herald

Tuesday 16 October 2018

For better? No, worse

Paul Connolly investigates: Ireland's sham marriages (TV3) Behind the Walls (RTE1)

TV3 REPORTER Paul Connolly is a no-nonsense news hustler more comfortable on the beat than in a television studio. I know this because on Paul Connolly Investigates: Ireland's Sham Marriages he wears a leather jacket and jeans instead of a suit and tie and his office seems to be the mean streets of the city itself.

While this is possibly for budgetary reasons (TV3 has, to its credit, become a lean, mean documentary-making machine, and office-space is expensive), I suspect it's really a stylistic decision, because Connolly is pictured on "the streets" a lot more than necessary in the course of his investigation of sham marriages between South Asian men and Eastern European women.

It creates a sense of urgency, I suppose, as the camera pans ominously in slow motion across hapless ordinary folk going about their business, or he talks to camera while striding down an alley.

Indeed, when meeting an actor with whom he's planning to entrap a fake-marriage broker, they meet, for no apparent reason, by a graffiti covered canal-side, rather than at one of the city's many warm and friendly cafes. The only thing missing is a few shots of Connolly surveying the city from a rooftop (like Batman).

And, like Batman, he's a man of action. He confronts one fraudster as he queues to collect a visa and he chases an African marriage broker down a street while simultaneously delivering a loud monologue on the man's misdeeds (this act of derring-do is undermined somewhat by the fact the man is dragging his poor child with him).

You'd say that he's taking the law into his own hands, except that the main revelation is that Ireland doesn't actually have a law against arranging a fake marriage.

Still, beneath its hyped-up exterior, Ireland's Sham Marriages is a well-researched and well-paced documentary.

Camera-friendly Connolly speaks to former "brides", brokers and policy makers, visits Latvia (the source of many of the fake brides) and concludes that the issue is real and hugely under-legislated for (the broker caught on camera arranging a sham marriage may not even be convicted of any crime).

So ultimately there's method to the programme's hard-boiled madness, and I certainly hope Commissioner Gordon invests in some sort of Bat/Connolly-signal for the next time the city is in danger.

In 1999 Mary Raftery's States of Fear documentary revealed the endemic nature of abuse in our country's Industrial Schools and Reformatories. In Behind the Walls she examines the fraught history of Ireland's psychiatric institutions. The main difference between now and 1999 is that we're now punch-drunk with abuse revelations and are almost unshockable. It's no longer news to us that our nation traditionally responded to issues of poverty, non-conformity and sexuality by locking people up.

Indeed, by the 1950s proportionally more people were institutionalised in Irish mental institutions than in the Soviet Union (a place where psychiatric incarceration was famously used as a form of social control) with anyone who didn't fit in finding themselves imprisoned in the filthy, over-crowded and over-medicated Irish system.

This week, former inmates such as Patsy Dolan recalled the treatment she experienced when she was committed by her family because she changed religion.

And later, Raftery turned her focus on the case of psychiatrist Dr Lane O'Kelly who molested women in his care (some of whom were interviewed here), but died before a trial in the early 2000s.

This wasn't that long ago, and the resounding message of these programmes was that though the forbidding old Victorian buildings were coming down we needed to be vigilant about mere cosmetic changes. Ireland's unenviable history of institutional abuse was a product of ordinary Irish people looking the other way.

Behind the Walls was a reminder that we should never look away again.



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