Spotlight at 40 Spotlight

Spotlight at 40

Spotlight marks its 40th anniversary with a special edition that recalls some of the strand's most significant investigations, culled from its archives.

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language and scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.


It is 40 years since BBC Northern Ireland's longest running programme


took to the air. Tonight in a special programme, we will be


looking back through the archives to see how much has stayed the same and


how much has changed. Welcome to Spotlight.


The music I remember more than anything else. My dad would kick the


dog and say, this is important. It is asking questions about why, who,


how and where and not prepared to take bullshit for an answer. How


many people have you killed? We call it current affairs. Sometimes it is


live, sometimes it is electric. As a family, we would watch Spotlight


every week as I still do. This is you, isn't it? Now is a good time to


tell you, I am Jennifer O'Leary from BBC Spotlight. You go onto the radio


show the day after and the fans are going mad because everybody has been


talking about it. The job of Spotlight has always been to ask


questions. Sometimes it has found surprising and controversial


answers. How did you get the money? Two checks. Written out to me. Three


years ago a programme on the business dealings of Iris Robinson


created a sensation. Iris Robinson sought and received a total of


?50,000 from two well-known property developers in 2008. Two cheques to


the tune of ?25,000 were made out at her behest to Kirk McCambley. We


have spent months piecing together piecing together the story of the


Red Sky affair. Earlier this year, a Spotlight investigation into the


contractors for the Housing executive meant that the Stormont


was recalled. Then he told me that he wanted me to go against the


decision of the board on the extension of the contract. I said to


him, I do not think I can do that. The Red Sky programme had its


critics. The BBC have been absolutely scandalous. Spotlight


three years ago did a special targeted at another representative


who just happens to be the First Minister. Subsequent to that


programme, there was a series of investigations by the police, as I


understand it, and the parliament to ombudsman and others, and the result


of those, I understand, was that the thrust of that programme was not


upheld. Also its fans. It exposed a real scandal in Northern Ireland. It


did it in such a way that it conveyed the human aspect as well as


the serious political applications. It was brave. Why did you bring


Jenny Palmer and tell her to change her vote in the Housing executive


board? -- why did you ring? Mr Brimstone sent as a solicitor's


letter in which he does not accept the accuracy of his reporting of his


telephone conversation with Jenny Palmer and does not accept he put


pressure on her. One of the really significant parts of that programme


was the fact that EDU be in that case were communicating via


solicitors letters and they were constantly declining chances to


explain themselves in an interview like this and it gave an impression


of a very close mentality towards journalism and towards someone who


was trying to go beyond just reporting what had happened that


day. In the 40 years of its existence, Spotlight has asked


questions of everyone, from gangsters to government. Generations


of journalists have passed through the office with the aim of telling


me fruit and revealing things the audience did not know before. That


is a philosophy that is as relevant today as it was back when it all


began. October, 1973. People across Northern Ireland tuned into a new


programme. Some of them in places you might not expect. When the first


programme was broadcast, I was in Long Kesh. One black and white


television. We followed political events through the programme. That


month in Northern Ireland, there were 300 shootings and 80 bomb


attacks. Spotlight looked at issues that were a long way from being


controversial. Local government, traffic congestion and even the job


of a lollipop man. In its infancy, Spotlight did have -- did not have


much in a way of a coherent identity. It took some time for the


programme to find its feet. But there were signs that it was not


afraid to tackle controversial and to boot subjects. I remember a


programme about domestic violence. What sort of beatings did you get?


Gloria Hunniford was one of the first Northern Ireland reporters to


look at domestic violence. It made a big impression on some viewers. My


parents used to fight with each other. There was fighting on the TV


and I became interested in it because I thought they were related


somehow. I thought the fighting on the streets in the North had come


into our house in some way. The troubles were just a few years old


but by the mid-70s they had already claimed hundreds of lives. One early


programme explored a theme Spotlight would return to time and again over


the next four decades. The grief suffered by those who had lost loved


ones in the violence. This lady's husband was killed while working as


a bin man. It is two years since I lost my husband. I had heard that


there had been a driver killed and I knew the driver of my husband's


squad and I asked had he been killed and he said no. I knew the way he


said that he been killed. The subject matter for Spotlight


programmes was extremely diverse. It even did celebrity profiles and


interviews. In 1979, Spotlight caught up with Northern Ireland's


most famous son George Best. The sound quality on this tape has


deteriorated over time but in this interview he told Spotlight he was


interested even men in returning to the game he loved. The ball comes


along and it looks good. No one will ever take advantage of me again. The


question was whether his social life played a part in cutting short his


career. I have had the same life of everybody else but because I was the


best player, my social life was opposed to be wilder. The reporter


put it to George Best that he was an alcoholic. I didn't ever said I


would was an alcoholic. Angela has got ideas to keep me busy. A few


kids to keep him busy. Not everyone might be soft focus. Some like its


newest reporter Jeremy Paxman felt it needed to concentrate on the big


issues of the day. The 16 men making up the trade mission to Iran were


trying to do the Eastern equivalent of selling refrigerators to


Eskimos. Strange politics, a system of government, , there was a war


going on. That was not reflected in Spotlight at all. It existed in a


parallel universe London made the big programmes. They got the


resources, the money, the time and the space. We were not talking about


ourselves, we were talking to ourselves.


