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Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Press Releases

Facing the Truth


Category: News; BBC TWO; Northern Ireland

Date: 14.02.2006
Printable version


BBC TWO is to screen a groundbreaking three-part series which brings together victims and perpetrators of Northern Ireland's conflict, in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

 

At a press launch in Belfast the BBC unveiled further details of the compelling encounters in Facing the Truth - to be shown in the week commencing Saturday 4 March.

 

Each of the six meetings sees people from different sides of the conflict coming face to face with each other for the first time.

 

The Archbishop oversees the meetings, enabling unprecedented dialogue between those responsible for violence and those who were hurt during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

 

Tutu draws on his experiences to enable the individuals to tell their stories in their own words, face to face with people once considered adversaries.

 

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu - who led South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission - is assisted at the meetings by two experienced facilitators.

 

They are Harvard University's Donna Hicks, widely experienced in conflict resolution dialogue, and Lesley Bilinda, whose husband was killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and who went on a journey to try to find his killers and learn the truth about his death.

 

Psychologist and trauma counsellor Nomfundo Walaza, former director of the South African Trauma Centre for victims of violence and torture, was also present.

 

Nomfundo was available to support participants before, during and after the encounters.

 

Local counselling was also in place for anyone who wished to access it. Contributors were also invited to bring family and close friends.

 

Talking about his involvement in the programme, Archbishop Tutu tells presenter, BBC News special correspondent Fergal Keane says: "... We had some extraordinary moments in the week or so that we were here where it was like something divine had intervened, and it was exhausting, but eminently exhilarating."

 

Tutu adds: "... I think human beings are incredible... and I've seen examples here of the fact that it really is possible that we will see a resolution of the problems and people will say, as we did in South Africa, why were we so stupid for so long?

 

"... I have a good sense that Northern Ireland is going to be held up one day as a place where we thought the problems were intractable and you see they were intractable - just look at how well they're getting on together."

 

Facing the Truth includes a meeting between former Loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone and the widow and brother of a man he is convicted of murdering.

 

Michael Stone became notorious when television cameras captured his gun and grenade attack on mourners at an IRA funeral in Milltown cemetery in 1988 killing three people.

 

When questioned by police about the attack, Stone confessed to another three murders including that of Dermot Hackett.

 

Other encounters in Facing the Truth include Clifford Burrage - a British soldier who shot and killed 22-year-old Michael McLarnon - and Mary McLarnon, the sister of Michael McLarnon.

 

In the second programme Josette Foster, the widow of Walter Beard, and her daughter Vreny - together with former paratroopers Tom Caughey and Graham Eve - meet Joe Doherty.

 

Walter Beard was killed in a double IRA explosion at Narrow Water in 1979. Tom Caughey was injured in the first explosion.

 

Joe Doherty was convicted for the murder of the most senior ranking SAS officer to lose his life in the Northern Ireland conflict, Captain Herbert Westmacott, killed in May 1980.

 

Speaking at the press launch in Belfast, Roly Keating, Controller, BBC TWO said: "This is groundbreaking current affairs which explores a tough issue from a human, rather than political, perspective.

 

"We're deeply honoured that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has agreed to take part in the programmes, as he is highly respected by everyone involved and a brilliant mediator.

 

"It promises to be powerful event television and we've placed it in the heart of the BBC TWO schedule for three consecutive nights to create maximum impact with as wide an audience as possible."

 

BBC executive producer Jeremy Adams said: "At the end of filming, the participants all said it had been a worthwhile, even helpful experience.

 

"We were waiting for the first person to say they wished they had never done it, but that didn't happen.

 

"Some were astonished that, while painful, it had helped them move forward.

 

"Desmond Tutu said it had been one of the most important things he had ever been involved in and that he too felt it offered a way forward.

 

"I think there will also be amazement that a dialogue of this nature is possible at all and I hope that our six encounters will lead to a wider debate here about victims, justice and truth."

 

Each of the encounters was filmed at a country house in Ballywalter, near Newtownards.

 

Facing the Truth - BBC TWO - programme one

 

The first programme includes the case of Clifford Burrage - an army officer with the Green Howards.

 

On 28 October 1971 Clifford Burrage shot and killed 22-year-old Michael McLarnon, near his family home in West Belfast.

 

The Army claimed Michael McLarnon was a member of the IRA and was armed; his family has always denied this.

 

In Facing the Truth Mary McLarnon, Michael's sister, meets Clifford Burrage.

 

Facing the Truth - BBC TWO - programme two

 

More than half the murders of the Northern Ireland conflict remain unsolved.

 

Programme two of Facing the Truth features three stories in which none of the victims has seen anybody convicted for the attacks which brought agony to their lives.

 

In this programme, they have an opportunity to meet individuals who belonged to the organisation responsible.

 

On 27 August 1979, 18 soldiers were killed in a double IRA bomb attack at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint.

 

Tom Caughey of the second battalion of the Parachute Regiment was badly injured in the first explosion.

 

Warrant Officer Walter Beard lost his life in the second explosion, designed to kill those attending the scene to help with casualties of the initial blast.

 

Graham Eve assisted with the clear up operation.

 

The explosions saw the greatest number of soldiers killed by the IRA in one day. There has never been any conviction in relation to the attack.

 

Josette Foster, the widow of Walter Beard, and their daughter Vreny - together with former paratroopers Tom Caughey and Graham Eve - meet a man from the organisation responsible for Narrow Water, former IRA prisoner Joe Doherty.

 

Joe Doherty was convicted of the murder of the most senior ranking SAS officer to lose his life in the Northern Ireland conflict - Captain Herbert Westmacott, killed in May 1980.

 

Facing the Truth - BBC TWO - programme three

 

In this, the final of six compelling encounters, Michael Stone meets the widow and brother of a man he is convicted of murdering - a meeting in which both sides must face the truth.

 

In an extraordinary and surprising encounter the Archbishop declares that "it is God who is present in this moment".

 

Loyalist Michael Stone became notorious when television cameras captured his gun and grenade attack on mourners at an IRA funeral in Milltown cemetery in 1988, killing three people.

 

When questioned by police, Michael Stone confessed to another three murders including that of Dermot Hackett, a Catholic man shot dead as he drove his bread delivery van.

 

Michael Stone claims his target was legitimate because he was shown files that proved Mr Hackett was an IRA man, an allegation the family firmly deny.

 

Notes to Editors

 

There will be exclusive footage on BBC TWO's upgraded broadband website - bbc.co.uk/bbctwo.

 

Fergal Keane has interviewed each of the participants, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, about their experience, and his interviews can be viewed on the site, as part of the BBC's TV Plus trials.

 

MB/UC

 

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Category: News; BBC TWO; Northern Ireland

Date: 14.02.2006
Printable version

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