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Fuel On The Fire: Torture in Northern Ireland

Two sparkling waterfront entertainment complexes and a fresh crop of posh restaurants and hotels have transformed Belfast, Northern Ireland into a must-see destination for tourists from around the world. However, this glittering new facade - while a welcomed hallmark of a society transitioning towards peace - cloaks a complex, multi-faceted history that offers vital counter-insurgency lessons for America’s “War on Terror.”

In the 1970s, long before Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, Britain utilized “deep interrogation” techniques in an effort to defeat the Irish Republican Army. But, instead of crippling the shadowy IRA, Britain’s systematic abuse of terrorist suspects – many of whom had no IRA connections – helped to dramatically swell the guerrillas’ ranks once accounts began to reach the public.

Ensuing decades witnessed ever-evolving IRA tactics, the seeming callousness of which periodically shocked the world at-large. Less visible to the world was the intensification of Britain’s often brutal counter-insurgency interrogation methods - including severe sensory deprivation, beatings and torture.

By the late 1970s such techniques were commonplace in specialized interrogation centers such as Belfast’s Castlereagh complex, Gough police barracks in Armagh, and Derry’s Strand Road police barracks. But, rather than break the IRA’s will, these harsh techniques helped to steel its resolve to persevere – while also handing the guerrillas a highly emotive issue to exploit when lobbying domestic and international audiences about alleged immoral and unjust British actions in Ireland.

Fuel On The Fire is a documentary that will explore the effectiveness of “deep interrogation” and torture in combating insurgencies and terrorism. Via a series of interviews with former IRA members, outlawed pro-British loyalist paramilitaries, human rights activists, and former police and British soldiers, Fuel On The Fire will examine the political and societal fall-out from policies which condone torture.

Are there circumstances in which torture is justified? Or, does the use of torture in fact sharply deepen hostilities and thereby prolong conflict?

Critics of US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan claim that ill treatment of terrorist suspects has dramatically increased anti-US sentiment around the globe, while doing nothing to stem widespread violence in both countries. By focusing on Northern Ireland, where one of the longest insurgent campaigns of the 20th century was waged before 1998’s peace accord was forged, Fuel On The Fire will examine the potential long-term consequences of such actions.

Written by Jim Dee.

Currently in pre-production.  

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