Sunday, January 29, 2006


Playwright hits out at loyalist harassment

Loyalists causing troubleThere's an interesting interview by Henry McDonald in The Observer (hat tip Slugger) with the playwright Gary Mitchell, whose family have been intimidated out of their homes by loyalists.

Loyalists have been incensed by the playwright's work. His best known drama, As the Beast Sleeps, screened in 2001 on the BBC - revealed how young Protestants were coping with life before and after the loyalist ceasefires. It provoked a hostile reaction.

In his first interview since the attack, Mitchell reveals what has happened to his family in the aftermath: their seven-year-old son, Harry, is so traumatised he spends most days in his bedroom and has had to take time off from school; Alison rarely goes beyond the door; and Gary cannot return to the house they still own on the northern outskirts of Belfast.

Henry McDonald explains why the man has been harassed:

"The Mitchells were attacked for two reasons: first, there has been growing resentment in Rathcoole about Gary's exploration of Ulster loyalism and its identity crisis. Secondly, the loyalist paramilitary groups have begun to fragment.

"Detectives have recently identified 'rogue paramilitaries' at Rathcoole - where Mitchell used to live - who don't answer to either the Ulster Volunteer Force or Ulster Defence Association leadership. They deal in drugs, picket Catholic families trying to visit graves at nearby Carnmoney Cemetery, and killed a doorman at a north Belfast nightclub because he refused to let them sell cocaine and ecstasy on the premises.

"Mitchell admits he has 'history' with some of this renegade gang. In 1997 when he won a Dublin-based award for new writing, he was branded a traitor. 'They would stop you in the street, ask you what you were doing in Dublin and accuse you of selling out.' The 40-year-old writer eventually left Rathcoole the next year, after a campaign of intimidation. He returned for his grandmother's funeral in November. 'They (the gang) sent a message that I was banned from Rathcoole and had defied them, but I never even knew there was a ban.'"

Absolutely disgusting what these loyalists are engaging in. Can you believe the hostility the poor man faced just for accepting an award in Dublin?

This man deserves the chance to live in peace but not enough is being done for him. Henry McDonald makes that point in his article:

"Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, offered Mitchell and his family some comfort just before Christmas - an invite to a drinks reception at Hillsborough Castle. But the playwright says that the invite spectacularly backfired.

"'When we arrived at Hillsborough there were senior loyalist paramilitary figures drinking and eating in the same room. It was insensitive of the Northern Ireland Office to invite a family who were victims of loyalist intimidation to a function where loyalist leaders were in attendance.'

"The Northern Ireland Office stressed there was never any intention of putting the Mitchells into a difficult situation."

There doesn't seem to be any effort from the Northern Ireland Office to get the Mitchells out of a difficult situation.

It's OK to have a piss-up with loyalists but it's not OK to challenge their activities?

Why is the focus always on Republican paramilitaries when the loyalist paramilitaries appear to be far more dangerous right now?

When are the loyalist activities going to be condemned by the main unionist parties?


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