Documentary on The Troubles examines the hunger strikes and the attack that almost killed Thatcher 4 weeks ago

Documentary on The Troubles examines the hunger strikes and the attack that almost killed Thatcher

Part three airs next week. You won't want to miss this.

During the most recent episode of the BBC documentary on The Troubles, an extremely poignant moment occurred near the end.

Of course, that's not to diminish the other tragic, informative and heartbreaking events documented in the most recent episode of Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History, but one moment stood out.

A former member of the IRA was discussing the failures of the ceasefire and how it represented a massive opportunity lost.

"At the end of the day, what was it all about? I mean, what the fuck was it all about? I could have done a lot of better things. It was a waste of time and a waste of life," he said behind tears.

It was a haunting moment in a series that has been excellent so far.

With five more episodes of the documentary series to come, the next instalment will examine the hunger strikes and the Brighton bombing, an attack that almost killed Margaret Thatcher.

Thatcher's handling of the hunger strikes was widely criticised as she refused to grant the hunger strikers the status of political prisoners. Ultimately, the 1981 hunger strike was called off after 10 prisoners had starved themselves to death, including Bobby Sands.

At the time, Thatcher said: "We are not prepared to consider special category status for certain groups of people serving sentences for crime. Crime is crime is crime, it is not political."

In 1984, the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative party conference in retaliation.

Margaret Thatcher was the main target of the attack, which killed five people. The blast badly damaged Thatcher's suite's bathroom, but left its sitting room and bedroom untouched. She and her husband Denis escaped injury.

Patrick Magee was found guilty of planting the bomb and of five counts of murder - he received eight life sentences - but was released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement

After the attack, the IRA claimed responsibility in a statement that read: "Mrs. Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country and torture our prisoners and shoot our people in their own streets and get away with it. Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war."

The next day, Thatcher replied, saying: "That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now — shocked, but composed and determined — is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail."

The official synopsis for the next episode of Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History, reads: "When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979, she was confronted by an IRA prepared to conduct a long war of attrition against Britain.

"Jennifer O’Leary discovers arms connections in America and Libya and speaks directly to individuals involved in smuggling weapons for the IRA. She also hears an astonishing admission about the Brighton bomb, which almost killed Mrs Thatcher, and other attacks in Britain.

"Out of the IRA hunger strikes, Irish republicans also developed the parallel political strategy that saw their leader, Gerry Adams, elected to parliament. Success at the ballot box began to build tension inside the IRA between those who wanted to build their political path and those who primarily adhered to their long war."

The third episode in Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History airs at 9pm on Tuesday, 24 September on BBC1 and BBC4.