“An Phoblacht-style coverage”

Nelson McCausland (not online) and Peter Robinson have both called for the BBC to investigate its coverage of the Operation Banner Report. The News Letter coverage went with “Army hails its Ulster success” and the Irish News went with “Structures that ‘defeated’ IRA were in place by 1980” while the BBC went with “Army paper says IRA not defeated“. The BBC earlier this year admitted a culture of bias, is this an example?The first BBC report said:

“The Army has admitted for the first time that it did not win the war against the IRA. “

It was then substantially revised to read:

“An internal British army document examining 37 years of deployment in Northern Ireland contains the claim by one expert that it failed to defeat the IRA.”

Despite this revision the headline remained the same although quote marks in the headline were removed.

The positives in the report were ignored e.g. “defeat of the PIRA”. The ‘one expert’ view was taken from paragraph 855 which states that the operation was a “major achievement”, a “success” and a “unique” success. It also misrepresented the report’s comments about criminality and possibly invented a quote.

  • calling all BBC insiders

    What is the back story on the revision of the article?

    Having read the Irish News article first that morning, which was very clear that the British Army had defeated the IRA, it was very surreal to then read the original BBC article which was claiming the opposite.

    Anyone know what that was all about?

  • Yokel

    So what. let them report it whatever way.

    The Provos had an aim to push the British out by armed force thus creating a United Ireland. The British aim for at least two decades of the conflict was to hold the ring, have an ‘acceptable level of violence’, prevent armed force succeeding whilst some kind of political settlement was sorted.

    Who succeeded in their aim?

    Those look like very large army camps in Lisburn & Holywood there now…let me have a look in my wallet…pound sterling….there’s that assembly thing over at Stormont.

    People can draw their own conclusions, it doesnt need Peter Robinson or McCausland to knock on about bias.

  • Yokel

    I should add that the states view of counter insurgency is not about miltarily defeating anyone.

  • Sean Graham’s Bookies

    Peter Robo needs something to whine about even if he is neglecting his wife for the Bogside butcher. The more I see, the more I think Ed Moloney got it right, even down to Loughall. They wiped out East Tyrone and isolated South Armagh.
    Inthe end, all the “undefeated army” could do was a sniper around Crossmaglen. And even that petered out.
    Who shot Donaldson btw and why?

  • Pounder

    However it could be argued that the IRA have learned new tactics and are playing a longer game.

    They have disarmed but they have no gone away, one of their leaders, or former leaders is Deputy First Minister. British troops are being pulled out of the country and South Armagh demilitarised, the watchtowers dismantled and bases deserted.

  • “British troops are being pulled out of the country and South Armagh demilitarised, the watchtowers dismantled and bases deserted.”

    Why keep them there if they’re no longer needed? The actions you list only prove the fact that the British military presence was a response to the actions of violent republicans.

  • I think some people are missing the point, in the document the British army are clear that they alone did not defeat the PIRA by military means, merely contained it. It was a mixture on the part of the UK state of military, judicial and political means that brought about the GFA and the demise of the PIRA. Can anyone really argue with this analyses?

    I feel it is a pretty honest document and it must make uncomfortable reading to provisional strategists and volunteers alike and provo dissidents are entitled to say we told you so.

  • RG Cuan

    There was no bias whatsoever in the BBC reporting. They just highlighted an important aspect of the report.

    The News Letter’s headline was predictable and the Irish News, as usual, just didn’t want to be ‘controversial’.

    It’s just another bit of exaggerated complaining from the DUP who expect the BBC to toe the line.

  • Yokel



  • Belfast Gonzo

    Actually, the Irish News offered the most comprehensive critique of the report – two spreads over two days and at least one splash.

  • Sean

    Having read the whole report, I would say all three newspapers put their own spin on the report and all the view points are defensible.

    For me though if you want to argue the long game it could easily be said that the most important weapon the IRA has is knowledge and they completely retain that weapon. And in fact it could be argued they continue to build upon that weapon while still remaining with in their cease fire

    IRA defeated? sure that could be argued as well. Their war of re-unification did not succeed, but then once the british took over Storomont and started normalising the lives of the Catholic underclass any chance of a mass revolt like what took place with in the republic was effectively nullified. However if the UUP was still operating a protestant government for a protestant people this might not be the case

    As for the Irish News their headline is contingent on whether you believe the IRA was defeated and how

  • Of course the Army failed to defeat the IRA – they are in government.

