Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History concludes with a series of revelations about the decades-long conflict
This is undoubtedly one of the most significant series we have produced in BBC Northern Ireland. The revelations the team of reporters has produced through their investigations for this series have been remarkable and are testament to their dedication and that of the entire Spotlight team.Peter Johnston, Director, BBC NI
Produced by BBC Northern Ireland’s award-winning Spotlight team of investigative journalists Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History has uncovered a series of revelations about the decades-long conflict that claimed around 3,700 lives.
The final episode will be broadcast on Tuesday 22 October on BBC One NI and BBC Four at 8.30pm. Following this broadcast, a programme looking at the making of the series will be available to view on BBC iPlayer. Spotlight On The Troubles: Behind The Scenes will also be shown on Thursday 24 October on BBC One NI at 9pm.
Following the broadcast of the final episode, the series - presented by Mandy McAuley, Jennifer O’Leary and Darragh MacIntyre - will be available as a box set for up to a year on BBC iPlayer.
The series was made possible by additional funding to BBC Northern Ireland content and services in 2017, part of which was earmarked for content to mark major historical anniversaries in Northern Ireland. It was the BBC's biggest investment in Northern Ireland for 20 years.
Peter Johnston, Director, BBC NI, says: “Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History is undoubtedly one of the most significant series we have produced in BBC Northern Ireland. The revelations the team of reporters has produced through their investigations for this series have been remarkable and are testament to the dedication of Mandy, Darragh, Jennifer and the entire Spotlight team who worked on the programme.
“Audiences have really engaged with the programme and this behind-the-scenes film will give them a rare glimpse into the work that goes into making a series like this, including the careful considerations it takes to bring these stories into the public domain. It is a worthy companion to the series, which I’m pleased to confirm will be available as a full box set on BBC iPlayer from Tuesday 22 October for the next year.”
Jeremy Adams, Editor, Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History, says: “The intention behind this series was to provide a narrative of the Troubles to enable both those who lived through it and today’s generation a chance to make sense of what can otherwise appear to have been an appalling litany of random tragedies.
"The series not only charts the outbreak of the Troubles and how the conflict was sustained, but also seeks to answer the question: why did it stop? In the process it uncovers an extraordinary array of new revelations and demonstrates the vital public interest served by the scrutiny of investigative journalism in an open society.”
The final episode in the series looks at how the Troubles ended. In this episode, Darragh MacIntyre uncovers how the UK government policy changed from seeking to defeat the IRA to bringing it into negotiations; and how secret talks, double speak and smart tactical manoeuvring ensured that Gerry Adams was able to persuade the IRA to go with the deal.
Darragh hears the inside story of the peace process from within the IRA and the British Government. He discovers new information about the internal battle for control of the IRA during the most delicate days of the peace process and learns about the scale of secrecy that still surrounds the conflict.
After this programme is broadcast, Spotlight On The Troubles: Behind The Scenes will become available on BBC iPlayer. This fly-on-the-wall documentary, produced by Sarah Mole for BBC Northern Ireland, shows how the critically acclaimed television series Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History was made.
Reporters, producers - even the bosses - were filmed over two years as they uncovered incredible new stories about the past. It reveals how Jennifer O’Leary persuaded the former missionary priest, Patrick Ryan, to reveal his role in smuggling money and weapons to the IRA. It follows Darragh MacIntyre on a journey to uncover the British and American intelligence connections to a long-hidden documentary featuring Martin McGuinness. And it shows how Mandy McAuley discovered that church charity worker Alan Oliver was actually a suspect in a series of murders across Mid Ulster.
Mandy McAuley says: “For me this was one of the most demanding projects I have worked on. Given the calibre and tenacity of journalists who have gone before us breaking new ground was always going to be a huge challenge. At every stage of the journey I have been humbled by the courage and determination of those who have never stopped searching for the truth about what happened to their family and loved ones in the conflict.
"I’ve also been heartened by the number of people of all ranks and in all walks of life who were prepared on the 50th anniversary of the Troubles to put their heads above the parapet to help us unearth some very unpalatable truths. To those who agreed to speak openly on camera and to the many sources who trusted us with their information and who stayed the course over two years I am truly grateful.”
Jennifer O’Leary says: “Anniversaries are often a time to reflect. In the context of the Troubles, they more often mark a day of brutal loss, still clouded by shadows and secrets. I was always mindful that the challenge in uncovering new information is nowhere near the challenge faced by those who live with the pain of their injuries or trauma, or the interminable grief over loved ones lost.
"As an investigative reporter I never want to be the focus of the story, and being filmed for the behind-the-scenes documentary was challenging at times. I hope the behind the scenes documentary gives viewers an insight into aspects of investigative journalism, and in my specific case, the effort involved in trying to secure an on-camera interview with an elusive person, who for decades did not speak publicly about what he did on behalf of the IRA.”
Darragh MacIntyre says: “The challenge was to bring new material to light which might in turn give a new or better understanding of what happened here. We had of course an awful lot of help in where to look for new material, from those many journalists and historians who themselves have turned over so much of the ground that we planned to travel. But at a certain point it was down to us, the team working on the project, to search one more time in the boxes of files, to knock one more door, to make one more phone call, to make sure that we had done our earnest best to get to the truth.
But I have no illusions. A huge distance has yet to be travelled before anyone gets anything like the full story of what happened here. That journey may never be finished.”