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Landmark in NIO propaganda that showed us how bad Troubles were

I'm not surprised that one of the old NIO propaganda films from the late Troubles period has become a hit on Facebook. It is, after all, a masterpiece.

Cast your mind back to the mid-1990s and you'll recall how trite some of the propaganda was.

Who wants to remember how our optimism about peace was meant to be affirmed by Porta-Up or Tandra-Glee?

But the story of a gunman losing touch with his son as he puts his paramilitary commitments ahead of his family rings true.

The film was addressed to the smallest audience of any TV advert ever. It sought to speak to the paramilitaries themselves and ask: will it all have been worth it if your children end up killing and going to jail, too?

The filmmakers, McCann Erickson, an advertising agency which also did the little potted dramas of road safety ads, had done its homework.

It had unearthed how many paramilitaries had given their lives to their struggle and neglected their families.

Gerry Adams himself has written of how, when he came out of jail, he reported first to the movement and then to his wife.

The daughter of IRA man Brian Keenan has told, in Bill Rolston's Children Of The Revolution, how her father did the same.

The film asks these men to reconsider, to wonder if their children will still be theirs to hold and love if the violence continues. But why is it intriguing now?

The grim depiction of the men shooting up a bar actually presaged the bar shootings at Loughinisland and Greysteel, prompting us then to consider how much worse things were going to get.

It tells young people today how bad it got. Yet the film puts a human face on the gunman who will one day realise that he is a loser, too. And people have found that there is a truth in that, though some of those gunmen have drunk themselves to death, unable to face themselves, and others stride firmly on ahead of themselves, still rationalising it all, perhaps lest they go mad.

Belfast Telegraph