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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2005, 10:37 GMT
Playwright 'driven out by idiots'
Gary Mitchell
Mitchell's plays include Loyal Women and The Force of Change
Northern Irish playwright Gary Mitchell has blamed "a small minority of idiots" for a campaign of intimidation that has made him leave his home near Belfast.

The writer is in hiding after his home in the loyalist district of Rathcoole was attacked and his car petrol-bombed by masked men on 23 November.

"I don't think I would ever go back," he told Radio 4's Front Row programme.

Mitchell has written extensively about the violent tensions within the Protestant loyalist community.

He believes his success has caused paramilitaries who operate within that community to turn against him.

"There is a very small minority who are jealous and angry at someone else being successful, who are using every opportunity to lash out at me and my family," he said.

"Images of myself winning awards in Dublin is enough to give these people the impression I've sold out or done something against them.

"I doubt these people have ever seen anything I've written."

'Geographical divide'

In a letter published in the Irish News earlier this month, some of Northern Ireland's leading authors - among them the novelists Colin Bateman and Glenn Patterson - condemned the attacks on Mr Mitchell, his actress wife Alison Ford and their eight-year-old son Harry.

The playwright's parents, who had lived in Rathcoole for 50 years, have also been allegedly targeted and forced to flee.

Mr Mitchell said his work may suffer now there is a "geographical divide" between himself and the community he writes about.

"I will no longer be able to be as close to the people I want to be close to," he said.

"That distance might damage the reality of what I'm exploring."

The playwright dismissed the possibility of returning to the area where he grew up.

"If I was a single bloke I could see myself going back, but when you've got a wife and a little boy it's impossible."

Mitchell's plays include The Force of Change and Loyal Women. His 1998 drama As the Beast Sleeps was filmed by the BBC in 2002.

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