Belfast Telegraph

Star Neeson 'risks being seen as an IRA poster boy'

Liam Neeson in Michael Collins
Liam Neeson in Michael Collins
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Liam Neeson runs the risk of becoming a "poster boy" for the IRA, a campaign group has warned.

The alarm comes as the 62-year-old Hollywood superstar prepares to co-produce a new film about a republican sniper.

A Mad and Wonderful Thing, which is based on a debut novel by Mark Mulholland, is to be filmed by leading Irish company Parallel Films.

Campaign group Innocent Victims United has hit out at the proposed movie, claiming it causes offence to terror victims.

"We have been contacted by dozens of victims and survivors who have expressed their deep hurt that Ballymena-born and acclaimed actor Liam Neeson is to produce a film based on the novel," a statement said.

"In our view the novel written by Mark Mulholland was a very sanitised version of the IRA's campaign of sectarian terror.

"Mr Neeson should not allow himself to be a poster boy for a ruthless republican ideology which inflicted murder upon men, women and children, Protestant, Catholic and dissenter, in advance of its own 'ourselves alone', separatist agenda."

Set in the author's home town of Dundalk, A Mad and Wonderful Things tells the story of a fictional IRA sniper, Johnny Donnelly, who falls in love with a girl named Cora.

Hollywood star Neeson played Irish revolutionary Michael Collins in the 1997 film of the same name. He also starred alongside fellow Northern Irish acting star James Nesbitt in the award-winning Five Minutes of Heaven - a 2009 film in which he played UVF member Alistair Little while Nesbitt played Joe Griffin, a republican.

He also played an IRA man early in his career alongside Mickey Rourke in the film A Prayer for the Dying.

It tells the story of a republican who blows up a bus full of schoolchildren instead of a truck full of troops, who then tries to leave the organisation. The film was based on a book by the acclaimed thriller-writer Jack Higgins.

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