The many problems besetting the film Unquiet Graves began with its inception as three simultaneous entities in one:
- the primary component of Seán Murray’s film studies PhD project for Queen’s University Belfast
- the primary vehicle offered to a specific group of victims of loyalist terrorism to tell their stories in extreme isolation from the surrounding swamp of IRA terrorism
- a commercial project to make money for Seán Murray’s film company, Relapse Pictures.
After that blurred trinity, the film’s problems multiplied out of Seán’s control.
For instance, in setting out to uncover claims of collusion and terrorism on the part of servants of the British state, Seán failed to uncover a hidden IRA terrorist bomber and gunman at the heart of his tale – the deceitful Paul O’Connor, self-styled Director of the Pat Finucane Centre on whom Seán relied for both research and interviews.
It does not appear that the victims involved in the making of Unquiet Graves were ever informed about Paul O’Connor’s hidden IRA background.
Somehow or other, Seán Murray’s research failed to out O’Connor who had hidden his IRA activities for decades while posing as an objective, independent Human Rights’ activist and researcher while also a critic of the British Government.
Not that O’Connor’s hidden IRA past was much hidden in Derry City – it was well known to all of the city’s IRA members from the early 1970s and to many Bogside residents who remembered him from his public IRA checkpoint antics…
What’s more, one former member of the IRA’s Derry Brigade Staff had been putting claims to journalists for over a year concerning Paul O’Connor’s involvement in the murder of teenage IRA volunteer Jim O’Hagan in August of 1971 – none of the journalists would investigate or report on the astonishing claims about O’Connor before this blog outed him.
It’s not just Paul O’Connor’s deceit, lies and hypocrisy – it’s his arrogance in declaring that a British Law Lord should have his judgments annulled owing to a background decades earlier in the British Army!!
This was declared by Paul O’Connor while he himself had a hidden background in the IRA!!
The problem for Paul O’Connor and the Pat Finucane Centre was that Lord Woolf didn’t hide his military service of decades earlier – it was described in all of his publicly available biographies…
Seán’s IRA chieftain father, Sean ‘Spike’ Murray – described in different newspapers variously as Head of the IRA’s Northern Command and as a member of the IRA’s overarching Army Council – was photographed cosily in Paul O’Connor’s company.
Did IRA chieftain Sean Spike Murray Senior not know of O’Connor’s hidden IRA past?
If Spike did know, did he not inform his son of the fact?
While Seán Murray Jnr has fielded questions about the credibility of his loyalist paramilitary interviewee “damned liar and convicted murderer” John Weir, he has not warned viewers of his film about the discovery of Paul O’Connor’s hidden IRA past, even after O’Connor himself made admissions to both The Irish News and The Irish Times following revelations on this blog.
Did Seán Murray Jnr know about Paul O’Connor’s hidden IRA past when he involved him in Unquiet Graves?
If he did know about O’Connor’s hidden IRA past, then it appears he must have colluded in covering it up.
If he didn’t know about O’Connor’s hidden IRA past, then he should have responded appropriately to O’Connor’s unmasking.
Seán has had two options since the O’Connor revelations – he could have re-edited Unquiet Graves to remove the proven IRA liar and deceiver entirely from the film, or he could have put a warning on copies of the film so that viewers could have the latest updated revelations about Unquiet Graves‘ lying narrator and researcher.
Seán has done neither of these.
I see no warning about the O’Connor revelations on the documentary on any of the video streaming or download sites – in fact, I have not seen a single interview where Seán has been challenged about the Paul O’Connor revelations.
Nor have these revelations moved Queen’s University Film department to reassess Seán’s PhD project that not merely failed at the very get-go to uncover IRA collusion, lies and terrorism right in the very heart of his team, but has failed to inform viewers about it even now.
Lack of Objectivity
In various interviews, Seán has made no secret of his belief that there is no such thing as an ‘objective’ documentary.
