The Good Friday Agreement, signed in April 1998 and ratified by both Ireland and Northern Ireland by popular vote a month later in May 1998, marked the end of a long and turbulent history between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, which had been actively violent for the last 30 years since the end of the 1960s. With 2023 marking the 25th anniversary of those accords and enough time and space passed, the BBC commissioned a documentary series from the makers of the Oscar-winning Once Upon A Time in Iraq to trace recording history from those who lived through it. Called Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, this five-part series will air on PBS just ahead of Labor Day.
The roots of the fight between the annexed section of Ireland and the stand-alone republic went back much further than the 1960s, to 1916 and the emergence of a free Irish Republic post World War I; some might even argue, further than that, back to when British (overwhelmingly Protestant) rule first was established over the mainly Catholic island. The bouts of violence sprang up as far back as 1609 when Scottish and English settlers were given land in the North Eastern part of the island in Ulster. Multiple civil wars broke out, with one side always fueled by the British forces.
The phrase "The Troubles" stems from the Edwardian era when the Irish Revolution began in 1912, which was interrupted in 1914 when WWI started and restarted in 1916. However, when people use the phrase today, they usually mean the more recent sectarian violence, dated to October 1968, when Derry marched for Irish Civil Rights. Over the next decade, a cycle of uprisings and backlash began, culminating in the 1972 event known as "Bloody Sunday." However, that wasn't the end, as waves of bombing, usually by the Irish Republican Army, hit Northern Ireland and London in the 1980s and lasted until the Peace Accords were signed.
Here's the miniseries' synopsis:
From the makers of the BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Once Upon a Time in Iraq comes a unique five-part film set in Northern Ireland. Exploring the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles,” the series tells the story through the intimate testimony of ordinary men, women, and children who were drawn — both willingly and unwillingly — into the bitter clashes that rocked the nation and who are still struggling to hold on to a fragile peace today.
The five-part series was directed by James Bluemel and Sian Mcilwaine, with Will Anderson and Andrew Palmer executive producing. Others credited with the creation of the series include Vicky Mitchell, Rachel Hooper, Sian Mcilwaine, Stewart Armstrong, and Louise Duffy. Once Upon a Time In Northern Ireland is a KEO Films and Walk on Air Films production commissioned by the BBC, which aired the five-part series in May 2023.
Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland is scheduled to premiere on PBS stations on Monday, August 28, at 9 p.m. ET, with two episodes, followed by two more on Tuesday, August 29, and the finale on Wednesday, August 30, 2023. However, as with any series in a one-off spot, it is always best to check your local listings to see when your local station will carry it. All five episodes are streaming for members on PBS Passport.