Podcast Corner: Delving into the arms trial and characters like Squire Haughey 

GunPlot presents a fascinating look at the controversial events that rocked Ireland in 1970 
Podcast Corner: Delving into the arms trial and characters like Squire Haughey 

Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney at the Four Courts during the Arms trial. Picture: Independent News And Media/Getty Images

The history curriculum, when I was in school anyway, enveloped pupils in late 1800s/early 20th century dates, between the initial swell of home rule to Hitler making his first moves. Post-1945, though, Irish history is a blur; it was too complicated to take in, for what was already an overflowing examination. It's felt like playing catch-up ever since. 

The arms crisis of 1970 would be one such event that confounds. But you wait long enough for an explainer and three come along at once. Michael Heney's book, The Arms Crisis of 1970: The Plot that Never Was, is a number one bestseller, and now RTÉ, under its Documentary on One auspices which was responsible for the sensational The Nobody Zone, has released an eight-part podcast GunPlot, which has an accompanying TV documentary.

 In a first for Irish broadcasting, the podcast has been given permission to air audio from inside the courtroom of the arms trial - which should immediately make it essential listening for many.

Narrated by the interweaving Nicoline Greer and Ronan Kelly, who say at the outset that they're picking their way through a stunning 16 months in Irish life, the podcast might bring back nightmares of studying for the Leaving Cert, as the pair regularly seem to be testing the listener. "That's an important date," they point out, or affirm that a new name is one to remember.

 The first episode explores the escalating tensions in Derry city that became know as the 'Battle of the Bogside', concluding with Taoiseach Jack Lynch's speech on August 13, 1969, which included the seemingly incendiary line, "the Irish Government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps worse".

Episode two introduces us to Neil Blaney, the ambitious agriculture minister who most loudly opposed British rule in the North and "who could put on a good show", according to his son Eamonn. He was accused of conspiring to illegally import guns into Ireland in 1970. 

Charles Haughey comes in by the end of the episode, a member of the subcommittee headed by Blaney that was formed and given £100,000 "for the relief of distress in the North". 

Haughey is worthy of a multiple part series on his own - indeed in third episode 'Plan B', we get a taste of the stately "country gentleman" Squire Haughey, as he gives a tour of his Meath stud farm to a television crew.

GunPlot, which has five episodes left, is compelling and sounds great. As long as there's no test at the end of it, we're going to savour this history lesson.

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