An extraordinary attack by the former 26 County Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan on a documentary film on collusion has been described as an attack on nationalist victims of the conflict.
The ‘Unquiet Graves’ documentary presented a well-researched account of the notorious ‘Glenanne Gang’ of loyalist paramilitaries who worked alongside members of the Crown Forces to kill some 120 prominent Catholics and foment civil war.
But Flanagan wrongly claimed the film, broadcast on terrestrial television last month, was based on the “dubious” testimony of former RUC man turned loyalist paramilitary, John Weir. So incensed by the documentary was Flanagan, that he wrote to the Director of Programming of the state broadcaster RTE to outline his concerns over the decision to screen the film.
In his letter, Flanagan condemning the film-makers for not showing ‘balance’ or being “fair minded”, and suggested RTE had not carried out “background checks” or “due diligence” in regards to the funding of the film.
‘Unquiet Graves’ highlights the central role members of the RUC and the British Army played in the loyalist death squads and sets out to show how the British government was aware of their attacks and condoned them.
The film is based in large part on ‘Lethal Allies’ by Anne Cadwallader, the first book ever to be granted the status of a legal exhibit in High Court legal proceedings. It extensively refers to official documents, police reports and other public investigations.
Film-maker Sean Murray hit out at Flanagan’s intervention, which recalled for him the blanket censorship of events in the North in the 26 Counties.
“It’s an attack on victims, it’s about censoring and marginalising the arts. It’s Section 31 on steroids,” he said. He questioned whether Mr Flanagan had even watched the documentary.
“Mr Flanagan appears not to have viewed the film - although he features in it himself during an attendance at a Dublin/Monaghan bombings commemoration,” he said.
“If he had done, he would have seen testimony from, amongst others, former London Metropolitan Detective Steve Morris of the Historical Enquiries Team.
“Strangely, Mr Flanagan did not mention the Dublin/Monaghan bombings although they resulted in the greatest single loss of life, 34 dead including an unborn full-term baby, in any one day during the conflict in the jurisdiction in which he is a public representative.”
Mr Murray also said funds for the film were privately raised. “Some funds were raised also by private, voluntary donations from the US, Britain and Ireland. Not a penny of the funding came from any political source or any political party anywhere.”
Aontú’s Peadar Tóibín said the comments by Flanagan had snubbed the victims of the Glenanne Gang and their families.
“To have a government TD, a former Minister for Justice getting on national radio to query why their stories were being told in the way they were rubs salt into the wound,” he said.
“This particular TD seems to have shown more sympathy towards the Black and Tans than the victims of British collusion.”
Alan Brecknell, whose father Trevor was shot dead by members of the Glenanne Gang in Silverbridge, south Armagh, in 1975 said Mr Flanagan had not considered the experience of victims.
“It is hurtful in the extreme that Mr Flanagan’s criticism fails to take into account the suffering and pain of the bereaved families,” he said. “His ‘annoyance’ and ‘anxiety’ pales into insignificance beside the trauma, agony and anger of those bereaved by the Glenanne Gang.”