Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland (2023): Season 1, Episode 3 - So Many Broken Hearts - full transcript

Very emotional episode that deals with interviews and archival footage of three women. One was a prisoner's wife. One was the daughter of a hunger striking prisoner. One was the wife of a policeman.

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Where's this, Ballymurphy?

See who I can see here.

I think that's my street.

Oh, Ballymurphy Road.

Flip me!

I felt a wee bit emotional
there, looking back.

They were happy times, I suppose.

Your youth's always
pretty happy, isn't it?

You think back, because maybe
that's the innocence of the times,

where you don't really know

the stresses and the worries
of the older people.

So you're happy in yourself.

You look back and think
your life is happy.

It was good.

You don't really do many
interviews like this, do you?


I said I would do it for you,
and I would just like to do it

and then get it behind me.

I was actually going
to phone last week and say,

- "I'm not doing it."
- Were you?

I was crying.

I've been crying an awful lot.

The feelings all come back
out again,

so putting it out there
for people to see,

our life had been on camera long
enough, do you know what I mean?

But I'm OK. I'm OK, yeah.

I'm strong.

The Troubles, that's been our life
from, you know,

from we were children,
and the flick of a switch,

your life changed for ever.

You're brought into that that group
of victims that have been affected

by the Troubles.

You're one of them.

It's turned out lovely.
Look at that.

Somebody is looking down on you.

This is Upperlands.

We're about 40 miles from Belfast
and 40 miles from Londonderry.

My name is June McMullan.

I'm just a country lass
from Northern Ireland.

Upperlands, it's a quiet, quiet,
sleepy wee village

in the middle of nowhere.

Everybody would know everybody.

I know our village
was very much Protestant,

but that didn't mean we wouldn't
have let Catholics in

or anything like that.

We were mixing together
at school and youth clubs

and things like that.

I met Johnny on a Friday night
at a wee tiny Orange Hall

in the middle of nowhere.

I was going with him
when I was about 14 and a half

and I mind my mother
chasing him from the door,

saying, "Away home, the boy, ye!"

But, no, he kept coming back.

He was a gentle person.

And he had a car.

If you know what a Lada is!
It was like a skip

with a roof,
and he loved them cars.

When you got a lift to a dance,
you need to make sure

you got a lift home.

So he would take all us
girls home.

When you're out in the country,
like, the Troubles were happening

in other places.

There was nothing in our area,
what were they going to blow up?

A couple of sheep, a couple
of cows in the field,

like a tree
or something like that?

Country life is so,
so different to city life.

On the news,
it was constantly talked.



Any kids that were reared
in the city

couldn't have had much of a life.

There were so many bombs
going off in the city.

This is the reality
of Belfast today.

Bombs in the city centre,

so much disruption,
so many explosions.

From time to time,

you forget that it's become
part of everyday life.

And that really is
one of the tragedies of it.

My name is Bernadette O'Rawe.

I grew up in the Ballymurphy
area of West Belfast.

It wasn't much fun in Ballymurphy.

But you made your own
fun in the area, you know?

I was just coming up
for maybe 16, I think.

I hadn't really been anywhere
outside the area

because you couldn't go
into the town

because there was random bombs
here or there.

So people tended to stay
within their own areas

from both communities.

There was a community centre,
that became one of the places to go.

I met Ricky in 1975.

We met in the community centre,
and that's where we began our story.

We met at a dance.

She was four years younger than me.

Couldn't believe my good fortune.

I had the best-looking girl
in West Belfast,

punching over my weight.

No, I just liked the look of him.

We got together,
we went out together,

and then I got to know him.

And then I kind of liked
what I got to know.

Maybe I got filled in about
Ricky's family and his background

from my own daddy,
who knew more about them

because he went about
with his daddy.

And then I started to realise
how much Republicanism

was in his family, because up
till then, I didn't know

much about Republicanism.

In fact,
I didn't know anything about it.


The future of Ballymurphy
is very bleak.

That's me.

This German documentary team
were looking for someone

to speak about Ballymurphy.

Really, there was no work
and there was no money.

And it was a society that lived
from hand to mouth.

I mean, for a revolutionary,
it was tailor made.

I was involved in the IRA.

By the time Bernie
came on the scene,

I'd been involved
for almost four years.

