A powerful and compelling five-season TV drama exploring the longest and most contentious urban guerrilla war in modern times. The Troubles divided a nation; they divided communities; they divided families. They left nearly 4000 dead and tens of thousands wounded as Irish republicans fighting to unite Ireland clashed with loyalist paramilitaries pledged to keep Ulster British. Its effects were felt across the globe. For the first time ever, a forensic spotlight is shone on the controversial, complex and extraordinary stories that ripped apart Northern Ireland for three bloody and turbulent decades.
PRODUCERS: William Dingli, Rik Hall, Richard Parry
WRITERS: William Dingli, Richard Parry
GENRE: Continuing TV Political Drama
The Troubles follows men and women pushed to the limit; struggling to survive, fighting for power, love, sex, politics and domination. And within these tales the humour, wit and lust for life of the Irish resounds loudly. Never before laid out on such a grand TV canvas, these stories speak of today’s zeitgeist: The search for identity and meaning in a world increasingly fragmented and the lengths to which people go to achieve their ideals. Beneath the skin, this is about the persona we adopt in order to justify our actions: then drop it within a heartbeat when faced with extreme challenges like survival. And it is about the human spirit that shines brighter than any religious and political divide, and unites us all, where moments of great sacrifice and compassion come to the fore. The Troubles is a contemporary allegory of where we are now in the world, of what it means to be alive today and the unfathomable nature of identity.
Why tell the story of the troubles now? In many ways, the Irish war is reflective of America today with the ongoing threat of terrorism that seems impossible to defeat, a society increasingly divided between ‘the people’ and ‘the power’ and the rise of ‘fake news’ through mainstream and social media. With no place for objective truth, a plethora of weaponry easily obtainable among divided communities and even families, the question becomes not, how do we bridge the divide, but whose side are you on?
5 Season Synopsis
The five seasons begin when the British army are deployed to Ulster (the nine provinces constituting Northern Ireland) as ‘peacekeepers’ in 1969/70 and end with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Each series will navigate the incredibly thin and precarious line that divides friends, families, communities and ultimately the nation of Ireland itself. Without taking sides, we will shine a light on the main players in the war; the IRA (Irish Republican Army), the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), the British army and, most importantly, the characters whose families and lives are ripped apart by the troubles – ordinary people living in extraordinary times – verbose, funny, flawed and psychopathic – all colliding in a small corner of the United Kingdom.
In the process, each series will reflect some of the most infamous tales from the troubles; jaw-dropping stories such as the top IRA assassin paid and instructed by British intelligence. This is the ‘dirty’ war where MI5 and Special Branch wage a campaign of infiltration into senior republican ranks designed to destroy the movement from within. Half of all senior IRA men were thought to be working for the British Government. We follow the corrupt RUC as they set up hits on their own men as well as botched IRA arms deals in the USA that stir the FBI to set up their own Ireland-related investigators.
The first two seasons will cover the 1970’s, the most turbulent and violent decade of the conflict where almost 500 people, over half of them civilians, lose their lives. Key characters’ stories will be weaved around important events including bombings in Dublin, Belfast and the UK mainland, Bloody Sunday and the IRA ceasefire in 1974. Seasons three and four will focus on the 1980’s where the political situation evolves and two hunger strikes pit the British Prime Minister against the IRA culminating in the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton where government ministers are killed and many injured. The final season will navigate the growing unrest among those who want a ceasefire versus those who don’t.
In each season the bigger political events will unfold through the stories of intriguing and colourful characters, their often complex family lives exposing shifting and deeply conflicted identities.
The biogs of several key characters featured throughout The Troubles are included below. Some will live, some will die during the course of the series. Many characters are based on real people and their stories are often inspired by true events. So, where necessary, we have changed the names to protect the identities of some characters in order to successfully weave their narratives into a compelling series.
