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United Kingdom

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Call these IRA 'volunteers' what they truly are: callous criminals 

The Day Mountbatten Died 

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Stath Lets Flats 

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Even after 40 years, the raw grief in the voices of people scarred by a double terrorist atrocity still burns.

The air-sea rescuer who lifted a child's body out of the water, the mother who knew instinctively the moment her beloved son was killed: they could barely speak for pain.

That's why it was so disturbing to see the murderers accorded the same respect as innocent victims on The Day Mountbatten Died (BBC2), a documentary telling the story of one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland's Troubles.

The Mullaghmore Memorial Cross commemorating the death of Lord Louis Mountbatten. The programme provided an overview of two very different attacks, concentrating on impressions of the moment and the human cost rather than the mechanics of the bombings

Lord Louis playing with his granddaughter in the grounds of the family castle. Even after 40 years, the raw grief in the voices of people scarred by a double terrorist atrocity still burns

It's understood that the BBC has an obligation to be impartial, and that by including interviews with former IRA terrorists the corporation in no way condones their brutality.

But the very language of impartiality, the talk of 'volunteers' and 'campaigns' and 'operations', dignifies the slaughtermen.

Call them what they were: psychopaths, glory-seekers and callous criminals.

One man who was flattered by his title 'former IRA director of intelligence' said of the thug Thomas McMahon who planted the bomb on Mountbatten's fishing boat: 'I knew him personally and he was a very, very fine IRA volunteer, very fine indeed, the most outstanding figure.'

At least another IRA man had the honesty to call the bombing what it was — a war crime that left two teenagers dead.

Kieran Conway, who was flattered by his title 'former IRA director of intelligence' said of the thug Thomas McMahon who planted the bomb on Mountbatten's fishing boat: 'I knew him personally and he was a very, very fine IRA volunteer, very fine indeed, the most outstanding figure'

The programme provided an overview of two very different attacks, concentrating on impressions of the moment and the human cost rather than the mechanics of the bombings.

On the west coast of Ireland, close to Mountbatten's rural retreat at Classiebawn Castle in Sligo, the coward McMahon hid a bomb in the Earl's boat.

When he and his family went out lobster-potting on August 27, 1979, the device was detonated, killing him and one of his twin grandsons, Nicholas, as well as a local lad, Paul Maxwell.

India Hicks, 51, was only 11 when her grandfather was killed, on the programme she said: 'forgiveness is important' 

The Earl's daughter, her husband and their other twin son were all badly injured, and her mother-in-law later died from her injuries.

On the other coast, near the Irish Sea, at Warrenpoint on the border between north and south, two more blasts killed 18 British soldiers, members of the Parachute Regiment.

In the ensuing confusion, an English visitor was shot dead — mistaken for an IRA gunman.

To explain the historical context, compile the fragmented accounts of the survivors, assess the long-term damage and pay tribute to the dead required a delicate balance.

As a result, the documentary sometimes felt piecemeal, but never superficial.

'Piecemeal' is a good word to describe the first series of Stath Lets Flats (C4), a sitcom about a brother and sister (Jamie and Natasia Demetriou) trying to run their father's letting agency as he prepares to retire. 

The episodes lacked flow. Each one felt like a collection of sketches, clumped together: Stath shows tenants round a property, Sophie flirts gormlessly with a colleague, rival agents steal their business, and it happens all over again.

Sweet memory of the night:

Nadiya Hussain said the smell of strawberry milkshake took her back to childhood on Time To Eat (BBC2), but for me real nostalgia came with her next ingredient, Golden Syrup. Now there's a true taste of the past.

 But the Bafta judges adored it, and nominated both Jamie and the show (which he writes) for awards.

That success has inspired a new confidence and he returned as tongue-tied as ever but with a fleshed-out story for his characters.

This time Stath is going to be a dad, following a one-night stand, though he can't quite grasp it.

When his ex tells him she's pregnant, he goggles: 'Are you the mother?'

This is comedy of excruciation, the sort you watch with your limbs twisted in knots and a rictus grimace.

But it's filled with cracking lines. 'Stathy,' his father tells him, 'wash your ears and tell them to listen.'

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