Spotlight on ‘A Secret History’

Gareth Mulvenna is a writer and an observer of Loyalism whose work I have praised before on this site. In this piece for writingthetroublesweb he takes BBC Spotlight to task for failing to properly examine Loyalism in its recent ‘Secret History’ series. I think he has a point. The series was generally Provo heavy (leaving out the Officials and the INLA by and large) and aside from examining the role played by Loyalists in edging the IRA to a ceasefire, light on the early years and development of groups like the UDA and their relationship with mainstream Unionism. Anyway, here are his thoughts:

Writing the 'Troubles'

By Gareth Mulvenna

secret historya version of historical events which differs from the official or commonly accepted record and purports to be the true version – Collins English Dictionary

This is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the recent Spotlight series. I don’t think it is possible to fairly appraise the full project in only 1500 words; however, it aims to provide a few comments on some issues which I noted over the seven episodes, analyse the dearth of new information on loyalism (my main area of interest) and appeal for a better understanding of what the aims of the programme actually were. I also hope it will generate a discussion among academics and others about the documentary itself and journalistic treatments of the ‘Troubles’ more widely 50 years on from 1969.

When it was announced that the Spotlight team were working on a ‘secret history’…

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One response to “Spotlight on ‘A Secret History’

  1. The series may have been Provo heavy but I thought it very light on new information. Apart for the naming of Willie Frazer as a Loyalist gun supplier, after years of innuendo and hints, the interviews with the Mid Ulster UVF gun man and the Bowyer Bell film, there was very little else over the six hours of film. Certain reading something like Peter Taylor’s trilogy and A Secret History of the IRA (not too sure who wrote that one…) would have covered most of the details.

    One thing which did strike me was how gullible must Johnny Adair have been to involved with Willie Frazer? You would think if your game was illegal activity and someone introduced you to a bumpkin like Frazer you would run a mile. You would almost think he had reassurance from state forces that he was free to proceed…

    I think the BBC’s In The Front Line.. series has been much more commendable.

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