Watching Scannal last night

Sometimes the best TV documentaries come from the least expected sources. During the early 1960s, for example,  RTÉ’s Radharc programme was funded by the notoriously conservative Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. The programme was staffed exclusively by Catholic priests and produced over 400 programmes and was filmed in over  75 countries. Any of them I recall were models of intelligent film-making.

Today, some of the best documentaries produced in Ireland come through the Irish-medium  channel, TG4.  They have a series called Scannal (Scandal) and last night it dealt with the Miami Showband killings.

Now if I asked you who perpetrated the Miama Showband killings, there’s a good chance you would say “Loyalist paramilitaries”. If I asked if there had been collusion, you might respond that you’d heard a vague rumour to that effect but you couldn’t be certain.  I’m reasonably aware of events from the Troubles and I’d probably have said the same.

Scannal, besides producing a documentary with shape and bite, reminded viewers of an incontrovertible piece of collusion evidence regarding the Miami Showband killings. When a bomb was being loaded onto the Miami Showband’s bus, it exploded prematurely, killing two of the men carrying it. Both were members of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Later evidence established that at least four of the killer gang were in the UDR. So  why do reports consistently say that the attack was by loyalist paramilitaries? It was made by members of the British security forces. Yes, that blows a hole in the accepted fairy-tale version of events here during the Troubles, where the security forces were trying to hold the line between warring republicans and loyalists. But here was plain evidence that there was security force terrorism. The Miami Showband were guilty of nothing, except  you consider playing music and singing as subversive and deserving of death.

Scannal briefly linked the Miami Showband killings in July 1975 with the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in the previous year. The UVF claimed responsibility for this mass slaughter, but the Irish parliamentary Joint Committee on Justice concluded that the attacks involved British state forces. An Irish government inquiry led by Justice Henry Barron in 2003 ( yes, Virginia, nearly thirty years later) concluded that the Garda Siochána had stopped their investigations much too early and that the Fine Gael/Labour coalition in power then had done nothing and showed no interest in investigating the massacre.  It also noted that there was a high likelihood of British intelligence involvement and that any inquiry was hindered by British government refusal to release key documents.

So both the Irish and British governments were guilty – and remain guilty- of what amounts to covering up the true nature of the crime. And to think that these are the people who appointed former RUC/PSNI link-man with MI5, Drew Harris, to the top position in the Garda Siochána.

Why aren’t the media on both sides of the border screaming blue murder about this scandalous (yes, quite, Virginia) turning of a blind eye by the Irish government in the face of the slaughter of its own citizens?  Because it’d interfere with the official version of our Troubles – remember? Good security forces, bad IRA.

But not to worry. Scannal  goes out on TG4, and only a few Erse-talking fanatics  ever watch it. Move on, folks. Nothing to see here.

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