When challenged about objectivity by an Irish podcaster based in Stockholm, Seán opined:
I never have to have an objective eye – that’s a fallacy, a complete fallacy. And that’s one thing that we need to speak about when we’re talking about documentary. There’s never ever been an objective documentary. This is a fallacy that is run particularly by broadcasters when they say that they’re being objective in making documentary film. Broadcasters aren’t objective in any of the documentaries that they do… what I do with my work is I try to attain the truth, and whether that’s through the objective or subjective lens it doesn’t matter to me – I’m trying to get to the truth and as long as you can adhere to trying to get to the truth, it doesn’t matter.Seán Murray Jnr
Apparently potential viewers are not worthy of being informed of the uncovered truth about Paul O’Connor.
When Seán Murray Jnr was interviewed by veteran journalist Frank Mitchell on Northern Ireland’s U105 radio station, Mitchell challenged Murray about the film’s lack of objectivity, mentioning Murray’s IRA family background and the almost total absence from the film of the IRA’s many contemporaneous Human Rights atrocities during the period 1972-1978 that both instigated (and responded to) the loyalist violence described in the documentary.
Mitchell challenged Seán about professionals in the media having a duty to offer at least balance, if not objectivity.
Mitchell recounted what a great many people felt about the documentary:
But what the IRA did at that time was just never-ending in terms of attacks on people, but some of the atrocities I will make reference to – to balance it out against what the Glenanne Gang did – they blew up a bus with soldiers in England at this time and among those who died were the wife and two children of one of the soldiers; we talk about the Republic of Ireland – they killed Fine Gael Senator Billy Fox who was kidnapped and killed on the border; an IRA sniper shot dead… the IRA they killed a woman who was out shopping out in Dungannon – a sniper shot her dead. They did the Guildford pub bombings, the Birmingham Pub bombings, the Oxford Street bombings, they did the Kingsmill massacre, they killed three people in a firebombing in Dromore, the La Mon bombings where people were incinerated – numerous attacks on – just looking at the number of Protestants who were killed in the Fermanagh/Tyrone area, regular attacks on both off duty and on duty members of the security forces – and the rate of killing is actually an attack or killing every two or three days, but in the film, Sean – and this is where people may challenge you – and correct me if I’m wrong – but in the film the only one of those tragedies that you make any reference to is Kingsmill – and it’s a brief reference but it is a reference and it is put in context of where the IRA killed the [10 Protestant] workers coming home in a minibus. That can lead to those who watch the film thinking it isn’t balanced.Frank Mitchell
Seán Murray Jnr offered his own unique “674 – 22” response to this devastating criticism which he has repeated in various interviews:
What I have done is I have gathered a bit of research on documentaries that were made during the conflict and which would be considered as part of the State narrative and I found 674 documentaries which largely would have been critical of the IRA, naming IRA atrocities, etc., and in that same period, I had listed only 22 documentaries which could be considered anti-State. These were documentaries which detailed the killing of Pat Finucane, plastic bullet killings and extra-judicial killings during the 1980s etc. So that is the imbalance that has always been there that has shaped the State narrative and for the families for the first time to have their voices platformed in isolation of their own stories, and not this false symmetrical alignment, without equivocation of having to detail other killings. The IRA had nothing to do with the Glenanne gang. We know what the IRA were involved in during the conflict. We know that all staked actors were responsible for massacres during the conflict. This is a story that is led by victims themselves and should be seen in isolation and we shouldn’t be discussing IRA atrocities when we’re talking about the Glenanne gang. This is a case that should be sitting on its own. It’s platformed and driven by the victims themselves.Seán Murray Jnr
While Seán’s absurd 674 – 22 claim is entirely unsupported by any evidence, he asserts that every one of 674 unnamed documentaries made by professionals in the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, RTE, UTV and in the commercial independent sector over many years may now be lumped together in his mind in a “pro-State” category because they were “critical of the IRA, naming IRA atrocities”!
