Belfast Telegraph

The Secret must be painful viewing for relatives, but drama is often drawn from harrowing events in real people's lives

Editor's Viewpoint

The controversy continues about the broadcasting of The Secret, the dramatised television account of the double-murders by the Coleraine dentist Colin Howell and his former lover Hazel Stewart.

Stewart's current husband has entered the row by pointing out that the Buchanan children - his stepson and stepdaughter - did not see the series before it was broadcast, though ITV had given the impression that this facility had been given to all parties involved. People will understand the pain of the relatives in seeing their family history graphically dramatised on television.

Though the murders were committed some 25 years ago, the court cases took place more recently, and the replaying of the double murders and their aftermath on television so soon afterwards must make for very difficult viewing.

This is particularly so, given the intimate details of the murders in which one victim woke, and struggled in vain for his life. Also, the grief of the families as portrayed on TV was graphic and heart-rending, and many would have found this hard to watch.

The television series also highlights the awful position of the children who have parents who murdered and were murdered. This is essentially dabbling in the very stuff of people's souls in a dramatic but also commercial enterprise.

Nevertheless the harsh reality remains that dramatic events in the lives of people have very often ended up as artistic drama. For example, movies were made in the aftermath of 9/11 and much has been written about almost every angle of other atrocities, not least some of the worst of these which took place during the Troubles.

In real life, all creative endeavours of this kind involve artistic licence, and the best hope must be that events are portrayed as accurately and fairly as possible.

There is bound to be pain for those caught up in such harrowing personal events, but in reality no one has a copyright or control over situations in the public domain, even when they are intimately and often innocently involved.

Belfast Telegraph


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