Michael Portillo’s leather folder is packed with a new sheaf of the enemy’s files; the undisturbed reports, letters and diaries that reveal Britain’s perspectives on the Irish War of Independence being as divided as the island of Ireland itself. To make war or peace, to stage reprisals or negotiations, to be hawks or doves; these papers have been penned by mistresses, generals, ministers and the King of England and they read like a drama filled with passion, coercion and dodgy dealing.
Hawks & Doves: The Crown and Ireland’s War of Independence revolves around a theme of political expedience, and in particular the wish of British politicians to get into, or to stay, in power. This is a documentary series of two films about the manoeuvrings and shifting alliances among the various factions within the Houses of Parliament and Dublin Castle during the War of Independence. As the hawks and the doves soar over an Ireland torn apart by war, Michael Portillo, a former British Defence Secretary, looks at how his predecessors at Westminster reacted when faced with revolutionary intransigence at home.
He unravels a web of mystery and intrigue woven by the British ruling classes, for whom the essential issue was never Ireland but, rather, their own party advantage and, above all, their personal career advantage. The former Tory minister finds men who spend more time calculating the consequences of their policies for internal British politics, and their own positions, than for Anglo-Irish relations. Ireland was for them merely a pawn in a more important game: their careers.
The sequel to The Enemy Files: Easter 1916, this is the story of a guerrilla war as told in the testimonies of those who tried to suppress it. From the indiscriminate firing of a private soldier to the intervention of the King of England, Hawks & Doves: The Crown and Ireland’s War of Independence looks at two years that did much to shape the futures of Ireland and Britain. The two films tell of a conflict in Ireland in which there are war crimes, murders, executions and treason. This story is told from the British files.
Portillo brings a unique insight into the events surrounding the War of Independence. A former Secretary of State for Defence, he is a direct successor to the men who had to prosecute the war for Britain in 1919-21. His British parliamentary career began in December 1984, when he stood for, and won, the Enfield Southgate by-election following the death of the incumbent, Sir Anthony Berry, in the bombing by the IRA of the Grand Hotel in Brighton. His political career spans a period in British policy that evolved from Margaret Thatcher’s hard-line policy – ‘we don’t talk to terrorists’ – to John Major’s more conciliatory tone, one that paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement.
Portillo has worked for both the hawks and the doves and brings considerable journalistic acumen and political insight into the comparisons that exist between the events that led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
From the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, The Foreign Office in London, City Hall in Belfast to the floor of the Dáil in Dublin, he brings a unique perspective to the War of independence in Ireland. With analysis and contributions from Lord Hattersley, Paul Bew, Jonathan Powell, Fearghal McGarry and others.
Producer: Mike Keane
Director: Andrew Gallimore
Exec Producer RTÉ: Colm O’Callaghan
Production Company: Midas Productions