viewer discussion


Your program will enlighten many Americans-including myself- about the violent political realities of the Irish situation since 1969. Our normal sources of information (misinformation) consists of two minute bomb clips on the networks and/or sketchy wire services stories. Your account places in dramatic focus the complexity of political and military forces in Ireland that most of us on this side of the Atlantic do not understand. The savage acts of violence carried out by all sides and graphically portrayed in the program are powerful statements that the pursuit of a peaceful solution is worth the political risk by all interested parties.


Your coverage was very one sided and still did not speak to the root of the problem. You should follow up with a show on the History of Ireland and Show how the English first stole all Irish land of value then tried to kill off the native population i.e. penal laws,the cromwellian days, the genocide in the mid 1800's that most pass off as a famine. Lets show the whole truth and mention how the loyalist paramilitarties have p until the 1990's have killed more Catholics that the IRA. If you were not so closley aassociated with the BBC I might actually think you would do this.

Wethersfield, CT


I don't see peace coming to Northern for Ireland many year. I am of Irish decent and raised a protestant, my best friend (Irish also) was raised a Catholic. We both agree that Religion has brought Ireland much saddness. The British should get out and stay out, they have brought much untold misery and suffering to the world since they became a nation. I depise the British for their attitudes, arrogance and conciet.

Richard Mylar
Newport, WA


As someone who lived in the UK between 1982 and 1992 I cannot believe all the IRA attrocities omitted from the broadcast that hardened the British against the IRA. By Concentrating on soft targets such as pub bombings, the Harrod's Christmas bombing and the most outstanding attack at a memorial service on Rememberance Sunday in Enniskillin, murdering both Catholic and Protestants alike the IRA showed themselves for the cowards they are. After the attack in Enniskillin, I thought maybe this will be the time Jerry Adams will show himself to be a man of integrety, condemning the shedding of innocent blood, but no, he called it a legitimate target.

Jim Flannery
Phoenixville, PA


I watched your program covering the IRA struggles in Northern Ireland. I found the program very informative. This aspect of Irish history, along with studies of Irish culture in general, interests me. I often feel at a disadvantage (or perhaps advantage, depending on how one views it) as a member of the younger generation -- I am 27. Of course, I have become increasingly aware of the ongoing conflict in Ireland as I have grown older, but I had not understood many of the details about the political forces behind it. Your program helped to bring together some of the major events and figures involved in this war. Thank you.

Eileen Fitzgerald


Tonight's episode, The Secret History of the I.R.A., was the most biased peice of "news gathering" I've seen in several years. Your "documentary" on the history of the IRA was slanted, incomplete, and at times bordered on Orwellian propoganda.

Your description of the IRA and Sinn Fein casts them as, at best, misguided villians, at worst as sinister blood-hungry monsters. You make no mention whatever of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the fatalities in Northern Ireland have been suffered by the Catholics at the hands of British supported 'Loyalist.' paramilitary groups.

The frequent use of the phrases " Catholics 'feel'" or " the Catholics perceive themselves to be" casts intentional doubt on the truth of their position. That these phrases were ubiquitous in your narrative is too glaring to be passed off as an oversight. What agenda are you trying to put forth ?

The use of gerrymandering to disable a segment of the popluation from voting, the invocation of the "Special Powers Act" to strip that population of it's rights, Britain's continuing military occupation of a segment of a neighboring country, the underhanded and disingenuous 'diplomancy' of the British government in this matter are facts. Not perceptions. They are a necessary part of the story. To give them short shrift is sloppy newgathering. To omit them entirely, as you have done, creates a powerful and misleading lie.

When the credits rolled I wasn't suprised to see the letters BBC as the author of the peice. What saddened me was that PBS was right beside them.

I would like to point out that I am an American of predominantly African descent. I am not a Catholic. I have no personal stake whatever in the outcome of the Irish conflict. I simply wish, if you're going to tell these stories, that you be responsible enough to tell them in a balanced and truthful way.

Yours truly,
G. Alden Thorne


Whether there will be peace depends on two things: one is the readiness of the hardline loyalists to end the harassment of the nationalist community, as is still going on with the blockades of Catholic churches in County Antrim, and the other is the readiness of the British government to take as seriously the assaults on Catholic civilians as it has attacks by the IRA against members of the police and army.