Spotlight spent much of its time reacting to the news. Jeremy Paxman


and his colleagues wanted to set the agenda. One of his earliest scoops


was an investigation into a new terror group, INLA. We met one of


their leaders. How many people have you killed? I am not prepared to


say. The government went into denial mode and claimed that Jeremy Paxman


had been hoaxed. All credit to the bigwigs who were in charge, they did


not try to stop us broadcasting. By now, ambitious young journalists


were beginning to gravitate towards the toxic mix of Northern Ireland's


Troubles. Roisin McAuley moved back from London to Belfast to take up a


job as a reporter. I was coming from a free city into a city that was


very much under a sort of clamp-down. I remember this feeling


of nervousness when you walked past an unattended parked car, for


example. Gavin Esler arrived at the end of the 1970s. By now, Spotlight


had evolved. It had decisively moved away from arts and entertainment and


was delivering investigations which were often controversial. In 1980,


Esler reported on a programme which would turn out to be hugely


significant. He looked at whether a West Belfast man languishing in


prison in England had really been a key figure in a bomb-making factory.


Then obscure, the imprisoned man's cause was soon to become famous. We


did the story about Giuseppe Conlon which threw doubts on the entire


case against a number of other people in the so-called Aunt Annie's


Bomb Factory, in which there were no bombs. Were you in the IRA? Was I in


it? Nah. I was in the scouts. And because of that, because they got


off, it also raised doubts about the Birmingham Six. So it is one of the


proudest moments in my journalistic career that an innocent man, who


unfortunately died before he could be proved innocent to the public,


had been traduced by the British court system. Which eventually put


it right, but too late for Guiseppe Conlon, unfortunately.


Spotlight's job was increasingly to get to the story behind the news


headlines. Roisin McAuley was asked to look at the disappearance of Army


Captain, Robert Nairac, who had gone missing in South Armagh. Robert


Nairac's mission on that May night has never been made clear, so what


sort of soldier was it that got so caught up in the Troubles of


Northern Ireland that, in the end, he even tried to assume the identity


of those people he was fighting? He was a Lawrence of Arabia-type figure


with all those characteristics of being a loner, thinking that you


could kind of win wars on your own. I remember being told this was the


case of the spy who didn't come in from the cold. Because it was a May


evening and Captain Nairac was wearing a donkey jacket. I was told


that, this had made some people in the pub suspicious because he hadn't


taken his jacket off. Spotlight gained a reputation as a forum for


extended and hard-hitting interviews. When, Gavin Esler met


the mother of a hunger striker, he was taken aback by her loyalty to


the cause. Part of the context was Connor Cruise O'Brien, the Irish


politician had said, I think he said that republicanism is a genetic


defect and too often it is the mother who is the carrier. Are you


prepared to see the protest go to the death? Am I prepared to accept


it? Yes. I know the men, and short of their five demands, they will


hunger strike to death. Many people will find it extraordinary that your


son doesn't take his full remission, come off the protest and come out of


prison as soon as possible. I think one thing that you people do not


seem to understand is that those men are not criminals. It seemed to be


in some ways almost against nature. Or against what you would expect.


And I thought of my mother. Would my mother ever say that about me? It's


right for you to die for something you genuinely believe in? Looking


back through the archives, it's clear that the Troubles formed the


backbone of Spotlight in the late 1970s and 1980s. After all, it was


the story unfolding on the doorstep. But that wasn't all that Spotlight


turned its attention to. It also tried to deal with the big social


issues of the day in Northern Ireland. And looking back on some of


those programmes now, it shows just how much things have changed. Jeff


Dudgen is 30. He is a junior executive in industry and he enjoys


a busy social life outside his job. At first sight he is like thousands


of other young men in Ulster. Except that Jeff is a homosexual. Nearly 40


years later, in a very different Belfast, we met Jeff again. I asked


him about his memories of the programme. I do remember one aspect


of the programme was the vox pops of the people in the street and there


were six or seven different people, four or five of them were generally


sympathetic. I feel sorry for them. Everybody to their own thing.


Everyone to their own, really. In 1976, homosexuality was still a


criminal offence in Northern Ireland. If he practices his


beliefs, he could be convicted in court and sentenced to life in jail.


