I, Dolours – Movie Review
Director: Maurice Sweeney
Writers: Ed Moloney, Maurice Sweeney
Dolours Price from Belfast, together with her sister Marion, became known to a wider audience following the car bombing of the Old Bailey in London on 8th March 1973. Another bomb went off outside the Ministry of Agriculture. There was extensive physical damage done to property and one person died of a heart attack. The two attacks injured over 200 individuals. These were the first bombs planted by the Provisional IRA in Britain in what is now euphemistically called “the Troubles”. The two Price sisters were part of a unit from Belfast who were arrested and charged when they tried to return to Belfast. At their subsequent trial in Winchester, it could not take place in the Old Bailey because of the damage, they were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment which was then limited to twenty years. Immediately, the two Price sisters began a hunger strike in pursuit of their demand to be transferred to a prison in Northern Ireland. At the time of the attack they were 18 and 21 years of age.
Dolours along with another member of the Provisional IRA gave detailed interviews between 2001 and 2006 to Boston College about their subversive activities on condition that the tapes were not to be released during their lifetimes. Dolours died on 23rd January 2013 and it is the Boston College interviews which are the central document around which Sweeney recounts her involvement in the campaign of violence. He utilises also contemporary newsreel footage. He further recreates, using actors, various individuals, including Dolours who is played by Lorna Larkin. He blends these three different materials as he tells Dolours’ story from early childhood.
Violence in pursuit of political objectives was part of the essence of Dolours’ immediate family. She was brought up with the visible consequences of such violence in the form of her Aunt Bridie who lived with her family. Aunt Bridie, in the late nineteen thirties, had lost both her hands and been blinded while handling illegal explosives on behalf of the IRA. Dolours describes graphically her revulsion at having to light a cigarette for Aunt Bridie and place it in her mouth. So from her earliest years she lived with the consequences of political violence in pursuit of the only goal in life that mattered, the removal of the British from all of Ireland. This very tightly focussed vision dominates her thought processes. She does not deviate from it.
Dolours comes across as a highly articulate and intelligent woman. In the Boston College interviews where she recounts various incidents she shows little or no remorse for her fellow travellers, who for whatever reason, fell short of her level of purity for the cause and were to receive punishment by the Provisional IRA. Sweeney, by placing the events described in the interviews in context, helps the viewer to understand the mindset of someone whose actions cannot entertain compromise. It is the principal reason why the peace process and all those involved with it attracts her scorn.
What Sweeney has created is a documentary that is spellbinding as it reveals a way of thinking and acting which is far from the norm. It is difficult to watch both the scenes of force feeding of Marian and her sister along with the doctrine of violence which Dolours so effortlessly details. As far as Dolours is concerned, violence is the sole means that will force the British out of Ireland. Anything else is a betrayal of those who have died for the cause. With Northern Ireland entering an uncertain future, which necessarily affects the Republic too, it is valuable that this film is seen so as to help us understand the mindset of individuals who can only countenance violence as the sole means of achieving their aim.