"ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre" to air this March, will serve a warning of the consequences of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
A global television audience of millions will hear a stark warning about the consequences of a hard border in Ireland next month when Netflix screens an investigation into the shocking murders of three innocent musicians on a lonely border road.
Director Stuart Sender has unearthed shocking new evidence about the killings which took place at a fake checkpoint as the band members traveled home from a gig in Bambridge, County Down, on July 31, 1975.
It was described as “the day the music died” as the killings at the side of a lonely rural road spread fear across the island and forced musical acts to reconsider playing concerts across the six counties late at night.
The killings were all the more shocking because the band members, both Catholics, and Protestants from both sides of the border, were completely apolitical and were hugely popular with fans from both communities.
The documentary will examine survivor Stephen Travers’ long and frustrating search for justice, his strong connections with other victims’ groups, and the dangers which the return of a ‘hard border’ would pose to Ireland’s fragile peace process.
It’s one of a monthly series of investigations into seminal events in the lives of global artists, including the shooting of Bob Marley, Johnny Cash’s political awakening, and the murders of Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay and Sam Cooke.
The documentary could reach a potential global audience of 130 million Netflix subscribers when it is streamed for the first time in mid-March.
Travers is delighted that the Netflix documentary will reach millions of viewers who would not normally have heard of the Miami Showband and the brutal attack which left him badly wounded in 1975.
His work with the Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TARP) takes Travers to communities on both sides of the Irish border and he admits that he is dismayed by the rhetoric he has heard from people who feel alienated by the political system in recent months.
He is particularly appalled by the words of Tory politicians such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson in Britain, who show little or no understanding of the hardships experienced by border communities during the three decades of ‘The Troubles’.
“Our mantra is that no side has a monopoly on suffering,” he says. “It is very important to demonstrate that by getting people there to talk about their loss. It’s so important to educate young people, in particular, who never had to live through the violence of The Troubles.”
He has heard ordinary, decent people say they would be prepared to demolish security checkpoints along the border or that they would turn a blind eye if their neighbors began shooting at British Army watchtowers if they were to return.
“We do need a reminder of what we are playing with. When you hear the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP saying that we should go back to the type of checks we had during The Troubles, that’s an infantile thing to say from a man who has no clue whatsoever about the damage caused,” he tells Irish Central.
“Boris Johnson says there is little or no business done across the border. It’s absolute madness that that kind of abject ignorance still prevails. The only thing you can counter ignorance with is education and education is most credible when it comes from the people who have actually lived through The Troubles.”
The documentary will look at how one night in July 1975 had a profound impact on the rest of Stephen’s life. The musicians were hauled out of their van by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), who then attempted to plant a bomb on board the vehicle in an attempt to force the Irish authorities to seal up a “hard border”.
But two of the terrorists were killed by their own bomb. The gang members then shot the members of the Miami Showband as they lay at the side of the road. Both bassist Travers and singer and saxophone player Des Lee managed to survive, despite being wounded by the loyalists and left for dead.
Allegations of collusion between the British Army and the terrorists have surrounded the case for the past 44 years and these allegations are set to resurface following an intensive investigation by the Netflix documentary team.
Sender and his team will look at the allegations which have swirled around the British security forces ever since that fateful night in 1975 and the barriers faced by Travers in his bid to uncover the truth about the atrocity.
The documentary also examines his attempts to educate children, in particular, about the dangers of a return to violence. Over two decades on from the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland, many young people have no concept of how awful life was during The Troubles.
“The 1998 agreement brought us a kind of peace, but it didn’t address the concerns of the victims. I do know that the Irish Government did try to address the victims’ issues, but Britain reneged on it. Perhaps the British Government has too much to hide. That’s a major flaw in the Good Friday Agreement,” he says.
“I find it very chilling when I listen to the fears of people who live in border communities. These ordinary people feel they are being betrayed by the establishment and that they did not safeguard the peace enough.
“We are going back to 1969 again. There are thousands upon thousands of people who cross the border for work every day and you can imagine the impact on them if we return to a hard border.”
Travers is pleased that the Netflix documentary will bring the story of the Miami Showband to a whole new audience and that it will show victims like him are resolute in their search for the truth and justice – even if they have to wait more than 40 years for justice.
He is still looking for justice for Tony Geraghty, Fran O’Toole, and Brian McCoy, who had helped to bring Catholics and Protestants together by playing concerts the length and breadth of Ireland. They never felt their lives were in danger because people knew they drew support from both communities.
Out of fear, many people stopped traveling to gigs in the wake of the Miami massacre.
“I want to show that we can learn from history. And I want to remind people that we are not going away anywhere in our search for justice. It’s a story to highlight the injustice for all of the victims and families on all sides. The attack on our band was totally unnecessary.
“We were probably one of the greatest forces for good, the bands who were touring the country bringing joy to people during The Troubles. People like us, the beat bands, and Rory Gallagher. It also killed off a major source of interaction between Catholic and Protestants. People used to leave their sectarianism outside the dancehall.”
Travers believes he has an important story to tell about the failure of violence to resolve political problems and believes his story is more important than ever as wrangling over Brexit heightens tensions between Britain and Ireland.
“It’s important to remind people that violence caused terrible, terrible problems. It failed the people who used it as an instrument for social change. It failed in every single way. It wasn’t successful at all. The people involved in the violence have all renounced it and rejected it. It’s proven that it didn’t work,” he says.
"ReMastered – The Miami Showband Massacre" will be available to 130 million Netflix subscribers across the globe from March 19 next.
* Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award at the Tramline, Dublin, in October 2018. Find him on Facebook or Twitter here. Visit his website here - CiaranTierney.com.