Doug McFerran
Los Angeles CA


Thank you so much for providing a deep look into a much superficially covered conflict and its most publicized protagonist/ antagonist: Sinn Fenn and the IRA. It is an utter shame that the coverage of a thirty year hell of human stupidity, treachery, hypocracy, and tragedy has been lacking in any discussion of motive or reason. Until now, I do not believe that many Americans have seen anything of this conflict outside of the bombings and shootings. The charting of the initial independance movements, Bloody Sunday, and to current times alone did more to at least give an idea of how these types of war occur than the lackluster information one gets from the news and from school.

Most certainly in a conflict this heated, some people close to the "troubles" on either side may find exception with the focus and believe that there is a possible bias with this program. Very well, but for the rest of America, we are glad at least to see a keyhole look into the minds of some of the major players, these peacemakers and peacebreakers. I do wish that, at the same time, that some more emphasis and information on how exactly groups like this, even anywhere else in the world, get their funding. The American/ British funding connections to either side of the war would have been a very intriguing subject. Possibly a subject for a future program?

Frontline has tempered pictures of gutted buildings and bloodied victims with background detail in a way that so profoundly cries for a peaceful solution way more than any of the sensationalist coverage from the "info-tainment" types. After this program, I do not fathom how people in America, at this time or considering in the future, can fund ANY group, organization, or government that at all picks up arms to secure its freedoms or policies. It is not a game, it is not some Hollywood fantasy, it is not a way to augment their nationalist or religious loyalties. These Americans are not investing in freedom, they are merely paying for death. Hopefully, these aforementioned people, will reconsider: for the sake of themselves and for the sake of the Irish people, on either side, who will be victimized by such gifts..

Thank you again for broadcasting this program and may you have many more successes with such programs of depth and illuminating coverage.

With gratitude,
Donald Cook
Kent, Ohio


I have just finished watching your latest program on the IRA issue. I must say that I was appaled at the lack of full coverage of the issue. First of all what of the majority of the Nothern Irish people? Why wasn't their point of view explored? I must say that you portrayed them in a poor light and mention them so little one would think that they didn't even exist! No only this but why are the IRA portrayed as hard fighting heroes? Is it because they are a minority that they are protrayed in such a good manner or is it because the Irish American lobby is so great? The main issue is why should the majority of Northern Ireland have to be forced into a union at gun point if this isn't their democratic choice? Why wasn't this aspect look at? This program has needlessly glamourize the IRA and vilified both the British and the majority of Nothern Ireland. I am ashamed that this biased view is supposed to inform anyone. I honestly believe that the reason why the IRA is and was so well equiped in arms and funds is due to programs such as yours who portray them as heroes to the general public! After all it seems that all their supplies are saddly coming from our nation! Why doesn't that bother us? I suppose you wouldn't consider a program on Timothy Macvey as a freedom fighter? So why portray ths IRA as such? Terrorism is wrong! Didn't such men as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. prove that point. Shame on Frontline for making a bunch of minority extremist into heroes!

Jonathan Wald
Cosmopolis, Washington.


The role of Irish-Americans in supplying aid and comfort to a bunch of sociopathic murders makes me sick and disgusted. I've spoken to Irish Catholics both in Ireland itself and those living in England. They are also appalled by the ignorance of Irish-Americans who romanticize these thugs.

My family and I lived in London for year and were subject to IRA terrorism there: terrorism bought and paid for in the good old USA. The IRA doesn't care who iT kills or maims, including women, children or visiting Americans, in order to get its way. How can setting car bombs on busy streets, railway platforms at rush hour, aboard Tube trains running in underground tunnels, and incendiary devices planted in crowded London department stores be called the act of soldiers?

The people of Northern Ireland need peace,democracy and religious equality more than they need to be part of the Irish republic, but the "hard men" will never (underlined) give it to them.

My surname is Irish and I am Catholic.

Elizabeth McBrearty
Tucson, AZ


Tonight's Frontline was a model of unbiassed objective reporting allowing the viewer to make up his, or her, own mind about a complex situation. It demonstrated the blunders and miscalculations of both sides over the past, almost 30 years.

The question to Mrs MacKearney at the end of the program relative to what the sacrifice of three sons has accomplished brought out the sheer futileness of the strife. This was by far the best PBS documentary of the past year. Congratulations!