She knew I was a
Provisional IRA man.

I was known as a gunman.

And I liked it.

I liked the thought of taking
the fight to the British.

And I was a committed Republican,
I truly was.

If you're going to be out on
operations, sooner or later,

you're going to get caught
or you're going to get killed.

One or the other.

I was 18, I was pregnant,
and then we decided to get married.

I didn't really know what else
to expect.

I knew I was going to be a mother.

When we got married,
I knew he was in the IRA.

But I said to him, "No, I don't want
you in the IRA because I don't want

"to be left sitting
as a prisoner's wife."

And he said, "OK, then,
I'll give it up."

But he didn't.

He didn't.

We got this house up in Moyard
and he left the house one morning

and said he was going
to look for a job.

I said, "Right, OK, then,
I'll see you later."

What had you told her that morning?

That I was going to go out,
looking for a job.

- Looking for work?
- Yep.

To sustain their operations,

the Provisional IRA have launched
a concerted campaign

of armed robbery,

and hundreds of thousands of pounds
have been stolen,

much of it to fund
the Provisional IRA.

We were asked to rob this bank
for the IRA.

It was an order.

We robbed the bank,
held up the staff, we held up

the customers and filled a
pillowcase full of money.

It was a good old-fashioned
Jesse James type robbery.

Cops were waiting on us
outside the bank.

I ended up getting arrested
and I remember actually saying

the words, "Mother Ireland,
get off my fucking back."


He was sent out to rob a bank,

and I was absolutely flabbergasted.

Sent out to rob a bank? For who?

He's not in anything.

And I thought, how was I so stupid
not to know that he was still there?

It was awful.

It truly was, it was awful.

And you feel like
an absolute bastard.

And I let her down badly.

He was sentenced to eight years.

This was exactly what I didn't want.

I thought, "Oh, no, no!

"Now I'm going to be
a prisoner's wife.

"Now I'm going to be
a single mother."

I didn't have much of a dream
prior to that

but we got married
and I thought,

"Well, we have a baby now, so we'll
make this dream along the way."

But this was a broken dream.

This turned into a nightmare.

And I was very,
very angry with Ricky.

Very let down, very hurt.

And it was a very hard
and very lonely time.

This is the home for the majority
of those convicted of terrorist

offences in Northern Ireland.

It's called the Maze prison,
where just over 1,000 prisoners

are kept in the so-called H-blocks.

The government ruled on March 1st
last year that terrorists

convicted of crimes committed
after that date would no longer

get special category status
but must wear prison uniform,

just like ordinary criminals.

We were in prison because
we were fighting the struggle

against the British government.

Prior to 1st March 1976,

all Republican prisoners didn't
have to wear prison clothes.

They didn't have to do prison work.

They could be in their own cages,
have their own command structure,

virtually political prisoners.

That was the prevailing
wind until the Brits says

there will be no more political
status. From here on in,

every prisoner is a criminal.

The Republican prisoners,
they refused to be criminalised.

They refused to wear prison clothes.

They refused to do prison work.

And they were thrown into a cell
and they were thrown a blanket,

hence the term "blanket man".

# I'm on the blanket protest #

# And my efforts will not fail... #

The time I was sentenced,
for me not to go on the blanket

would have been very dishonourable.

# I would not wear
their prison garb #

# I was a blanket man #

# I'll not accept their status #

# Never be criminalised... #

My hesitation was Bernadette.

After not telling her
I was back in the IRA,

here I was going on
this blanket thing, right?

That was going to ensure
that every minute that I was on it

was a minute longer
before I could get back to her.

Right? So in many ways,
it was a double betrayal.

You had to get a minibus
up to the jail.

You had a wee box.

And sometimes the prison officer
just came in and stood right in

and you only got
half an hour a month.

You're looking at a different man.

He was obsessed with his role
and his Republicanism,

even though I was sitting there
as his wife. I had to go up.

I wanted to go up,
but I hated going up.

There were a lot of women out there.

There was a lot of, I would have
called them now, looking back,

Republican groupies.

There were some women
flocked to men.

They looked up to
and admired these men.

You know, there was this machoism
they thought came from them.

You know, Republicanism
and that sort of life,

it was OK for them.

It just wasn't OK for me.

