THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND TV
REVIEWED: DUBLIN NARCOS 3/5 THE MANDALORIAN 4/5
Aimed squarely at the British audience, the three-part Dublin Narcos (Sky Documentaries, Saturday; all episodes available) makes a couple of dodgy choices in its opening episode.
The first is the use of cheesy reconstructions to enhance the story of the rise and fall of drug baron Larry Dunne, who introduced heroin to Dublin’s inner city working-class communities – including his own, Dolphin’s Barn – in the late 1970s and made millions as they were ravaged by addiction in the 1980s.
They’re awful, like an amateur re-enactment of Love/Hate directed by Guy Ritchie on one of his off days. The second and far more grievous one is giving a platform to the eldest of the Dunne brothers, Christy, who’s allowed to spout self-serving crap virtually unchallenged.
He gets sentimental about his parents, who he describes as being like movie stars and “the pride of The Liberties”. That’s not how most of us born and raised in The Liberties would see it.
Cue a 1970s clip of his father, also called Christy, a thief who served 18 months in Portlaoise Prison for manslaughter in 1939, talking proudly about his sons – including Christy Jr – being armed robbers.
Christy Jr insists the Dunnes weren’t responsible for flooding the city with heroin; it was just that the gardaí “needed someone to blame”.
Poor Larry. Clearly, he was the victim in all this. Christy likens his younger brother’s 1983 trial to being thrown into the Coliseum with lions. “They crucified Larry,” he says. “It was a diabolical sentence for what was involved. Once the herd moves, that’s it. He never had a chance.”
At least that last part is true. Larry never had a chance of being found not guilty because all the evidence confirmed he was as guilty as sin.
He famously fled during the first day of the trial and hid out in Dublin and Leitrim before heading to Spain and then on to Portugal, where he was arrested in 1985 and extradited back to Ireland. He served 10 years of a 14-year sentence and died in 2020.
It’s nauseating to listen to this rubbish being trotted out with a straight face. Like its predecessor, Liverpool Narcos, the series seems to be fascinated by withered old hoods romanticising and sanitising their repellent past.
Luckily, other, more reliable accounts are available.
“Larry Dunne was the biggest drug-pushing bastard that ever walked the earth,” says Vivienne Thompson, one of those who took the initiative and marched on the homes of the pushers, forcing them out of their flat complexes (albeit often only as far as the next one).
The series is on more solid ground when focusing on the rise of the city-wide Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) campaign – which, unfortunately, was hijacked by Sinn Féin – and on the initial inability of gardaí, whose main priority was the threat posed by the Troubles, to respond to the rapid spread of heroin.
It’s especially good on how a frustrated young garda called Michael O’Sullivan defied his bosses and took it upon himself to become Ireland’s first undercover cop. He was joined by others, including Nóirín O’Sullivan, who would later become Garda Commissioner with Michael O’Sullivan as her deputy.
They became known as the “Mockies”, for mock-addicts, and had considerable success busting pushers. One of their biggest scalps was a member of the Dunne clan, Mickey, a flashily-dressed poseur who loved himself. This in itself warrants a separate series.
The Mandalorian (Disney+) is back. But what this? Pedro Pascal’s helmeted hero is still accompanied by his little green charge Grogu, aka “Baby Yoda”.
When last seen, they were going their separate ways. Is Disney+ showing episodes in the wrong order? Nope. Apparently, the happy reunion occurred in another Star Wars spin-off, The Book of Boba Fett – but if you didn’t watch that, which I didn’t, you’d be stumped.
The appeal of The Mandalorian for the casual viewer has always been its relative independence from the tangled Star Wars mythos.
It’s still great, pulpy, episodic fun, but it won’t be for much longer if Disney turns it into homework,