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The Journey: 'Statesman' McGuinness is hailed by actor Colm Meaney

By David Mercer

Published 13/09/2016

Colm Meaney as McGuinness
Colm Meaney as McGuinness

Actor Colm Meaney has described Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness as an "extraordinary statesman" after playing him in a new film.

Meaney said the former IRA commander, now Deputy First Minister, is an "astute politician" working towards the "laudable goal" of uniting the island of Ireland.

The Irish actor stars in The Journey, a fictional drama about the friendship forged between McGuinness and his political opponent Ian Paisley during the peace process.

Appearing at the Toronto International Film Festival, Meaney said: "I think Martin McGuinness has become an extraordinary statesman, a real statesman.

"I supported him in his candidacy for president of Ireland at the last election because I thought he was the most qualified person to do it.

"He's proved himself over the last 10 years to be a very astute politician and a remarkably competent statesman, which surprises a lot of people."

Meaney - known for his roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - brushed off controversy surrounding Mr McGuinness, saying: "Anyone who is involved in politics in Ireland is controversial."

He added: "I think what Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein have achieved in Ireland in the last 10 years is tremendous.

"They're moving towards bringing the island of Ireland together which I think is a laudable goal."

Mr Paisley, the DUP leader who died in 2014, is portrayed in The Journey by English actor Timothy Spall.

His widow, Baroness Paisley, is believed to be boycotting the film, reportedly saying: "I don't think it was written with great knowledge."

Director Nick Hamm insisted the film is a fictionalised account of "two A-list politicians".

"We were looking to present a balanced argument where both sides would be equally comfortable and equally uncomfortable," he said.

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