Peace breaks out in war about IRA movie

Wed Sep 10, 2008 6:12pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - A former infiltrator into the Irish Republican Army who spent months protesting against a film based on his life is now praising it and says a cash settlement had nothing to do with the switch.

"Fifty Dead Men Walking," which debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival on Wednesday, is based on Martin McGartland's best-selling 1997 memoir of a young Catholic hustler living in Belfast in the late '80s who was recruited by British intelligence to infiltrate the IRA.

As he moved up the chain of command, his work inside the organization saved more than 50 lives, according to McGartland and the movie's makers.

But McGartland had threatened to sue the British and Canadian producers for distorting his story. At one stage he said he might try to stop Wednesday night's premiere.

After last-ditch negotiations this week, which included 20,000 pounds ($35,000) for McGartland to waive his rights and agree not to pursue legal action, the former spy now says he is happy with the film.

"The producers gave me a copy of the DVD and I watched it again ... and the more I watch it, I just love it," McGartland told Reuters in a telephone interview from Britain, where he remains in hiding for fear of IRA retribution.

He lives under a false identity somewhere on the mainland, he said.


<p>Director Kari Skogland speaks beside actor Jim Sturgess (L) at the "Fifty Dead Men Walking" news conference at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival September 10, 2008. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>