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The Spanish are never going to give the Germans lessons on how to deal with a traumatic past. The documentary Franco: The Brutal Truth About Spain’s Dictator, produced by German public television channel ZDF and available on Netflix, is attention grabbing due to its direct style – it doesn’t waver in its portrayal of the Spanish caudillo as a ruthless criminal, while at the same time acknowledging the complexity of his character.
Over four episodes (plus a superfluous fifth installment that rehashes what’s come before), more than half a century of Spain’s history is summarized – from defeat in Cuba, which Francisco Franco lived through as a child, to beyond his death, when King Juan Carlos I dismantles his regime. His shadow over the Catalan independence drive is even dealt with. All of this in 176 minutes – it was inevitable that there would be some broad strokes.
The documentary focuses on his relationship with Hitler, to whom he owed his victory in the Spanish Civil War, but with whom he clashed at the Meeting of Hendaye
The heavy lifting in terms of the narrative is done by historians – Paul Preston, Ángel Viñas and Antony Beevor – who sit the dictator on the couch to analyze why he was insensitive to the pain of his peers: he came from a pious and conservative background, he had no vices and he wasn’t interested in sex. He was already vicious during the repression of the Revolution of 1934 in Asturias and on the Moroccan front; and he scaled the military clique that staged the coup in 1936 thanks to a series of suspicious accidents, those involving the deaths of Balmes, Mola and Sanjurjo.
He was cruel, we can all agree, and also astute and opportunistic. The documentary focuses on his relationship with Adolf Hitler, to whom he owed his victory in the Spanish Civil War, but with whom he clashed at the Meeting of Hendaye. We see how he starts to distance himself from the Nazis – and his brother-in-law, the Germanophile Ramón Serrano Suñer – as they suffer defeats; how he crosses the desert of autarky; how he ends up close to Eisenhower and celebrates his rehabilitation by the West as a triumph; how he sheds falangist ballast in order to find support among the technocrats of Opus Dei; how tourism transforms habits in Spain; and how the assassination of Carrero Blanco plunges an already tattered regime into turmoil.
The narration seeks to explain details of Franco’s private life that had a political impact, including some speculation about the most intimate details, and raises questions about who was the true father of his only daughter. This is the part that is the least convincing of the program. In any case, the major influence of his wife Carmen Polo is pointed to, as well as her habit of shopping sprees for jewelry during which she would not spend a cent. Also dealt with is the jealousy of Franco’s wife when Evita Perón was welcomed with much pomp and circumstance. And we see the tyrant’s confidence in the young Juan Carlos, given that the latter was being educated according to Franco’s guidance, despite warnings from much of his closest circle.
The reality is that the documentary does not include anything we didn’t already know – nothing that is not in the books of the historians who take part. There is nothing more here than a desire for historical disclosure for German viewers – but the documentary is highly recommendable too for any young Spaniard who sees this period as in a faraway time. The only surprising thing about the program is that it has surprised Spaniards. It’s strange that we have seen so few documentaries like this one.
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.
She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.
“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”
Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.
However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.
“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”
“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.
“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”
“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”
Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.
She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.
She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.
Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.
She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.
Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.
She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.
Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows
The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.
A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.
The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.
A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.
The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.
Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.
The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.
Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.
Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.
For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.
Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.
The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.
The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.
The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.
The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.
There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.
Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.
‘I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish’
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
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