Women were left carrying the can.

You know, they'd to do the
triple shift, is what they say.

You know, keep the men happy
in jail and look after the kids

and run the house.

Women were like
second-class citizens.

When most of the men were in prison,

their kids were reared
by the women.

Those kids were...
They were lost as well.

There was a whole generation
of kids lost.

They grew up and it was such
an unbalanced society.

They grew up without their fathers,
without a father figure.

I'm Bernadette McDonnell.

I grew up in Lyndon Avenue,
it was just off Andersonstown.

There was me, my mummy, Joseph,
and my daddy when he was there.

I can remember Mummy saying
that it was a thing then,

like, fellas didn't push prams.
It was a woman's job.

She says, "Your da,
when he came back,"

she said, "He pushed yous up
and down them hills,"

and, you know, he was so proud.

He was always, you know, hands on.
Whenever he could, he would.

He was there.

My daddy was my daddy.

My daddy was just an ordinary man.

Nobody knew you were in the IRA.

I sort of can't remember
the bomb itself.

It would have been just on the news.

I can remember them coming in
saying they got my daddy.

He was sentenced,
when he went to Long Kesh,

got sentenced
for 14 and a half years.

So when he went there,
he decided there and then

that he wasn't taking visits and
would not let me or Joseph see him.

- So you didn't see your dad?
- No.

Four and a half years.

The only communication we had
with him was wee letters

that were smuggled in and out
of the prison.

And there was nothing worse
than your mummy,

if you were messing about,
or you'd done something,

and she'd have said,
"I'm writing to your daddy."

The thought of it
would have killed you!

And it was... We laugh about it now.
Like, what could he have done?

You know, when you get older
you realise,

"Sure, what could he have done?"

But then it was, "Oh, she's going
to write and tell him."

My mummy just had to get strong.

Mummy had two young kids
to look after.

[NEWSREEL]: The number of killed
and injured have made this

the worst weekend for months
in Northern Ireland.

But as in the case of most

the people who suffered
weren't the ones who started it all.

Just innocent customers
sitting in a bar.

[NEWSREEL]: A bus carrying workers
to their homes in Bessbrook village

was stopped by gunmen and ten
Protestants shot in cold blood.

A Republican group admitted

A Protestant paramilitary
organisation is thought responsible

for the bomb, which killed two
and injured five members

of Lisburn's Hibernian Club
last night.

I hated to see the news.

I hated to see another...
somebody had been blew up,

somebody had been shot.

[NEWSREEL]: It's the first time in
several months that the letter bomb

has been used as a weapon
in Northern Ireland,

and this will no doubt be seen
as an escalation

of the Provisional IRA's campaign
against prison officers.

A number of the devices
have been delivered

in and around Belfast today.

I thought we were lucky
out in the country.

I thought it was
a safe haven out there.

There's one of Johnnie and Adrian
at the front door of the flat.

That's a good one.

At that stage, Johnnie was working
in a mechanic's place,

and he says, "I think I'll hand in
my job and join the police."

There you see it's
the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The first time he brung
the forms home,

I threw them in the bin.
I thought, "No, I will not.

"I'll not go that road."
It wasn't... it wasn't safe.


[ARCHIVE REEL]: By any standards,
the RUC is unique.

No other force in the United Kingdom
is permanently armed with guns.

Our main problem, of course,
is the fact that we undertake

policing in a province
that's divided against itself.

And it's against that background
that the police have to perform

their duties, which are in service
of both and all sections

of the community.

You could hear in the news
that police were being targeted.

Probably the Republican side
of the community would have seen

the police as representing the Queen
and the British government,

and they didn't want that.

I just thought we'd be better
not going down that road

and staying away.

And Johnnie said, "No, it'd be
a better job, better pension,

"better life, better pay."
So he joined.

It was a good job.
It was a good living.

There wouldn't have been any riots
down in round where we lived.

So Johnnie's way of life
would have been just doing his job,

but being extra careful.

He loved going out in the community
and doing the work of the police.

We were very happy.

We weren't getting a great deal
of traction from outside in general,

because we were lying there every
day and we were doing nothing

on the blanket and nobody
had much interest in us.

And the dirty protests started
and a bit of momentum gathered.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: These are
the first pictures to be taken

of the protesters.

