'They call it drama, for us it’s trauma' - Jean McConville's family object to planned TV show

Jean McConville with her children.
By Denise O’Donoghue

Plans for a TV series documenting the abduction and murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville during the Troubles have been criticised by her family.

The producers behind 'American Crime Story', which previously released 'The People vs OJ Simpson' and 'The Assassination Of Gianni Versace', have optioned a book based around the Troubles and the IRA murder of Mrs McConville for an upcoming limited series.

Patrick Radden Keefe's book 'Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland' caught the attention of producers Brad Simpson and Nina Jacobson.

"We're always on the lookout for a literary page-turner, and when we started Patrick's book we couldn't put it down," Simpson and Jacobson told The Hollywood Reporter.

"We're very excited he's partnering with us to tell this story on FX."

Say Nothing details the 1972 abduction of 38-year-old widow Mrs McConville, who was taken from her home in Belfast’s Divis flats complex by suspected members of the IRA. Mrs McConville, who was accused of passing information to the British Army, was never seen alive again.

She was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles.

Mrs McConville's remains were discovered on Shelling Hill beach in Co. Louth in August 2003.

Nobody has been convicted of her murder.

Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth in August 2003
Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth in August 2003

In a statement released via the Wave Trauma Centre, Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family are upset to learn from newspaper reports of the planned mini-TV series.

“Using what happened to our mother for entertainment is sickening,” Mr McConville said.

To make money out of her murder and the pain that has been in our lives ever since is cruel and obscene.

He said his mother's murder destroyed his family and, he believes, led to the death of two of his siblings.

"Just over a year after our brother Billy died we recently lost our sister Agnes both to cancer.

"I’ve no doubt that their early deaths were the direct result of what happened to us after the IRA took our mother and ripped our family apart but I don’t suppose the people who just see a ‘blockbuster story’ will give that a second thought.

“I doubt they even think of us as real people. We’re just characters in a story to be played with and forgotten about when they move on to the next moneymaker."

Michael McConville
Michael McConville

Mr McConville said it would be traumatic to see someone portraying his mother on screen.

"They call it drama but for us it’s trauma," he said.

They will have someone pretending to be the mother we loved. I just can’t bear the thought of it.

Mr Simpson said the book's subject is "only more relevant now that the world has turned to talking about what's happening in Ireland with Brexit, and will the Troubles start again."

The cable network and production company Color Force began pursuing the book last autumn.

"It's in the sweet spot for us and FX — on some level it's a crime thriller, an espionage thriller, but it's also about something more deep and resonant," said Mr Simpson.

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