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New BBC drama tells the story of two courages mothers after IRA bomb in 1993 | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV

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Mothers Day

The outrage in Warrington was the final straw for one ordinary Dublin woman. (Image: BBC1)

The outrage in Warrington was the final straw for one ordinary Dublin woman, Susan McHugh.

So appalled was she by the atrocity that she organised a peace rally that helped to kick-start the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Susan’s story – and that of Colin and Wendy Parry, who lost their son Tim in the blast – is told in a new one-off BBC drama, Mother’s Day, starring Line Of Duty’s Vicky McClure as Susan and Motherland’s Anna Maxwell Martin as Wendy, with Line Of Duty’s Daniel Mays as her husband Colin.

Its writer, Nick Leather, who also wrote Murdered For Being Different, grew up in Warrington and was 15 at the time of the bombing.

It’s a powerful piece about how grief and anger can spur ordinary citizens to act.

Outraged by the terrorist crime, housewife and mum-of-two Susan, then 37, organised a peace rally in Dublin to which 20,000 people turned out demanding a ceasefire in Northern Ireland.

After decades of quiet resignation about terrorist carnage in the republic, Susan’s ability to express the outrage of ordinary citizens proved pivotal – the force of public opinion played a part in getting parties to the negotiating table, which culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Vicky, who won a BAFTA for This Is England ’86, watched endless archive footage of Susan to prepare for the role, but found the idea of playing her quite daunting.

“It was a scary prospect, because obviously these people are alive and they’re going to watch it,” says Vicky, 35.

Anna Maxwell

Anna Maxwell. (Image: GETTY)

they’re inspirational people. I felt honoured to be a part of this film, I really did, I think that their reaction to such a terrible tragedy, to turn it into something so positive

Anna Maxwell

“But I just went with my gut and trusted Fergus [O’Brien, director] and Nick’s writing and hopefully it works.”

Filmed in Belfast, Mother’s Day shows Susan enduring threats and facing a backlash after calling for peace – including criticism that she was too one-sided in standing up for victims of IRA violence but not victims of the British security forces, for instance.

In one scene, Susan heads to Belfast for a ticking off from bereaved parents.

Vicky found filming that scene particularly uncomfortable, and praises Sue’s strength.

“The bravery of Sue to go there and face it – I don’t know how many people would dare do that,” she says.

Mother’s Day also tells the parallel story of Wendy Parry as she and husband Colin deal with the tragedy of losing their child.

Mum-of-two Anna Maxwell Martin says she drew some inspiration from her own life in portraying the strength of Wendy.

“I have a very dear friend who lost a child and I do know that there is a very strong through-line of keeping yourself together for your other children,” muses Anna, 41.

“So what I’ve seen of Wendy, I thought that was a really important thing – that she kept it together as best she could.”

Several years after their son’s death, Colin and Wendy found some solace in setting up a peace centre and a foundation in

memory of their son and Johnathan Ball, which works towards non-violent conflict resolution.

But Mother’s Day depicts the actual explosion and immediate aftermath, in which Wendy shows enormous strength and radiates calm despite the calamity that has just befallen her.

Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed. (Image: GETTY)

The courage of both women is remarkable.

Vicky and Anna didn’t meet their real-life counterparts before filming, lest it alter their performances in any way, but a special screening was being organised in Warrington at which Vicky and Anna were going to meet Susan and Wendy for the first time.

“I can’t wait to meet them,” says Anna.

“They’re inspirational people. I felt honoured to be a part of this film, I really did. I think that their reaction to such a terrible tragedy, to turn it into something so positive, is an extraordinary feat.”


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