So in that context, to appear on television, to talk about this


issue, was brave. Well, it was brave, but maybe it was wise.


Because if we were going to go down, it was probably going to be harder


to send us down having appeared on TV. So it was calculated. People


were nervous of being nasty to people who had been on TV. After the


programme, Jeff went to the European Court of Human Rights and won a


landmark case leading to the decriminalisation of homosexuality


in Northern Ireland. At times, Spotlight tried to find the local


angle on global issues. And one of the biggest was the ever-present


threat of nuclear war. For almost 50 bemused local government officers,


it's the first step towards preparing Northern Ireland unity for


the consequences of a nuclear attack. One memorable edition of the


programme looked at how Northern Ireland would fare if the button


were ever pressed. If a two megaton nuclear megaton bomb fell on the


centre of Belfast it would cause death and destruction on an enormous


scale. And I remember thinking at the time that it was quite bizarre


because the only place in the United kingdom that was blowing itself up


was going to be a target for somebody else to blow up. If you


were in the Kremlin in 1983 you were clearly going to turn round and say,


well, no need to blow up Belfast, they seem to be doing a reasonable


job of that themselves! What's been forgotten about the Troubles is that


for most people, they were just distant bangs and news reports. You


needed to be involved or very unlucky to be caught up in them. The


threat of nuclear was what really kept us awake at night. Spotlight


followed a Civil Service exercise dealing with a fictitious nuclear


attack on Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, Coleraine,


Ballyclare, Crossgar, Aughnacloy and Enniskillen were deemed targets.


Their strategic importance uncertain. It named all these places


that were going to be wiped out. And, of course, shopkeepers in these


towns were watching that episode of Spotlight, thinking to themselves,


brilliant, get a claim in. Some of Spotlight's early programmes remind


us of how much things have changed in Northern Ireland and beyond. But


some show us that certain types of stories pop up again and again.


Stories, for instance, about the way politicians use public money. In one


memorable programme, Spotlight followed a group of Belfast city


councilors on a junket to Spain. It was a trip they would come to


regret. Reporter Wendy Robbins followed the councilors to a


conference in Spain. But when she went to the conference, they were


nowhere to be seen. We've been in Spain for full two days and there


has been no sign of Councilor Kobain or Councilor Proctor. When she did


catch up with one of them, it turns out they had gone on their own


excursion. We decided to drive up to Barcelona to see Barcelona. I mean,


that's what we decided to do. But at the ratepayers' expense? Yes. Do you


not see anything incongruous? What benefit has it been to the


ratepayer? I have seen ideas that will assist the council in providing


jobs in the city. One Spotlight ended what was a running sore in the


council and that was the whole culture of junketeering. One


programme stopped it. Keeping an eye on how politicians used public money


or services would become a running theme with Spotlight. The programme


revealed that another politician had been wrongly using the disabled


Motability scheme to acquire the use of a car. This is the West Car Park


at Stormont buildings. And this is a Motability car. The car has, in


fact, been hired out to a disabled person. But it appears to be being


used by one of its named drivers, Sinn Fein councilor Alex Maskey as a


means of getting to work. Spotlight wrote to Alex Maskey to ask him if


he would talk about this subject but he declined. So we decided to come


to Stormont to talk to him about this issue. Hello, Mr Maskey. It's


Andy Davies from the spotlight programme. The answer was no. I seem


to remember Alex Maskey being dubbed Motability Maskey in the end. But by


now a new generation was coming through to learn their trade in


Northern Ireland. It wasn't an easy position to get. Working here was


seen as the best job in journalism. For a young journalist this was a


place where people sorted out their differences through bombs and


bullets. And there was the marching season. I mean, that, to a young


Englishman's eyes, looks like something out of Borneo. You cannot


imagine how alien that looked. Early on, Thompson was asked to look at


the shootings of three IRA members by the SAS in Gibraltar. We looked


in that direction and saw a chap with a white shirt reeling backwards


with a man standing maybe four feet away from him and firing a gun and


following him down as he fell. They look like they were just shot. It


seemed to me this was a deliberate shooting to kill. My overall


impression that it did shine a light onto issues. I was unhappy with some


of the focus in terms of that which well glamourised the terrorists,


almost providing an excuse for them. Here were the days of the state


saying they weren't fighting a war so therefore they were fighting


according to the norms of civilian laws. So therefore you couldn't have


assassination squads, murder squads running about killing people that


you didn't like. It was to become one of the most controversial and


contentious programmes Spotlight would ever make. SAS men actually


had to apologise to people as they charged past, trying to conceal


their guns. Spotlight would allege that the official account of the


shootings was flawed and present evidence to the contrary. It was the


government which had first gone. They were setting out but they said


had happened. The journalist job is to say, hold on, is that what


actually happened? You speak truth to power. . Why wouldn't Spotlight


do that? The Government, led by Margaret Thatcher, was outraged. The


danger is that witnesses whose evidence is vital to the matters are


questioned without any of the safeguards which we can get in


courts of law or before tribunal 's have tried. It is one of the


proudest bastions of liberty that the rule of law is upheld. Spotlight


went ahead and ran the programme, despite masse political opposition.


