Friday 17 January 2020

TV firm in Michaella row nets €100k of taxpayers' cash

Michaella McCollum, pictured giving an interview to RTE
Michaella McCollum, pictured giving an interview to RTE

Simon Rowe

The independent TV production company at the centre of a storm over its controversial interview of convicted drugs mule Michaella McCollum has just received €100,000 of Irish taxpayers' cash to fund a documentary about a Connemara boxer once linked to notorious US mobster Whitey Bulger.

Headed by Trevor Birney - the journalist who interviewed the Tyrone woman in Peru for last Sunday's RTE exclusive - Belfast-based Below The Radar has secured funding worth more than €125,000 from State-backed quangos north and south to finance a feature-length documentary about veteran Irish boxer Sean O'Mainnin.

Inspired by author Ronan Mac Con Iomaire's recently published Irish-language biography of O'Mainnin, the documentary Rocky Ros Muc will recount the colourful life story of O'Mainnin.

O'Mainnin became the light-middleweight champion of America in the early 1980s after emigrating to South Boston from the small Galway Gaeltacht community of Ros Muc.

He went on to train and spar with Whitey Bulger's inner circle of henchmen, and O'Mainnin claims he was repeatedly asked to get involved in Bulger's drug-running and extortion schemes but refused.

Bulger's story recently received the Hollywood treatment in Johnny Depp's hit movie Black Mass.

Below The Radar has secured three tranches of cross-border funding to help turn O'Mainnin's life story into a knockout hit on screen, with €50,000 coming from the Irish Film Board, €50,000 from TG4, and £25,000 from the Northern Ireland Screen Commission, according to new financial documents filed by the company.

Below The Radar specialises in current affairs and documentaries. It has produced films for BBC, RTE, TG4, Channel 4 and Sky.

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