Ex-justice minister rebuked over attack on RTÉ documentary screening
Former justice minister Charlie Flanagan has been rebuked by lawyers and campaigners after complaining to RTÉ over its broadcast of a documentary exploring state collusion with loyalists during the Troubles.
Unquiet Graves, which was released in 2018 but aired by RTÉ One for the first time in mid-September, implicates the RUC and UDR in up to 120 murders carried out by the so-called Glenanne Gang in the 1970s.
The film, directed by Séan Murray, draws heavily on the work of the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Justice for the Forgotten (JFF), as well as journalist Anne Cadwallader’s book Lethal Allies.
Mr Flanagan, who remains a Fine Gael TD and now chairs the foreign affairs and defence committee, has written to RTÉ’s director of programming to raise concerns over the public broadcaster’s decision to air the film, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
Speaking to Newstalk, Mr Flanagan said the film relied too heavily on the testimony of loyalist terrorist John Weir, whose evidence he said is “fundamentally questionable”.
Questioning RTÉ’s “due diligence” and the source of funding for the film, the former justice minister also suggested that he could make a complaint against RTÉ through the Broadcasting Authority.
However, lawyers and campaigners for victims of the Glenanne Gang have defended the film and criticised Mr Flanagan’s response.
Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law, who appears briefly in the film, told Irish Legal News: “We are in dangerous times when a former minister of justice thinks it is appropriate to publicly challenge the rule of law in this manner.
“Not only is this a direct attack on the freedom of expression, but it is an attack on the separation of powers in circumstances in which Mr Flanagan publicly sought to challenge the credibility of a witness that a public inquiry, a police force, and the courts have deemed a credible and reliable witness based on an objective analysis of all the evidence.
“Such commentary is not only deeply unhelpful but it is ill-advised and seeks to undermine the relentless campaign for justice that the families of the victims have pursued.”
Meanwhile, filmmaker Mr Murray told The Irish News: “Mr Flanagan appears not to have viewed the film – although he features in it himself during an attendance at a Dublin/Monaghan bombings commemoration.
“If he had done, he would have seen testimony from, amongst others, former London Metropolitan Detective Steve Morris of the Historical Enquiries Team.
“Strangely, Mr Flanagan did not mention the Dublin/Monaghan bombings although they resulted in the greatest single loss of life, 34 dead including an unborn full-term baby, in any one day during the conflict in the jurisdiction in which he is a public representative.”
In a joint statement earlier this week, PFC and JFF said: “We can only direct anyone who doubts the veracity of anything in Unquiet Graves to Lethal Allies, which is extensively-sourced both in official documents and the reports of police and other public inquiries.
“Lethal Allies contains 26 pages citing official and other highly reliable sources. It became the first book ever to be granted the status of a legal exhibit in High Court legal proceedings.
“Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to support the bereaved families who are still awaiting the full truth of their relatives’ deaths.”