Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 16:33 UK

Fury over actress's IRA comments

Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan, pictured at the Toronto premiere of Fifty Dead Men Walking

A Hollywood actress has caused a storm after saying she would have joined the IRA if she had lived in Belfast during the Troubles.

Rose McGowan stars in Fifty Dead Men Walking, an adaptation of IRA informer Martin McGartland's autobiography.

She told a news conference that her "heart just broke for the cause" ahead of the film's premiere in Canada.

Unionist politicians have criticised her comments and Mr McGartland said the actress's comments were nave.

Ulster Unionist Mid-Ulster assembly member Billy Armstrong said the comments were "foolish and offensive".

"As an IRA member would Miss McGowan have been happy to participate in the abduction, torture and murder of Jean McConville, a widow and mother of 10," he said.

Ms McGowan said: "Violence is not to be played out daily and provide an answer to problems, but I understand it."

Martin McGartland, who still lives in hiding, said the situation in the late 1980s was very different with daily killings in Belfast.

"Rose McGowan's comments were insulting to victims of IRA terrorism and she should apologise," he said.

Martin McGartland
Martin McGartland had objected to the film

The film also stars Jim Sturgess as Mr McGartland and Sir Ben Kingsley as his British handler.

It tells the story of how Mr McGartland joined the IRA at 16 after he was recruited by RUC Special Branch to infiltrate the group.

It chronicles his four years in the IRA between 1987 and 1991 before his cover was blown and he was kidnapped.

Mr McGartland had threatened legal action over the film but this was dropped following a settlement, including a payment believed to be in the region of 20,000.

"The film is not a true account of my story as it puts me at the scene of torture and murders," he told the BBC.

"I insisted on a new voiceover and a disclaimer at the beginning saying it the film was inspired by my book rather than being a true story."

Canadian director Kari Skogland said during filming in Belfast, advice from former IRA members on how to make a bomb and techniques for torturing informants helped to add authenticity to the project.

"I had many secret meetings in dark places. We were being watched by all sides, phones tapped, that sort of thing," she told the Hollywood Reporter.

Actors Kevin Zegers, Rose McGowan, Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess
Kevin Zegers, Rose McGowan, Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess at the premiere

William Frazer of victims' group Fair said the actress should apologise for the "sickening comments".

"She may as well add that she would have joined al-Qaeda and flew those planes into the twin towers had she been born a disgruntled Muslim," he said.

He said she had "blurred the fiction of her film with the cold bloody reality of life here".

Mr Frazer also criticised the director for taking advice on torture from former IRA members.

"Did she give a thought for those children murdered by the PIRA or when she took tips from the torturers of the PIRA in secret meetings did she ever consider the children who have had to grow up fatherless because of these torturers and killers," he said.

The film's world premiere was at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Telegraph Rose McGowan: I would have joined IRA - 19 hrs ago
UPI Author: 'Fifty' film not a true account - 21 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited In brief: Dark Knight set to ride again - 32 hrs ago
Reuters Peace after war over IRA spy movie - 32 hrs ago
CBC Canadian filmmaker captures rival viewpoints in IRA informant drama - 39 hrs ago

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McGartland: 'A dead man walking'
17 Jun 99 |  UK News

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