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France and Ireland in the Public Imagination


Benjamin Keatinge and Mary Pierse

This engaging collection of essays considers the cultural complexities of the Franco-Irish relationship in song and story, image and cuisine, novels, paintings and poetry. It casts a fresh eye on public perceptions of the historic bonds between Ireland and France, revealing a rich variety of contact and influence. Controversy is not shirked, whether on the subject of Irish economic decline or reflecting on prominent, contentious personalities such as Ian Paisley and Michel Houellebecq. Contrasting ideas of the popular and the intellectual emerge in a study of Brendan Kennelly; recent Irish tribunals are analysed in the light of French cultural theory; and familiar renditions of Franco-Irish links are re-evaluated against the evidence of newspaper and journal accounts.
Drawing on the disciplines of history, art, economics and literature, and dipping into the good wines of France and Ireland, the book paints a fascinating picture of the relationship between the two countries over three dramatic centuries.
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Ian Paisley: Generating French Perceptions of an Ulster Loyalist Leader


The firmly fixed impressions of figures striding the world stage are, for the most part, media-generated. Convictions blend with visual images in the minds and memories of a public that may never encounter the characters in real life, and whose understanding of statements and actions is coloured, if not totally determined, by media portraits. In France, attitudes and understanding with regard to the Reverend Ian Paisley were forged by French journalists who covered stories of the Northern Irish conflict over many years. The portrayal of Paisley, one of the main participants in Northern-Irish political life for four decades (from 1968 to 2008), and possibly far too often represented as the voice of Ulster Protestantism, was mainly negative during this period. Focusing solely on the national press in France, on account of its numerous and wide-ranging reports and opinions, this article aims to review the image provided by French journalists of the man who, to the amazement of many, became the first holder of the post of First Minister of Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007, and, even more surprisingly, head of an interdenominational, power-sharing government.

Ian Paisley dominated the news headlines in a particular way between 1968 and 1972, at a time when his ‘fanaticism’ and ‘sectarianism’ were highlighted in the French media. Then, between 1972 (when London instituted direct rule of Northern Ireland) and 1991 (the beginning of the Peace Process), French journalists concentrated their reports on the war between the IRA and the British...

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