Irish Republican News · December 22, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Playwright flees UDA threats

A prominent playwright is in hiding, and his family have been forced to flee their homes - after a campaign of death threats and bomb attacks by unionist paramilitaries.

Gary Mitchell was told that his family “had to get out or be killed in four hours”. His home was attacked by men with baseball bats and petrol bombs.

Paramilitaries have taken offence at his portrayal of their violent oppression of working-class Protestant estates.

Despite PSNI police warnings that he was on the top of a death list - and should not drink in local pubs - Mitchell insisted on staying put, saying he needed to be close to the people he was writing about.

To begin with, the paramilitaries’ prejudice that culture was something only for “taigs and faggots” protected him. But after increasing success, Mitchell’s home was attacked by members of the UDA carrying baseball bats, their faces hidden by football scarves.

His car was petrol bombed and exploded in his driveway. His wife, Alison, grabbed their seven-year-old son from his bed, ran outside with him, put him over a wall and threw herself on top of him to protect him. She said: “I heard an explosion and I thought they’ve killed Gary.”

There was a simultaneous attack on his uncle’s home. By then his uncle was the only family member left in the loyalist Rathcoole estate.

“We are in hiding now,” Mitchell has said. “I feel a mix of confusion, anger, frustration and despair. There is a feeling that certain people are jealous and feel that I am depicting them in a bad way. They have decided that they will do this no matter what anybody says ... I haven’t done anything other than write.

“Some say the way to deal with this is to sit down with paramilitaries and ask them why they are doing this. I have no interest in doing that because I don’t want to give people authority over my writing. If I negotiated with them, I would be recognising their authority, which I don’t.”


In related news, a senior unionist paramilitary accused of murder has been granted bail to go on a Christmas holiday to Amsterdam.

Stephen Paul McFerran is awaiting trial for the murder of a former associate of ousted UDA boss Johnny Adair.

The 38-year-old denies the murder of Roy Green, who was shot as he left a bar in the Ormeau Road in south Belfast on January 2 2003, at the height of the feud within the UDA.

At the time it was claimed that Mr Green was murdered for passing on false information to Adair, which led to the shooting of an innocent man.

Crown Court judge Hart ordered McFerran to return his passport to police after his holiday.

It was the second time McFerran’s bail has been varied by the courts to allow him to travel abroad.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News