Monday, February 15, 2010

Meet the Inspiration for the Show: Brian Keenan

Playwright Frank McGuinness has stated that the story of Irish hostage Brian Keenan was his inspiration for writing Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.  Watch a video of Mr. Keenan returning to Lebanon below and keep scrolling down for more information about this remarkable man.  Phase 3 Productions opens our production of the show next week!

Brian Keenan was born into a working class family in East Belfast in 1950. He left Orangefield School early and began work as a heating engineer. However, he continued an interest in literature by attending night classes and in 1970 gained a place at the New University of Ulster in Coleraine. Other writers there at that time included Gerald Dawe and Brendan Hamill. In the mid 1980s Keenan returned to the Magee College campus of the university for postgraduate study. Afterwards he accepted a teaching position at the American University of Beirut, where he worked for about 4 months.

On the morning of April 11, 1986 Keenan was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad. After spending two months in isolation, he was moved to a cell shared with the British journalist John McCarthy. He was kept blindfolded throughout most of his ordeal, and was chained hand and feet when he was taken out of solitary.

The British and American governments would not negotiate with terrorists and Keenan was effectively ignored. Because he was travelling on both British and Irish passports, the Irish government made numerous diplomatic representations for his release, working closely with the Iranian government. Throughout the kidnap they also provided support to his two sisters, Elaine Spence and Brenda Gillham, who were spearheading the campaign for Brian's release. He was released from captivity to Syrian military forces on August 24,1990 and was driven to Damascus. There he was handed over by the Syrian Foreign Ministry to the care of Irish Ambassador, Declan Connolly. His sisters were flown by Irish Government executive jet to Damascus to meet him and bring him home to Northern Ireland. He now lives in Dublin.

He returned to Beirut for the first time since being released 17 years later, and described "falling in love" with the city.

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