Bill Rigby


I think that until there is a total withdrawl of the British and a complete unification of Ireland, that the prospects of a lasting peace are not good. In my opinion the Brits are not going to relenquish their grip on Northern Ireland if they think that the military offensive is no longer a threat and until they realize that their days of colonialisim are over they will no leave. Just look how long it took them to give up Hong Kong, and they still haven't even considered leaving Gibraltar or The Falklands. It is like an open wound for them to give back what they have taken from others. I fully support the efforts of the IRA and Sinn Fein and I pray for the day when Ireland is once again united.

Las Cruces, NM


Thank you for the report on the IRA. It was a little extrodinary in its integrity. The role of the Brithish as occupiers and oppressors was not too deeply hidden under "anti-terrorist" rhetoric.

I believe it is obvious that the IRA does nothing more or less than can be expected of people with dignity when confronted with bald imperialistic agression and domination. How many times must this lesson be learned? I wish that the report could have mentioned that the meaning of Sinn Fein in Gaelic is "Ourselves Alone". British gov't tricks and lies over literally hundreds of years have taught these soldiers well. They have advanced the cause of a united Ireland which is the foundation of peace there.

Terrrence Finnerty Burke
Pasadena, CA

I was sickened to see the criminal waste committed by the IRA. I was shamed to think it bankrolled by the U.S. This struggle is about power, not human rights. I see no Irish republican cause worthy of American support or interest.

Here in America why should anyone resident more than a generation feel loyalty to any other country? America would condemn German-Americans for supporting neo-Nazism in a united Germany, or, in fact, any cause that differed from Americaís direct interests. How can we classify this as anything but hatred?

I am astounded at our governmentís mishandling of this situation and for turning its back on our closest ally: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We have no business in funding these miseries or in adjudicating their outcome.


Thank you PBS for airing a program that would never even surface as a sounbyte on other networks! I have a strong response to viewing "Behind the Mask". John Major demonstrated that he was just as foolish as Margaret Thatcher in underestimating the IRA, Sinn Fein, Irish-Americans, and the consequence of arrogance. How are peace talks, or even negotiations of peace talks ever going to be constructive unless you invite all of the parties involved? It is presumptious to assert that Sinn Fein should cripple themselves before trying to attempt a resolution. When you shoot people during peaceful protests, such as Bloody Sunday, you loose the right to make such demands; you loose the trust of a people. I found his impatience and pompous behavior startling and offensive, NOT diplomatic. As far as his disgust with President Clinton's decision to grant Gerry Adams a Visa, I am equally offended. Ian Paisley not only has a Visa, but that animal is allowed to come and go as he pleases. The least Clinton could do is offer a Visa to Gerry Adams. Once again thank you for airing the program.

Middletown, CT


Because of my Irish heritage I have always had an interest in developing an understanding of the "troubles." An understanding that many Americans really don't have. I am currently at university attending St. Bonaventure and I am working on a paper for my political science class. I decided to do it on the troubles (more specifically the British reactions to them). The Frontline special was extremely helpful, especially in regards to the developments of the peace process today. All I can say is that I have always been in favor of a united Ireland (even though it seems to be an impossibility). I do feel that a British withdrawal will futher the process. Compromise is the key. If any thing can be learned it is that violence only breeds more violence. This must be kept in mind at all times.

Ross McGill
Plattsburgh, NY


Pretty good show. I think it missed the point of the use of force by loyalist and crown forces and how many have died at their hands. The first bomb and the first dead member of the RUC came from the loyalist. It serves to inform people that the IRA isn't the military force conducting bombings etc. in Ireland. Some authors place the number of dead by their hand as higher than the death toll from the Provisional IRA.

Bob Frandsen
Leavenworth, KS


For years the British Conservative Party have tried to convince the British public and the world that no bargaining could ever be done with the IRA and Sinn Fein. The British people have finally made there opionion heard with a new Labour Party in government that actualy has intentions for real and lasting peace. At this point it would have been fatal for the IRA not to declare a cease-fire and settle for some type of compromise that could benefit all parties involved.

Mauricio Garzon
Dallas, TX


While I do not consider myself an I.R.A. supporter, the program made clear the reasons for the escalation of I.R.A. violence in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

The Catholic minority in the six counties was economically and politically excluded from society. To expect anything but a violent response to this situation was naive at best. The consensus seems to be that the Unionists are no longer in a position to block progress toward a united Ireland. I pray that it is so. I also pray that the members of the Provisional I.R.A. have come to realize the futility of bloodshed in this conflict.

David Brannan
Milwaukee, WI


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