Who wouldn’t be critical of IRA Human Rights atrocities?
Furthermore, in Seán’s extreme partisan mind, 22 undefined documentaries may be described as “anti-State, anti-British State” because they “detailed the killing of Pat Finucane, plastic bullet killings and extra-judicial killings”.
In claiming that his film Unquiet Graves was “driven by the victims themselves”, Seán appears to be in denial that he directed Unquiet Graves, that he decided to isolate these victims related to 120 killings from the 800 victims of the IRA’s killings during the same period.
There is almost an implication that these specific victims spontaneously aggregated and decided instinctively to separate themselves from the 800 victims of the IRA’s overarching and much greater campaign of Human Rights atrocities – even though Seán elsewhere recounted that he spent weeks if not months speaking to these victims before putting a camera before them.
Did Seán Murray Jnr’s selected, isolated victims deserve to know that the Director of the Pat Finucane Centre – Paul O’Connor – was himself a closet victim maker?
Did they have the right to know that? Do viewers even now have the right to know that?
Frank Mitchell reminded Seán that media professionals must aim higher than an extreme partisan view:
But can we do anything in isolation as filmmakers, as journalists, as reporters, as creative people, Seán, that’s the crucial bit, because we have a duty to inform an audience and if you leave one of the most basic pieces out of the jigsaw – the atrocities carried out by the IRA – the jigsaw isn’t complete.Frank Mitchell
Seán Murray Jnr and Misinformation
Is there evidence elsewhere that Seán Murray Jnr misinforms or misleads audiences in a brazen manner?
In the course of an interview with RT’s “Going Underground” programme, Seán declared to anchor Afshin Rattansi and to RT’s entire television audience:
“There’s never been a single prosecution or a single sentence that’s been served by a British soldier during the conflict.”Seán Murray Jnr
Either Seán Murray Jnr is the world’s worst researcher or else he is a partisan purveyor of misinformation.
Few republicans who have lived through or studied the consequences of the IRA’s failed and abandoned ‘armed struggle’ can forget Private Ian Thain’s prosecution and conviction for the murder of Thomas ‘Kidso’ Reilly, road manager of the band Bananarama.
Or Private Lee Clegg’s prosecution and conviction for the murder of joyrider Karen Reilly and intent to wound Martin Peake (who later died of his injuries).
Or the “pitchfork murders” of Fermanagh farmers Michael Naan and Andrew Murray which were investigated by police as a “cold case” after 9 years and led to Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Sergeants John Byrne and Stanley Hathaway pleading guilty and receiving life sentences, and to two others pleading guilty to lesser charges, including Captain Andrew Snowball who received a 4 year sentence.
Or the murder of Belfast teenager and father of two Peter McBride for which two Scots Guards – Mark Wright and James Fisher – were successfully prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Since the Ulster Defence Regiment was a regiment of the British Armed forces, many serving members of the UDR were successfully investigated and prosecuted by detectives of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and convicted for involvement in paramilitary crimes including murder – too many to name here who served long sentences in the Maze Prison.
So why would Seán Murray Jnr tell a television audience a blatant untruth by claiming that not a single British soldier was ever prosecuted or convicted during the conflict in Northern Ireland?
The only explanation is that either Seán Murray Jnr is Northern Ireland’s least accurate researcher or else he knew these convictions very well but decided to impart propagandist mistruths to a British television audience.
Some of Seán Murray Jnr’s generalizations in interviews are shockingly partisan and inaccurate, and one in particular about the Royal Ulster Constabulary is an example.
When giving some background to Our Man in Stockholm, Seán told the following tale:
Maybe we could point to the genesis of the contemporary conflict in 1969. So I’m from Clonard where in 1969 we had the area almost burnt to the ground by loyalists mobs and the RUC. So I was always aware of that when I was growing up…Seán Murray Jnr
Even in the video entitled “Eyewitness – The Burning of Bombay Street” – posted to YouTube by Sinn Féin but produced by the Clonard Residents Association – which contains eyewitness accounts of residents and of Fr. Patrick Egan of Clonard Monastery – there is not a single reference to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary being involved in burning houses – not a single reference.
