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29 September 2005 Edition

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TV Review: Dispatches


Aran Foley takes a wry look at Channel 4's much hyped documentary on the Northern Bank job.

Dispatches from Disneyland

TV Review


Channel 4

Last Thursday's Dispatches on Channel 4 purported to be an investigation into the so-called Northern Bank job. Dramatic reconstructions were used along with breathless talkovers and the usual suspects were rolled out to say "yes it was the IRA what done it". As usual there was nothing offered in the way of proof and like so much of this type of politically-motivated journalism it was a case of the wish being the mother of the thought.

The IRA are on record denying any involvement in the robbery and any objective viewer would have to conclude that the Dispatches programme failed to contradict that denial in any meaningful way.

The argument the programme put forward can be summarised thus. Members of the PSNI and former members of RUC Special Branch such as Bill Lowry say they did it, Michael McDowell says they did it, some hack journalists say they did it, the IMC agree and an embittered former MLA says various people must have known.

Much is made of the discovery of a large quantity of Northern Bank notes in Cork, however no attempt is made to analyse this. The fact is that Northern Bank notes were being recalled at the time. Anyone with this type of currency 'stuck under the mattress' would have been under pressure to convert it. This is a far more likely explanation for the presence of large numbers of these notes at any given place.

I think that the only thing of note about this programme is that Michael McDowell was prepared to come on it and engage in politically-motivated speculation. Given the man this is not surprising, but in his capacity as Minister for Justice it is disgraceful. Perhaps the most telling quote from the programme was "When the Northern Bank Job went down the Northern Peace Process died" While I don't accept that, the question must be asked, qui bono?


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