But Spotlight investigations weren't always about the Troubles. In fact,


some of the most memorable were undercover investigations into


crime. For me, Spotlight and the people behind the programme, the


programme planners, still took time out to produce programmes that were


not Troubles related and that was a great barometer. Of a secret world


and a hidden and unknown world. For the birds themselves, there is only


one prospect to be forced to fight to the death. In 1994, Spotlight


investigated the world of illegal cockfighting. Two exhausted birds


are forced together. The white bird has been skewered through the neck


attached to its opponent's leg. By the time I arrived on Spotlight the


cockfighting investigation had been underway for some months. But then


we needed to bring it on to the next stage, which was to get hold of the


people responsible and put it to them what they had been doing. That


is you, isn't it, Mr Quinn? No, it's not. It is you, isn't it, Mr Quinn?


Hang on a minute. Are you detectives or something? Hey, Rosemary, let the


show that, see if you show that show that, see if you show that


camera? I will personally locking shove it down your throat. For me,


unless someone from Spotlight is actually chasing someone up a lane,


knocking at a window of a farmhouse where potentially grievous bodily


harm will take place? There was no real fear in Spotlight. OK, let's


just take a cameraman and a reporter and we're going to go to a remote


farmhouse. And then confront them with a moral point that I wouldn't


even do in a studio. The problem with locking yourself in the back of


your own van is what to do you do next. He preferred the indignity of


burying himself. Can I do this through the window? Jeremy the


reporter put the pictures through the small space in the window and


confronted him. Is this you? Is this you, Mr? Whatever his name was. I


think one of the significances of that film was that it got picked up


by the Royal Television Society the next year for an award. And I think


it gave the programme a confidence that you know this was our terrain,


we could be doing this. But the world of politics and paramilitary


violence was still the day-to-day subject matter for Spotlight.


Sometimes it would try to investigate paramilitary


organisations. Often, it simply tried to count the human cost of


their violence. I knew the boys were dead. I cursed and I screamed


because I knew there was no way they were getting out of there. I keep


asking myself why it was not me? I have had a good innings. By 1994,


things were changing fast. Spotlight journalists had become used to the


fact that covering death and destruction would always be part of


the job but the events of August, 1994, meant they had to think again.


There was a real sense we were living through history. I found


myself right in the middle of the team. On the eve of the cease-fire,


Spotlight went to meet the leading Republican Bernadette McAliskey. I


think that for Republicans the war is over. I think the good guys lost.


That is the kind of interview clip we remember. Within a day, we saw


the IRA cease-fire announcement. The first response came in Belfast


itself. For that autumn season of Spotlight, there was only one big


story. What the cease-fire actually meant for people living here. The


cease-fire makes a big difference. I no longer have to worry about people


sitting behind me going to blow my head. I never went into town since


the troubles were on. The cease-fires changed the political


dynamic. Suddenly, the onus was on politicians to talk to one another


and their voters about the best way forward. Spotlight brought them into


the studio to do just that and sometimes there were fiery debates.


It is called motion 79. Use tabled it at your general assembly -- you


tabled it. There was a party paper. You carried the cloth and glorified


the death of a man who murdered mercilessly. I think you have made


your point. I regard you because you were born in Ireland as an Irish


person. When the first cease-fire broke down with the Canary Wharf


bomb on a Spotlight decided to name the men at the heart of IRA


decision-making. Spotlight spoke to many sources and all of them agreed


that this is one of the most senior men in the IRA. The most intelligent


monetary operator that the RA has produced is Brian Keenan. Those who


do not want peace, they will get war. The people in Northern Ireland


did not know whether the IRA would lay down in weapons again, but they


did know the identities of the men who were making the decisions. The


BBC took the view that we had very substantial evidence to justify the


assertion that these men were running the IRA and frankly only the


BBC is big enough and had sufficient cloud to say, we are going to name


them. If they want to sue us, we will see them in court. --


sufficient clout. Social attitudes were changing too, however slowly.


