Provos, Loyalists and Brits

2012, History  -  11 min Leave a Comment
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A trilogy of Documentary Series on Northern Ireland Conflict - Provos, Loyalists and Brits. BBC documentary series looking at the history of the IRA and Sinn Fein over the past 30 years, an intimate account of the lives of loyalist paramilitaries and the role of the British armed forces in Northern Ireland, made by journalist Peter Taylor.

Provos: Born Again. Documentary looking at the changes and rise in the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland from 1969 on. Considers the events of civil unrest in the late 1960s, the ideology and actions of the leaders of the IRA then, which underwent a significant change after the attacks by loyalists and B Specials on Catholics and Nationalists and their homes. Looks at the background of the deployment of British troops, and how they were first welcomed, but later viewed as the enemy. Includes interviews with many older IRA members who talk about their motivations and aims, and the escalation into shooting and bombings, especially after the events of Bloody Sunday.

Provos: Second Front. Looks into what was discussed at secret meetings between the British authorities and Provisional IRA during the 1970s, and how Britian may have countenanced withdrawal from Northern Ireland. Examines the emergence of Sinn Fein as a political force and the bombing campaigns both in the Province and the British mainland. Also examines the prison protests in the Maze prison, and the hunger strikes, and the effects of the deaths of Bobby Sands and other hunger strikers.

Provos: Secret War. Concentrates on the 1980s and the relaunch of a campaign by the IRA after the death of the hunger strikers. Looks at the increase in heavy weaponry purchased and the funding and supply lines and the IRA's keeness to get hold of surface-to-air missiles to shoot down army helicopters. It also goes into the emergence of IRA informants and "supergrasses" and the effect they had on operations.

Provos: Endgame. The final episode focuses on how the military stalemate of the late 80s created a context whereby the Sinn Fein leadership could persuade the IRA Army Council that the final phase of the struggle had to be political. It also shows how the stalemate paved the way for a remarkable series of secret negotiations between the Government and the IRA which made possible the cessation of 1994. The programme also describes how, despite the end of the ceasefire and the subsequent Canary Wharf and Manchester bombings, backstage efforts for peace continued, resulting in a renewed IRA ceasefire and the current all-party talks.

Loyalists: No Surrender. Documentary series presented by Peter Taylor, about the origins and evolution of the loyalist paramilitary movement in Northern Ireland.

Loyalists: Returning the Serve. In the late 1970s the conflict in Northern Ireland reached new levels of brutality. Among those caught up in the violence was UVF member Billy Giles, who retaliated against IRA acts by murdering a Catholic workmate.

Loyalists: War and Peace. Former Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) prisoners Gerry Spence and Bobby Philpott claim that Loyalist violence in the early nineties made the IRA realise they could not win. Peter Taylor reveals the true face of the Loyalist paramilitaries and assesses the prospects for peace in the face of continuing sectarian tensions.

Brits: The Secret War. This programme focuses on the period 1969-1975. As the IRA launched its terror campaign in the early 1970s, Britain realised that intelligence gathering would be the key to countering their threat. Included in this part are revelations about the covert operations carried out by the army, including the story of how the security services discovered that the IRA had bugged the army's Northern Ireland headquarters and how they captured key IRA figures involved with the bugging.

Brits: Shoot to Kill. Examination of a series of incidents from the mid-seventies where security forces reacted with speed and aggression. Members of Special Branch, MI6 and the army talk about the dangers of life in the war against the IRA. In their attempts to fight fire with fire did the agents of the crown sometimes go beyond the limits acceptable in a democratic state?

Brits: Holding the Line. Third and final part of the series investigating British undercover operations in Northern Ireland. Reveals how pressure from British intelligence services helped to bring the IRA to the negotiating table. Also looks at the prospect for a lasting peace.