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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

McGartland film planned

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

A film based on the life of Martin McGartland, a former police agent within the IRA, is expected to start shooting in Belfast next spring.

Kari Skogland, a Canadian film director who worked on the Children of the Corn horror movie series, has visited Ireland to scout locations for the project and to meet financiers. The Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission hosted her trip.

Arthur Lappin, an Irish film producer who has been in talks with Skogland, said: "In all likelihood some of it will be shot in Belfast. They are also looking at Liverpool and Dublin. I will be facilitating it if it comes to Ireland." He said "an eminent actor" has been attached to play McGartland.

Jim Sheridan's Hell's Kitchen International is also involved in the project and advising on finance.

McGartland joined the IRA at 16 after being recruited by RUC Special Branch and asked to infiltrate the organisation. He penetrated its main assassination squad in Belfast. His career as an agent lasted from 1987 until 1991 when his cover was blown.

McGartland was kidnapped by the IRA security department but escaped his captors by jumping out of a top-floor window. He was later resettled under the new name of Martin Ashe in Whitley Bay near Newcastle upon Tyne.

His new identity was revealed when he was prosecuted for a driving offence, and in 1999 he was attacked in what appeared to be an IRA murder attempt. He almost bled to death after being shot at point-blank range.

Since then MI5 has given him another name and moved him to another location.

"I have only recently heard about the film but I am delighted it is being made," he said yesterday (Saturday). "Kari has told me that some of the original locations in Belfast are unsuitable because the look of them has changed in the 16 years since I had to get out."

The film will make some changes to the McGartland story in order to glamorise it.

John Blake, who published McGartland's autobiography, confirmed that he had sold rights to Skogland and Altitude Entertainment, a Los Angeles company headed by Kyle Lundberg, who will produce the film.

"Marty has a tremendous story to tell," Blake said. "It has danger, intrigue, car chases and romance. He is a brave and witty man, and that comes across in the script."

June 27, 2007

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on June 24, 2007.