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Outrage over hunger striker's play at police country club

By David Young

Published 22/10/2016

Hunger striker Bobby Sands' coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.
Hunger striker Bobby Sands' coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.
Bobby Sands' son Robert Gerald holds his mother's hand at the funeral of his father Bobby in west Belfast flanked by Masked IRA men. Picture by Martin Wright
Tomboy Loudon, Gerry Roche, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands pictured in the Long Kesh prison, Northern Ireland.
Hunger strike protesters outside the Dail in Dublin 1981
Hunger strike marchers blocked by gardai as they approach the British Embassy in Dublin
PACEMAKER BELFAST Rioting in west Belfast on the day hunger striker Bobby Sands died in 1981
A man walks past the Bobby Sands mural, in the Falls road area of Belfast
Masked gunmen fire a volley of shots beside hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, at Milltown Cemetery.
Bobby Sands (seated fourth from left). The Star of the Sea football team.
Hunger striker Bobby Sands funeral procession making its way down Stewartstown Road on Route to Milltown cemetery
Several unionist politicians have called for Maze cells which housed hunger strikers to be flattened
Bobby Sands funeral
1st March 2011. Launch of the Hunger Strike 30th Anniversary Exhibition in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast. Ten republican prisoners died during the 1981 protest inside the Maze Prison. A letter written by Bobby Sands on cigarette paper which was smuggled out of the prison pictured at the exhibition.
Michael Fassbender stars in Hunger, the film about the last six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands
Kieran Doherty died in the Maze prison in 1981 after being on a hunger strike
Former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald pleaded with Ronald Reagan to pile pressure on Margaret Thatcher over the hunger strikes

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.

Actors Vincent Higgins (left) and James Doran with playwright Laurence McKeown (centre) in a publicity picture
Actors Vincent Higgins (left) and James Doran with playwright Laurence McKeown (centre) in a publicity picture

“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.”

Bobby Sands' son Robert Gerald holds his mother's hand at the funeral of his father Bobby in west Belfast flanked by Masked IRA men. Picture by Martin Wright
Bobby Sands' son Robert Gerald holds his mother's hand at the funeral of his father Bobby in west Belfast flanked by Masked IRA men. Picture by Martin Wright

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.

Tomboy Loudon, Gerry Roche, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands pictured in the Long Kesh prison, Northern Ireland.
Tomboy Loudon, Gerry Roche, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands pictured in the Long Kesh prison, Northern Ireland.
Masked gunmen fire a volley of shots beside hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, at Milltown Cemetery.
Masked gunmen fire a volley of shots beside hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, at Milltown Cemetery.

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