Victims gather for film aimed at countering Bobby Sands movie

Relatives of IRA murder victims have gathered to watch a film produced to counter the portrayal of the republican hunger strikes in a new documentary-style movie.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 11th August 2016, 8:43 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:36 pm
June McMullin pictured on Wednesday evening. She is the widow of Constable John Proctor - a reserve RUC man killed by the IRA in 1981, the year of the Hunger Strike.
June McMullin pictured on Wednesday evening. She is the widow of Constable John Proctor - a reserve RUC man killed by the IRA in 1981, the year of the Hunger Strike.

Titled ‘Remembering Those who had No Choice’, it has been created by a victims’ group in direct response to the recently-premiered ‘66 Days’.

The latter film, about the Maze prison hunger strikes of 1981 and based on Bobby Sands’ diaries, has divided opinion in Northern Ireland.

Critics have branded the docu-drama, by Irish director Brendan Byrne, overly sympathetic to Sands and his cause, while others have acclaimed it for offering a balanced view of the turbulent period of The Troubles.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), a victims’ group in the west of the region, has produced its own film telling the stories of the 57 other people, including a number of children, killed in the conflict during the 217-day period when the 10 republican hunger strikers died.

Valerie Hetherington, whose father Alfie Woods was a RUC officer murdered by the IRA in Omagh in August 1981, attended the premiere of the film in Enniskillen.

“Our family felt it important to be present tonight where our dad and all the other innocents who had no choice are being remembered,” she said.

“My dad was a hard-working family man who was committed to doing his best for us and the community which he served. My dad was murdered within days of a hunger striker’s death.

“We have little doubt as a family that the volatile situation created by that hunger strike meant it more likely that our father could come under attack and ultimately be murdered.

“It is important that we as innocent victims and survivors of terrorism come together in unifying against attempts to re-write the past. Terrorists and their political spokesmen and women will not succeed – the truth must and will prevail.”

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at SEFF, said the film offered a “dignified” response to 66 Days.

“It is important to remember, but also honour, all those whose lives were extinguished outside the Maze prison walls over one of the most turbulent periods in our history,” he said.

“Inside those prison walls 10 men took the choice, with the leadership of the republican movement at their back, to complete suicide.

“Those murdered and killed outside those prison walls did not have the choice to live because in most cases others decided that they had a right to play God in determining who would live and who should die.”

Mr Donaldson described the death of the hunger strikers as a “human tragedy”.

“No one with a semblance of Christianity within their DNA would take glee in their demise,” he said.

“Their families left behind mourn their loss and we acknowledge that.

“But what we will not ever acknowledge or accept is the manipulation of the truth. The 10 men who died on hunger strike were terrorists, they were insurrectionists and they were criminals.”