Night Flight to Uli


About this Item

A report on efforts to bring supplies of food and medicine from Ireland to alleviate the distress in this famine-stricken and war-torn region of Biafra, Nigeria.

  • Title
    Night Flight to Uli
  • 1st Broadcast
  • Contributor
    Peter Lemass (Reporter)
    Desmond Forristral (Script Writer)
    Dermod McCarthy (Director)
    Peter Canning
    Billy FitzGerald
  • Clip Duration
  • Material Type
  • Series title
  • Clip title
    Night Flight to Uli
  • Extended description

    A report on the activities of aid agencies in Biafra where human suffering continues to deteriorate. This special documentary shows the work of Irish missionaries in Biafra and how food supplies from Ireland are helping to alleviate the distress in this famine-stricken and war-torn region.

    On 30 May 1967 the independence of the Republic of Biafra was declared. However, very soon afterwards, hunger and poverty are everywhere. 'Radharc' tells the story of Biafra and the struggle of its people to survive. Despite the famine and war, religious devotion and practice remains high. It was an Irish man, Bishop Joseph Shanahan, that laid the foundations of the church in Biafra and his work was continued by a network of priests and nuns. The Holy Ghost Fathers and the Holy Rosary Nuns are the two main orders with a presence in Biafra. The work of the church has been challenging in light of the war and ensuing famine.

    Filmed in Biafra at the height of the Nigerian civil war, the surrounded Ibo people were without food and had to be supplied by international airlift through Sao Tome. This film includes an interview with the then Biafran leader, Colonel Ojukwu. Colonel Ojukwu, who has been President of Biafra and chief commander of its army since independence was declared, expresses his gratitude for all outside help and thanks the Irish for their generosity, understanding, humanity and practical help.

    Peter Lemass speaks to Bishop Joseph Whelan about the role of the church in Biafra and Fr. Mick Wallace talks about potential dangers from the federal army. Peter also speaks to nuns and doctors about life as a refugee, and their fight for survival. The flights to Uli are imperative to the relief effort. However, the pilots face deadly danger each night, flying without lights and facing  attack from nightly anti aircraft fire.

    We also hear from Fr. Tony Byrne, a Holy Ghost Father who initially came to Africa as a missionary, and ended up directing an airline. Fr. Tony is the chief of operations for the airlifting of food to the starving people.

    Peter Lemass concludes "The night flight to Uli remains a beacon of light and hope in one of the darkest places of the world."

  • Information

    'Night Flight to Uli' was first broadcast on 5 February 1969.

    'Radharc', a series specialising in religious programming, was produced for RTÉ by Radharc, an independent production company run by Catholic priests and lay staff. 'Radharc' can be translated to English as 'view' or 'panorama'.

    Co-founders Fr Joe Dunn and Fr Desmond Forristal who had received training in television production in New York in 1959 gathered around them a team of like minded priests with creative talent.

    The 'Radharc' team made their first production in 1960 in Donegal, a short film about customs relating to St Brigid's Day. The first programme in the 'Radharc' series for RTÉ was broadcast on 12 January 1962.

    Between 1961 and 1996 the Radharc team would produce over 400 films in Ireland and 75 countries worldwide. The films dealt with human rights, injustice, faith, religion, persecution, struggles against oppressive regimes, famine, and Christian heritage.

    The popular series ended production in 1996 after the death of Fr Joe Dunn.

  • Local keywords
    Radharc, RTÉ, Religion, Biafra, Nigeria, Famine, Wars and Conflicts, Refugees, Starvation, Uli, Bishop Shanahan, Holy Ghost Fathers, Holy Rosary Nuns, Sao Tome
  • Geographical coverage
  • Topic
    Religion and Belief
  • Publisher Broadcaster
  • First broadcast channel
    RTÉ One
  • Production year
  • Country of production
  • Original identifier
  • IPR restrictions
    Rights Reserved - Free Access
  • Rights terms and conditions

    Copyright RTÉ. This material may not be replicated in any form or manner without the prior express permission of RTÉ. Any form of reproduction in print, television, video, multimedia, web site or other electronic media or any form of dissemination for commercial or non-commercial use must be licensed by the RTÉ Archives.

    If you wish to licence video or audio clips, still images or text, or would like further guidance please contact us.

    RTÉ Archives are committed to respecting the copyright of others and have attempted to source and credit the copyright owners of all material used here. RTÉ would like to hear from any copyright owners who are not properly identified here so that the necessary corrections can be made. If you feel your copyright has not been respected please contact us.

  • Item type
  • Item colour
    Black and White
  • Item sound
  • Aspect ratio
  • Language used
    English (eng)
  • Original language
    English (eng)