by Shona Morrison 

I love to watch a good investigative documentary. They help bring to the fore parts of life that we may not have considered or perhaps don’t think are as big a deal as they actually are. Often when an article on such programmes appears in the TV listings or is spoken about on the radio, I find that I have a cursory understanding of the issue but rarely is it more than just the basic facts of the matter.

That’s what normally hooks me. I think we all have a thirst for knowledge in some form, whether it be on a purely intellectual level where a person delves deep into the history of mathematics or in a more practical way by learning how something works to ensure that a handyman doesn’t have to be called out for every slight thing that goes wrong in the house. Even when you don’t think that you’re learning anything, you are.

Look at the stereotype of men and their cars – they get all excited over all the bells and whistles that come with it and marvel over how fast they can go (theoretically of course they hasten to mention as they will always stick to the speed limits). There’s a lot to be said for pursuing and interest because you really never know when that information is going to come in helpful in a pinch.

I find real life situations fascinating. I love those fly-on-the-wall type programmes that follow the work of the emergency services or interview them after a case. There’s certainly many who cannot tear themselves away from learning all about tragedy which is why there will always be dedicated programmes around the anniversary of 9/11 and true crime stories commissioned for primetime viewing. The popularity of the likes of Criminal Minds and CSI feed into this interest and allow the masses to see behind the scenes and feel a little more involved in the processes.

It can make you forget that sometimes the trill is much closer to home.

I’ve been a big fan of Stacey Dooley since accidently stumbling across one of her investigations one night as I trawled through BBC iPlayer. She’s great as a journalist because she’s very unassuming and just seems very easy going. She comes across as the kind of person you’d strike up conversation with in a queue and be disappointed when you were finally served. There’s just something about her that makes people open up to her and be willing to speak out even if they know that there are risks.

She’s covered the likes of sex slavery in Cambodia, child soldiers in the Congo and American anti-abortion summer camps for teenagers. They’re things that we perhaps don’t like to think too much about but are huge problems in other parts of the world. Dooley has no problem with getting right into the thick of a matter and has found herself in perilous situations before simply due to her determination to get the whole of the story, not just the one side that holds the power. Questions are asked but no matter how hard they are, they are asked inquisitively rather than in accusation.

What I find most shocking about her investigations is that they have led her to Northern Ireland not once, but twice.

The first trip came last year for a documentary on “The Billion Pound Party” following the deal that the DUP made with Theresa May.

The DUP weren’t too keen on having the programme made but nonetheless, it became one of the most watched programmes on iPlayer. The big thing with the documentary was that Northern Ireland was being explained to the rest of the UK in a way that was factual but also showed just how ridiculous some of the things that go on here are. She visited bonfires, band practices and spoke to those who supported a united Ireland. These may be normal things for us, but viewers in England were aghast at some of the things that we as a region peddle as “culture”.

That was fine. We’d had our wee moment in the limelight and could just get on with things now that the mainland had been given a crash course in Northern Ireland.

Sure, they may not have been told everything, but as that recent interview with Secretary of State Karen Bradley illustrated, you don’t really need to know all that much to take on a minutely politically sensitive role, never mind to just have an opinion on the place.

Obviously, we made quite the impression on Miss Dooley because she came back again this year for another shocker of an investigation: 'Shot by my Neighbour'. I say shocking because while we here are all aware of the so-called punishment shootings that take place, to outsiders watching, it is totally unthinkable.

Within this documentary, she spoke to those who had been shot, those who were under threat of being shot and managed to secure an interview with a dissident republican group under the agreement that she travel to them in a windowless van, left her mobile behind and deleted all voice recordings after they had been dubbed by actors. She was clearly shaken to hear what they had to say.

“We don’t live in a normal society. We want to help people. If you have to shoot somebody to help someone then we’ll do it. We believe that if you have to cause a little pain it will help in the long run.”

I admit that I was pretty shocked by it because although I know it goes on in Belfast, we’re luckily quite removed from that whole way of life here in Fermanagh.

While we may hear of some cases on the news, with PSNI statistics showing 28 people shot and 73 beaten up in revenge attacks last year, it’s clear that we aren’t hearing about them all.

It’s hard to not judge the situation when you’re looking in from the outside but I’m sure it isn’t easy growing up with that kind of thing surrounding you. To know that there’s more than just a prison sentence or fine facing you if you’re caught doing something you shouldn’t. Some may call it vigilante justice but the majority just see it as coercive control through sheer violence.

Those watching in England were horrified whereas I’m sure many here found themselves more interested in the path Dooley was taking with her investigation and shrugging off the violence as it seems to be perfectly acceptable in some parts of Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, I don’t see anything changing in the short term. There are too many deep-rooted issues within some Belfast communities for them to see any other way to do things and the lack of faith in the PSNI is just one of those. That doesn’t mean to say that what they are doing is correct in any way, but there’s no simple solution to it.

Any hope of moving on from this barbaric system of permanently damaging punishment lies within the communities themselves.

Until they look for a new version of trial and justice, fear will continue to rule their streets.