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The women of the IRA

AS the centenary of 1916 approaches we can expect all manner of documentaries commemorating this apparently glorious event, although hopefully some brave programme-maker (which obviously excludes anyone from RTE) will allow, say, Kevin Myers the leeway to present the view that the Rising was a terrorist atrocity which only led to even more barbarity. TG4/MNA AN IRA

Unsung rhetoric aside though, TG4 really stirred up a raft of publicity yesterday with the brouhaha surrounding a new documentary series which began last night.

One might expect a programme called Mna an IRA to be a look back at times past, featuring interviews with old grannies recalling the days when they were Bridie, Warrior Princess of Cumann na mBan or Mary Kate, She-Wolf of the 'Ra, but no, this focused on those who'd seen service in the IRA 'in modern times'.

First up was Rose Dugdale, the upper-class Englishwoman who regaled us with tales of planning to bomb an RUC station, cheerfully admitted stealing paintings from the Beit collection and, when interviewed on the John Murray programme, said 'fair play to everyone who was involved in the operation', the 'operation' in question being the kidnap and threatened murder of Dutch industrialist Dr Tiede Herrema.

This was surely way beyond the pale. Here we have someone being given a half-hour programme in which they not only admit but actually celebrate criminality to further their 'cause', part of which was the overthrow of the Irish State, which just happens to be paying for this documentary.

Would TG4, one wonders, be prepared to commission a similarly themed programme called, say, 'Women of Gangland' in which the molls of various thugs regaled the viewer with their tales of bank jobs, van heists, kidnappings and murders and of how the loot accumulated helped fund the 'cause' of their luxurious lifestyle? Somehow I doubt that.

Thursday's Liveline featured Dr Herrema himself, dignified as he told how kidnapper Eddie Gallagher held a gun to his head, and Ann Travers, a Catholic woman whose father and sister were attacked by an IRA gun gang as they returned from mass.

The father, a judge, survived but her schoolteacher sister Mary was held on the ground and shot in the back in cold blood.

Both were models of sense and decency and were thoroughly appalled at how such a programme as Mna an IRA could be broadcast and effectively act as a justification for the crimes of the past.

Coming soon to TG4 -- 'Victims of the IRA'. Don't hold your breath.