They were the mortal enemies who became friends: Ian Paisley, the firebrand Presbyterian minister from rural County Armagh who founded his own church and vowed to never, never, never share power with Republicans, and Martin McGuiness, baby-faced IRA chief of staff turned peace maker from Derry who bore arms in defence of his beloved Bogside and allegedly had a hand in the murders of dozens of civilians and security personnel.
Nick Hamm’s feature The Journey imagines the first time these two bitter foes consented to dialogue. It is 2006 and all of the major political parties from Northern Ireland, along with delegations from the British and Irish governments, are meeting in St Andrew’s, Scotland to negotiate a meaningful peace and establish devolved government in Northern Ireland after years of sectarian warfare.
It is, according to Hamm, ‘a story that needed to be told’, and one here told with wit and wisdom by Northern Irish novelist Colin Bateman. The Journey stars Timothy Spall as Paisley, Colm Meaney as McGuinness and takes place mostly in a sleek taxi cab as the pair break travel from St Andrew’s and Edinburgh Airport. Variety has described the movie as a ‘buddy movie’ and Hamm agrees. It is, he proffers, a ‘political road movie’.
‘Throughout the entire Troubles, when Belfast, Derry and elsewhere were racked by bombs and every day on the news another fatality was announced, no-one would ever have dreamed that Paisley and McGuinness would come to work together, let alone admire one another and even enjoy one another’s company,’ Hamm adds.
‘It just never would have happened. No-one would have believed it. Yet these two men set aside their differences and together managed one of the greatest political acts of the 21st century, seeing through the Northern Irish Peace Process. That is undoubtedly something worth celebrating, particularly in these times of increased polarisation in Europe and beyond. The world has a lot to learn from the Northern Ireland situation and from these two men of war and peace in particular.’
Released in the UK May 5, The Journey hits cinemas across America and Europe in June.