We put shit on the wall
and piss out the door.

We were doing something positive,

as we seen it,
we were fighting back.

There was actually a fight.

We're political prisoners!
We want political status!

We're political prisoners!

We didn't shave,
we didn't wash.

We didn't brush our teeth
for three and a half years.

You walked in the H Block,

you were hit with
an abominable smell.

Bloody drain running.

I hated maggots. Hated them.

The next thing, these fucking
things came and started to emerge.

And I was aghast.
Never seen a maggot in my life.

Dozens of them!

Here's me, "Fuck!
What are we going to do?"

But there was other guys,
their hair was just full

of dozens and dozens of maggots.

It was horrendous.

But the camaraderie
was just incredible.

That was the one thing that kept
the blanket men together.

And did Bernadette visit you?
Every month, religiously.

It was very, very unpleasant.

I don't think I would ever forget
the smell.

Ever forget the smell,
or ever forget what it was like

even kissing Ricky.

I used to go home
and try and rub my lips,

you know, because I could feel
that smell on my lips.

And this was horrendous.

It was a horrific experience.

She had to kiss me
because I had to give over

wee letters, wee communications...
we called them comms...

to the outside leadership.

It was wee tissue papers
and when Ricky came on a visit

then you had to kiss it over.

There was just this assumption,
you'll be brought down,

you'll go in there,
you'll get that letter.

It was just this expectancy.

I was told what to do,
as if they owned me.

When you say they owned you,
who is the "they"?

The Provos, the Sinn Fein.
The Provos, you know,

they were the ones the letters
was coming from, back and forward.

I just felt I'm drawn into this
wee world here

where I don't want to be.

All the time all this anger
was growing inside of me.

I got by, but I hated it.

I hated every minute of being
a prisoner's wife.

I never knew the word hate
until I got married,

until this happened.

The Queen has asked me to form

a new administration.
Where there is discord,

may we bring harmony.

And where there is despair,
may we bring hope.

[NEWSREEL]: Lord Mountbatten has been
killed by an explosion on his yacht

off the west coast
of the Irish Republic.

The Provisional IRA
have said they did it.

The blast also killed his grandson,
Nicholas, who was 14.

A member of the crew died as well.

Lord Mountbatten was a close
relative of both the Queen

and the Duke of Edinburgh.

[NEWSREEL]: It was at Warrenpoint last
week that all the British Army's

fears about the new Provisional IRA
organisation and tactics

were confirmed.

[NEWSREEL]: This multiple killing,
the worst the security forces

have ever suffered in Northern
Ireland, coming as it does

after the Mountbatten tragedy,
must serve to only further

heighten tensions
in Northern Ireland.

Now, don't move.

Can you please stand still?
And I will move.

I will move to see the people.
How are you?

Lord Mountbatten was Britain,
and Britain was Lord Mountbatten.

Raze the H Block!
We want H Block wiped out!

We want freedom for our country!

And your soldiers out!

[NEWSREEL]: The British government
have made it clear

there's no going back to the
pre '76 arrangements and meanwhile,

neither the blanket protest
nor the dirty protest

have had the slightest effect
in persuading the authorities

that those convicted
of terrorist offences

should have political status.

The British government
just sat back and said,

"Fuck them. Who cares?"

We were on the dirty protest for
the guts of three and a half years

and it had run its course.

The British conceded none
of our five demands.

So we had to end it.

Something needed to present itself.

And what presented itself
was the hunger strike.

Well, there was a huge list.

There might have been
70 or 80 names on it,

with people wanting
to go on hunger strike.

And our job was to pick people
who would die.

It's as simple as that.

Bobby Sands went on hunger strike,
on his own, on 1st March.

[MARGARET THATCHER]: We have a hunger
strike at the Maze prison

in the quest for what they call
political status.

There is no such thing as political
murder, political bombing

or political violence.

There is only criminal murder,
criminal bombing

and criminal violence.

We will not compromise on this.

There will be no political status.

Everything got more tense.

You know, when you went up
for a visit,

things were getting worse
on the outside and, you know,

the whole thing was gathering


[CROWD]: Brits out!

People who had no interest
were putting their weight

to get behind the prisoners,
to get this situation resolved,

in the hope of trying to save lives.

