Tag Archives: The Troubles

Catching up with modern Ireland: October

As of 30 October, traffic on this site surpassed our highest annual total, in 2016. Thanks very much for your readership and support, including several of you who emailed suggestions for this month’s roundup, which starts in arts and ends in crime:

  • Anna Burns became the first Northern Irish author to win the Man Booker prize, for Milkman, a novel about a young woman being sexually harassed by a powerful man during the Troubles. Authors John Banville, Anne Enright, and Roddy Doyle of the Irish Republic won the prize earlier.
  • On Broadway, Jez Butterworth’s “thrilling new play” The Ferryman “mines the folksy clichés of Irish archetypes — as garrulous, drink-loving, pugilistic souls — to find the crueler patterns of a centuries-old cycle of violence and vengeance,” according to this New York Times review.
  • “The extent to which many English people are ignorant about Ireland has become painfully clear. … I’ve noticed a tonal shift in the way I and other Irish people speak about the English. Our anger is more sincere. We are more ready to call them out on all those centuries of excess.” I Didn’t Hate the English — Until Now
  • An Bord Pleanála approved a 25-story residential tower in Cork city. If built, it would become the county’s tallest tower.
  • Ireland ranked 5th on the 2018 CAF World Giving Index, behind the U.S. and ahead of the U.K.
  • The Republic will impose tobacco-style health warning labels on alcohol as part of a sweeping package of restrictions intended to tackle one of the world’s worst rates of binge drinking.
  • “When confronted with a film that identified prime suspects in a massacre of unarmed British citizens [Loughinisland, County Down, in 1994], the authorities made no apparent effort to further question those suspects—and arrested the filmmakers instead.” Why Were a Filmmaker and a Journalist Arrested in Northern Ireland?
  • In a case that reminds me of the “agrarian outrages” of the late 19th century, north Kerry bachelor dairy farmer Michael Ferris, 63, of Rattoo, was found guilty of manslaughter for the 2017 death of John Anthony O’Mahony, an unmarried tillage farmer, 73, of Ardoughter, Ballyduff.  Ferris drove the pallet forks of his teleporter into the car occupied by O’Mahony, apparently enraged by the older man’s use of a crow banger, according to the Irish Examiner.
  • In America, the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger, 89, once head of Boston’s Irish mob, was killed in federal prison. Read my “Southie memories” piece from his 2013 trial.

James “Whitey” Bulger in 1959, early in his criminal career.

Northern Ireland ‘Journey’ nears critical bend in road

“The Journey,” a fictional “imagining” of the real-life partnership between unionist firebrand Dr. Ian Paisley and former IRA man Martin McGuinness, recently debuted in Washington, D.C., as part of its wider U.S. release.

The movie isn’t as awful as early reviews suggested last fall, though there is merit to that criticism. It’s worth seeing for those who follow Northern Ireland politics. The long, twisted history of the Troubles, and the actors’ thick accents, are probably too much for more casual viewers.

A line near the end of Colin Bateman’s screenplay caught my attention and could prove to be prescient in the coming weeks. It is spoken by McGuinness (Colm Meaney) to Paisely (Timothy Spall) as they are about to agree on the power-sharing deal that resulted in the 2007 Northern Ireland Assembly:

This is our only opportunity to build something that will last, at least for our lifetime.

The real-life duo got the Assembly off the ground and developed such a close working relationship that they become known as  the chuckle brothers. Peace and progress flourished in Northern Ireland. But Paisley died in September 2014, and McGuinness died in March.

Now, the suspended Belfast Assembly is facing a 29 June deadline to reorganize, or the north could return to direct rule from Westminster. This matter is complicated by the Paisley-founded, pro-unionist DUP entering a Tory coalition to control the London Parliament, which will put Irish republicans on the defensive. This comes as the U.K. also begins to negotiate its exit from the European Union–Brexit–which threatens the return of a “hard border” between the north and the Republic.

At the same time, the annual Orange Order marching season, in which Protestants celebrate a 1690 military victory over Catholics, is getting underway and approaching its 12 July peak. The season always raises tensions between the two cultural and political communities in the north.

What could possibly go wrong?

Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness dies at 66

Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister in January, forcing the Northern Ireland Assembly to shut down for a new election, held at the beginning of March. It was already clear the former IRA commander was ill, and he said as much in announcing his decision not to seek to re-election. Now, his death stirs further remembrances of The Troubles, and raises more questions about the future of the province as Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists face the uncertainties of Brexit.

Here is a sample of the first wave of international coverage:

“This election is about equality and respect for all our people and integrity in the institutions. Vote SF for the politics of hope not fear.”

–Last tweet of Martin McGuinness, 1 March 2017, just before Sinn Féin‘s historic success in Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

McGuinness and the Queen shake hands in Belfast, July 2012. Probably no other photo says as much about the arc of the former IRA leader’s life.

Guest post: Outrage over inclusion of IRA in new video game

Timothy Plum has been traveling to Ireland for more than 20 years on business, academic and personal reasons. His last guest post for this blog was about Brexit. MH

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The latest iteration of the “Mafia” video game series, which references IRA violence, is drawing criticism in Northern Ireland for trivializing the Troubles.

“Mafia III” is set in 1968 in a recreation of New Orleans. The player is on a quest to build a new crime organization to confront the Italian mob over the killings of his friends. Players game through the third-person perspective of fictional orphan and Vietnam War vet Lincoln Clay.

In a segment titled “The IRA Don’t Ask,” Clay’s mission includes stealing cars for an Irish underboss named Thomas Burke. The cars are destined for use as car bombs meant to “keep the Belfast law guessing.” The game also includes a Northern Ireland flag defaced with the word “traitor.”

Screen grab from "Mafia III" by 2K Games.

Screen grab from “Mafia III” by 2K Games.

The game uses stereotypes to glorify the IRA, including drunkenness, rowdiness and extreme violence. Using a time period as fresh and raw as 1960’s Northern Ireland, in my opinion, is a disservice to gamers–most of whom will have no idea of the actual events–and the public at large.

Unionist politicians have condemned the game. DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told The Irish News that he is “very concerned” about the impact the game could have on “impressionable” minds. “The IRA were a terrorist organisation that murdered very many innocent men, women and children in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.”

As of 15 October, news coverage from the North has not included any reaction to the game from Sinn Féin or other nationalists.

So far, “Mafia III” has been poorly received by the gaming community, so perhaps the damage of misunderstanding and myth perpetuation will be tamped down by poor sales. But it is sad to have the past dredged up in such a poor fashion that only perpetuates stereotypes and does not further discussion.

‘Shadow Dancer’ joins roster of films about The Troubles

The New York Times and other media outlets are out with reviews of “Shadow Dancer,” a new film set in The Troubles of 1970s Northern Ireland. Here’s a link to the trailer. The Times writes:

The last 30 years has seen the rise of ambitious stories made before and after the historic Good Friday peace accords of 1998. Many share an urgent desire to set the historical record straight and even undertake a kind of cathartic re-creation.

The piece does a good job of listing other movies in the genre, including “Patriot Games,” “Blown Away,” “Elephant,” “Hunger” and “In the Name of the Father.” My brother Matt correctly points out the Times review neglects to mention “The Devil’s Own,” staring Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford.

Let’s us know of any other films to add to the list.

Shadow-Dancer-DVD