20 years after looking at laws that homosexuality, Spotlight went back


to the issue in a memorable programme. It was a programme about


the Brigadier's son who was gay and came back to Belfast. John Lyttle


was the son of Tucker Lyttle. He agreed to come back to Belfast from


London to explore what life was like for gay people here. He encountered


some opposition. I am gay. That is my gift from God. No, it is not. It


is like blonde hair and blue eyes. This book tells differently. Do you


believe homosexuals should be treated differently under the law? I


have no problem with that. I came away from that programme thinking,


we are not just as bad as people make out, we are not as backward, as


nasty and homophobic. Not everyone was a fan of the


programme. It is not that important for us to know that the leader of a


loyalist paramilitary group. Sun had a different sexuality to his


father. I do not know how important matters. Just before the programme


went out, Tucker Lyttle asked to meet with the reported to discuss


it. I explained what we were trying to do and it was not a hatchet job.


It was very amicable. At the end of the conversation, I put my hand in


my pocket and I got a business card out and I reached it over to him and


I said, here is my card, you can bring me any time you like. John put


don't need to give my daddy or card, don't need to give my daddy or card,


I am sure he knows where you live anyway. -- my dad your card. The


Spotlight archive is a document of how much things have changed here in


Northern Ireland. For those who remember the dark days of the


violence, and arguably the biggest change of all is peace. Looking at


40 years of programmes, you can see how we got here, gradually and with


the old certainties being chipped away at year after year. We fight


because the people want us to fight. Total cessation of all violence. No


guns, no government. Republicans are serious about discussions. I


asked... Not everybody wanted to move forward. Some refused to lay


down their guns. Others went looking for more. In this programme, we went


on the trail of a dissident arms smuggling operation in the Balkans.


He took out a rocket launcher 200 metres from MI6. The crucial thing


for us was to be able to place two of these dissident republicans in


Croatia. We had heard about a hotel they might have been staying at. We


went there one night. We bought the night porter a glass of whiskey and


persuaded this very nice chap to hand over the hotel logs over the


last few years and low and behold there they were, the two names


signed and dated. There was, the Croatian connection in


black-and-white. Would you like to respond to comments made in the... ?


The team put their evidence to one of the men, the man alleged to be


the leader of the continuity IFA, Joe Fee. Can I have a word with you,


for just one moment, please? The Croat connection, incidentally, I


consider it to be one of the pieces of journalism that I am most proud


of in all of the years I have been working as a journalist. Every


journalist dreams of a big breakthrough, when they get enough


evidence to tell a really important story. In 2000, Spotlight gained


access to secret security services surveillance footage that allowed


them to tell the story of an IRA quartermaster who had been shot dead


by armed police in London. MI5 had been following Diarmaid O'Neill and


his associates because they believed he was planning a bombing campaign.


The operation ended up with a man shot dead. The surveillance tapes


broadcast by Spotlight show just how the killing came about. Slowly


coming across. Brian McHugh is another who believes Diarmaid


O'Neill was surrendering. He was in the room when he is shot. He is


currently in the republican wing in the maze prison. It was during the


making of the programme that someone made contact with us and said they


have got some material that we should really look at. We were


presented with a bin bag full of tapes. They were security service


surveillance tapes and there were dozens of them and they were tapes


of footage of the down crisscrossing London. Diarmaid O'Neill and his


colleagues in the park, in a street, in cars.


We then realised that we had something that had never been seen


on British television before. We had security service surveillance


material and we had the commentary of the officers in their cars while


they were watching the gang. Going straight on. The programme also had


access to police audio recordings of the moment when the gang was


apprehended in their hotel room and Diarmaid O'Neill was shot dead by


armed police. In terms of the footage, things like


that rarely happen in your career. Every journalist hopes for the


envelope being posted under his door.


We gave people an insight into the security services operation that


they had never seen before and we were able to count the story of


Diarmaid O'Neill and his final hours in a complete way that no one else


had done before because we had that footage. From investigating


dissident republicans to state security services, Spotlight was


breaking new ground and in 2003 it was the turn of loyalists. The


programme gained unprecedented access to loyalist paramilitaries at


a time when they were at war with each other. The Spotlight are member


most was about the UDA. Spotlight first looked at John White in 2000.


He was associated with the UDA, an organisation that had been accused


of widespread criminality. Spotlight asked him how he had come by all of


the trappings of wealth. I have worked hard all of my life. When I


was 11, I worked. While I was imprisoned, I worked very hard also.


I was able to save the money I made out of hand across -- handicrafts. I


knew when he said it, it was one of those golden moments. I invested in


the stock exchange. I was watching it sitting in a terraced house in


Portadown. I could hear my neighbours roaring with laughter.


Three years later, Kevin Magee met John White again. I never received


extortion at all. What do you think the public think? You are getting


into things that I do not want to talk about. URA public figure. They


are jealous. People constantly ask, where does John White get his


money? You are driving a Jaguar. I don't drink or smoke. Spotlight also


met loyalist Sammy Duddy to discuss the ongoing feud. Gunmen had


attacked his house and while he and his wife escaped unscathed one of


his pet dogs did not. The dog died within an hour. Why wife got up and


shouted out the window at them. What did you shout? I shouted, you have


killed my Chihuahua! Kevin was given access to the infamous Big Brother


house, home to Johnny Adair. He wanted to bring the cameras in. He


wanted us to see him in his lair. Johnny Adair was outside and had


fallen out with the others and it was a short space of time at the


peak of the feud that is when they were all trashing each other. That


programme was made in a very short space of time, in about 24 hours.


