Corrie actor Charlie Lawson: I probably did hate Catholics
Coronation Street star Charlie Lawson has revealed how he might have taken up guns against Catholics in Northern Ireland and how he once thought IRA hunger strikers should be allowed to starve in the Maze prison.
In a candid interview for a BBC documentary tonight, the Fermanagh-born 55-year-old actor who plays hardman Jim McDonald in Corrie said: "If I'd grown up on the Newtownards Road and I was skint and unemployed, if there were people shooting at me then I would have shot back."
Lawson also told Stephen Nolan that he used to hang Ulster flags and pictures of the Queen in his home and that he once saw Catholics as "the opposition who wanted rid of me and who were blowing the s**** out of Belfast".
The former Campbell College student who said he "was almost a Nazi" in his youth was asked by Nolan if he'd hated Catholics. He replied: "I didn't know any but that's the way you were brought up. I can't remember whether I hated them but I probably did. And I was probably hated the same way."
In response to a question about whether or not he would call himself a loyalist now, Lawson said: "If that means that I'm loyal to the six counties of Northern Ireland and to the crown, if that makes me a loyalist, then I'm a loyalist."
Lawson also said he understood the frustrations of loyalists in Northern Ireland: "I understand why the Protestant people in every enclave feel that they're hanging on by a thread because people at Westminster don't give a flying f*** about them."
In the documentary, part of the BBC Northern Ireland series, Story of a Lifetime, Lawson revealed that going to London had changed his life.
He said he hadn't known any Catholics before he was 20 and one of his first friends in London was fellow Fermanagh actor Adrian Dunbar.
He said meeting him and going to drama school were turning points.
"They taught me to become a bit more of a human being because you can't hate people and be an actor. It doesn't work."
He said that getting a role in a play about the hunger strikes had altered his perceptions of Bobby Sands and his colleagues.
"I remember in those years thinking that if that's what they want, let them starve."
Lawson said his father, who was a prominent Enniskillen businessman and unionist, didn't like the play and didn't speak to him for a time after he saw it.
But the actor said that during his formative years he didn't like his father's politics, describing them as "middle-class unionist snobbery which I couldn't stand".
Charlie says: "I always felt if there was going to be a peace process, the sooner we talked to the bloody people, republicans and loyalists, of a working-class nature then the sooner it was going to happen."
During the half-hour documentary Lawson also spoke of how he used to drink a bottle-and-a-half of whiskey a day and how he left his second wife, Lesley, an alcoholic who used to subject him to physical violence. She was found dead after a fall at her home and Lawson had to identify her body.
Story of a Lifetime featuring Charlie Lawson is on BBC1 Northern Ireland tonight at 10.35pm