By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Two leading loyalists demanded a £5,000 "cash donation" for UDA prisoners from a top U.S. film director last month, in return for their "permission" to film on the Protestant side of the peace line in north Belfast.
Recently released prisoner Johnny Adair and double murderer John White made the demand from a crew working for Stephen Spielberg’s Dreamworks productions just before shooting got under way in the Cliftonville Road area, according to an inside source familiar with the approach by the two men.
The film, "An Everlasting Piece," written by a Belfast actor now living in New York, is being directed by Barry Levinson, whose earlier movies include "Good Morning Vietnam" and "Rainman." It tells the story of two barbers, one Protestant and one Catholic, who go into the toupee business.
"Mad Dog" Adair, who is 34, was released last month after serving four years of a 16-year sentence for directing terrorism. He is believed to be living in the Donaghadee area and is a "community worker" in the Oldpark area of north Belfast.
White, who is 48, served 14 years for the double murder of SDLP man Paddy Wilson, and a friend, Irene Andrews, a Protestant civil servant, in June 1973. He stabbed Wilson more than 30 times.
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The inside source explained how the "protection money" was demanded from the filmmakers, and how disgusted other Belfast people associated with the movie were when they learned of the UDA approach.
"We were helping the crew film in North Belfast when we heard about the problem with the UDA," a source said. " Most of the action was taking place on the nationalist side, but there was one bit of work that necessitated us working on the loyalist side.
"Everything was going smoothly. Then we were informed by a social worker from their side that some people wanted to meet us. White and Adair arrived and demanded to see the film script.
"The film company had already agreed to make a donation to the communities on each side of the peace line, but after reading the script for 20 minutes, White and Adair said the deal was off.
"Then, one hour before shooting, the company received word from Adair and White that — on reflection — if they made a donation to a UDP prisoners fund, that would ease their path.
"So they made the donation of £5,000 to be split between three groups on the loyalist side. They also gave the same amount to the nationalist side, but they had never asked for any money."