You thought by putting your face
in the crowd and building the crowd

that maybe the numbers here on
the streets will get this stopped.

The torture must be called
by its proper name.

So must all forms of oppression

and exploitation of man by the
state, of one people by the other.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: Britain's problem
does not end with Sands.

Behind the corrugated
defences of the Maze prison,

there are three other men
in the queue

for an agonising martyrdom.

The IRA has phased the hunger strike
to maximise pressure on the British.

As the hunger strikers
near the critical stage,

the atmosphere will become
more tense.

The temperature will raise.

The frustration
will become more intense.

And eventually
there will be a confrontation.

You did feel sorry for them,
but I didn't think they would go

as far as what they did.

I thought they would have called
it off, like the dirty protest.

Like, who in this day and age
would starve themselves to death

for a cause?

The wing itself became
like a morgue.

It was a death march.

Because we all knew Bobby
wasn't going to stop.

Unless the British moved...

he was going to die.

Mrs Sands, when are you coming
to see your son again?

Tomorrow. Tomorrow again.

Do you think if he does
go into a coma,

you would give the authorisation
for him to be intravenously fed?

No, he told me not to.

It's a sad thing to say,
and I would feel...

I love my son, just like
any other mother does,

but I wouldn't.

After 21 days or something,
he left our wing

and was taken up
to the prison hospital.

I remember just talking,

just having a quiet word with him.
"How are you, Bob?"

And there was an awful sadness
in his eyes.

He didn't want to die.

He was hoping against hope
that some solution could be found.

[NEWSREEL]: An IRA man on
hunger strike in the Maze prison,

Bobby Sands, has been left
with a straight fight

against the official Unionist
candidate, Mr Harry West,

in next month's Fermanagh
and South Tyrone by-election,

after the withdrawal
of the independent candidate.

Sands, Bobby.

Anti H Block, Armagh.
Political prisoner,



[ARCHIVE REEL]: Hunger striker
prisoner Bobby Sands

has won the by-election in Northern
Ireland by a narrow majority,

but it's still a propaganda boost
for the IRA.

There was a hope.

It was a very faint hope
that maybe because he was now an MP,

Thatcher would be reluctant
to let him die.

I understand Mr Sands is still
on hunger strike and I regret

that he has not decided
to come off it.

No concessions
as they have asked for?

No. There can be no possible
concessions on political status.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: Bobby Sands,
IRA man serving a 14-year sentence

for arms offences, begins
the 61st day of his hunger strike.

How's your son, Mrs Sands?

My son's dying, and I would like
to appeal to the people...

...for to remain calm

and to have no fighting
or cause no death or destruction.

Take it away.

Thanks very much.

[NEWSREEL]: In the last hour,
the news has filtered through

to this community that Bobby Sands
has died after 66 days

of hunger strike.

It was just awful.
It was just...

...incredibly, incredibly sad.

You know?

It was a blessing...

...to have met him.


I can remember hearing the bin lids
when Bobby Sands died.

There was a lot more rioting.

It definitely did up the ante,
there's no doubt about that.

Belfast was ratcheted up
to boiling point, you know.

It was craziness.

The tribal thing split
the two communities in half.

But the Catholics would be mourning
the death of the hunger strikers,

and we'd be praying for them to die,
you know what I mean?


Oh, I just get the shivers,
even thinking about it.

The atmosphere was so heavy.

You felt it and you heard it.

You just knew
it's going to just explode.

I think those, for me, are probably
the worst times that I remember,

whenever Northern Ireland was very,
very close to all-out civil war.

Let's have you,
you fucking bastard!


Can I ask you how you feel
about Bobby Sands' death?

Delighted. Delighted.

Here, yo, yo, yo!

I mean, there was 100,000 people
or something

at Bobby Sands' funeral.

There was so much fear
and anger and hopelessness.


I carried a wreath at Bobby's
funeral, behind the coffin.

Bobby was just my daddy's friend.

I can remember Bobby's family.

Bobby's son.


Heartbreaking seeing
them standing at the grave.

Did you ever think when you saw that
that you would be in that position?

No, never.

It was Friday night and my mummy
got us before we went to bed.

Just got us, me and Joseph
together and told us.

Explained to us
what was happening.

