Paisley-McGuinness film ‘could help seal new talks deal’

The Journey actors Colm Meaney (left) and Timothy Spall
The Journey actors Colm Meaney (left) and Timothy Spall

A film about the reconciliation between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness which restored political power-sharing a decade ago can nudge Northern Ireland towards agreement again, a lead actor has said.

Colm Meaney plays Martin McGuinness in The Journey, which receives its UK and Ireland premiere in Belfast tonight.

He said the fictional account of the relationship between the two former enemies established an emotional connection with the audience and resonated amid the suspension of government from Stormont.

Mr Meaney added: “We were seeing the film very much as a celebration of what had been achieved and that it would perhaps be inspirational to other conflict situations.

“But now we are back (to negotiations) maybe it could help nudge people here towards an agreement again.”

Dr Paisley was the former firebrand DUP leader who died in 2014.

Mr McGuinness was the uncompromising Sinn Fein chief negotiator and former IRA commander. He died earlier this year.

The political odd couple built an extraordinary friendship and became known as the Chuckle Brothers after they agreed to share power as first minister and deputy first minister in 2007.

The Journey was written by Northern Ireland-born author Colin Bateman and stars Timothy Spall as Ian Paisley.

Mr Spall said: “If these two men representing the two opposite sides can do it, surely it has got to be a beacon for hope and a massive flare up in the sky for keeping it going.”

He said they were intractable politicians who it seemed would never compromise but did.

“It is universal and age-old but that is a recent contemporary history, and it has never been so current.”

He said the film was very much a take on what might have happened and did not purport to be real.

“It is based on elements of truth but it is an example and a chance, a vehicle, to be able to get these two uncompromising men to hammer and tongs at each other, to tell each other what their problems were with each other and to face up to the simple fact that the only way forward was to come together and shake hands, and make sure that it was the end of it.

“The wonderful thing about my experience about Northern Ireland is that there is a fantastic amount of displayed common humanity in it and the fact that it often looks like it might separate and splinter at any time surely acts as a beacon to keep it going.”