If it hadn’t been for Joe Duffy, I might have missed it. Joe was on his RTÉ ‘Liveline’ mid-week, getting upset about the TG4 series ‘Mna an IRA’. Well, actually about the first in the series, which concerns Dr Rose Dugdale. Joe must have repeated at least four times that Dr Dugdale had said “Fair play” to the people, including her partner Eddie Gallagher, who kidnapped Dutch industrialist Tiede Herema back in the 1980s. Joe then got Mr Herema himself on the line to denounce those who’d put him through such an ordeal back then. Perversely and to Duffy’s obvious frustration, Herema sid he’d found Gallagher intelligent, friendly and cool under pressure, for which he was glad, since otherwise he, Herema, might today be dead. That wasn’t the answer Joe wanted so he brought the conversation to a speedy conclusion.
Today the Sindo takes up Joe’s lament, reporting a TG4 board member who thinks ‘Mna an IRA’ is a “serious stain on the character of TG4”. Eh? I watched the programme last week, thanks to Joe’s head’s-up, and the “Fair play” remark blended to near-invisibility into an interesting if overly-brief programme. It presented a portrait of a woman from a highly privileged English background – wealthy parents, happy childhood, ‘came out’ as a debutante, went to Oxford and studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE), became an academic. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she then applied the theories she read to the reality of her own life and that of those around her and concluded that injustice dominated. And so a woman who could have led a well-cushioned life at the elite end of English society became instead involved with the IRA’s armed struggle – or on the fringes of it, since the IRA apparently never quite accepted her as a fully-fledged member. What the documentary showed was a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman who today lives in rural seclusion in Ireland, and who regrets nothing of her commitment to the struggle against what she saw as injustice by the British state forces in Ireland.
Obviously some people will condemn her actions, others applaud them. In the programme she talked of the pain her path in life brought to her parents, and widened this out to note the destructive effect on children and families which commitment to a political cause often exerts. Certainly Joe and one TG4 board member not only don’t approve of her choices, they even disapprove of the programme about her being made.
All publicity, even bad publicity, is in some ways good publicity. Lots of people like myself who would probably have missed the programme have now been alerted to its existence. Should it exist? Or are Joe Duffy and the TG4 board member right to lament that such things be given an airing? The answers, in order, are Yes of course it should exist, if you believe it’s important to examine the motivation behind the actions of people who resorted to arms during the Troubles; and No, Duffy and the board member are misguided at best if they believe we should erase any explanation of IRA actions during that time. Because if the Irish people aren’t considered adult enough to listen/watch and then make a judgement about the sacrifice or scurrilousness of people like Rose Dugdale, then Joe and Co should really go the whole hog and campaign to have the vote removed from such morally-inept morons as the general Irish public.