Seán Murray Jnr wasn’t born until April 15 of 1976, seven years after the events about which he now casually offers more misinformation.
Belfast writer and commentator Malachi O’Doherty – whose objectivity and balance few would deny – offered his own eyewitness account of events on the night of the attacks entitled The Pogrom Myth from which short blog post the following excerpts are taken:
The flaw in this version of August 1969 is that it takes no account of the plain fact that it was rioters in Ardoyne and the Falls Road – Catholics – who started the Trouble in Belfast that week, and it was very big trouble they started…
…The rioting in August was part of a plan to overstretch the police who had been drawn into a huge riot in Derry after the Apprentice Boys parade on August 12th. No shots had been fired in Derry.
I watched the Falls Road part of the operation on the second night of rioting, August 14th.
The plan there was, apparently, to burn down a redbrick police station at Hastings Street, situated just where the Westlink now comes off Divis Street.
The rioters would chuck stones and petrol bombs…
…That afternoon, Protestants rioters burnt Bombay Street, and that attack became the symbolic moment of the whole period, according as it did with the easy myth that innocent Catholics were swooped on by Protestant bigots and barbarians.
Indeed, for many who had stayed at home that night, that is exactly what their experience was.
…They should not pass the story on to their children however, that it was a one sided fight. It was the Falls that started it.Malachi O’Doherty
Seán Murray Jnr appears to desire to slur the Royal Ulster Constabulary while it was the Royal Ulster Constabulary that investigated and successfully prosecuted all of the hundreds of loyalist paramilitaries who spent decades of their lives in the loyalist wings of the Maze Prison/Long Kesh.
Wasn’t it the Royal Ulster Constabulary that successfully captured Sean Spike Murray Snr in 1982 when he was carrying out a terrorist bombing in Belfast leading to his successful prosecution and 12 year prison sentence [receiving 50% remission for good behaviour from the Brits]?
Sean Spike Murray Senior’s 12 year sentence for possession of 2 beer keg bombs during an IRA bombing mission – related to the fact that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary subsequently located 2 tons of hidden explosives after one or more of the IRA would-be bombers “squealed” – was remarkably lenient in view of the 50% remission on offer at the time.
Leaving to one side Seán Murray Jnr’s completely false accusation about the RUC burning homes in Bombay Street, it is interesting to note that Murray was also challenged by Frank Mitchell regarding a claim in Unquiet Graves that the entire Ulster Defence Regiment was “sectarian” – and Mitchell, his challenger, was a former GAA All Ireland Senior Football Champion with his club Burren:
It isn’t fair – historians will argue that it isn’t fair to describe everyone within the Ulster Defence Regiment as sectarian.Frank Mitchell
Of course, Seán Murray Jnr omitted from his film that the IRA waged a vicious campaign against Catholics who had become part-time members of the UDR to uphold law and order back in 1970 and 1971 when the IRA was widely regarded as communist and pursuing a communist agenda.
In February of 1972, Catholic bus driver Thomas Callaghan was abducted from his bus in the Creggan estate by Martin McGuinness and others – using the safety of the so-called Free Derry No-Go area – and after an interrogation, was hooded, shot twice in the back of the head and dumped on the Foyle Road at the edge of the Brandywell. He was a part-time member of the UDR.
The condemnations of both SDLP leader John Hume and Nationalist Party leader Eddie McAteer fell on the IRA’s deaf ears.
Paul O’Connor was a full-time, on-the-run IRA volunteer being paid a weekly wage by the Provisional IRA in the Bogside, Creggan and Brandywell areas from August 1971 through to approximately May 1972 – and had to earn his keep by engaging in bombings and shootings.
Was Paul O’Connor involved in the kidnap, interrogation and execution of Catholic part-time UDR member Thomas Callaghan?
