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Film Review I, Dolours

A new documentary is a vivid reminder of the armed struggle in Ireland and beyond during the 1970s

PART documentary and part reconstruction, I, Dolours is the story of the late Dolours Price, who joined the IRA in the early 1970s. Maurice Sweeney’s film, released last year and now available on Netflix, is based on an interview with her by journalist Ed Moloney in 2010.

Price grew up in a Republican family in Belfast, one in which women, including  her mother and aunt, had taken active roles in the IRA. Like many of her generation, Price joined People’s Democracy to demand civil rights for Catholics but, after they were battered off the streets by Protestant police force the Royal Ulster Constabulary, she turned to militant Republicanism.

Price speaks candidly about her role in the IRA including working closely with Gerry Adams, transporting weapons and, most controversially, unmasking and eliminating informers. She claims that Adams ordered the killing of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, a claim which he denies and the McConville family continue to dispute Price’s story that their mother was an informer.

Dolours and her sister Marian joined up with male comrades to bomb central London in 1973, after which informants within the IRA led to their arrest and imprisonment. The sisters went on hunger strike for more than 200 days — they were force-fed for most of them — and, nearing death, they were repatriated to a prison in the north of Ireland.

Price rejected the Good Friday Agreement and the constitutional politics of Sinn Fein but in the film she does not articulate any other political strategy. The new female leadership of Sinn Fein is much more in keeping with mainstream Irish politics and the party have now airbrushed the role of women such as Price out of history.

But what is significant about Price’s story, and the revelations of the ongoing Ballymurphy Inquest, is that they are a painful reminder of the violent role of the British government in the north of Ireland in the 1970s.

For some, taking up the gun in a time of war seemed the only answer.

 

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