Liam Neeson is set to co-produce a thriller set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland about an IRA sniper. The deal was announced yesterday at the London Book Fair.

The Ballymena, Co. Antrim-born actor has signed on to support a film adaptation of “A Mad and Wonderful Thing,” the debut novel of Dundalk-born author Mark Mulholland.

The novel, published in 2014, goes back decades to before the Good Friday Agreement and has eerie parallels with Mulholland’s own life.

As he explained to the Irish Times, he began writing the book, which is narrated by a young IRA sniper named Johnny Donnelly, in 1991.

In 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.”

When the novel was published last year, Neeson praised it enthusiastically: “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. All Mark’s hard work has paid off. Ireland has a new and exciting voice.”

Mulholland, who lives in France, gave an interview to a local Dundalk blog, Talk of the Town.

He said that 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.

“This will be Liam’s first film to include a role behind the camera. Some months ago I suggested to Liam that he may like to make the film himself. Madly enough, he said yes.

“Well, what he actually said was: ‘I don’t have a production company; never had. And I’ve no desire to direct or to produce really. However, I will make an exception for 'A Mad and Wonderful Thing.’ Well, how mad is that?”

He also commented on how much the film would mean for his home town. “It is great news, too, I think, for Dundalk. Our story and streetscape, our landscape and hinterland, our mythology, our people, and even our unique sound, are all to get a global airing.”

“A Mad and Wonderful Thing” will be filmed by Irish company Parallel Films, whose credits include “Breakfast on Pluto,” “Albert Nobbs,” “Perrier’s Bounty,” and “Intermission.”