Northern Ireland news

Criticism of Glenanne film has hurt families, says film maker

Sean Murray, maker of Unquiet Graves, a documentary focused on the activities of the Glenanne Gang.

Criticism of a documentary about a loyalist murder squad has caused "deep hurt and anger" to the families of those bereaved by the Glenanne Gang, the film's producer has said.

Unquiet Graves, a feature-length documentary looking at collusion involved in the murder of more than 120 civilians in Counties Armagh and Tyrone in the early and mid-1970s, was shown on RTÉ for the first time last month.

While critically acclaimed, a number of key figures, including former Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, have since spoken out against the screening, questioning the content and financing of the documentary.

Responding, film maker Sean Murray says that some of the more shocking details contained in the film were corroborated by two senior loyalists sources, including the late Willie Frazer.

"Having the very personal stories of their loss told to a wider audience was always the main objective of the families of the victims of the Glenanne Gang when they agreed to participate in Unquiet Graves", Mr Murray said.

"That their loss, grief and trauma, is now being questioned and dismissed in such an orchestrated way is very hurtful to those who bravely allowed their story to be told.

"The language that's being used by those now trying to undermine the film, is very similar and I believe centralised and orchestrated".

Among aspects of the film being questioned is the testimony of former RUC officer John Weir, who was convicted of murdering Ahoghill man William Strathearn in 1977.

Weir claimed British Intelligence encouraged the UVF gang to carry out mass murder at a Catholic primary school.

"John Weir was only one voice corroborating what others have already said, his evidence was accepted by an independent panel of experts during a judge led Oireachtas inquiry into the Glenanne series of attacks.

"The information about the school attack was also confirmed to me during a meeting with a very senior, and current, loyalist leader, that person knows who they are and knows what they told me.

"I also held a very cordial meeting with the late Willie Frazer, during which I went over a lot of what was to be contained in the finished film. Mr Frazer was joined by people who are still alive and again they know what was said during that meeting".

Claims by Charlie Flanagan that the production cost £300,000 have been fiercely denied by Mr Murray who said it cost a fraction of that and many of the crew, including himself, gave their time for free.

"No political party made any contribution to the film”, he added.

The final attack on the film has been centred on Mr Murray himself, the son of well known west Belfast republican Sean 'Spike' Murray.

"I honestly feel the personal attacks levelled at me are an attempt by sections of unionism to destroy my career and bully funders out of participating in any future projects I might be involved in", said Mr Murray.

"I pursued a career in independent film making to help those who would be otherwise voiceless tell their own story, in their own words.

"If any independent film makers from the unionist community wanted to tell their story I would be the first to defend them in doing so."

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