New RTE dramatic series, a follow on from the Easter Rising's "Rebellion", starring Brian Gleeson and  Gavin Drea opens as the British are closing in on Michael Collins.

RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster, has premiered a new dramatic series on the War of Independence called "Resistance". The first episode begins in the Dublin of 1920 as the British are closing in on Michael Collins and his men. "Resistance" is a follow-up to RTE’s "Rebellion", which covered the Easter Rising.

The opening episode literally starts off with a bang as hitman Jimmy Mahon (Brian Gleeson) guns down a RIC Inspector on a lonely road. He is swiftly pursued and wounded by the British but manages to escape.

Fast-forward to the yard at Dublin Castle where United States Senator Shea, an envoy from President Wilson, has come to meet General Ormonde Winter and wants to know about the war. “It is not a war,” Winter snaps. “We don’t dignify cowardly terrorist attacks with the title of war.”

Winter assures the senator that they’ll be rounding up all the ruffians shortly, one way or another.

We are then taken to one of the fine houses of Dublin where a string quartet is playing while Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith and the rest of the Dáil are arguing which path to take against the British.

Collins comments that it’s time to “rout out the foreign vermin in our midst” which wins the day just as the British arrive to around up the usual suspects. Collins, in true Collins fashion, is up on the roof and out of the neighborhood before the British catch on.

It’s a pleasure to watch Gavin Drea work as Collins. There have been a lot of cinema Collinses (Sir Michael Redgrave in Shake Hands with the Devil; Brendan Gleeson in The Treaty—incidentally the father of Brian Gleeson; and, of course, Liam Neeson in Michael Collins), all were fine Collinses but Drea captures the youth and drive of the young Collins—right down to his ubiquitous collar-pin and the way he gesticulates with his hands, often seen in Collins newsreels. 

One of the focal points is Collins’ National Loan, floated by the Dáil in 1919, but under suppression by the British in 1920. In "Resistance" several of these funds have been confiscated (in actuality, in early 1920 £18,000 were seized by bank examiner Alan Bell who Collins had immediately shot), so there is a need for money to run the war. Collins’ man Jacobs goes to “borrow” money from Harry Butler, an investment banker type, whose wife has close ties to the IRA. Butler suggests that if the IRA needs money they should turn in “the most wanted man in the world”—i.e., Collins—who the British are offering £10,000 for. Mr. Butler is assured that the $4,000,000 that President de Valera has raised in America will serve as collateral for the loan. Left unsaid is that Butler may join Alan Bell if he doesn’t ante-up.

Michael Collins, Director of Intelligence

This episode deals with the establishment of Collins’ intelligence apparatus which was actually set up in the summer of 1919. Collins is worried about traitors and informers inside the movement, not to mention how to handle the British Secret Service, presented in Resistance in the form of the true-life ruthless British spymaster General Ormonde Winter. Collins declares that “If we’ve got a rat, we have to up our intelligence game.” The first action of that crusade is to move Jimmy Mahon, wounded in battle, from the frontlines to a desk in Crow Street to gather intelligence. He is given a fine three-piece by Collins and the identity of a DMP G-man. Mahan is obviously based on a combination of real-life revolutionaries Vinny Byrne and Charlie Dalton.

So, the battle is drawn, Collins vs. Winter. Winter, confident as ever, declares, “We know everything about them. Go tell that to the Welsh goat,” fondly referring to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. We know the fireworks are about to light up the Dublin sky.

The women save the day

As in the history of the War of Independence, women play a pivotal role, either as propagandists, undercover agents, or provocateurs. One such woman is Ursula Sweeney played wonderfully by Simone Kirby. Ursula works in General Winter’s office and has access to all his files. She also has a son born out of wedlock held at an orphanage run by nuns who will take her money but will not let her see her son. On a visit to pay for the boy’s room and board, she is told by the nun that the child is soon to be shipped off to Boston where he has been adopted by Americans. She turns to her estranged sister, who is in the movement, for help. She tells the sister her story and how the nuns won’t give the boy back to “a fallen woman” and how her son has been “sold like an animal to strangers.”

Her friend’s initial inquiry to an IRA court is not very successful until they learn that Ursula works in the Castle for General Winter. Ursula meets Collins’ new intelligence man, Jimmy Mahon, and to say the least, his interest is piqued. A deal is struck. Jimmy tells her, “You give me something, I’ll give you something.”

The first episode of Resistance is deliciously plotted with loyalty, betrayal, irony, but most of all, the bravery of ordinary Dubliners taking on the greatest intelligence service in the world and, as history tells us, eventually winning. Resistance is not to be missed.

View the Resistance trailer here: 

Read more: Michael Collins' blood-stained hat removed from museum exhibition

* Dermot McEvoy is the author of the The 13th Apostle: A Novel of Michael Collins and the Irish Uprising and Our Lady of Greenwich Village, both now available in paperback, Kindle and Audio from Skyhorse Publishing. He may be reached at dermotmcevoy50@gmail.com. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook.

Simone Kirby and Brian Gleeson star in "Resistance".RTE