Hard words softly spoken


When have you seen a popular factual documentary set out a plan of action for a failed government?

In last night’s BBC1 My Dad, the Peace Deal, and Me , director Leo Burley took comedian Patrick Kielty back to his native Northern Ireland to chart the province’s history since Kielty’s own father was gunned down by paramilitaries in 1988. 

The key point was the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which gave the framework for peace and reconciliation, and the environment was a European Community where people in Northern Ireland could be joint citizens of something bigger than a sectarian structure. This 20-year period of relative calm may now be under threat in the face of Brexit and a collapsed Northern Irish consensual government. 

Kielty is no cue-card reading rent-a-celebrity. His personal story is a mirror of his entire community’s, and he turns a strong intelligence on to the task of finding out where to go next. He is highly critical of Northern Ireland’s leading politicians for failing their constituents and calls for a new Mo Mowlem (the midwife of the original Good Friday Agreement) to take these warring parties firmly in hand until they reach consensus. He castigates the political leaders for fighting over old ground while their own people want to move further into a new society without sectarian division. He calls for integrated education in the province where 90% of children are currently still placed in schools segregated by religion. 

This is not a fluffy celebrity revisit, but hard words softly spoken in a call for reason and progress. Compliments are due both to Patrick Kielty for his frankness, and to expert documentary-maker Leo Burley for steering the film between the twin rocks of stridency and pathos.