That my daddy was going
on hunger strike the next day.

We got up the next day
and the cameras were all

outside the front door.

My husband could die.

I know he could die.

And if my husband did die,
I would still... I will continue

and fight until every man,
every Irish man is free.

I'm young, I want my husband,
and my children need their father.

We got to see my daddy
on hunger strike.

That was the first time
in four and a half years.

So to see your daddy
after four and a half years,

it was very special.
Very special.

I can remember just seeing him
standing there.

He was gorgeous. He was lovely.
He was just my daddy.

To me that day,
he was Joe McDonnell, my daddy.

He wasn't Joe McDonnell,
hunger striker.

He put us on his knee,
he let us sit on his knee.

And I remember my aunt saying,
"Get off your knee,

"get off your daddy's knee."

He says, "I'll hold them here
as long as I can."

It was really, really lovely.

A week later,
Frank Hughes is dead.


I would just like to say
that Margaret Thatcher,

the British government,
has murdered my brother.

Francis' blood
is on Margaret Thatcher's hands.

Thatcher was as static as ever.

"Fuck them. Let them die.
Bring it on."

It's a tragedy that young men
should be persuaded, coerced

or ordered to starve themselves
to death for a futile cause.

It would seem that dead hunger
strikers who have extinguished

their own lives are of more
use to the Provisional IRA

than living members.

Two weeks after that, we had
the deaths of Raymond McCreesh

and Patsy O'Hara.

So there was four hunger
strikers dead.

So you had this sort of cycle
of death.

There was quite a lot of murders
during the hunger strike.

Another policeman,
another soldier.

Johnnie had been on the police
for about a year.

We were scared.

[NEWSREEL]: The bomb went off
and the policeman who died

was 23-year-old Kenneth Atchison,
who lived with his wife

and baby son in Armagh.

The IRA have always viewed
the RUC as legitimate targets.

They've always viewed them
as the defenders of the state.

This was Constable Robinson's
local pub.

The gunmen were obviously aware
of his movements and were waiting

for him to leave.

And did the IRA make a distinction
between good cops and bad cops?

No such thing.

As far as the IRA was concerned,
they were all bad cops.

Did you ever consider that police
officers have families?

No. It is never the individual.
The IRA attacked the uniform.

They didn't attack Henry Jones
or Bertie Smith.

They attacked the uniform.

In our village, there had been
a young man going home from work

on the main road when another car
came up behind him

and tried to shoot him.

Only the gun jammed
and the magazine fell out.

Then that heightened
the whole security thing.

You were just... You knew
this had come home.

This had touched our village.

You know, the Troubles had come
to sleepy Upperlands.

You'd have been going shopping
and watching,

was there anyone following you,
or was there a car sitting about?

When you had someone in
the security forces in your family,

that was your way of life.

Constantly living the fear
of not knowing

when it would be your turn.

Every time you turned the TV on,
somebody was dead.

Six IRA men were killed, there were
13 paratroopers were killed.

Another policeman was killed.

Just so much killing in this place,
and it's becoming so normal.

But we were a very dysfunctional
and broken society.

I don't think Berna...

Bernadette didn't handle
the whole thing well at all.

Bernadette came up on a visit.

And all I talked about the whole
visit was the hunger strike,

and she snapped.

And she says, "I don't...
I don't give a fuck about you.

"I don't give a fuck
about your hunger strike."

I was so angry. So angry.

I didn't want to go up there
and listen about the so-called war.

I think at that stage, they must've
thought I was having the breakdown,

because they sent somebody up
to the house.

This was after a visit.

And I said, "Fuck you
and fuck the IRA.

"Fuck Maggie Thatcher
and fuck Richard O'Rawe."

So it wasn't a good place.

It wasn't a good place.

We were going up to see our daddy.

And because he was on hunger strike
then, we got to see him more.

Two fellas in America had decided
that they were going to try

and take kids out of the conflict
from both sides

over to America to give them
a break during the summer.

And Joseph decided
he wasn't going.

So I says I wasn't going.

My daddy says to me,
"Please go. Go, love."

He says,
"Go there and tell everybody.

"Tell everybody
what's happening here."

So I did. I just wanted
to make him proud.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: Over 700 children
from both sides of the divide

are flying to America
to holiday together.

