Liam Neeson has been warned by a terror victims’ advocacy group that proceeding with his latest film project could make him a “poster boy” for the IRA.
It was recently announced that Neeson is co-producing his first film, an adaptation of the Mark Mulholland novel “A Rare and Wonderful Thing,” which takes place during The Troubles in Northern Ireland and centers on an IRA sniper named Johnny Donnelly.
Innocent Victims United, an advocacy group for bystanders injured during The Troubles, has taken issue with Neeson’s involvement with the project.
They issued a statement that reads, “In our view the novel written by Mark Mulholland was a very sanitized version of the IRA’s campaign of sectarian terror.
“Liam Neeson was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Ballymena back in 2013 and enjoyed cross-party and cross-community support.
“He 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.”
The Ballymena, Co. Antrim-born actor praised the book highly when it was published last year, saying, “I thought it excellent. Deeply satisfying and moving. I also think that sufficient time has passed since the Good Friday Agreement to, at last, have a novel that goes inside the head of one of the ‘Troubles’ protagonists and hear the pros and cons of the conflict (to take up arms or not) told in an original and exciting way.”
According to author Mark Mulholland, Neeson was instrumental in the book being optioned to become a film.
“It was Liam who did the running on this and made the thing happen. . . Liam has been loyal and supportive to the work from the start and he has also made some wonderful comments. Liam, because of who he is, brings assurance of a big production and a guarantee of attention,” he said during a recent interview with the local Dundalk blog Talk of the Town.
The book has close-to-home parallels with Mulholland’s life. He began writing it in 1991, and 1999 Mulholland’s youngest brother, Darren, was arrested as a member of the IRA, charged with plotting explosions in London, and sentenced to 22 years.
Mulholland says he had no idea about Darren’s Real IRA association, knowing him only as his younger brother and an average 19-year-old college student, studying Theoretical Physics at Queens University Belfast.
“Then my brother actually became a Johnny Donnelly,” Mulholland told the Irish Times. "Not really, but kind of. He caught me blindsided. So there you go. What does anybody know about anybody? Brilliant student, 19 years of age, has the world at his feet.”
In addition to “A Rare and Wonderful Thing,” Neeson is currently working on narrating Notre Dame’s three-part documentary series about the 1916 Easter Rising for PBS.