Finton and Eileen O’Casey
IRA member Finton O’Casey’s story starts in the 1970’s and covers the entire five seasons. The young Finton takes up arms against the British after returning home one evening to find his father being beaten by British troops. He subsequently becomes an IRA soldier responsible for several killings over a number of years but then devastatingly turns supergrass against his own organization, putting himself at odds with both the IRA and his own family. The O’Casey’s story is a roller-coaster that unravels the torturous emotions that drive a man to such extremes. His wife, Eileen shares her husband’s staunch Republican views and witnesses thuggish police searches where their kids are pulled from their beds in the middle of the night. When Finton joins the IRA, their marriage goes from strength to strength and they seem invincible together. Eileen does her bit, helping gypsy women run IRA guns across the border. But then Finton turns supergrass and the marriage collapses. Eileen, unable to support her husband, instead disowns him and becomes an active member of the IRA’s political wing.
RUC detective Michael Brennan refuses to take sides in the conflict, leading to death threats not just from the people he investigates but from fellow officers. Securing a major confession for a high-profile murder should prove to be a crowning glory but it turns into a nightmare when he is pressured by his superiors to suppress the confession because of the killer’s value as an informer. Brennan refusal leads to a ‘contract’ being put out on his head, a ‘contract’ that comes from his own side. Throughout, Brennan’s marriage struggles to survive as he gets increasingly drawn into this dark world and withdraws emotionally from his wife.
Young, ambitious, naive and idealistic, Niall possesses a flaw often fatal in times of war, he wants to please everybody. Added to this burden is the fact that he’s seen as a ‘good time Charlie’ in his local Catholic community off the Falls road in Belfast. Nobody takes him seriously when he joins the rank and file IRA. A near-botched pub bombing gets him arrested, despite his actions saving the civilians. Niall is compromised on both fronts and becomes a double agent. This may be the perfect place for a man who wants to please everybody but it is a precarious path. His air of invincibility shields him for a while but eventually his abundant optimism hits the hard wall of reality and Niall faces paying the ultimate price. Niall is also the lynchpin for the unravelling story of his wife and daughter.
A hyperactive ten year-old tom-girl when we first meet her, Kelly already displays her father (Niall’s) traits of invincibility. Her entrepreneurial, moneymaking schemes play out as an antidote to the troubles exploding around her and set her apart from her peers. But like many children living in war she is forced to grow up fast and face the devastating consequences of the unfolding violence as well as the guilt she feels about her own part in it. Young Kelly is set up to meet her adult destiny head on, taking her from street-entrepreneur to IRA soldier and eventually informer. We meet the troubles through her innocent eyes and she frames the stories that follow.
Journalist Maura Quinn, daughter of a prominent loyalist, becomes a frontline bomb maker, gunrunner and executioner for the UDA in the 1970’s. She later becomes a human rights campaigner and politician who is a leading light of the gathering momentum behind the peace process in the 1990’s. Throughout her journey however, her motivations remain questionable.
Young loyalist skinhead, William Stone (alias Razorhead) forms a rock against communism style band espousing ultra-right wing British nationalist views. Sieg-heiling members led by Razorhead brutally attack anti-racist fans of the Specials and The Beat in late 1970’s Belfast. He begins his career in the banned UDA (Ulster Defence Association) rioting, delivering arson attacks on local Catholic businesses and shooting at armoured vehicles. Unpredictable, irrational and completely psychotic, despite the caustic traits William is a ‘funny’ man and wins friends easily. He graduates to become a key hitman for the UDA, responsible for the killing of leading republicans. In so doing, he also becomes a focus of Michael Brennan’s investigations.
Sales & Marketing Potential
The Troubles has the potential to generate a big TV audience because it is such an important, untold story about the recent civil war in part of the UK from the perspective of the key protagonists. A strong musical score will underpin all the major themes of state collusion, injustice and cultural/social alienation. The series could also reach well beyond Britain as it will highlight important contemporary issues in the western world such as how reason has become subservient to emotion with one person’s truth another person’s blatant untruth; how families and communities continue to be violently ripped apart in the name of religion; how easily-obtainable firearms undermine the social fabric and how civil liberties are undermined by governments using the threat of terrorism whenever it’s convenient.