It’s not the main focus of Henry McDonald’s Observer interview with the playwright Gary Mitchell, whose family have been intimidated out of their homes, as noted here, by what are described in the article as ‘rogue [Loyalist] paramilitaries’, that’s more his puzzlement at the lack of outrage at his family’s plight. But two pieces of information stand out, firstly, while Channel4 have commissioned two screenplays, he relates why BBC NI won’t be receiving anything soon, BBC Northern Ireland told me I wouldn’t be working with them any more unless I wrote about the peace process and it would have to be positive. So I told them, “No, you won’t be working with me.” How could I write a positive drama about the peace process when terrorists are blowing up my car?The second point is the evident crassness of the NIO, and Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, who invited the Mitchell family to Hillsborough Castle just before Christmas –
Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, offered Mitchell and his family some comfort just before Christmas – an invite to a drinks reception at Hillsborough Castle. But the playwright says that the invite spectacularly backfired.
‘When we arrived at Hillsborough there were senior loyalist paramilitary figures drinking and eating in the same room. It was insensitive of the Northern Ireland Office to invite a family who were victims of loyalist intimidation to a function where loyalist leaders were in attendance.’
The Northern Ireland Office stressed there was never any intention of putting the Mitchells into a difficult situation.