Wednesday 24 Sep 2014
Four veteran television reporters return to Northern Ireland to revisit their coverage of the Troubles and meet with some of the people whose stories they told. As Others See Us on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday 14 February, 10.35pm, features contributions from Martin Bell, Kate Adie, Peter Taylor and Bill Neely, as well as archive news footage across four decades.
Veteran war correspondent Martin Bell was one of the first network reporters to arrive in Northern Ireland in the late 60s.
He reported on Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1974 and recalls: "I had never in my life faced as much abuse and such a high level of intimidation as on the streets, not only in Belfast, but other places as well.
"I found it a very strange experience. I was trying to explain to an audience, mostly the other side of the water, something very close, as near as we are ever going to get to a civil war within the boundaries of the United Kingdom."
Forty years on, Martin returns to the Lower Falls, to Lenadoon, and up the Shankill Road, meeting former IRA member Tommy Gorman and former loyalist prisoner William Smyth.
Martin says: "I tremble to think how it would have been if we had had rolling news in those days, satellite trucks on the streets, they'd have made wonderful barricades and people would have played up the cameras.
"We were sometimes accused of fermenting disturbances, well we always kept the camera in the car before something happened."
The BBC's former Chief Correspondent Kate Adie has covered conflicts across the world and reported on Northern Ireland from 1975 to 2003.
Kate recalls: "A lot of my colleagues didn't even ever want to go to Northern Ireland; they were repelled by the idea of fighting in their own backyard. It was fine going off to the Congo, Angola or Vietnam, that was foreign. It was a huge emotional difficulty, I think, for quite a lot of reporters coming over here.
"When I was first catapulted into Northern Ireland I did tell myself I have a lot to learn. I think I was in many ways representative of a lot of our audience and just didn't know and therefore what had started a couple of years before I came over was baffling."
During her time in Northern Ireland, Kate covered the Hunger Strikes and she meets with former IRA hunger striker Tommy McKearney. She also revisits Drumcree, where she spent time reporting on the frontline of the Orange Order stand-off.
Northern Ireland-born Bill Neely reported here from 1981 until 1987. Born and raised in Belfast, Bill recalls his early days travelling to and from school, watching as riots suspended for 15 minutes to allow him and other school friends through before starting again.
Working as a young reporter with BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme in the early 80s, Bill vividly remembers taking a call while on shift late one night in December 1982, as news came through of an explosion at Ballykelly.
That call turned out to be the Droppin Well bombing at Ballykelly. Returning for the first time since then, Bill meets Ernest Clyde, one of the retained fire officers who worked to save lives in the wreckage of the bombed building on that night. He also talks to Virtue Dixon, whose daughter Ruth was killed in the bomb, and to Sharon McClarey, whose sister Carole Watts was on a night out at the disco and also died in the explosion.
Bill says: "This was mass murder on a scale I had never come across before and it only seeped in gradually. It was only when I got back to the hotel after that first day of funerals that I burst out crying. I got in, put my stuff on the bed and then suddenly found myself sobbing like a baby."
Award-winning investigative documentary maker Peter Taylor reported on Northern Ireland from 1972 until 2008.
He reflected: "I like to think that some of the things I've done have shed light on the situation here to the two communities that they may not have seen before."
Peter's own introduction to Northern Ireland and the conflict was Bloody Sunday. He went on to report and make acclaimed documentaries including Remember Bloody Sunday, Loyalists, Provos and Enemies Within.
During filming for As Others See Us, Peter chats with Danny Morrison, former Director of Publicity for Sinn Fein, and UDA leader Jackie McDonald, both of whom he met during his time covering Northern Ireland.
Peter concluded: "Forty years ago when I was a green young reporter covering Blood Sunday I never thought I would see the day when Ian Paisley would stand on the stairs with Martin McGuinness sharing power and heralding a new dawn for Northern Ireland and I only hope it lasts."
Producer and director Tony Curry said: "We've tried to get a fresh take on the role of journalists covering Northern Ireland through some of our darkest days and get a sense of the challenges involved in explaining the story to an outside audience.
"The four reporters we feature are world class professionals and it was fascinating to hear their honest reflections when they returned here to film the documentary.
"In many instances it gave Kate, Martin, Peter and Bill the opportunity to reveal things they could never have spoken about in their on-screen role."
As Others See Us is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, February 14 at 10.35pm.
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