Bloodlands, BBC TV mini-series 2021, Dir: Pete Travis; Starring: James Nesbitt, Charlene McKenna, Lorcan Cranitch, Peter Balance, Lisa Dwan
This BBC1 Sunday night drama is a reminder that Northern Ireland has seen over twenty years of relative peace since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The series is also a reminder of the fragility of this peace and will remain fragile as long as Ireland remains divided. Recently Britain’s departure from the European Union has shown the economic stupidity of partition. Although a united Ireland inside the EU might be something of a frying pan fire scenario this is something the Irish People need to decide themselves.
A former IRA commander turned businessman goes missing; whilst a mass grave is uncovered on an island. Attention is drawn to a serial killer known as Goliath who in the days before the Good Friday Agreement carried out a killing spree with a view to scuppering the peace process. With the former IRA man’s death old tensions re-emerge; Sein Fein politicians demand action and street violence breaks out across the Six Counties.
The job of catching the murderer goes to DCI Tom Brannick (played by James Nesbit) and his assistant DS Charlene McKenna played (by Niamh McGovern). This is the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI); an improvement on the highly sectarian Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). However, the tensions brought about by the murder are a test as to whether or not things in the north of Ireland really have changed enough.
Brannick is a Protestant whilst an old rival and Catholic, Jackie Twomey, (played by Lorcan Cranitch) is brought in to lead the investigation; largely to appease the angry Republicans. Meanwhile there are questions being asked as to whether the RUC tried to cover up the original murders. Like all good dramas Bloodlands contains a number of sub-plots; whilst it contains enough tension to keep viewer in their seats. Nesbit, aged fifty-six, is still able to play the all-round hard man with a chip on his shoulder; whilst other characters seen to revolve around his.
Bloodlands comes at a time when Northern Ireland’s position within the UK is being questioned with positive developments in the rest of Ireland. In the Republic the two main right-wing parties formed a grand-coalition to keep Sein Fein out of office amid calls on both sides of the border for a poll on Irish unity. Meanwhile Loyalist paramilitaries threaten customs officers for carrying out border checks on shipping from Britain. The relationship between Britain and Ireland has become like an abusive marriage, which is now reaching its tedious stage and I should point out that some divorced couples get on much better after ties have been severed.