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'Lost Lives' - Seanad Éireann -Tuesday, 15 Oct 2019

"On a more sombre note, 28 years ago, veteran journalist, David McKittrick, BBC journalists, Chris Thornton and Seamus Kelters, political commentator, Brian Feeney, and later David McVea, sat down to write a book. The book would record the stories of every man, woman and child killed during the Troubles, a book that would stand in isolation as the only record of the fate of every one of the 3,700 lives destroyed by the Troubles, including Members of this House and victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It took an arduous and painstaking eight years to complete the task and in 1999 they duly published their work, Lost Lives, as a testament to remember those individuals, every man, woman, child and baby, lest they were forgotten.

The impact this book had was monumental. It included revelations to many families regarding the loss of a loved one, details and circumstances that many had never been aware of. The book has been read and referenced by academics and students, it has been shared and studied in churches and chapels, with many readers moved to tears by the sheer scale and loss of human life and families destroyed by the horrors of conflict.

However, that is not why I speak today. Last night I attended the Queens Film Theatre in Belfast to watch "Lost Lives", the film, 20 years on from the book. A film best described as "a requiem for those killed in the Troubles". The film is the work of Belfast directors, Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt of DoubleBand Films. For 90 minutes, it weaves together an intricate tapestry of archive footage, music and powerful visual imagery to a backdrop of bombs, gunfire, devastation and destruction.

Probably most strikingly and hauntingly, the voices behind the narrative are not the victims but rather a who's who of Irish acting talent. Apparently none needed to be asked twice to participate. All were willing participants, no doubt seeing the value of this work. They make up a list comprising household names such as Liam Neeson, Kenneth Branagh, Adrian Dunbar, Bronagh Gallagher, Stephen Rea, James Nesbitt, Brendan Gleeson, Roma Downey, Susan Lynch, Martin McCann, Ian McElhinney, Michael Smiley, Bronagh Waugh and Bríd Brennan, all lending their voices to the stories of the lost lives, accompanied by a very moving, emotive score performed by the Ulster Orchestra.

What it demonstrates is the futility of conflict; the hurt, the pain, the loss and suffering of conflict. It is a recognition and a stark reminder that there are no winners, only losers. No one escapes the horror, no one has a monopoly on pain and no one should ever forget because its by remembering the hell that we all have a responsibility to ensure this never happens again.

Probably the most the most moving moment was at the end credits when every Troubles death is listed year by year on screen, name after name, line after line, concluding with the single name in 2019, of Lyra McKee, murdered by dissident republicans earlier this year. The list is a truly horrifying demonstration of the monumental loss of life. As the credits finished and the lights went up, last night was the first time in my life that I left a cinema when absolutely no one spoke. Not a word was being uttered, highlighting the power of this film, and the painful emotions and memories it evoked. It reminded me of a funeral cortege or that silence associated with the respect and reverence of remembrance.

This film is a very important piece of work. It premiered at the London Film Festival last week and at Queen's Film Theatre, Belfast from Friday, 10 October. It is planned that "Lost Lives" will be screened by the BBC later this year. I urge that this film should be seen across the Twenty-six Counties and not just the Six Counties. Someone needs to make sure people can see it. It should be screened in order that we all reflect, and that we all dispel any notion that this was a proud or glorious moment in our history on the island of Ireland because it certainly was not.

The pain and hurt etched on the faces and families destroyed by grief and suffering in this film should serve as a reminder that we never glorify this or go back to these horrors. Everybody on the island needs to view this piece of genius. Everybody needs to ensure these horrors never happen again. I urge the Leader and this House to use their influence to ensure everyone has the opportunity to see this work and to understand that we never veer into idle chat about identity, culture and nationality in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland without understanding the hell and hurt so many have suffered. All need to see this work, because we all have a responsibility to never repeat the past especially in these turbulent political times."

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