Girl throwing bottles at British troops during a riot in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1981.
Anne Marie, aged 10, throwing bottles at British troops during a riot in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1981. Courtesy of © Peter Marlow/Magnum Photos

Peaceful protest turns to violence and ordinary people become surrounded by fear and hatred in the premiere of ONCE UPON A TIME IN NORTHERN IRELAND, Aug. 28 at 9 & 10 pm

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New Series from Award-Winning Director James Bluemel and the BBC, Tells Extraordinary Human Stories from Those Who Lived Through The Troubles

Series To Have Broadcast Premiere August 28-30 on PBS


ONCE UPON A TIME IN NORTHERN IRELAND, a powerful new five-part series, gives voice to the people who lived through Northern Ireland’s violent past by sharing intimate, unheard testimonies from all sides of the conflict. The series combines unfiltered personal accounts with archival footage to tell the story of the people and communities that had to live with conflict daily — and are still dealing with its legacies today. ONCE UPON A TIME IN NORTHERN IRELAND will have its broadcast premiere August 28-30 on PBS.

man holding fence in road with armored vehicle approching in Ireland 1969
Billy, Bogside Riots, Derry 1969
Courtesy of DMG Media Clive Limpkin

Bill Gardner, Vice President of Multiplatform Programming and Head of Development for PBS, says: “ONCE UPON A TIME IN NORTHERN IRELAND is an extraordinarily intimate and affecting portrait of how events and actions of the past are measured in individual lives and collective memories. At the heart of every conflict are the people involved, and we are grateful to the courageous men and women who shared their personal stories with us. PBS is honored to partner with James Bluemel, Keo Films, Walk on Air Films, and our colleagues at BBC Two and BBC Northern Ireland to bring this deeply impactful and deeply human series to audiences across platforms.”

Commissioned for BBC Two, BBC Northern Ireland, iPlayer and PBS, the series comes from award-winning director James Bluemel and the team behind the BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning series ONCE UPON A TIME IN IRAQ, which aired as a FRONTLINE documentary special in 2020 on PBS.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN NORTHERN IRELAND runs chronologically from the beginning of The Troubles in the late 1960s to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement signed 25 years ago, in April 1998. All five hours will be available for streaming on Monday, May 22. Episode descriptions are below:

Episode 1 “It Wasn’t Like a Movie Anymore”

Monday, August 28, 9:00 p.m. ET

The opening episode charts Northern Ireland’s progression from relative peace to full- blown conflict. When tensions between Catholic and Protestant communities explode, the British Army is deployed. When 13 unarmed Catholics are shot dead in Derry by British Paratroopers, the world looks on in shock. Known as “Bloody Sunday,” it has far reaching political consequences and is seen by some as a recruitment drive for the Provisional IRA.

Episode 2 “Do Paramilitaries Lie Awake at Night?”

Monday, August 28, 10:00 p.m. ET

It is now 1972, and a deeply segregated society has emerged, with many Catholic and Protestant working-class communities policed by paramilitary organizations. Hatred and fear of the ‘other side’ are endemic, as is a devotion to one’s own culture and traditions. Six months after Bloody Sunday, the IRA explode 19 bombs across Belfast in an hour, killing nine and injuring 130 others. But punk music emerges as a unifying force for some young Catholics and Protestants, who defy the chaos and segregated world around them.