Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes: I support a united Ireland
The creator of award-winning British aristo-soap Downton Abbey has revealed he is a supporter of a united Ireland.
In an in-depth interview in today's Belfast Telegraph Weekend magazine, author Julian Fellowes speaks about his Anglo-Irish roots in Co Meath - and how his great-great grandfather was disinherited after marrying into a family of Home Rule supporters in the early 20th century.
The Oscar-winning screenwriter, a Conservative Member of the House of Lords under his title of Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, was visiting Belfast to promote A Christmas Star, a film made by children's cinema charity Cinemagic.
In a wide-ranging interview, Lord Fellowes revealed his Anglo-Irish heritage and his belief in reunification.
Asked if he was a unionist or not, the writer of one of TV's most successful costume dramas said: "That is not a safe question for me to answer. Ultimately, I believe in a united Ireland. I do come from a long line of Home Rule supporters.
"I believe Ireland would be stronger on many levels - culturally and economically - if it were united.
"It is rather unusual in a family like mine, but we were brought up to support Irish independence, and that meant swimming against the stream in the 1960s, for instance."
Turning to contemporary Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular, Lord Fellowes offered a positive view of how things had changed for the better.
"There's a completely different feeling here now. I was here during the Troubles, on and off, and it just feels so different now; it's a modern city, very optimistic," he told Belfast Telegraph feature writer Una Brankin.
His Irish roots go deep. "My father had an island off Kerry, near Charles Haughey's (Inishvickillane), and we spent many summers there," he explained.
His Hibernian heritage made its influence felt in the fictional world of Downton Abbey, especially in the role of Home Rule-supporting chauffeur Branson.