British undercover spy story halted in court
The story of a British agent who worked for years undercover in the terrorist group the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has been stopped from being shown on Friday, just a week before the film premières at the Toronto International Film Festival .
The organisers of TIFF are adamant that they will go ahead with the screening, despite the man who is the subject of the story refusing to waive his rights over his life story.
On Friday British lawyers for Kari Skogland's Fifty Dead Men Walking met in London with the man who is the focus of the story, Martin McGartland, and offered him GB £10,000 and the waiving of his moral rights over his life story to allow the film to be shown. However he refused the deal and the discussions have ceased.
This leaves everything in a state of flux. Although TIFF are intending to screen the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter, McGartland has retained a Toronto legal firm to represent him and possibly sue the film's producers. As yet though there's no real idea of what's going to happen.
Martin McGartland was a mole for the British government from within the IRA and provided information to the Special Branch on the behaviour and actions of the terrorist group. His cover was revealed in 1991 and since then he's written his memoirs (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com).
However he says that the fictionalised scenes in the film infringe his moral rights – laws which exist in the UK and Canada to protect someone from having their life story retold in such a way as to harm their reputation – by portraying him as an accessory to torture and murder. Instead he says that his actions were an attempt to save lives, to retain his secret identity, and uncover bombing and assassination attempts.
At the moment it looks as though the film will be shown at TIFF, but that could spell trouble for the producers of the film in the form of legal action, and so those may be the only screenings the audience will see for some time.