When a question is booked that Johnny when a question is put that


Johnny Adair does not want to answer, the atmosphere changes.


A large element of this feud is that you were trying to muscle in on


their turf. Most people, there is a graduation towards a point of anger


and you can feel your way in a conversation. But not on those


occasions. I used to feel that these guys were on very short fuses. Their


lives were under threat. Sometimes people at the heart of a big story


did want to talk. And in early 2005, no story was bigger than the


Northern bank robbery. After the bank robbery, there was only one


story in town. Chris Ward was the bank employee who had been forced to


help the robbers rob the bank. I was astounded when he walked into the


office that day. I did not think he would turn up. The interview was


broadcast the next day in a special programme. How much do you estimate


was in the second consignment? Iit would help allay any lingering or


lurking suspicion that he was somehow involved. Did you feel like


you're under suspicion? When you read, you try not to read into


stupid media articles. But when you read things like that or if Joe


Bloggs in the street would read things like that, they would think,


your wee man must be involved. And then I remember once the interview


was broadcast, and my phone just went, it was red hot, I remember.


And there were journalists on from Australia, from Germany, from


everywhere. And they all wanted to know more about the Chris Ward


interview and the Northern Bank robbery, which at that time was one


of the biggest in the world. Not everyone is willing to sit down for


a spotlight interview. But sometimes questions have to be asked anyway.


That's where the doorstep interview comes in. Often it happens in a


public place, and for Spotlight reporters, door-stepping is part of


the job description. How are you doing? And this is the


stuff and definitely this is diazepam. And now is a good time to


tell you that I am Jennifer O'Leary, a reporter for BBC Spotlight. I just


wanted to find out from you where are you getting those drugs? You


know this is illegal? I wouldn't come any further. You're having a


laugh? No. You better be slagging me, mate. We've been filming you for


the BBC. You're having a giraffe! We have, we've been filling you for the


BBC and we want to ask you what you're at. And what you're getting


up to. Stephen Walker, BBC Television. Why are you selling


clocked cars? It's nerve-wracking, it's


frightening, you are worried that you are going to get the words wrong


because you have only got one chance. You know, it's a bit like


taking a penalty kick at Wembley in front of 100,000 people. You've only


got one chance. Bishop Hegarty, Darragh McIntyre, BBC Spotlight. I


was wondering could we have a wee word with you about Father Eugene


Greene? Yeah. Did the Church handle the issue of father Eugene Greene


appropriately? Oh, yes. Any chance of people getting their money back?


I will not answer your question. Mr McIlhome, Ciaran Tracey from BBC


Spotlight. Can we ask you about your waste smuggling operation, Jimmy?


How much money are you making? BBC Northern Ireland, are you going to


compensate the victims of IRA violence? Mr McGuinness, where is


Captain Robert Nairac's body? I Captain Robert Nairac's body? I


haven't got a clue. Mr McGuinness. Mr Gonzales, my name is Mandy


McAuley, I'm a reporter with the BBC, I want to ask you about illegal


dogfighting. You've been holding illegal dogfights at your home. At


this point, police stepped in to arrest him. Do you like watching


animals suffer? One tool journalists available to Spotlight journalists


when following a story is secret filming. It's only allowed in


limited circumstances, but over the years Spotlight has come to


specialise in long-term undercover investigations. We will never engage


expeditions of just sending cameras expeditions of just sending cameras


or recording equipment somewhere in the hope that something might turn


up. That is untoward. We need good evidence that something is wrong


before we will contemplate secretly recording it. Sometimes it can be


dangerous. In 2002, Spotlight asked two young Lithuanian journalists to


go undercover as they were illegally trafficked to Northern Ireland to


work on farms. The programme was called People for Sale. In order to


deceive immigration, Juarate is sending them on a less direct route.


We're in Helsinki airport and Saulius and Loreta are right behind


us over there in that queue. Now, they're about to board a flight to


Dublin and there they'll be met by an agent, and he's going to drive


them North of the border. The only thing that can scupper the entire


plan is passport control at Dublin airport. But whilst undercover in


Lithuania, one of the journalists, Loreta, had a dangerous encounter.


She met with a people trafficker, and went with him to a restaurant.


Spotlight journalist Emma Tolland watched them from outside. Two black


cars pulled up outside. And about eight very burly, well-built men


walked into the building. They didn't look like they were there for


a meal. They weren't. They were there to attack the man Loreta had


just met. She was caught in the middle of a Lithuanian gang feud.


