Channel 4 under fire over depiction of real politician’s death in its drama Utopia

Broadcaster says that it did not wish to cause offence after the family of the murdered politician Airey Neave criticise the fictionalising of his death in the upcoming drama

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Channel 4 under fire over depiction of real politician’s death in its drama Utopia
Written By
Ben Dowell

Channel 4 has been criticised by the family of Conservative politician Airey Neave who was killed by an Irish Republican car bomb in 1979. 

Members of the late politician's family say that the channel is wrong to use the MP’s killing in the drama which uses footage of the aftermath of his death in a car-bomb attack and has a fictional plotline which suggests that the MP was killed by a secret MI5 cell rather than terrorists. 

His son Patrick Neave told the Mail on Sunday: “Who do these people think they are, reinventing history for the purpose of entertainment?” His other son, William added: “I would dearly love to protect my father’s reputation from lies and fabrication. We would love to stop it airing.”

In the drama, real news footage of the car bomb that killed Neave in the House of Commons car park is used as well as reaction footage of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 

The character of Neave is played in the drama by Tim McInnerny, perhaps best known as Lord Percy in Blackadder II, with the story suggesting that he was killed by a shadowy cell within the British security services called The Network rather than by the IRA splinter group the Irish National Liberation Army as is generally accepted to be the case. The INLA also claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Channel 4 issued a statement which referred to the many conspiracy theories that have circulated about the death of the politician who was shadow Northern Ireland secretary at the time he was killed.

The statement said: “The drama series Utopia is entirely fictional, it is a conspiracy thriller about a fictional organization called The Network. Utopia occasionally blends real moments in history with fictional storylines, meaning some events and characters have been adapted for dramatic licence within the context of the series.

“It is not our intention to cause offence and Utopia does not suggest that any other real organisation was responsible for the death of Airey Neave. That period in history has been both widely reported and dramatised over the last 35 years and is the subject of many conspiracy theories.”

This is the second series of Utopia. In the latest six-part thriller, starring Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alexandra Roach and Stephen Rea, five members of an online forum meet up after gaining possession of a fabled graphic novel which The Network is also pursuing.

* Utopia returns with a double-bill over two nights at 10pm on Monday July 14 and Tuesday July 15

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