Archive for ira

Documentary adds to political unease

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by gtam80

The recent local television documentary about the IRA’s 1983 Maze prison breakout was ill-timed. At a juncture when suspicion still exists between the two overarching political communities in Northern Ireland, a programme celebrating the escapades of a group of terrorists seemed glibly out of touch with the current sense of unease. Indeed the surreal sight of Gerry Kelly reminiscing about shouting orders at prison officials put one in mind of a piece of Sinn Fein propaganda that might usually be sold in one of the party’s constituency offices or gift shops, but not broadcast to the general public. While these stories, as part of a Troubles history, are interesting it is the fashion in which this particular one was told that could spread yet more negativity through one half of the community in particular.

The tone of the interviewees ensured that the programme was as controversial as its title suggested – for instead of recalling events that occurred during some of Northern Ireland’s darkest years in a manner befitting such an era the jolly tone, almost Dan Dare-like, throughout much of the documentary was a stark juxtaposition to a recent book by the journalist Susan McKay in which she allowed victims of paramilitary violence to recount in grim detail their horrendous experiences. Not so in this programme, where the IRA-related crimes were airbrushed out and the violence which occurred during the prisoners’ breakout was mentioned almost as an afterthought despite a prison official losing his life.

It almost seems as though a certain slot on Monday evenings is being filled with controversial Troubles-related programme making for the sake of it, without considering the effects of such programmes on the wider public’s opinions regarding the peace process. Indeed a subsequent documentary on Marie Jones’s play ‘A Night in November’ is sure to have made people incandescent. Jones appears in the advertisement suggesting that on that night in November 1993 at Windsor Park the sectarianism of Northern Ireland football supporters had reached an epoch. Again it must be questioned what the benefits are of rerunning this play and the accompanying documentary at a time when Northern Ireland’s fans have been officially recognised as among the greatest in Europe.

Now is perhaps not the best time for such partisan programming. If anything a ‘shared vision’ should be encouraged by celebrating the positives of Belfast and Northern Ireland both historically and in the present.

Source: Belfast News Letter, September 2008