  • Juan

    I think clear cut examples of bias are hard to prove where its the tone, the selected quotes and the presentation that underpin a sense of partiality rather than a clear cut fabrication of the dynamics of the situation or open defamation of a person or indeed a direct admission of preferrence or hostility. Most people could agree that the BBC has had a strongly left leaning slant for many years, in any normal media group this would be at their own discression, but for the Publicly funded BBC, it is a matter for the public. The dismissive and patronising tones often adopted in the face of such complaints (one could suggest the treatment itself of P. Robinsons complaint is an indication of bias) seems to indicate a certain contempt for that same paying public or atleast politicaly unfashionable sections of it.

    It can sometimes be a tone of voice, a shrug or a camera angle (as seen in the tumbling of the saddam statue) that imparts bias or even the selection of photos (the remarkable transformation of the photographic Ian Paisley from :


    to our smiling friend at St Andrews is possibly an example of how you can be presented by the BBC depending on their view of your politics. I do suspect that fully impartial media company would be unmarketable and dull, however is good copy really more important than responsibility for a public broadcaster ?

    look at this last one, consider the choices of images and the captions, is it a case of that subtle, associative and implied bias ?


  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    The same thing happened back in 1999 when a BBC reporter in Washington reported David Trimble as saying that the UUs would go into governement with SF without prior decommissioning. Apparently DT had been trying to sound moderate in the US but when he heard how it had been reported in Belfast, he went ballistic. The word came down from the top, all references to the story had to be checked and double checked, across all media.

    Of course the UUP used this to keep the BBC in line, something which is hardly necessary given that broadcaster’s pro unionist stance. Now the DUP is trying the same trick, talk about slow learners.

  • Dewi

    In this particular instance it was a surprising headline – and unfortunate because defeat and victory never clear cut in this instance and crowing by both sides not helpful.

    What still astonishes me about the report was the Army once considered putting minefields along the border.

  • BogExile

    ‘Of course the Army failed to defeat the IRA – they are in government.’

    Of course the state defeated militant rejectionist republicans – they are in government.

  • inside information

    Word has it from the beeb that serious moves are afoot against those responsible for the broadcast of this blatant piece of chuckie propaganda which is so clearly a transparently jaundiced reading of the source material…I doubt the DUP will let this one go, they’ve been looking for a scalp in there for years and this is an open goal :-0

  • Shay Begorrah

    I must read this report but is it a bit juvenile to be talking about who won and lost given that the IRA could not hope to militarily destroy the British Army (fighting strength roughly 100 times that of the IRA in 1980) and that it has to be difficult to say with a straight face that those behind the Republican military movement are now less powerful than they were before the British army’s no doubt well thought out change of tactics (many people would understand being less powerful than before to be a necessary implication of being defeated).

    You can of course talk about republicans being co-opted into the UK’s now devolved political institutions but the battle for catholic hearts and minds is well and truly lost – northern nationalists take it for granted that NI is not British in the sense that other places are and Sinn Fein is the majority party of nationalists. The battle for “hearts and minds” (a term that I wish was only used ironically) was lost at around the same time the British army was helping to maintain an acceptable level of violence.

    On a not unrelated note what happened to this site and who exactly started to turn it from a well regarded political blog into a clearing house for anti SF stories? It is a sad decline by any standards.

  • Observer

    Maybe Robo should turn his attention back to some questions he once posed to IRA/Sinn Fein:

    – Who murdered Robert McCartney?

    – Who stole the money from the Northern Bank?

  • Sean

    Robert McCartney? Well a couple of drunks in a bar fight that I am lead to believe he started

    Northern Bank? Havent a clue as not one iota of evidence has ever been produced. so i guess maybe it was the security forces who then very neatly covered their trail and pointed the finger at the IRA. Which an adoring unionist public bought hook line and sinker