Exclusive Interview with American Filmmaker and Screenwriter David Dinning
Source: Irish Writers Hubs
Today this site has the pleasure of featuring an interview with Chicago-based Filmmaker, Screenwriter and published author, David Dinning. David has been a frequent visitor to Ireland, has an in depth knowledge of it’s history and the contemporary political situation. His forthcoming documentary, with the working title ‘The North’, focuses significantly on the supremacism of the Loyal Orders, their historical role as a bulwark against working-class solidarity and Ireland’s struggle for independence. David’s forthcoming documentary also examines the Loyal Orders’ contemporary role in forcing their militaristic marches through Irish Catholic areas, where they cause maximum offence to residents, such as in Ardoyne, where their supremacist parading has been accompanied by serious violence in many previous years. ‘The North’ furthermore examines the Northern Irelands Civil Rights Association’s mild demands for universal franchise and an end to Gerrymandering in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, ideologically based on the non-violent doctrine of Dr Martin Luther King Junior’s campaign for equality for Black people in the USA, yet they were met with police riots and eventually the Bloody Sunday Massacre in 1972 that saw 14 peaceful protesters murdered in cold blood, with scores seriously injured by the British Parachute Regiment using live rounds.
Alex: Just starting from scratch, can you introduce yourself telling readers where you are from, a little about yourself and explaining your mode of journalism/writing/production/directing?
David: My name is David Dinning. I live in Chicago. I started writing late in life. I use the three act structure whether it’s a book or screenplay. Documentary modes can be broken down into six types, seven if you use a mix of modes. The six are; Poetic, Expository, Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and Performance. I use a mix mode of story telling. To me documentary film is an important way of depicting things as they are, exposing a great lie or an injustice, to look behind the curtain. They can and do have a point of view.
Alex: You are obviously extremely well acquainted with Irish History and contemporary Irish politics, can you tell our readers where this knowledge and interest originated and was nurtured from?
David: As a kid I spent my summers on my grandfather’s farm in Kentucky. The small town nearby was settled by Scots Irish families from Derry in the 18th century. One year at a family funeral I learned from my cousin that my great great … grandfather was the Grand Sheriff of Derry between 1699-1701. She gave me a book on the Siege of Derry. I started to read more. I wanted to know more. I went back to the death of Queen Elizabeth, then forward in time. I spent a lot of time on the Siege of Derry and that time period, then went forward through the 1798 rebellion and beyond. I became hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on. It also tied into a screenplay I was writing at the time. I’ve made eight trips to Ireland since 2009. It was then after my first stay in Derry that I decided to make the Documentary.
Alex: The last time we met was two years ago on the 12th of July, when we had a cup of coffee before you travelled to Ardoyne to cover the Orange supremacist violence, following the Parades Commission ruling that the Orange Order could not march via Ardoyne on their return journey on the ’12th’. Can you describe the violence that you witnessed, did it originate from the Orange Order, their bands and supporters?
David: I have never felt hate like that in my life. I arrived in Ardoyne early that morning on the 12th. At eight in the morning the Loyalists were foaming at the mouth. It was unbelievable. After they passed on by I followed then for a while then went to St. Patrick’s Church and watched and filmed. It was clear to me, and I’m sure anyone else who has followed the Marches that the Loyalists get a extra boost, an energy charge when they approach or pass by Catholic neighborhoods. There is this need to get a shot in, whether it’s playing the famine song, or other sectarian songs, to revealing sectarian banners, to having their followers look for a reason to attack anyone who gets in their way. Later that day I made my way back to Ardoyne. The residents of Ardoyne gathered in force to protect their neighborhood from the drunken hoards. Gerry Kelly did a great job of reassuring the residents that the police would keep the Loyalists from their neighborhood. All of the violence that I witnessed came from the Loyalists. What followed was several nights of violence. I walked back to the bus station that night for Derry, and that image of Belfast as a ghost town still resonates in my mind: trash everywhere, everything closed up. This is no way for people to live. Everything stops for the Orange Order version of THE HUNGER GAMES.
Alex: Can you, as a North American, see the supremacist linkage between the likes of the ‘Loyal Orders’ and for instance, supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan?
David: Yes, that’s a fair comparison. The difference being that in America groups like the KKK are shunned by the rest of society. In Northern Ireland they are not. The 30,000 members of the Orange Order have a hold on Northern Ireland. Power and wealth accumulated over time, the not so hidden hand.
Alex: Many political commentators view allowing Loyalist supremacist parades to march through Catholic/Nationalist/Republican areas as the equivalent in the USA of, for instance, permitting White supremacist groups to march through the likes of the Rampart area (MacArthur Park, Echo Park etc) of Los Angeles or the Watts area of south LA. Would the federal government ever consider permitting such provocative parades?
David: I don’t think there would be a police force or army in world that could protect the KKK if they tried to march in Watts or the South Side of Chicago. In 1977 the National Socialist Party of America tried to march through Skokie, Illinois. In the predominately Jewish community, one in six residents was a Holocaust survivor. The NSPA march was be to held on June 25, 1978 though the march never materialized. About 20 or so Nazis congregated for only ten minutes, and throngs of Jewish and other groups drowning out their voices. Parades in America don’t incite riots. If they did, that group would never be allowed to do so again, and the cost of the liability insurance alone would make it unattainable.