Not to be outdone by the Provisional IRA, a month later in March 1972 the Official IRA abducted prominent Derry Catholic Marcus McCausland – who had recently resigned from the UDR – interrogated him and shot him in the back of his neck and head and dumped his body at the rear of St. Joseph’s Termonbacca boys home in the Creggan estate.
McCausland left a widow and three young children.
Murray felt neither the objectivity nor balance to record for his viewers that the IRA – whether Official or Provisional – made it a very dangerous business for any Catholic to serve in the Ulster Defence Regiment after a raft of murders in the early 1970s.
Seán Murray and Truth-Telling
Seán Murray Jnr feels no obligation to tell the absolute accurate truth even about personal matters – even when this results in his contradicting his younger brother, Patrick – now working as his solicitor under the Irish of his name – Pádraig Ó Muirigh Solicitors.
Patrick/Pádraig told The Irish Times categorically that Daniel McCann [one of the IRA’s three would-be No Warning Gibraltar Car Bombers] who was shot dead by the SAS along with comrade would-be bombers Seán Savage and Mairéad Farrell – was his father Sean Spike Murray Senior’s FIRST COUSIN.
So Daniel McCann was a second cousin of the Murray children.
I assume and am confident that owing to his legal training and legal document preparation experience that Patrick/Pádraig was accurately describing Danny McCann’s relationship to his family.
However, the relationship was described differently by Seán Murray Jnr to the Irish podcaster in Stockholm:
I had an uncle of mine that was killed in Gibraltar – ah, Dan McCann – he was one of the IRA volunteers that was killed in Gibraltar…Seán Murray Jnr
Now Sean Jnr is describing Daniel McCann as his UNCLE – a much closer relationship than a second cousin.
I’ve had four members of my own extended family killed by the State also…Seán Murray Jnr
By the time Seán claims that four members of his extended family have been “killed by the State” – a claim not mentioned by his solicitor brother during the course of the extended Irish Times article – one is beginning to doubt his veracity.
By the time Seán is telling his story to the West Cork People, his relationship to Dan McCann increases yet again:
The documentary maker Seán Murray is a nephew and godchild of Danny McCann, one of three IRA members killed by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988, where they were allegedly planning a car bomb attack on a British army changing of the guard ceremony.West Cork People
It’s incumbent on professionals in the media to strive to deliver accurate reporting to the public – Seán Murray Jnr apparently does not feel obliged to do so in small things.
Seán Murray Jnr’s Extreme Political Views
Seán Murray Jnr volunteers that his politics don’t include the recognition of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as expressed in The Belfast Agreement:
Northern Ireland is finished. It never worked. It’s a sectarian statelet. It always will be. There’s no use talking about it, about trying to rehash it, trying to do this or that with it. It’s a sectarian statelet that was formed and gerrymandered to suppress nationalists in the north, and it can’t be anything else. So when you try and work that state democratically it falls apart.
And that’s exactly why we need to start talking about the reunification of the country. And of course the unionist people in the north need to have their British identity copper fastened in anything that happens, and I wouldn’t want anything else which doesn’t do that.
Listen, the Unionists well know that the British government would abandon them in a second. Even at grassroots level – I speak to loyalists at a community level and they say the same, but then when you try to engage about a way forward, and the reunification of the country, which gives Unionism a bigger say in a United Ireland than would ever do within the current political settlement, they just don’t want to talk about it, you know.
To be quite truthful, it’s a loss of privilege, a loss of supremacy – that’s still embedded in their heads. They still think that they can keep croppies down, they think that they have the God-given right to the Six Counties in Ireland and that Catholics should know their place. There’s still that old sectarian ideology which is hard to break.Seán Murray Jnr
It’s difficult to believe that during many years of study in Queen’s University Belfast that Seán Murray Jnr was not mentored to try to be balanced, if not objective.
