Northern Ireland news

Film-maker Sean Murray targeted by an anonymous Twitter account linked to former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris

Sean Murray's film Unquiet Graves focused on the loyalist Glenanne Gang

A WEST Belfast film-maker targeted by an anonymous Twitter account linked to former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris has said he was trolled "for months" over his documentary on the Glenanne Gang.

Seán Murray, director of Unquiet Graves, is considering legal action over derogatory comments made by a Twitter account under the name of Barbara J Pym, after the late English novelist.

The @barbarapym2 Twitter account has been suspended after it emerged Mr Harris, a fierce critic of Sinn Féin, was involved in the running of the account, set up in February 2020.

Twitter later suspended a total of eight further accounts linked to the Barbara J Pym account.

Mr Harris's contract with the Sunday Independent was terminated on Thursday night, the paper's editor Alan English said.

"Regardless of where they stand on any issue, we expect our writers to put their views across in a transparent manner. Readers can agree or disagree with these opinions. We will not, however, tolerate hidden agendas," he said.

The anonymous Twitter account targeted several high profile people including Mr Murray; Derry-born journalist Aoife Moore; Professor Colin Harvey, of Queen's University Belfast; Co Derry citizenship campaigner Emma De Souza; journalist and author Paul Larkin and economist and broadcaster David McWilliams.

Mr Larkin is also considering legal action, his solicitor Niall Murphy said yesterday.

Mr Murray said the Barbara J Pym account had been "trolling me for months".

"It was during the tour of Unquiet Graves and particularly after the RTÉ screening of Unquiet Graves," he said.

"It was very, very stressful. My work is everything to me and the integrity of my work is everything to me."

Unquiet Graves focused on the loyalist Glenanne Gang which involved members of the RUC, UDR and UVF and is believed to have murdered around 120 people in the 1970s.

The gang was also involved in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Mr Murray said comments made by the account, and others, have made it "almost impossible" to get funding for his follow-up film to Unquiet Graves.

"I know that it's because of the types of trolling and the types of misinformation and disinformation that's been put out against me on social media," he said.

Mr Murray said Mr Harris was not the only person involved in the Twitter account.

"I want to know who else was involved in that account," he said.

"It's not just about Eoghan Harris. It's about a small cabal of people who have been trolling me and other people on social media."

Mr Murray's solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh said the film-maker was trolled between August and October 2020.

"Our client is a distinguished academic and award-winning filmmaker," he said.

"We will take all necessary steps to vindicate his position in relation to any defamatory comments made against him and will pursue all legal remedies available in these circumstances against Mr Harris and other contributors to this fake account."

Known for his distinctive writing style, Mr Harris was previously a Marxist and a member of the Workers' Party of Ireland and Official Sinn Féin.

He worked on Mary Robinson's presidential campaign in 1990 and was a former adviser to Fine Gael's John Bruton, before he became Taoiseach. He is also a former adviser to the Ulster Unionist Party.

Formerly a republican, he later became a fierce critic of Sinn Féin.

He was also strongly opposed to Mary McAleese during her 1997 presidential campaign and referred to her as a "tribal timebomb".

Mr Harris was an adviser to rival presidential candidate Derek Nally.

Mrs McAleese wrote in 2020 that Mr Harris was "gratuitously vitriolic" during the campaign but was "later man enough to admit he had been wrong about me".

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