Campaigner demands film-makers consult victims before making movies

South East Fermanagh Foundation spokesman Kenny Donaldson
South East Fermanagh Foundation spokesman Kenny Donaldson

A campaign group has demanded that a media task-force be set up to “re-balance” the portrayal of Troubles events in favour of victims and survivors of violence.

The South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) made the call in the wake of the release of ‘66 Days’, a new film about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Kenny Donaldson warned politicians not to lose focus on victims' issues

Kenny Donaldson warned politicians not to lose focus on victims' issues

As previously reported, the group had responded to the movie by releasing a film of its own called ‘Remembering Those Who Had No Choice’.

SEFF’s spokesman Kenny Donaldson – who is also spokesman for campaign group Innocent Victims United – has now told the News Letter the reaction to their own film “copper-fastened our view that there is a need for focused effort to take place which would see the stripped back experiences of the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and other Troubles related criminal violence broadcast and relayed”.

He has written to the First Minister Arlene Foster, the Board of NI Screen, and the BBC, requesting meetings and “insisting that a task-force be established”.

This task force would work with victims of the Troubles, and the organisations which represent them and their relatives, “to ensure that their lived experience of terrorism and criminal violence is relayed across TV and film”.

He added: “Innocent victims and survivors of terrorism are clear that their lived experiences must be heard by a local, national and international audience – their story is a story of truth and fact; others are more adept at producing stories of half truth or fiction.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We haven’t received the correspondence as yet but when we do we will give it careful consideration and are happy to meet with Mr Donaldson to hear his views.

“We fully appreciate the importance of victims’ stories being heard and we will continue to provide a platform for this across our services.

“BBC Northern Ireland has a wide and still developing portfolio of programming which aims to reflect all aspects of life here.

“When our content includes stories related to the Troubles, we always do our utmost to ensure it is brought to BBC audiences in a considered, sensitive and responsible way.”

No response had been received from the Executive Office (formerly the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister) at time of going to press.

A spokeswoman for NI Screen said it would not respond to the News Letter’s request for a comment, but said a response will be formulated once its board had received the letter from SEFF.

In his review of ‘66 Days’ for the News Letter, DUP MP Gregory Campbell had concluded that it “makes good dramatic viewing, if overly long, but it is a million miles away from an accurate depiction of what happened during those harrowing days in 1981”.

He added: “If it is up for awards it should not be in the real life drama section, that’s for sure”.

SEFF’s film, ‘Remembering Those Who Had No Choice’ tells the stories of the 57 other people, including a number of children, who lost their lives during the 217-day period when the 10 republican hunger strikers died.