Alex: Could you explain to our readers how important the conflicting European power blocks of the 17th Century played in forming the today’s sectarian divisions, identities and how in reality the Williamite campaign was contrary to the Ireland/religious-centred potted-histories that many within Orangeism hold dear? I’m sure that you have heard of the painting that once hung in the old Stormont parliament showing the Pope blessing the Williamite forces, that was quickly ‘archived’ once the Unionist ruling junta finally figured out it’s significance?
David: First and foremost, William of Orange was concerned with one thing – saving the Dutch Republic from France. When the Immortal Seven invited William to take the throne he knew with England’s support he could defeat France. William landed in England to find that James had run away. James while at the head of a 25,000 man army, was afflicted with serious nose bleeding. He saw it as a bad omen and left the field of battle for London, then France. That was the Glorious Revolution. Only the English can turn a man running away and turn that into a Glorious Revolution. There was nothing glorious about it and it wasn’t a revolution. Later James would be forced to Ireland to do battle with William while the Sun King set out for the prize – the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Nederlands. James would leave every battle he was at and would flee Ireland for the comforts of France. I suppose that is glorious too. William of Orange, the Pope and Catholic Spain would go on to defeat France. After William of Orange’s death Queen Ann took the throne and with her the 1704 test act. Prohibiting Presbyterians and other protestant religions from worshipping freely, it also banned them from public and civil office. Hundreds of thousands of Presbyterians would flee Ireland for a new land where religious freedom would become the corner stone of its constitution. What Loyalist call the Glorious Revolution had shown its true colors: Anglican Domination. For the next hundred years after the Siege of Derry and the war in Ireland there would be no parades, no marching bands, no Orange Order. It’s wasn’t until after the 1798 rebellion that the Orange Order turned William of Orange into the man that saved the Protestant Religion from the Pope and used that to fuel sectarian hatred. One other important fact: James II never tried to install Catholicism in the three Kingdoms. What he tired to do was introduce religious freedom in England. But that does little to fan the flames of sectarianism. That is why the painting ‘Tea at Trianon’ was damaged when the boys in Orange found out about it. It is a painting of the Pope blessing William of Orange and was hanging in the Belfast Parliament Building. In 1933 Unionist MP John Nixon led a gang of Loyalist into the building where they slashed the painting with a knife and threw crimson paint over the image of the Pope. The painting was taken down and sent away for restoration. It wasn’t seen again until 2007. The rosary beads were taken out. Keeping the myth alive is important to the Orange Order and the sectarian cause. The first part of that question would take volumes.
Alex: Unfortunately I missed seeing you around the ’12th’ this year as I was on holiday and then suffered a bereavement, but do you think that the relatively peaceful end in 2014 to the return journey of the Orange Order preventing them from trampling through Ardoyne due to it’s second prohibition by the Parades Commission, will become the norm, something similar to the token protests that now are a constant on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown?
David: Last year did surprise me. I don’t think the peaceful end will continue; it’s not in their nature. I hope I’m wrong. The Orange Order is not use to being told “no”. There is a rise in race hate crimes in Northern Ireland – a by product of the Order’s Hunger Games. That will continue, and they have now set their sights on the Gay and Lesbian community with their conscience clause to equality legislation. At some point in time one would think it’s time to move on and leave a three hundred year old war in the past. Stop looking for reasons to hate. But that circle of hate keeps growing.
Alex: I’m sure that you have heard of the so-called Twaddell ‘Peace-camp’ which has been a permanent fixture close to the Ardoyne interface, that has been perhaps more aptly described by Ardoyne residents as a ‘hate-camp’ manned by Loyalists belonging to various organisations. Do you think the fact that apparently it costs multiple thousands of pounds in policing costs per week alone to monitor the Twaddell camp, is in any way a strong hand, to use the poker analogy, in persuading the Parades Commission in 2015 to renege on it’s past two year’s prohibition of the Orange Order returning from the ’12th’ via Ardoyne?
David: No, that should have nothing do with any Parades Commission decision. With this new Stormont House Agreement, they may not be around anymore. I’ve read that more that a few times. I talk about that in the documentary. At some point you would think that the police would end it, or maybe just ignore them until they go away is the right thing. It all boils down to one thing: the Orange Order’s refusal to allow democracy to dictate anything to them. They are above the law. They are the Ascendancy.
Alex: I know that you had been producing a documentary on the North of Ireland, at what stage is it’s production at and was it aimed at a North American audience? I’ve seen rough-cuts and it would definitely be a solid educational resource.
David: It’s just about done, just music rights is left and a little fine tuning. It’s called THE NORTH. It is aimed at an American audience – to let Americans know what is going on in Northern Ireland and to do that you have to know where it’s been.
Alex: Finally, David, it has been a pleasure interviewing you and I hope to meet up again soon, you are certainly a counter to the propaganda emanating from certain quarters that North Americans have little understanding of the complexities of Ireland’s history and politics. As a parting shot (forgive the pun) from your experience do you think that any real lasting peace has been established?
David: I don’t know. I would hope so. The Good Friday Agreement stopped the killing but stagnation has set in; there is no movement forward on the ideas of that agreement. That seems to be by design. Stagnation can lead to friction and friction can lead to violence.
Alex: Go raibh mile maith agat, David, mo chara! No doubt we will meet again soon..