How do Northern Irish protests play out on social media?

Posted by er134 at May 21, 2014 10:15 AM |
Dr Paul Reilly has received a grant to investigate how footage of loyalist flag protests in Northern Ireland were received by social media users
How do Northern Irish protests play out on social media?

The Union Flag flying atop Belfast City Hall in 2006 © Wikipedia

The advent of camera phones and social media means there is people on the ground have more opportunities and platforms to share their own footage of protests than ever before.

And it is precisely this form of civilian reporting which Leicester social media expert Dr Paul Reilly is set to investigate thanks to a new grant.

Specifically, he will be examining how social media was used to share eyewitness perspectives on the policing of loyalist flag protests in Northern Ireland in January 2013.

Dr Reilly, of our Department of Media and Communication, has received a grant of £7,300 from the British Academy to study the comments posted below YouTube footage of the protests, which occurred in the aftermath of the decision of Belfast City Council in December 2012 to alter its protocol on the flying of the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall from all-year round to designated days.

It will examine YouTube footage that was presumably shared by eyewitnesses to highlight the allegedly heavy-handed tactics of the PSNI as they clashed with loyalist flag protestors near the Lower Newtownards Road/Short Strand sectarian interface on 12 January 2013.

In particular, it will assess the extent to which those who commented on this footage felt that the police tactics were heavy-handed and whether their views appeared to have been influenced by the media coverage of the flag protests.

A number of outputs are planned including a report detailing its key findings and several research papers. The research team will also disseminate the results of the study via a project blog that will be launched in September 2014.