Actor Colm Meaney has said elements of the British media and the “revisionists in Dublin as well” have unfairly judged the North’s former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in the aftermath of his death.
Speaking in Belfast ahead of the British and Irish premiere of The Journey, a fictionalised film exploring the relationship between the former first minister and DUP leader Ian Paisley and Mr McGuinness, Meaney said the focus should be on Mr McGuinness’s “work as a statesman” and not his IRA past.
“It’s high time they [the media] recognise his work as a statesman and a minister and stopped all the sniping and nonsense about his past,” said Meaney, who plays Mr McGuinness in the movie. “He didn’t create the circumstances he was born into or grew up in.”
The Journey, which cost just under $5 million, was funded largely by IM Global but received £620,000 production and development funding from Northern Ireland Screen, which is funded through Stormont-run Invest NI.
Following premieres at the Venice and Toronto film festivals it was screened by the Belfast Film Festival at the Movie House on Thursday evening. It will open at 35 cinemas across Ireland on Friday, May 5th, and will also be screened in Britain and elsewhere.
Meaney said he “did not have a very positive view” of Dr Paisley for most of his life, viewing him as “a very difficult man”, but he said Timothy Spall’s portrayal in the film finally helped him understand where he was coming from.
“Through Tim’s performance I had an insight into Paisley when he was talking about the martyrs on the stained-glass window in the church and in the middle of the scene a light went on in my head: ‘That’s where he was coming from, that’s what it was about,’ ” he said.
“That means you park any of your own political views, any of your feelings and you have to totally empathise, which is not the same as sympathise, and see where they are coming from.”
Meaney said he was more concerned with the reaction of Belfast audiences than of arts critics. He also spoke of his sadness that Mr McGuinness had died in March. “I would have loved and looked forward to Martin’s probably quite wry and humorous comments about the film.”
Belfast-born director Nick Hamm said Mr McGuinness and Mr Paisley had “the most amazing friendship” and he had to make a film about it.
Writer Colin Bateman, from Co Down, said: “Nobody apart from their families knows what they were really like behind closed doors, so the challenge for me was to create an off-camera personality, and who knows how close I got to the truth? From speaking to people who did know them, I think we got pretty close to it.”
Hamm and Bateman are now working on “a devilish tale” about car maker John DeLorean, which will be filmed in the US.
Irish Times online