Bloodlands’ James Nesbitt felt ‘wasted’ Brexit money should have gone to Troubles victims

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The TV actor will return to screens in the penultimate episode of the BBC crime drama Bloodlands tonight. The 56-year-old, who plays DCI Tom Brannick in the show, is best known for starring in the ITV sitcom Cold Feet. Nesbitt, who is from Northern Ireland, took a swipe at Brexit because he felt the money should be spent assisting those who were severely injured during the Troubles.

While Nesbitt’s family were largely unaffected due to living in the countryside, his sister and father narrowly dodged a car bomb explosion in the Seventies.

As a child of the Troubles-era, the star has taken a keen interest in the aftermath of those difficult times.

He’s also been a very outspoken champion of reunification and hopes for a “new union of Ireland”.

Nesbitt, who holds both an Irish and British passport, claimed he only began to see himself as Irish after he moved from County Antrim, where he was born, to London.

Two years ago, he described himself as an “Irishman from the north of Ireland” who felt he could “in no way refute or shy away from” his Protestant culture.

Nesbitt hoped for an “inclusive and informed discussion” about the future of the “North or Northern Ireland” that was “free of political bias”.

He felt Stormont, Northern Ireland’s parliament, had played a “prominent role in what’s happening with Brexit” but was “lying dormant” on issues related to the nation.

Nesbitt told the Irish News: “They are playing very little role in what’s happening at home.”

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The Bloodlands star thought it was “scandalous” large sums of money had been “wasted” on Brexit, while there were worthier causes.

He partnered up with the Wave Trauma Centre Support Group (WTCSG), who campaigned for a special pension for those injured in the Troubles.

Nesbitt felt there was a “moral and social responsibility” to assist those who had suffered long lasting problems.

He hoped the money would allow “independence and dignity” for those who had been hurt.

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In 2019, the WTCSG estimated 500 people had been severely injured during the Troubles.

Nesbitt argued the group was “not asking for much” and was appalled money had been spent on Brexit instead.

When asked what he thought about the UK’s decision to leave the EU, he said: “It seems shambolic to me.”

The actor claimed they were asking for a “little amount of money”, compared the figure spent on Brexit.

Nesbitt said: “You think of the money that’s been wasted so far on this process and no-one’s any the wiser.”

He claimed to “honestly think” it was “scandalous” victims of the Troubles had not received special pensions.

Peter Heathwood, from the WTCSG, who was left paralysed after being shot in his home, believed it would cost between £3.5million and £5million per year.

He noted the figure would decrease over time as victims of the Troubles died.

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Nesbitt believed the experiences of those victims “almost defied imagination”.

He added: “These were not people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“They were at work, they were at home with their family, they were having coffee in a cafe, they were walking home after an evening in the cinema.”

Nesbitt knew his hope for a unified Ireland was ambitious but believed there was “an appetite” for it.

In 2019, he told the Belfast Telegraph: “This isn’t born out of politics, or indeed politicians, it’s stepping outside of politics.

“I do think there is an appetite for people to actually celebrate the many different identities that there are here.”

Nesbitt felt it didn’t matter whether people call themselves “Irish or British, or both”.

He added: “It just feels that there has been a silent majority here for far too long that actually needs a voice.” 

James Nesbitt stars in Bloodlands. The third episode airs at 9pm tonight on BBC One.

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