Belfast Telegraph

IRA were some of the nicest people that I ever met, says actor

By Maureen Coleman

Up and coming young actor Jim Sturgess — who stars in the new informer movie 50 Dead Men Walking — has spoken about the “human side” of the IRA and how some of its members were “the nicest people” he’d ever met.

The Surrey-born actor, who plays double agent Martin McGartland in the movie, told how he was introduced to former members of the IRA, who acted as “chaperones” while filming took place in Belfast.

And he claimed they were “passionate people”, who weren’t just caught up in the IRA “for violence’s sake”.

Sturgess was speaking to Empire movie magazine ahead of the general release of 50 Dead Men Walking in April. The movie will also close the ninth Jameson Belfast Film Festival.

His comments about the movie are likely to cause controversy. Hollywood actress Rose McGowan, who stars alongside Sturgess, came under fire last year when she said she would have joined the IRA, had she grown up in Belfast.

Sturgess said he didn’t know what to expect when he first came to Belfast to shoot 50 Dead men Walking.

“It was confusing for me, because I met what I believed were these thuggish terrorists from Belfast that blew places up in England — the IRA was presented to me like that — so when I met these people, and saw the human side, they were some of the nicest people I’d ever met.

“So instantly you start trying to understand what it all meant for them, that they weren’t just doing it for violence’s sake. Some of them were genuinely nice, passionate people.

“And it was a thrilling undercover ride, really. We would go into these pubs that we would never normally be allowed to hang out in, but because of who we were with we were vouched for. I would definitely not do that as an average citizen visiting Belfast. So it was exciting, becoming part of the city — or at least pretending to. Soaking it all in.”

Sturgess, who also stars in Heartless, 21 and The Other Boleyn Girl and has been hailed as “the new James McAvoy” said he wasn’t aware of the dangers facing him until filming had ended.

“We were given kind of chaperones, these people who looked after us, who were ex-members of the IRA and we basically stayed with them for two weeks before we started,” he said.

“It was kept under wraps because, in the areas we were in, he (Martin McGartland) is not a popular man. But even so, afterwards I learned there were times when I was probably in more danger than I realised. I was blissfully unaware, but I think the producers were having mini heart attacks.”

50 Dead Men Walking is based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Martin McGartland, who was recruited by the British police to infiltrate the IRA.

He was unmasked by the IRA in 1991 and narrowly escaped death when he leapt from a third floor window in a block of flats.

In 1999 the IRA tracked him down to a town in Whitley Bay and shot him six times, but failed to kill him. McGartland remains in hiding.

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