Belfast Telegraph

Swastikas at Queen's as film crew hits town

By Victoria O'Hara

Nazi swastikas flew from a historic building at Queen's University as the Belfast campus was transformed into wartime Berlin for a new documentary.

The film, 'The Enigma Of Frank Ryan', is based on the life of the former IRA member who ended his life working as an adviser for Nazi Germany.

The flags were draped across the Whitla Hall on Sunday - a building normally the location for thousands of graduations annually - as various scenes were shot.

The educational documentary is written, produced and directed by Professor Des Bell and historian Dr Fearghal McGarry, two academics from the Belfast university.

Supported by the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund of NI Screen, it comprises of archive material, interviews and re-enactments of elements of Frank Ryan's life.

A book about the life of the socialist has been written by Dr McGarry.

The documentary, which will also be filmed on location in Bangor, Armagh, Dublin and France, aims to bring the story to a wider audience and will be included in the Irish history curriculum in secondary schools.

Frank Ryan was born in Limerick in 1902 and joined the IRA as a teenager.

The republican socialist of the 1930s then went on to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

He was badly wounded in February 1937 and returned to Ireland to recuperate.

He returned to Spain a year later, was captured and sentenced to death.

But after representations from the then Taoiseach Eamon de Valera his sentence was commuted to 30 years.

In August 1940 Ryan was transferred to Nazi Germany where he died in 1944.

Professor Bell said filming in Belfast proved a success in the past.

"For the second time in a year Nazi insignia will fly over Belfast as a Queen's University film crew stages a reconstruction of wartime Berlin on campus," he said.

"Last year the BBC shot 'Christopher And His Friends' using the City Hall as a stand-in for Berlin.

Now the university's Whitla Hall takes on this film role.

"Belfast is an unusual choice of stand-in for wartime Berlin but as the makers of 'Christopher And His Friends' have shown, with the right attention to design and period detail, Belfast with its fine mix of 1940s buildings in neo-classical style can create a believeable picture of Berlin of the time."

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