Edited By Ruben Moi, Brynhildur Boyce and Charles Armstrong
‘All this must come to an end. Through talking’: Dialogue and Troubles Cinema
In late December 2008, the British government released a new round of state papers under the thirty-year rule. Among the files uncensored was a document from the office of the then British Prime Minister, James Callaghan, which revealed that the IRA had sent a message to the British government in 1978 indicating that it was willing to enter talks concerned with ending its violent campaign in the North. The offer was rejected outright by the British government with the then permanent under-secretary at the Northern Ireland office, Sir Brian Cubbon, remarking that it was ‘essential that we should not say or do anything in reply that gives any hint that we have considered their message or are taking it seriously’.1 Whether this offer might have provided a realistic opportunity to progress a peace process that would take until the late 1980s to begin,2 and cost many thousands of lives in the interim, we will never know. The history of the ← 81 | 82 → Troubles was marked by such an absence of dialogue, an absence that was reflected, and arguably contributed to, by the representation of the conflict in film. Through the recurring depiction of combatants, whether republican or loyalist, as atavistic, deranged and irrationally violent, directors ultimately suggested the impossibility of dialogue with such people. This process was contributed to by the generic forms adopted by directors in their portrayals, but also built upon long standing stereotypes concerning the Irish, particularly at points of political contention. With respect...
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