I'm going to Upper State New York.
New York.

What are you going to do
out in the States?

- Play football.
- Get a girl!

Well, we're here on Flight E435,

and it's just a few minutes
before take-off.

It was difficult
because I was leaving my daddy.

I was leaving my mummy and
Joseph, but I knew I had to do it.

I went on TV. I went on the radio.

Papers, anything just to try
and keep my daddy alive.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: I was out playing on
the swing,

and I heard five big shots
going off,

and you'd think the sky
was just coming in on you.

Now, your dad, I think we should
say your dad is in prison, right?

- Yes. - And he's also one of the
hunger strikers, isn't he? - Yes.

Can anybody help the situation,
do you think, in Northern Ireland?

Well, if the people of America
would write to President Reagan,

he might phone Mrs Thatcher
and then the pressure

would be put on Mrs Thatcher
and she will have to do something.

Unbelievable, isn't it, like,
for a ten-year-old?

You know, we had to let
the world know.

You felt that responsibility?
Yes, I did feel that responsibility,


[ARCHIVE REEL]: Ten-year-old
Bernadette McDonnell is visiting

a Long Island, New York family.

Her father, Joseph McDonnell,
is seven weeks into a hunger strike

in Maze prison.
He's fighting for his country.

When you saw him last Saturday,
how was he?

Well, his teeth
was starting to stick out.

And he was spitting up water.

Is he?

And every day, Bernadette
awaits her aunt's telephone calls

on her father's condition.

She knows she'll lose him,
but she says the struggle

to get the British out
of Northern Ireland will go on.

We'll just go on doing what we've
been doing.

Helping on the streets and watching.

I can't remember that one.

That was a wee bit more...

...harder to watch that one.

- Why?
- Erm, I seen a child holding back.

Holding back in crying.

Holding back in maybe
just wanting to run home.

Maybe just...
Just holding back.

Well, tonight, the man with most
at stake is the hunger striker

Joe McDonnell, now about to enter
his 61st day without food.

He's said to be very weak,
and his family are at his bedside.

I can remember getting phone calls.

I knew my daddy wasn't good.

I just knew by the phone calls.

And I wanted home.

And my aunt came and got me
from the airport.

And we were coming up Kennedy Way
onto Andytown road,

and there was a bus burning.

And I says,
"What's the bus burning for?"

And they shouted,
"Joe McDonnell's dead."

So that's how I found out
my daddy was dead.


At that time my daddy's body
was home.

And I can remember looking at him
and crying.

I cried and I cried hard.

And that was it, I didn't cry again.

I wasn't going to do this.

We just kissed the coffin.

And that was my 11th birthday.

My daddy was buried
on my 11th birthday.

All I ever wanted
when I was a kid was my daddy.

Just my daddy to be there. I think
any wee girl wants their daddy.

That poor wee girl, I remember
her mummy and I remember

what they went through.

You didn't think you were ever
going to come out of it.

You didn't know...
Does anybody want to resolve this?

And you were going,
"There's lives here.

"There are lives,
there are men dying.

"Somebody swallow your pride,
do something."

The thing was like a juggernaut,
an out-of-control juggernaut.

[NEWSREEL]: With six hunger strikers
now dead and two more likely

to die within a few days,

the IRA protest,
far from fizzling out

as some people thought it might,

seems to be making
a growing impact.

Nobody knew where it was going or
how it was going to end.


[NEWSREEL]: Now nine prisoners dead,
the strike has still not ended.

Another IRA man
began refusing food today.

There were violent scenes in Dublin
as a demonstration in support

of the hunger strikers
was broken up.

By then it was clear
this war could have no winner.

This is where they were planning
to come to live.

It's decorated to perfection.

Oh, they had done very well,
you know,

to have this house finished for
the new baby coming home on Friday.

We actually had moved house
and I was papering.

I was putting wallpaper on
and I went into early labour.

So I went into hospital
on the Thursday morning.

And then Johnnie was born
on the Thursday night.

- How was that?
- That was quick!

That was quick, when he wasn't due
for another five weeks.

On the Saturday night
when I was still in hospital,

my friend and neighbour
had been shot dead in the village.

And Johnnie had come up to the
hospital that night to tell me.

