An excellent documentary on The Troubles and the civil rights movement is now free to watch
Essential for anyone that loves Irish history.
To coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, UTV have commissioned a three-part documentary series which charts this pivotal period in Irish history.
In the documentary October 1968: Brink of Chaos, journalist Denis Tuohy takes viewers through the pivotal events in Northern Ireland which tragically culminated in the Bloody Sunday massacre and the escalation of The Troubles.
In October 1968, television pictures of RUC officers hitting non-violent and peaceful civil rights protesters in Derry were shown around the world, making the Irish civil rights movement into international news.
The roots of these issues run far deeper though, and in the documentary, Tuohy traces the social and political issues which culminated with a wide range of Irish activists marching behind the civil rights banner.
In 1968, housing activists, socialists, nationalists, unionists, republicans, students, trade unionists and political representatives came together across the North because they simply had enough.
Inspired by the student riots in France, Martin Luther King's civil mights movement in US, and the growing anti-apartheid sentiment in South Africa, the Irish civil rights movement was representative of a global change in attitudes, however it was deeply rooted in local issues too.
Gerrymandering, a lack of available housing for Catholics and the constant cries of "one man, one vote" inspired a generation of Irish people - regardless of religion and social class - to seek social change.
In the documentary, we see the likes of Ivan Cooper - a man that was born into a working-class Protestant family in Killaloo, Derry - tirelessly work for the equal rights of all Irish people and after seeing the harrowing and depressing conditions that Catholics had to live in at Springtown Camp, the need was never greater.
“We're not living, just existing” said one of the Catholics that was forced to live in squalor. They had no heat, no light, and no voice.
Aside from this, the documentary also delves into the economic factors involved in the civil rights movement - a lack of jobs and a predisposition to give the ones that were available to Protestants was prominent in Derry - while the decision to establish a new college in Coleraine and not on the banks of the Foyle was a crippling blow.
Austin Currie, the MP for East Tyrone that actively campaigned to end the discrimination of housing, features prominently throughout October 1968: Brink of Chaos and after the decision was made to undertake a peaceful and non-violent march from Coalisland to Dungannon, Irish history would be changed forever.
Despite the fact that William Craig, the Home Affairs Minister, ordered the march to be banned under the Home Order act, these civil rights protesters defied his orders, knowing they’d be beaten as a result.
Ultimately, 44 people needed x-rays after being cracked in the head and these scenes proved to be a tragic signifier of what was to come on Bloody Sunday.
Aside from boasting some superb archive footage and interviews, October 1968: Brink of Chaos also has a blistering soundtrack which features songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones.
FYI, as the episodes are on ITV, it's necessary to put "Derry" into the location box that pops up to avoid being geo-bocked.
They're highly recommended and extremely poignant on the anniversary of a seismic moment in Irish history.