Belfast Telegraph

BBC Spotlight series a genuine watershed

Accusations: Willie Frazer
Accusations: Willie Frazer

The BBC NI series Spotlight On The Troubles ended last night with more disturbing revelations, this time about secret documents which were kept hidden from inquiries and other legal forums.

In its seven-week run the series, which was the result of three years' investigative journalism, brought us some staggering new allegations and evidence involving figures such as the Rev Ian Paisley, Martin McGuinness, Willie Frazer and Fr Patrick Ryan, whose age had not dimmed his republican fanaticism.

Given the microscope that has been trained forensically on what happened during the Troubles, the fact that the Spotlight team could come up with startling new evidence is worthy of the highest commendation.

This is the sort of journalism viewers expect from a public service broadcaster of the BBC's status, instead of the vacuous reality shows which take up so much airtime on all channels.

But it has to be remembered that most of those implicated in dubious activities by the series are now dead, which is hardly surprising given the constraining strength of libel laws in the UK.

Commendable as the series was - and it was often compulsive viewing - it can never be a substitute for a proper truth and reconciliation process, which is what those bereaved or maimed by the Troubles really want.

It has shone a light on a very dark and dirty war and there is little doubt that every side involved in the conflict has its own sordid secrets to hide. The foot-dragging over any substantial truth and reconciliation process is evidence enough of the desire to keep truth hidden as deeply as possible.

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Even if structures were established to examine the past, do we really believe that those involved in the wanton slaughter of their fellow countrymen, women and children will stand up and admit to their crimes?

The terrorists of all hues may have imagined they were heroes of Ireland or Ulster, but the series shows merely the depths of depravity to which people were prepared to sink, often at the behest of those who escaped scot free.

What the series - and the recent book Children Of The Troubles, focusing on the most innocent victims - did was remind all of us of the horrors visited on so many and which have0 left them with grief and pain seared into their very souls. Spotlight On The Troubles is a memorial to those wounded spirits.

Belfast Telegraph

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