The Publicity Department of Dail Eireann had its beginnings in the Sinn Fein organisation.
In April of 1918, a Department of Propaganda was established at No.6 Harcourt Street in charge of Mr. Robert Brennan. Its functions were at first restricted to supplying the Sinn Fein leaders with data upon which to base public statements, to providing material suitable for foreign press correspondents visiting Ireland, and to preparing statistics and statements for presentation to the Peace Conference. Later a service was instituted of weekly notes, written from the national point of view and sent out to the provincial press. Upwards of 40 newspapers in all parts of the country received and in the majority of cases used these notes.
At the approach of the General Election the Propaganda Department devoted itself almost entirely to the preparation and issue of Election literature. After the General Election and before the first Session of Dail Eireann the Foreign Relations Committee of Sinn Fein decided to prepare a series of pamphlets on the various aspects of the Irish Question. Some of these were already published and others were in the press when An Dail met, and the position of the Department was changed.
The Sinn Fein Propaganda Department continued in being, but in respect of Propaganda outside Ireland was superseded by a similar Department, constituted under the National Government. Both Departments, however, co-operated in the bulk of the publicity matter issued.
The first Director of Publicity under Dail Eireann was Mr. Lawrence Ginnell, T.D., who continued in office until his arrest in May 1919.
In June 1919 Mr. Desmond FitzGerald, T.D., took charge of the Department and subsequently several pamphlets were published and a considerable advance made in the efficiency and usefulness of the Department. Several new services were begun, including the issue of a weekly statement of Acts of Aggression committed in Ireland by the British forces.
In November 1919 the 'Irish Bulletin' was first issued, and in December the vicissitudes which the Department is still experiencing began with the closing of No.6 Harcourt Street. The 'Irish Bulletin' was at first circulated daily to about 100 press correspondents. In its earlier issues it dealt more with passing events than fundamental issues, but its development was collateral with the increase in interest taken in the Irish Question by the press of other nations. A wider circulation was built up slowly and owes much to the organisation of the foreign press carried out by the Director. Frequent visits were paid by him to London and the foreign correspondents stationed there were interviewed and interested in the Irish situation. Foreign journals were also persuaded to send representatives to Ireland. Owing to these efforts Ireland secured a wide measure of publicity in journals abroad.
Mr. FitzGerald was arrested in February 1921 when the 'Irish Bulletin' had established itself firmly and wielded considerable power. Under Mr. Erskine Childers, T.D., who took his place, endeavours were made to continue this development and the scope and circulation of the journal are increasing. It is now received by about 900 newspapers and specially selected individuals. A weekly Supplement is also issued containing a Review of the War and other events connected with Ireland, together with other Supplements containing Dail Decrees, Presidential statements and important official news.
The reputation won and the influence exercised by the 'Bulletin' may be measured by the action of Dublin Castle in organising the publication of counterfeit issues of the journal for about a month following a raid upon its offices in March 1921 at which all the plant was captured. The attempt to deceive public opinion failed completely and was abandoned.
Other work of great variety is done by the Publicity Department. It includes the collection of statements and affidavits, the compilation of statistics connected with the war and the aggressions of the British Government, the maintenance of close touch with the Irish and foreign Press, the publication of news from the Dail Departments and of pamphlets and other literature, and the transmission of information to our representatives and helpers in foreign countries including the British Dominions.