Belfast Telegraph

Review: I Dolours a powerful, disturbing and honest story of IRA woman Price

 

By Suzanne Breen

I Dolours opens in 1999 with Dolours Price in the kitchen of her beautiful Malahide home as news breaks on the radio of the return of one of the bodies of the Disappeared.

Those unfamiliar with the Troubles would struggle to link this middle-class woman in respectable Co Dublin with some of the most shocking killings in the IRA campaign.

But over the next 82 minutes we are taken to west Belfast where Price grew up steeped in republican orthodoxy, and to England where she travelled on a bombing mission and later went on hunger strike in jail.

Of all the films that have been made about the IRA in recent years, this is by far the most powerful, honest and disturbing.

The romantic myths of the republican movement are contrasted with the savage reality of a campaign which caused so much suffering both outside and inside its own ranks.

Director Maurice Sweeney flawlessly intersperses a video-recorded interview Price gave to journalist Ed Moloney with dramatic re-enactments of the IRA woman's life.

I met Dolours Price several times and while actress Lorna Larkin doesn't get the accent right, she perfectly captures her essence - it's all in the eyes.

Price emerges as an articulate, intelligent and engaging woman who is telling the truth when she claims that Gerry Adams was the officer commanding of the IRA's Belfast Brigade who sent her out to kill. Yet shades of self-absorption and egoism are also on display. She seems very much a man's woman.

When discussing driving alleged informers across the border to their deaths, it is disconcerting that Price expresses scant sympathy for Jean McConville - indeed she calls her "very arrogant".

She claims that during the journey, McConville, who didn't know the fate awaiting her, said: "I knew those Provo b******* wouldn't have the b**** to shoot me." There is no empathy with a working class woman struggling to bring up 10 children. Yet Price's heart goes out to Joe Lynskey, an IRA man who had an affair with a comrade's wife and tried to set him up for assassination as an informer.

He was "a gentle, gentle man", she says, wishing he'd tried to jump out of the car and escape.

The image recreated of McConville walking across a beach in red slippers to her death, and of Lynskey sitting in Price's car with his overnight bag on his lap, are chilling and heartbreaking.

Price's father Albert was a 1940s IRA man who went to bomb England. He later told his daughters: "I blew them up before you did. The only thing was I didn't get caught."

She recounts as a child hearing not "Little Red Riding Hood" and other fairy tales, but rather republican stories which she loved.

Her mother's family were also staunchly republican. It wasn't "For God and Ireland" Price says - Ireland came far before God.

Her Aunt Bridie lost her hands and sight in an accident handling IRA explosives when she was 25. The house went into mourning but it was "a wake with a living body".

Price recalls as a child having to hold a cigarette to her aunt's mouth for her to smoke: "I hated the job but I did it because it was Bridie."One day she sees tears running down Bridie's cheek and she asks her mother how her aunt can cry when she has no eyes.

Price joined the IRA with her sister Marian after civil rights marchers were beaten off the streets. She told its leadership, "I don't want to be rolling bandages, I want to fight." She recalls robbing banks with Marian, dressed as nuns.

When they went to bomb the Old Bailey in 1973, Price stresses how seriously the women took the IRA operation while some of the male volunteers were carried out of establishments drunk.

Her experience of arrest and imprisonment in England is recounted in all its raw horror. Being forced to walk naked in front of police officers and 180 days being force-fed while on hunger strike. As a child, she had seen parcels being made up for prisoners and thought jail an exotic place. That illusion is quickly shattered. The sisters become the third generation of women to be imprisoned in their family.

On her first visit to see her daughters, her mother admits that her 14 days in jail were "like 14 years" but tells Dolours "no tears, not in front of these people".

Repatriated to Armagh jail, Price suffers from anorexia due to her hunger strike and the force-feeding regime. Her psychological condition deteriorates and her political beliefs appear to be shaken.

But republicanism is in her DNA. Price is aghast when the IRA leadership calls a ceasefire in 1994 without any sign of a British withdrawal.

She rails against the peace process, accusing the Sinn Fein leadership of selling out. "I would not have missed a good breakfast for what Sinn Fein achieved," she declares. She accuses the party of "climbing over corpses" of the dead to get power. This film will make for very uncomfortable viewing for those in Provisional ranks who claim the war was worth it.

Belfast Telegraph

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