Belfast Telegraph

Dad snubs invite to Feile film as group linked to his son's UVF murderers is a sponsor of festival

By Deborah McAleese

The father of a UVF murder victim has hit out at organisers of Feile an Phobail (West Belfast Festival) for accepting sponsorship from a loyalist paramilitary-linked group.

Raymond McCord was due to attend a screening of a controversial documentary about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands as part of the event, but pulled out after discovering one of the festival's backer's was a community group that works with ex-members of the UVF and Red Hand Commando.

Mr McCord's 22-year-old son Raymond jnr was slain by the loyalist terror group in November 1997. His killers have never been brought to justice.

Mr McCord had been invited to attend a screening at the weekend of 66 Days, a cinematic portrait of Sands' fast at the height of the Troubles in 1981.

The victims' campaigner had a role in the film, as he had played football with Sands when he was a teenager.

However, shortly before he was due to attend the screening he was informed Action for Community Transformation (ACT) was a Feile sponsor.

ACT describes itself as a "transformation initiative which supports former combatants province-wide, in the post ceasefire climate".

But Mr McCord said: "This is a UVF-linked group. The UVF are not on ceasefire. They remain active.

"I was due to attend the screening, but when I discovered ACT were sponsors I refused to go.

"This is a community festival. This is about principle. The UVF killed my son. I am sure a lot of victims of UVF violence will not be too happy."

A spokesman for Feile an Phobail said that nobody was available to comment.

Meanwhile, a row over the screening of the documentary continues to rumble on. DUP MP Gregory Campbell said he was angry Feile an Phobail had cancelled a post-screening discussion about the documentary he had been due to take part in.

"When making a film about a terrorist it is only right that there is some discussion about the realities of terrorists and the impact on their victims," said Mr Campbell.

"Last week an invite was extended to have a unionist attend the screening of the Sands film as well as a discussion afterwards.

"I was sent a copy of the film to view in advance and I indicated that I was prepared to go.

"A short time later I was informed the discussion element of the programme had been cancelled."

He accused organisers of failing to "face up to the scrutiny of the real world".

Last month unionists reacted furiously when it emerged that public money from the BBC and Northern Ireland Screen had been used to fund the documentary.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he objected to licence fee money being used.

"I haven't seen the film, but my fear would be it will glorify someone who was in jail because he was a criminal, and, secondly, committed suicide so he could encourage more people," he said.

But both organisations defended their involvement in the project, which Belfast director Brendan Byrne insisted it was not a partisan film.

The documentary, which was also written by Ardoyne-born Mr Byrne, is based on extracts from the republican prisoner's diary, eyewitness testimonies, unseen archive, reconstructions and animations.

While it looks at the key moments leading up to Sands' death, Mr Byrne insisted that it was a balanced production.

He added: "This is a film which has lessons in it for nationalism and lessons for unionists, so it's not partisan.

"I'm not an IRA supporter, and this is no flag-waver for the IRA.

"This is an earnest, honest attempt to examine perhaps the most important event in the second half of 20th century history."

Belfast Telegraph


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