RTÉ’s ‘McGuinness’ last night

Did you see it? I wasn’t expecting it but I saw most of it. Maybe we should have been expecting it. The Clifden Cock-up story was getting a little stale, so what better than a moral take on the life of Martin McGuinness?

Usually Fergal Keane OBE gets these republican-bashing gigs but this time, according to this morning’s Irish Times, it was directed by Colm Bairéad and written by Harry McGee.  The Irish Times review of the programme goes on to use all sorts of good words : ‘nuanced’ ‘authoritative’, ‘complex’, ‘balanced’, ‘careful’, ‘multi-angled’, ‘widely-researched’.  You get the feeling the reviewer kind of liked it.

I didn’t see it all, but in the chunk watched I didn’t find a single new thought.  McGuinness was a straight talker  (Bertie Ahern) – heard it. McGuinness and Adams were liars about being in the IRA  (Ed Moloney) – heard it.  McGuinness and his responsibility for the death of Patsy Gillespie – heard it.

The programme revolved around a central notion: McGuinness was an IRA commander, McGuinness was an enthusiastic peace-maker. This, apparently, was a contradiction. Really?  I’d have said logical. Nobody wants to engage in violence, assuming they’re not totally psychotic. The IRA and republicans in general spent decades of the Troubles asking their critics for an alternative to the violence. None emerged until John Hume got into talks with Gerry Adams. The British, of course, while continuing their violent campaign of suppression in the north of Ireland, were engaged in back-channel communication and discussion for years.

As for Ed Moloney’s comment   “Once you legitimise the telling of lies there’s no end to it”, it is typical of Moloney’s pseudo-thoughtful analysis of the Troubles.  Has he ever been in a court room where someone in the dock is asked how they plead and they have replied “Not guilty”? Did he conclude from the response that the person was legitimising lie-telling and would never stop?  Had McGuinness or Adams said “Yes, I was in the IRA right up to decommissioning”, does anybody think that would have been a smart thing to say?

Meanwhile, the best you could say for last night’s programme was that it represented yet another kick at northern republicans living and dead. If you were less kind, as you listened to the solemn recitation of yet another well-known killing, as you watched the camera offer loving close-ups of guns, explosions, dead bodies, you might have concluded that what you were watching and listening to was sixty minutes of violence pornography.

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