'Saddened' | 

Orange Order leader blasts loyalist graffiti attack on Jimmy Nesbitt

The Cold Feet and Bloodlands star revealed this week that he was “unnerved” and “saddened” by the sinister message

Nesbitt addresses the Ireland’s Future conference in Dublin this month© PA

Crosshairs beside the actor’s name

A young Jimmy Nesbitt in Ballygelly marching band

Ballygelly marching band

Hugh JordanSunday World

Orange Order leader the Reverend Mervyn Gibson has slammed the shadowy figures behind graffiti attacking actor Jimmy Nesbitt.

In an interview with the Sunday World, the organisation’s Grand Secretary said he “unequivocally” condemned the actions of those responsible.

The Cold Feet and Bloodlands star revealed this week that he was “unnerved” and “saddened” after a sinister message directed at him which was daubed on a wall in Portrush.

And the top actor – who had played in a marching band as a schoolboy in Ballymena – told listeners on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme: “It really saddens me, because I’m just really sorry this has been brought to Portrush, brought to my neighbours, brought to the community I love.”

Nesbitt revealed he had been informed about the threatening graffiti in a phone call from the police.

The loyalist slogan was followed by painted rifle crosshairs.

But yesterday the Rev Gibson said he was appalled by the graffiti.

“Jimmy Nesbitt is from a unionist background. As a boy, he played in a marching band with a great reputation. He never hid it,” he said.

A young Jimmy Nesbitt in Ballygelly marching band

The graffiti appeared after Nesbitt gave the keynote address to an Ireland’s Future conference in Dublin earlier this month.

The Orange Order leader added that he was well aware Nesbitt was from a unionist background in Co Antrim – he had in fact been a drummer in an accordion band linked to an Orange Lodge in Ballymena, as our exclusive pictures show.

The Rev Gibson said: “I read that someone had said in reference to Jimmy Nesbitt’s appearance in Dublin, that we didn’t need any more Lundys. I followed exactly what Jimmy Nesbitt said in Dublin. And personally I don’t think he said anything with which you could disagree.

“As far as I’m concerned, Jimmy approached the podium as a unionist and when he stepped away from it, he was still a unionist.

Crosshairs beside the actor’s name

“Now, I would also say, I believe it was ill-judged from Jimmy to have appeared on that particular platform, but that’s no justification for graffiti being daubed on walls about him.

“I remember watching Jimmy in the film The Way, where he starred alongside Martin Sheen.

“It was a tale about a father following in his deceased son’s footsteps on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

“At one stage, you see Jimmy walking away down a lane, when suddenly; he throws his walking staff in the air like a stick boy in an Orange band.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘that’s the real Jimmy Nesbitt’.

“I think Jimmy Nesbitt would have been better off using his talents to stand up for the benefits of the Union, rather appearing at an Irish nationalist jamboree in Dublin.”

He added: “But I totally condemn this graffiti attacking him.”

Ballygelly marching band

Other politicians reigned in behind the Orange Order leader, including DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

He said: “Jimmy Nesbitt is a local lad who has invested in his own community. Those painting threatening graffiti such as this should stop,” he said.

As this Sunday World picture shows, Jimmy Nesbitt played with the Ballygelly Accordion Band based in his native Ballymena.

And according to local man Andy Kennedy, he later played in the prestigious Young Conquerors Flute Band, before the family quit Ballymena and moved to Coleraine.

“Jimmy Nesbitt is like me. He’s a unionist with a small ‘u’. That graffiti is a disgrace,” he said.

He added: “I can understand people being annoyed because he switched his allegiance from Ballymena United to Coleraine FC, but that’s another matter!”


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