MP's unease that top director plans new Maze escape movie
A DUP MP voiced concern last night after Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan revealed he is planning to make a movie about the IRA mass breakout from the Maze Prison in 1983.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sheridan, who co-wrote the screenplay for Some Mother's Son about the republican hunger strike in the jail, said he'd always been fascinated by the escape.
He said: "I know there is another film being made at the moment called Maze, but I want to do it in a different way.
"My approach to it would be that the prisoners were at the end of the hunger strike and that they were at their lowest point, in despair.
"And somebody figured out that the thing that tortured them in the past during the hunger strike - the food lorry - was the way out."
Sheridan added: "The fact that the prisoners couldn't use guns during the escape was significant, and it was almost the prescription for the ballot box and the Armalite strategy that republicans were later to adopt."
The fleeing IRA men stabbed warder James Ferris with a chisel and he died of a heart attack.
Last night Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called for Sheridan to avoid glamorising terrorism.
He said: "There has been a series of films that have sought to romanticise the Provisional IRA as some kind of 'freedom fighting' organisation - and the difficulty I have with that is that they never examine the thousands of incidents the IRA were involved in, and the thousands of lives they destroyed in Northern Ireland and elsewhere as a result of their terrorism.
"There was a prison officer murdered in the Maze escape.
"I just wonder what message this sends to the next generation, whom we are trying to persuade that violence and terrorism is wrong?" Sir Jeffrey invited the director to meet some of the families of IRA victims.
He said: "I really think that if he is going to make a film about the Troubles in Northern Ireland he should look at other events, and take a much more balanced approach to all of this."
Sheridan said many of the incidents during and after the escape were intriguing, particularly how the IRA men told a Protestant family to stay silent about their presence in their home near Dromore. The Provo escapees were holed up in the house for 24 hours as the security forces searched for them, and IRA bomber Bik McFarlane made the family swear on the Bible that they wouldn't contact the police for 72 hours after he and his colleagues left the house.
The family were true to their word, but only after contacting their local minister.
"That is a great story to me," said Sheridan, whose latest movie The Secret Scripture deals with the story of a Protestant woman who once lived in Belfast and who spent 50 years in mental institutions and a Magdalene laundry after giving birth to an illegitimate child.
If the 68-year-old Dubliner goes ahead with his Maze film, it would be the second movie to deal with the controversial escape by 38 IRA men - the biggest ever in the British Isles.
The film Maze, which is based on Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly's book, is currently in post-production.
It has drawn protests from unionists and prison officers.
Among the cast are Niamh McGrady, who starred in The Fall, and Martin McCann, who appeared in movie The Survivalist.