Virtue unrewarded for Naas film prize winner

A young Northern Ireland film maker was prevented from collecting a film award in Kildare this week because of concerns over his legal status.

A young Northern Ireland film maker was prevented from collecting a film award in Kildare this week because of concerns over his legal status.

Jamaican citizen, Sean Virtue, who lived in Belfast, learned that his short comedy film, “This Mad Man Screams,” had won the Best Actor award Naas Short Film Festival.

But because of his residency status – he has permanent legal residency in Northern Ireland - he felt unable travel to the Republic to join his prize winning actor Seamus O’ Hara at the Awards Night last Sunday. “I didn’t want to do anything wrong,” said Sean.

Married to am Irish/UK citizen, Anna, who is the niece of the Leader north Kildare correspondent, Sean Andrews, Sean can travel anywhere in the UK but he needs a visa to travel to the Republic.

Mr. Virtue, who has a young daugther, four month old Leela, who is a Northern Ireland citizen, learned last week that his film had won a prize at the Naas Short Film Festival.

“It was the first time I got a film into a festival and the award was a bonus. I am very grateful for the award,” he said.

He called the Irish Embassy in London, which issues visas.

They told him he could not legally attend the Film Festival Award Night without a visa –and that this could take up to ten weeks to process.

His Kildare relative, Sean Andrews, has written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, to ask that the visa regulations to be re-examined to facilitate short once- off visits by people who would otherwise have to go through the slow time consuming visa

application process.

Said Andrews: “One wonders would Usain Bolt, the celebrated Jamaican Olympian, have had the same difficulty if he had wanted to pay a brief visit here to pick up a prize.”

Mr. Andrews said he was aware that there are large numbers of undocumented immigrants living here for long periods who cheerfully flout the visa regulations. I hope you will give this matter your prompt attention.”

The young film maker, who met his wife, Anna, when both were studying in college in the USA, told the Leader that he planned to apply for UK citizenship now.

Film wise, he has another script ready and is gathering funds to produce it.

- Henry Bauress