Seán fulfilled his PhD requirements last year in Queen’s and was awarded his Doctorate in Film Studies for his project, Unquiet Graves.
However, when trying to access a copy of his typewritten Thesis “Darkness in the Shadows“, I could not find it in the library – indeed I saw that it was EMBARGOED until the end of December 2021.
When I enquired about the unusual embargo, I was informed that Seán Murray had requested the embargo while he sought a publisher for his Thesis.
So it has not been possible to read the Thesis that provides the research underpinning Unquiet Graves, which Seán has anyway said was largely based on Anne Cadwallader’s book and Paul O’Connor’s tainted research.
Seán Murray Jnr boasted to podcaster Our Man in Stockholm that he has the backing of Queen’s University for his unbalanced film:
So, the criticisms on me being a filmmaker – and this is only the beginning of a campaign against me. We’re gonna see this up – the ante will be upped – when it comes to me. You’ll find that they’ll try to block funding for me. They will try to slur even – we’ve had Charlie Flanagan try to throw ruses in about finance. Also about John Weir, about the integrity of me.
This is only the beginning of a campaign against me. It’s because I’m a republican and I’ve seen it all before.
And it won’t wash because I have scholarly – I’ve got the backing of Queens University in this film.
This isn’t only twenty plus research that has went into the film through the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten – it’s also part of a PhD project.
I worked for 4 years on this on my PhD also – so it’s underpinned by scholarly research and I have the backings of many many leading academics in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and all over the world for that matter.
So they can begin their attacks and they can begin their campaign against me – it won’t wash.Seán Murray Jnr
In Seán Murray Jnr’s mind he fantasises that he’s a victim also, just as when he tells and retells ad nauseam his tale of fooling the Brits back in the day by hiding an Arthur MacCaig film on a VHS videotape after 30 minutes of cartoons:
There was this one occasion when the British Army had put all our family – just as the Israelis do now with the Palestinians – put the young family, me and my siblings, into the one room and they would have been upstairs obviously doing what they were doing, raiding the house, they were going through the cassette tapes looking for propaganda videos…
Seán Murray Jnr uttered these words “just as the Israelis do now with the Palestinians” – to a wide-eyed Yank, Jay Hodges of Friends of Sinn Féin – in a vain attempt to liken West Belfast to the West Bank, in a vain attempt to paint himself as a victim of insufferable oppression.
Careful now, Seánie Boy – ffs don’t be upsetting Gerry Adams’ close Republican friends in the United States by mentioning Palestinians…
Sinn Féin’s and Gerry Adams’ best friend in the US for decades past has been Peter King – a fervent supporter of Israel.
I believe that it has been demonstrated sufficiently here that Seán Murray Jnr has an inability to be factual, is willing to mislead his viewers, has extreme political views that undermine even The Belfast Agreement and – above all – is willing to entirely erase the detailed record of the IRA’s Human Rights’ atrocities from his work where many people feel they should have been faithfully recorded.
Final words go to Frank Mitchell:
And what do you say to the critics who argue that when they watch the film that there is a justification within the narrative of the movie for what the IRA did?
The younger people – the teenagers – who’d be watching that who didn’t live it – you lived it – I lived it – and a lot of people listening to this program lived it – but those who aren’t aware of the real history of Northern Ireland will be looking at that movie and they could be forgiven for thinking all the evil was carried out by the British government, the RUC, the UDR and the loyalists…Frank Mitchell
Since propaganda is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”, it follows that the evidence provided here justifies viewing Unquiet Graves as IRA propaganda more by virtue of what the Director deliberately left out of his film.
The entirety of the Frank Mitchell interview with Seán Murray may be listened to here.
The Our Man in Stockholm interview may be heard here.
The wide-eyed Yank Jay Hodges “Friends of Sinn Féin” Wow! Sean! You’re! Just! Wonderful! interview may be swooned here.
You’ve pretty much obliterated any credibility this documentary may have had with this piece Shane.