Archives for September 2018

I, Dolours”, fascinating window into Irish history.

I, Dolours.

There were a num­ber of new Irish fea­tures released this sum­mer. For­tu­nate­ly, one of them at least has gen­uine sub­stance. I, Dolours is based entire­ly on an inter­view that life-long Irish Repub­li­can Dolours Price gave to vet­er­an jour­nal­ist Ed Moloney.

Moloney is the one time North­ern Edi­tor of The Irish Times and the Sun­day Tri­bune, and the author of a num­ber of high­ly acclaimed books on the trou­bles. So when Price approached him in 2010 about con­duct­ing a lengthy inter­view with her, he was hap­py to oblige on one con­di­tion. That they only pub­lish the result­ing inter­view after she had passed away.

Ed Moloney’s A Secret His­to­ry of the IRA.

When sub­se­quent­ly she died of a drug over­dose, not long after in 2013, Moloney teamed up with film mak­er Mau­rice Sweeney to begin the process of what would even­tu­al­ly become this film.

The deci­sion to tell her sto­ry entire­ly from her per­spec­tive is an inspired one. It frees them up from any need for objec­tiv­i­ty or bal­ance, and what they pro­duce instead is a his­to­ry of the trou­bles from the inside out.

So instead of try­ing to pro­duce an objec­tive his­to­ry that seeks to estab­lish exact­ly what hap­pened and who was respon­si­ble, we fol­low the chain of events that helps explain why it is that a nor­mal, high­ly intel­li­gent, and extreme­ly artic­u­late woman can end up lead­ing a life, and com­mit­ting acts that, from the out­side look­ing in, appear to be inde­fen­si­ble and inexplicable.

Born into a life of pover­ty and prej­u­dice, her staunch­ly Repub­li­can Belfast home was haunt­ed by the pres­ence of her mother’s sis­ter, who had lost her hands and her eyes in a botched IRA bomb­ing, and who lived upstairs in per­pet­u­al pain and dis­com­fort. Sur­pris­ing­ly, giv­en the atmos­phere at home, Price begins by march­ing for peace in defi­ance of her her­itage. But when she is amongst those who are attacked in the infa­mous Burn­tol­let Bridge inci­dent, in 1969, she, like most of those with her there, becomes per­ma­nent­ly radicalised.

Lor­na Larkin as Dolours.

She then moves quick­ly up through the IRA ranks, and describes in detail, and with chill­ing detach­ment, her role in a num­ber of those that the IRA had “dis­ap­peared” through­out the 1970s. The most con­tro­ver­sial of which was Jean McConville, moth­er of ten and, accord­ing to Price, a British informer, and about whom Price is espe­cial­ly caus­tic. And for the rest of the film, we fol­low her as she moves from activist to rud­der­less, for­mer paramilitary.

Just how much cre­dence you give her ver­sion of these events will large­ly depend on which side of the Orange Green divide that you stand. And when we lat­er hear just how embit­tered and dis­il­lu­sioned she becomes in the wake of the Peace process in the 1990s, it’s clear that at least some of what she has to say about the past has been warped by the prism of her prej­u­dices. None the less, a great deal of the sto­ry she tells rings res­o­nant­ly true.

Price’s for­mer hus­band, Stephen Rea, car­ry­ing her coffin.

And in any case, that would be to miss the point. How reli­able she is as a wit­ness to his­to­ry is not what this film sets out to explore. That atroc­i­ties were com­mit­ted on all sides over the course of three decades is not dis­put­ed. What’s much more impor­tant, and much more inter­est­ing, is being giv­en an insight as to how it is that thou­sands of per­fect­ly nor­mal, and often high­ly intel­li­gent peo­ple, can end up devot­ing their lives to acts of appar­ent­ly sense­less vio­lence. And how hard they find it to cope, once their rai­son d’être has been erased.

Con­dem­na­tion is easy and ulti­mate­ly hol­low. Illu­mi­nat­ing why and how is the only thing that can pro­duce under­stand­ing. Which is what makes this film so impor­tant. And so fascinating.

You can see the trail­er to I, Dolours here.

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