Brendan McCourt

Brendan McCourt

About Brendan

Brendan McCourt is a multi-award winning former BBC journalist and filmmaker based in Belfast. His background and interest is in factual and current affairs investigation, crime, politics, human interest and drama.

His investigative and undercover journalistic work has taken him to countries as far and wide as the United States, South Africa, across Europe, the Philippines and Thailand.

A film which exposed the activities of a secret unit of the British Army in Belfast in 1970s who were killing innocent civilians, is now the subject of a police investigation ordered by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland.

 

Talk: Truth telling in a post-conflict zone – creativity and the role of investigative journalism in documentary filmmaking

As a journalist, working with the complexities of Northern Ireland’s transition from war to peace, calling the State and paramilitaries to account for their actions, can be unpopular, extremely challenging and at times, dangerous.

Is society better served by leaving a painful past undisturbed? Should journalists co-operate with the authorities in the prosecution of those who took part in murders during conflict but are NOW involved in a peace process? Should the same rules apply to those who murdered FOR the State?

In 'Creativity and the role of investigative journalism in documentary filmmaking', Brendan McCourt will illustrate and discuss some real examples from his films of the fascinating ethical questions that can arise around these issues and others such as source protection.

Film screening

Fowl Play

As an undercover investigative journalist, in one of his first films for the BBC, Brendan McCourt infiltrated and secretly filmed men- and women - involved in the cruel, barbaric highly secretive and illegal ‘sport’ of cockfighting in Ireland. His 18-month investigation revealed a network of contacts across the north and south of Ireland with hundreds involved across all classes and creeds. Some of those involved were named, shamed and confronted.

The Gunmen Who Never Went Away

The Real IRA was formed in 1997 by a small group of provisional IRA members who opposed the peace process and wanted to carry on the war until the British left Ireland. The Real IRA with assistance from the Continuity IRA carried out the Omagh bombing in 1998, killing 29 people, including a woman who was who was pregnant with twins. Even the horrific outcome of the Omagh bomb was not sufficient to persuade the Real IRA to stop their campaign. In March 2008, they murdered two British soldiers in Antrim and a policeman in Lurgan.

Police say the number of republican dissidents trying to wreck the Northern Ireland peace process is small, just about 300. But while the rest of the world has moved on, this dangerous minority carries on killing, believing their cause is just.

In The Gunmen Who Never Went Away, Brendan McCourt negotiated and organised the first and only on-screen interview with this deadly group. The film offers the most detailed analysis yet of the threat they pose in a programme based on 10 years of investigating the breakaway republican movements, their aims, roots and tactics.

Collusion

The British Government's attitude to running agents and the extent of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces involving many murders of innocent civilians over three decades of the Troubles, comes under the spotlight in Collusion.

The documentary also features:

  • An interview with former British Security Minister Michael Mates who conceded that the scale of collusion was much greater than he imagined when in power.
  • An exclusive interview with a member of the gang responsible for the Dublin/Monaghan bombings who asserts that their intention was to foment a civil war.
  • Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan reveals that senior British Government officials attempted to pressure her into halting her investigation into new murders involving collusion.