And she was wearing a secret camera. All of the curtains were closed in


the restaurant and the front door was bolted shut.


Luckily, Loreta had been trained well, and as soon as she smelled the


danger she got up from the table and well, and as soon as she smelled the


left and stood in a corner with the other customers in the restaurant to


keep herself safe. The programme ended with Spotlight putting


questions to those involved in the people-trafficking ring, both in


Northern Ireland and in Lithuania. Hello, Mr Kernan, my name's Declan


Lawn, I'm from the BBC. I was wondering, could you talk to me


about your involvement in the trafficking of illegal workers into


Northern Ireland? If the police see you, first of all, you're on


holiday. And that's it. And in the farm there will be no problem? No.


In 2007, Spotlight investigated the hidden world of illegal dogfighting.


We had to hire undercover operates who would pose and live as members


of a dogfighting gang here in Northern Ireland for one-and-a-half


years. There was blood splattered all over the ring, all over the two


handlers. Blood was everywhere. It was an absolute bloodbath. These


were very, very dangerous people and if our undercover operates had been


rumbled, they were in serious, serious trouble. Mandy McAuley and


undercover reporter Steve found themselves in a remote part of rural


Finland where illegal pitbulls were being trained to be killing


machines. I remember looking up and seeing dogs hanging from their jaw


and this was all part of strengthening their jaws for the


fight. And standing there and Steve digging me in the ribs and hissing,


smile. For god's sake smile and laugh. We're dog fighters. We don't


care. The undercover footage revealed a world of intense cruelty.


There were times when just the tears filled up. You see what these


horrible people are doing to these wonderful animals. If I had my way


they would be locked up and jailed for life. But death was to be at the


hands of Robert Gonzales. Gonzales lifted the dog and took it to a side


building. The first that we knew that something was up was that all


the lights in the barn went off. It wasn't until afterwards that he said


that he took the dog into a shed and put a crocodile clip onto its tail


and a crocodile clip onto its ear and threw a bucket of water over the


dog and rigged it to the main electricity system to kill it. Steve


was a guy, very tough, never really showed his emotions. But he came out


and he was disturbed. It wasn't just the undercover reporter who was


disturbed. Over the following days, Spotlight and the BBC were inundated


with reaction from the audience. I remember when the dogfighting


programme went out and that is indicative of what Spotlight's all


about. It's at the very heart of Spotlight, that you're actually


seeing what's going on in Northern Ireland. But until Spotlight does


it, it's hidden. And then it's hitting you up the face, this is


happening here. This is happening in our country, and then everybody


wants to talk about it. Four years later, and Mandy McAuley was


revealing another type of secret world. But this was one had been


created by a killer. She met a young woman who was coming to terms with


the fact that her father had murdered her mother almost 20 years


before. At the end of the day he's my father and I love him and I can't


help having those feelings for him and I don't apologise for having


those feelings for him. I love him very much and, like I say, although


I'll never understand how he could have done that, he is the only one


really who can give me some of the answers that I need. It was the case


of Colin Howell. Aided by his then-lover, Hazel Stewart, Howell


had murdered his wife, Leslie, and Stewart's husband, Trevor Buchanan.


The powerful series of interviews with the children of those involved,


almost 20 years after the crime, with the children of those involved,


made a big impression on audiences. Your mum has been convicted,


unanimously convicted, by a jury of murdering your father. There are


people watching who will say by standing by your mum you have in


some way betrayed your father's memory. We love our father and our


mother, you know? So we are not taking any sides. We wouldn't have


wanted what has happened to her. Not ever to happen. But we have lost? We


lost our dad and this? Nearly feels like we are going to lose our mum.


