Analysing The Political Cartoons

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The political cartoons about the Irish troubles drawn by a number of prominent cartoonists in the early 1970s differed sharply from the cartoons produced by artists during the peace process in the 1990s. Arguably this could be down to a number of factors. Firstly, cartoonists in the 1970s were much more likely to attack specific groups of people – the Irish themselves have been targets of British supremacist derision for several hundred years, and have been depicted in a derogatory light in cartoons since cartoons were first printed.

Second, the situation was considerably more grave in the 1970s than it was in the 1990s – although the IRA were still established and effective in the 1990s, the 1970s saw the most bloodshed, and therefore, it must have been very difficult to perceive what was a complex and (to some) ridiculous situation in Ireland without knocking the Irish for propagating and sustaining this idea of religious sectarianism. The complex political situation in Ireland that had arisen as a result of four hundred years of religious complexity between the dominant British Protestant landowners, who held the political reins, and the oppressed Irish Catholics, ultimately had a great impact on the British interpretation of the Irish throughout the generations, and also upon the representation of the English in Irish journalistic literature and art.

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Thus, a particular view of the Irish came to be represented in the British media, which tended to emerge whenever there were specific troubles within Ireland or else among the Irish in Britain. These stereotypes, especially of the Irish, can be said to be at their most potent during the time of the political troubles in Ireland. The resultant swathe of political cartoons that were printed on a regular basis in the daily newspapers in both Ireland and Britain, particularly during the political unrest and violence of the early 1970s, tended to push the Irish into a subcategory of their own, denied of their identity as autonomous individuals, subjected and represented by a more dominant political force, namely, the English.

The history of the cartoon in respect of this tradition of Irish caricaturing is interesting, as it reveals a rich history of treating the Irishman as a figure of derision and ridicule – however, it is more interesting to note that this figure changed throughout the years and, especially with the increase of militancy among the grass-roots of Irish working class communities, saw the emergence of the cartoon depiction of the Irishman as a simian, bestial, uncivilised caricature, often wielding knifes and other implements, and driven by a fervid passion to kill, much like zombies from a horror film.

The history of political cartoons goes back to the eighteenth century. However, technological developments in photography changed the nature of cartoons at the turn of the century,

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