That was a shock.

Alan was security forces as well.

So that would be the first night
that it brought it home to him

that he had a target on his back.

Johnnie went to his funeral
and carried his coffin.

Then he came up that night to visit.

I can still recall that day,
that night.

Still recall waiting on Johnnie
coming to the hospital.

It's husbands only at night,

so no-one else
is allowed in to visit.

And he'd come in and we
had sandwiches in the ward.

Somebody had brought sandwiches up,
and we were having tea

and sandwiches,
and we were still chatting.

Then it come that time,
it's time to go home.

You know, you can still see yourself
walking down the corridor,

saying goodnight and hurrying
back up the corridor

to the window and then standing
there to wait for his car

to come up, which never came.

You know, you're standing
at the window

and the gunmen's car come up.

I was only in hospital
for five days,

and within five days,

the IRA had everything set up,
you know,

for to kill him that night.


[NEWSREEL]: John Proctor was
the 17th policeman to be killed

in Ulster this year.

But the cold-blooded cruelty
of John Proctor's murder

has left people
shocked and horrified.

He was just getting into the car.

We'd bought a new car
and he was getting into the car,

so it was,
and Johnnie didn't see them.

And they shot him in the back.
In the back.

Of all places, in the back.

Our whole families
were just ripped apart.

Like, the hunger strikers,
they had a choice on their life,

whether to starve themselves
and give up their life,

whereas Johnnie didn't pick that
he wanted to be killed that night

outside the hospital, you know.

He got no choice in that.

That night, he wasn't a policeman.

He was a father and a husband
going up to see his newborn son.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: The day after the funeral,

June returned to the hospital
where John was killed

to collect the new baby.

Is that our wee baby? Is it?

- Coat?
- No, that's not a coat. That's his shawl.

- Shawl? - Shawl. You have to wrap
that round him and keep him warm.

That's to keep him warm.

June had intended to call
the new baby Ryan,

but he'll now be christened John,
after his father.

That's your wee brother! Isn't it?
Baby! Baby.

Everything changed.

It's going to be a whole new world.

Not one we had planned, but...

Two boys and no father.

Did you sort of wonder why it
had to be your dad?

Not then, no.

Afterwards maybe.

I can't imagine a life...

...with him being there, because
he wasn't, you know what I mean?

But I can tell you what he missed.


He's missed a life with my mummy.

He's missed watching
me and Joseph grow up.

He's missed out on life himself.

But he done it for us.

Done it for his country.

I still get people that come
to me and say he was a hero.

How does it make me feel?

Proud. Very proud.

Everything about the Troubles
was sad.

Every life that was lost
during the Troubles was sad.

Whether you were a police officer
or a soldier,

a UVF man, an IRA man,
a hunger striker.

Every life was precious.

And yet life here meant nothing.

So many broken hearts.

So many broken hearts
in this country.

I left prison.
Bernadette said to me,

"Look, I want you
out of everything."

And, erm...
She says, "It's like this here.

"It's either the Republican
movement, or me and your daughter."

So I left the movement.

And I think I put her through hell,
and I regret that.

We made it through.

Surprising as it was,
and tough as it was.

We are lucky that we're still alive
and we're still together

and we got here, because so many
people from that period of time...

...didn't make it through.

- You're still married.
- Still here!

- You did it.
- Yeah.

- 46.
- 46 years now.

46 years married.

46 golden years!

No comment!

[NEWSREEL]: The principal strand
of evidence linking this man,

Seamus Martin Kearney,
to the killing was a cigarette butt

found close to the getaway car.

The judge imposed a life sentence.

We were robbed of our justice.

I've had good times.
I've remarried.

I've had more family.

I've grandchildren.

But it's always been there.

The hatred is there.
I've lived my life with that.

My prayers at night,
I could never say

"and forgive those
that trespass against us".

I can't say that.
I can't say that in my prayer.

[ARCHIVE REEL]: Do you know who does all this?

Our life was living a lie
all of the time.

Did I say something?
Did I slip up?



A terrorist is a terrorist
is a terrorist.

You've got to remove those people
from society.

One wrong word can lead
to somebody dying.

Loose talk costs lives.

To watch exclusive interviews
about the making of this series,


...and follow the links
to the Open University.