The grace and dignity that they showed in those interviews, it


really was humbling, very wise heads on young shoulders, very moving. And


they had waited so long, they had waited so long to tell their side of


the story. In a new, post-conflict Northern Ireland, Spotlight has


changed with the times. But dealing with unanswered questions about the


past will always be part of its role. And that's why, in 2007,


Spotlight returned to an issue it has first looked at almost 30 years


previously. The death and disappearance of Captain Robert


Nairac. And when the programme makers set out on their


investigation, they started here. The search began in the vaults of


the BBC. And I remember in particular the day we went across to


this big warehouse and found our way to one particular shelf and there


was a box labeled Captain Robert Nairac and it was dated 29 years


earlier. And you opened up the box and there were all these tapes from


back then and in particular there were these documents. They were the


transcripts of the different trials of various people who had already


been processed for their role in the killing of Captain Robert Nairac. I


was astonished to open up, all those years on, to have all that body of


evidence ready to use. Which Roisin McAuley's team had left behind for


us to follow up all those years later. I hope he could read my


handwriting! One of the men involved in the killing had gone on the run


immediately afterwards. He settled in America, and until Spotlight


knocked on his door, he had never been traced. Terry McCormick has


been on the run in America for the past 30 years. His account of what


happened that night is exclusive to Spotlight, and it is the first time


that anyone involved in the killing has spoken publicly. I ran in behind


him and put my finger to the back of his head, hoping he would think it


was a gun. I asked him for his licence. He turned around swiftly, I


punched him in the face. I heard what I assumed to be a gun. Terry


McCormick told Spotlight how he had been struggling to live with his


part in the killing ever since. There's not a day that goes by that


I don't say a prayer for Captain Nairac. Spotlight's two


investigations into the death of Captain Robert Nairac - 30 years


apart - both, in their own way, broke new ground. But the final


chapter of the tale has yet to be written. And it remains to be seen


if it ever will be. I'm very glad that someone followed through.


Because Captain Robert Nairac's body is still out there and the IRA in


South Armagh is simply not ready to give up its dead. Over the last few


years, Spotlight has found itself doing a different kind of


investigation. More and more in a post-conflict society, it's


following the money. Is your family hiding millions? Oh, billions. In


the past, Spotlight, like everybody else, would have been concentrating


heavily on security and the world of paramilitaries. These days it is


politics, it is business, it is all the more complicated areas. If we


are going to move into a normal political environment, you are going


to need fewer paramilitary experts and more accountants. The


investigation into Sean Quinn's financial collapse and its


consequences in Northern Ireland and the South took the spotlight team


around the world. Well, it was such a complicated area which had such


wide ramifications for the Border counties of Ireland, North and


South. But also the wider Irish economy. And to explain this amazing


money trail from Stockholm to Ukraine and ending up at literally


this small keyhole post box in Belize. This is the registered


office of a company which owns a $100 million in Moscow. It is


difficult to see who else would have had the resources to do it properly.


But that was a very effective investigation. So this is what $60


million of prime retail real estate in Kiev looks like. I think it's


really important in this day and age that there is still room for


in-depth investigation where every stone can be unturned. One of


Spotlight's most significant investigations in recent years was


into financial issues surrounding Iris Robinson's affair with Kirk


McCambley. I was asked to go to speak to somebody about a story


which they thought they had and I went to speak to this particular


person. This source. And they explained to me the gist of it and I


looked at them and I just thought you are winding me up here, this


can't be true. Spotlight revealed how Iris Robinson had solicited


money from two property developers to help set her 19-year-old lover up


in business. Two cheques, each to the tune of ?25,000, were made out,


at her behest, to Kirk McCambley. How did you get the money? Two


cheques. Written out to you? Yes, written out to me. I remember the


day that the editor of Spotlight brought that story to me and told me


about it. Do you think this is a story that we can do? And my answer


to him was, not is it a story that we can do. On the basis of what you


have told me, it is a story that we must do. Spotlight interviewed a


former confidant of Iris Robinson, Selwyn Black, who set out in detail


the sequence of events. In talking to the BBC, there is no personal


gain in this for me. Sorry. The programme caused a sensation. It was


one of the best pieces of investigate journalism, television


journalism, certainly in this country, that I have ever seen.


Revelation after revelation after revelation and the country must have


sat and watched that with a sense of disbelief. But not everyone feels


the investigation was worthwhile. I think as a unionist, I would say


there are far more deserving cases that could have have? I mean, like


the paedophile brother of the leader of republicanism has never been


made. Why? But yet, people have a go at the unionist MP or the wife of a


unionist leader who has medical issues. Would they have done that on


anyone else? I don't know. The key point about that story was the


?50,000. That an elected politician thought they could take ?50,000 from


two property developers and do with it what they would. What part of


that did Iris Robinson think was right? Spotlight, like Northern


Ireland, has changed beyond recognition over the last 40 years.


But some things are the same. In the future, the programme will still try


to tell people the truth about things that matter and that they


didn't know before. After all, as the old saying goes, life begins at


40. It's wanting to ask questions about why and who and how and where


and not wanting to take full hit for an answer. Clearly, the programme


has been in rude health and continues to do the important thing,


which is to find people in positions of power who are abusing people


without power and kissing them right off. So here's to another 7000 years


of Spotlight. # Happy Birthday to you. I think it is absolutely


wonderful that it is 40. I will open a bottle of champagne. # Happy


birthday to you. Happy birthday, Spotlight. Happy birthday, dear


Spotlight. Happy Birthday. Giz a job! Stay safe up those lanes when


you're trying to track men down who are potentially very scary. # Happy


birthday to you.


Spotlight marks its 40th anniversary. This special edition reflects on some of the programme's most significant investigations, delving into archives across four decades and hearing from former reporters Jeremy Paxman and Gavin Esler.

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