Belfast Telegraph

Outrage over hunger striker's play at police country club

By David Young

Leading politicians and a victims campaigner last night hit out at plans to stage a production of a play by an IRA hunger striker at the PSNI’s Newforge Country Club.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called the proposal “insensitive”, given the fact that the performance venue had been a terrorist target during the Troubles.

A former RUC officer contacted the Belfast Telegraph yesterday claiming that a performance of Green and Blue, a new play by IRA hunger striker Laurence McKeown exploring border policing during the troubles, was to be staged at Newforge in south Belfast on Monday.

Terrorist-turned-playwright McKeown was convicted in 1976 of the attempted murder of a police officer.

Newforge Country Club was unable to confirm whether or not the performance was taking place as scheduled.

When contacted, a member of staff said they would have someone call back, but no one did.

However, a spokesman for the Kabosh Theatre Company confirmed they would be performing Green and Blue at Newforge on Monday night.

Asked how the booking came about, the Kabosh spokesman declined to say anything further about the forthcoming show,

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he understood the anger felt by former RUC personnel at the decision to host the play at Newforge.

“Whilst of course former prisoners have the right to pursue their interests, having served their time, I think it is somewhat insensitive that this event should be hosted in a location which has been the target of terrorist attacks in the past, when the IRA tried to murder police officers at the venue,” he added. “I can understand the anger among some retired police officers about the use of the venue for this purpose.

“I think that they are owed an explanation as to how this has occurred. While of course we all want to explore in various ways what happened in the past, that can only be done with due sensitivity toward those who have suffered.”

UUP MLA and Policing Board member Ross Hussey — who had also been contacted about the performance by a former RUC officer — said he found it “hard to accept” that a play by an IRA Hunger striker was being staged at premises occupied by the RUC George Cross Foundation.

Victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson, who is a spokesman for Innocent Victims United, added: “Of course it is preferable that Laurence McKeown is now writing plays about the policing experience instead of being active in a terrorist organisation which murdered police ‘green and blue’ from both sides of our border.”

But the Fermanagh-based campaigner added: “There will be those who have been bereaved of loved ones who served in the RUC, former officers and others from within and outside the policing fraternity, who will question the wisdom of the police authorities permitting this play to be staged at Newforge, due to the author’s past activities in seeking to murder RUC officers”.

Green and Blue received its world premiere last night at Girdwood Community Hub in north Belfast.

This paper attempted to contact Mr McKeown for comment, but he could not be reached.

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