Channel 4's report on The Troubles, Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement is essential viewing 1 month ago

Channel 4's report on The Troubles, Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement is essential viewing

"The people here will not have the precious progress we've made threatened by anybody."

This week marks 50 years since the event which started the Troubles in Northern Ireland as British troops were first deployed on the streets to quell violence between the Catholic community and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Initially planned as a limited intervention to restore order, Operation Banner would become Britain's longest continuous campaign and it all started on 12 August, 1969 as Catholic frustrations over discrimination in voting, housing and jobs led to turmoil in the streets.

Known as The Battle of the Bogside, tension boiled over when stone-throwing Catholics protested an annual Apprentice Boys march that skirted the Bogside.

50 years later, there's a very different tension in Northern Ireland as uncertainty over Brexit looms large.

In a wide ranging discussion for Channel 4, Krishnan Guru-Murthy travelled to Derry, where he provided a thorough and poignant refresher course in history.

To begin with, Channel 4's news team profiled the Battle of the Bogside with two men that were present on the day itself, Terry Wright, one of The Apprentice Boys, and Eamon McCann, a young nationalist.

Using this as the starting point for further discussion, the news piece then focussed on the disillusionment that a large number of Northern Irish adolescents and younger people feel towards the political classes.

Boris Johnson, Sinn Féin, the DUP, Stormont; they're all in the firing line due to the vacuum of political leadership in Northern Ireland and the belief that the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland are not being heard.

Johnson's ignorant remarks about the border in Ireland are also raised.

However, it's arguable that two panel discussions are the high points of the broadcast because they provide that rarity in political discourse, a discussion about important issues that doesn't descend into an incoherent shouting match.

Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood, Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue and Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann are all given airtime to discuss their various views on Brexit.

Derry's economic problems, a lack of options for young people, fears about a return to violence, a belief that the UK Government have consistently failed to understand or listen to the concerns of the Irish people and a need to protect the Good Friday Agreement are also all discussed at length.

Colum Eastwood's remarks about the threat of a no deal are especially poignant.

"The threat of a no deal is very real," he says.

"The people here feel it, they feel it right across the border whether you're on this side of the border or the other. The Good Friday Agreement was underpinned by our common membership of the EU which allowed us to develop relationships and business right across this island and into the EU.

"To put that at risk, or to threaten that, whether you're a British Prime Minister or anyone else, you're threatening an international agreement that has been written and supported by the people of this island. That's totally and utterly wrong. The people here will not have the precious progress we've made threatened by anybody," he said.

The final section of the 20-minute report features Lyra McKee's partner, Sara Canning, as she warns against the dangers of extremist language and the need for further cultural integration in Northern Ireland.

Take a look at the report in full below.

Clip via Channel 4 News