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4 March 1999 Edition

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Television: Cringy

Carla's Song (Channel 4)
Land and Freedom (Channel 4)
Loyalists (BBC2)
Shanghai Vice (Channel 4)
Down To The Bedrock (RTE)
I know it wasn't on TV but Jim Sheridan's ``The Boxer'' deserves mention as what must be one of the most appalling and cringe inducing movies to be made.

Scripted no doubt by New Consensus, it was a case of Barry McGuigan meets Danny Boy, shillelagh up me arse nonsense and resembled an RUC press release.

The IRA were cast as layabouts who spent their days drinking and practising their frowns.

It was a pleasant change therefore to see republicans cast in a positive light in yet another Ken Loach classic ``Land and Freedom''. If one has any sense one should promptly stock one's video library with Loach's classic movies, which manage to combine tales of injustice and the struggle against, and a raw working class humour.

For some reason Irish people presume we all supported the good guys in the Spanish Civil War, whereas in fact the majority of the country with ``the Bishops blessed the blueshirts in DĂșn Laoghaire as they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain''.

Not so the central character in C4's Sunday night movie, an ideological young Liverpudlian who joins the good fight with Frank Ryan, Tyrone's Charlie Donnelly and other international Brigadistas .

Ex-IRA heart throb ``Coogan'' leads the heroic fight in the lusty hills, dying heroically fighting the fascists.

Of late, particularly, among the Dublin establishment, the ``Coogans'' and others who survived ie. Michael O Riordan, veteran communists and republicans, who up to recently were ``kept under the leaba'' are now feted as heroes by some of the same ilk who threw razor blade imbedded potatoes at them in the 1930's.

Soon to hit our screens, ``Carla's Song'' runs along similar lines, following a divil-may-care Glasgow bus driver who befriends a Nicaraguan refugee and eventually joins the good fight against the CIA organised Contras, who were busy cutting babies from their mothers wombs and the like, in the name of ``demock-rassy''.

On the same level of barbarity were the Shankill Butchers, ``a decent bunch of lads'' as described by colleague Gorman McMullen, featured in part two of Peter Taylor's flawed ``Loyalists'' series. Focusing on the 70's and 80's the same patterns appear as in the 60's and the 90's: Paisleyites stirring the sectarian soup - ``if they don't behave themselves in the south, it'll be shots across the border''. Weeks later thirty three people were blown up in Dublin and Monaghan. Justification of killings of catholics as ``returning the serve'', using the cloak of attacking the IRA, while in reality ``not particularly caring if it was innocent Catholics''. ``It didn't matter who it was'', and continued resistance to any from of change - Sunningdale strikes when the UDA ``advised people not to go to work'', Anglo-Irish Agreement riots and UVF/UDA ``retaliations'' to IRA attacks on military targets who loyalists have stated ``were laying siege to our communities''.

Unfortunately Taylor continues to ignore Britain's role during the troubles as unionist guarantor and it's shady involvment in many loyalist killings, yet again innacurately portraying events to the British/Free State public as some form of tribal warfare.

``Shanghai Vice'' C4's supposedly fly on the wall documentary series was a major disappointment.

Currently undergoing rapid change after opening itself to the world after forty odd years of isolation, Shanghai's induction to ``free trade and opportunity''(sic) has included a proliferation in prostitution, gambling and vice and an escalating heroin problem, which is blamed on Muslim Separatists and their co-horts.

Dealers are executed and given life sentences in maximum security prisons where they will sew and run around in blue jackets for the rest of their days.

The local Garda are busy trying to tackle the 250% annual increase through undercover operations and not so subtle interviewing techniques - ``You're a whore aren't you'' - ``give me the names or I'll put this bullet in your head''.

The most interesting insight was a glimpse into Mao's ``Cultural Revolution'' of the 60's when ``the Red Guards took everything except our blue suits and we had to ring the bell on our bike to muffle the sound of our secret singing''.

Those other bad guys, the Vikings, were having their belongings and properties excavated by the sixty odd archaeologists in Dublin's Temple Bar,screened on RTE on Tuesday last in the intriguing ``Down to the Bedrock''. Dublin's Viking past has been sporadically investigated but reached a nadir when Dublin Corporation built monstrous offices, which resembled giant pillarboxes, on the historic Wood Quay site in the 1970's.

This recent dig has unearthed significant evidence of ancient life, including various rags and wools used to wipe Viking bums, discovered in a cesspit, dogs skulls whose noses were repeatedly fractured by uncaring owners, intricate jewellery, wattle pathways and walls, painted planks from ships and the very beginnings of urbanisation in Ireland.

The most dramatic findings were the excavation of 8th/9th century artefacts, proof of large Anglo-Saxon settlements in the pre-Viking era.

And we thought the Brits were only here 800 years!

By Sean O Donaile

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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