Michael Staines
Michael Staines

09.20 1 Oct 2020


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An RTÉ documentary about a notorious Loyalist gang was based on the “dubious” testimony of a convicted murderer, according to the former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

The Laois TD has written to the RTÉ Director of Programming outlining his concerns over the decision to screen ‘Unquiet Graves’ last month.

The film outlines how the so-called Glenanne Gang murdered 120 civilians in counties Armagh and Tyrone with the collusion of the British Government.

It highlights the central role members of the RUC and the British Army played in the terror campaign and sets out to show how the British Government was aware of the collusion and condoned it.

Flanagan writes to RTÉ over 'fundamentally questionable' documentary on Loyalist murder gang

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On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Deputy Flanagan said he believes the programme was largely based on the testimony of RUC member and loyalist paramilitary John Weir.

“Essentially this is a programme, quite a shocking programme actually, outlining some of the most horrific acts of the Troubles in the 1970s that were perpetrated in what was known as the Murder Triangle,” he said.

“But it seemed to me that the essence of the programme was based on the testimony, an affidavit, of a guy called John Weir who himself was a convicted murderer, a criminal, who had motives that to my mind were somewhat dubious.

“That is the basis of the programme and I am concerned that it should have been based just on the testimony of one character who has been outside this jurisdiction for quite some time but whose evidence to my mind is fundamentally questionable.”

He said he set out three concerns in his letter

“Firstly, I am concerned that the makers of the programme, the production team; I don’t believe they were objective; I don’t believe they were fair minded; I don’t believe there was balance,” he said.

“Secondly, I am concerned that RTÉ showed the programme without what I felt was due diligence and I want that question answered in so far as what background checks were undertaken by RTÉ in the form of due diligence?

“My third concern is the matter of the cost. I am not an expert in film production but I did make some enquiries and these enquiries resulted in my being told that this film could have cost up to €400,000 to produce and make and I am wondering what due diligence RTÉ did in order to follow the money.”

The producers of the film have said it was privately funded but insisted that no political party made any contribution.

“I was a solicitor before I entered politics,” he said. “If somebody came into my office with a bag of money and said I, ‘want to buy a house,’ the issue would not so much be the purchase of the house, the issue would be the money and where the money came from.

“I do believe that RTÉ, being the national broadcaster that are and with their obligations from a public service point of view, had a duty.”

Deputy Flanagan said he may yet make a complaint through the Broadcasting Authority; however, for now, he is awaiting a response from RTÉ.

You can listen back here:

Flanagan writes to RTÉ over 'fundamentally questionable' documentary on Loyalist murder gang

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Charlie Flanagan Loyalist RTE Troubles Unquiet Graves

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