and specifically Catholic farmers, suffered major setbacks due to the famine on the death of Daniel O’Connell. However, the Irish Examiner survived the famine and continues to be the longest running daily paper in Ireland. 

We here at and SMEDIAS 2024 are happy to announce the Irish Examiner as a sponsor for this year’s National Student Media Awards!