Of members of the Irish Republican Army, Gregory Campbell, a loyalist leader, says simply, "I want to see them dead," and when reminded that he had remarked that "Christmas had come early" one year upon hearing that several IRA members had been shot and killed, he declares, "I make no apology for saying that."
Martin McGuinness, an official of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, responding to charges in the British press that he is the "chief of staff of the IRA," says the charges are "untrue, but I regard them as a compliment." The IRA's mission is "a just cause," he says, and therefore one in which the use of guns is "justified."
"Northern Ireland: At the Edge of the Union," which Channel 26 will show at 10 tonight, is a double profile, largely in their own words, of these two extremist leaders, produced by the BBC but not shown in sk,1 sw,-2 ld,10 the United Kingdom as scheduled last summer, because the program was denounced in advance by the Thatcher government. Apparently the BBC documentary presented the alleged IRA leader in too sympathetic a light.
Eventually, and after some laundering, the film was shown on the BBC last fall, and this "slightly edited version" is the one imported for domestic consumption by public television here, with a soporific postscript added by WETA. The documentary holds out precisely not one iota of hope that the 16-year streak of troubles in Ulster, which can be traced back through "centuries" of animosities, as one combatant says, can in any of our lifetimes be resolved.
Merely to sit down with representatives of the IRA for talks of any kind would be, says Campbell, "the most grievous insult" to all the victims of IRA terrorism over the years and their grieving survivors.
What the two extremists have in common, a briefly heard narrator says at the beginning of the program, is that they are "both young, working-class, teetotal, church-going, elected representatives." Precisely which now-deleted scenes made the documentary such a hot topic in England cannot be determined, but some that still remain -- the IRA man's sweet old mother talking about her son and his struggle -- probably figured in the objections.
Very little violence is shown on the screen. And yet the film, produced for the BBC by Paul Hamann and edited by Colin Jones, conveys the dread aura of a land where violence is at virtually any given moment a distinct possibility. There are scenes of an IRA Easter Sunday parade: boys with white scrubbed faces followed by men in protective black hoods. And there are shots of tombstones on which survivors of slain loved ones have inscribed IRA guilt.
And there are also scenes, regularly inserted, of the British military presence. The British historically never have known when to leave. McGuinness maintains, not too convincingly, that should the British get out (and he has said that all responsibility for violence and killings can be laid at the British doorstep), all would be peaceably well in Northern Ireland. But Campbell says a British exodus would result in "the most horrendous bloodshed," "the most bloody civil war that Ireland has ever seen" and "a doomsday situation."
That might perversely be the sole positive note sounded here: that even in Northern Ireland, life is not as harsh as it could be; that things could actually be worse. The BBC's film is a chillingly intimate portrait of what seems an irreparable societal schism.