The Burkean Journal is less than a year old but has already made some controversial waves in student media. The online-only publication was financed by Declan Ganley, a well known conservative who has described himself as pro life and who campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty. Ganley gave the publication €600 seed money which was to be repaid by the editorial board. His son Micháel was originally the secretary of the publication but has since left his position.
The publication is now trying to recruit ambassadors in different Irish colleges in a bid to expand. Chief Editor Guillermo Dillon, a final year Classics student in Trinity is heading up the expansion and spoke to the Tribune about why he feels it’s necessary and how they plan to do it.
“It’s all with publicity really, spreading the word by mouth.We’re going to put posters around UCD this week and we’ll also be there for one or two days with a banner and a table to let people know we exist. We’ll also put it up on our Facebook page. We already have people who are in touch with us who want to be ambassadors from UCD, a girl and a guy.”
With the rise of the alt right in the last few years, the fear of expressing a conservative view is something which Dillon wants to change. “We don’t do any pseudonyms, that’s part of our philosophy, to be unashamedly conservative. That’s one of the big problems with conservatism here in Ireland that people are sometimes ashamed or scared.”
He cites the recent debates around abortion in Ireland as an example of people being scared to express their conservative views. “For example if you hold a pro life view. There’s still a lot of people in UCD and Trinity who don’t want people to know they’re pro life. They’re pro-life secretly but they wouldn’t tell their friends that they’re pro-life so that’s why we’re not using pseudonyms because we want to change the culture and say “it’s ok to hold a conservative view”. ”
When asked if the publication would declare which institution the writer is studying in he says “We won’t say from this writer is from this university. If that person ends up in the committee, we say on our website where they’re from. Whenever we agree with ambassadors in UCD, we’ll put up an email such as firstname.lastname@example.org so then you can get in touch with them”.
The ambassadors will be the key part of the expansion process as Dillon explains.”It’s a gradual process, we want to take it step by step. Now we want to have a central committee that runs everything so for example we won’t have a Burkean Journal branch UCD. It’s all going to be published within the website that we already have. Essentially what the ambassadors will do will be the face of the Burkean Journal in their own colleges. They’ll be the ones looking for writers in the university and promoting the magazine around their colleagues on their campus. They’ll be the ones putting up the posters etc.”
But is there a need for more conservative views in the media? According to Dillon, yes. “The newspapers aren’t pushing a hardcore leftist agenda in a systematic way. People do feel that all they’re getting is one point of view, a lot of times this is in the newspapers such as The College Tribune, University Observer, University Times and Trinity News and a lot of times it’s in posters around campus put up by different societies.”
“We thought of becoming a society in Trinity but we decided against it because you reach a lot of people with an online magazine and in the journalism world you reach more people like that. But I think there is this feeling amongst students that they’re only getting one point of view.”
He cites an example in September where Trinity’s branch of People Before Profit pulled down posters for a event organised by the pro life group Unbroken as a form of suppression that conservatives are facing.
“Sometimes what happens is that people are afraid of showing their conservative view and this idea that the right or conservative point of view is not being represented is sometimes our fault because we’re not brave enough to be unapologetically conservative and present our views in an intelligent and reasonable way. Sometimes it’s also the left’s fault because they try to silence conservatives and they try to not engage with them in conversation and they don’t respect our right to free speech sometimes. I’m not saying all the time but sometimes.”
“For example if you walk around Trinity last year, the only posters you would have seen would have been PBP, gender ideology posters from the SU, radical feminism posters put up by the Gender Equality Society so we feel that people are kind of fed up.”
But how have people reacted to the articles? According to Dillon the feedback has been mostly positive. “We’ve been getting extremely positive feedback on a personal level. We’ve been getting emails from Trinity alumni or Trinity students who are congratulating us and encouraging us because they wanted something like this for a while. Maybe they would say “we don’t agree with you entirely on social conservatism” for example but they’re happy that it’s there because the more opinions that we have, the better and the more liberal a university becomes.”
However, there has been backlash online, particularly on social media. “We haven’t received any negative criticism at an email level, all the email and personal conversations we’ve been having have been positive. Obviously people criticise us on Twitter and the comments section on Facebook so that’s where the negative critiscm comes from and we take it on board. We try always to see how we can improve.”
Whether the expansion will be successful is unclear but it seems there is some interest for a conservative based publication within the Irish student population. Whether UCD students will engage with it, is another matter altogether.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor