Game of Thrones’ Hodor witnessed Belfast gay club shooting: ‘It was a safe space’

Actor Kristian Nairn. (Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Kristian Nairn, who played Hodor in HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones, has spoken about witnessing the murder of a policeman in a Northern Ireland gay nightclub in 1997. 

The actor, who came out as gay in 2014, saw Darren Bradshaw, 24, shot at a time when the Parliament Bar, which had opened in 1994, was the only LGBTQ+ venue in Belfast. 

Nairn, who 21 at the time of the shooting, revealed the affects the shooting had on those who witnessed it.

Now 47, Nairn, revealed that he had just had his first drink when he spotted Bradshaw, a regular at the venue, standing at the bar. 

Then, a man sporting a “weirdly drawn-on beard” entered the room. 

“Me and my friends were just like ‘look at the state of him’,” Nairn told the BBC’s Blood on the Dance Floor podcast.

You may like to watch

“He was nervous-looking, he was definitely looking for someone.”

‘A girl stood at the bar covered in blood’

The man then shot Bradshaw in the back three times, at close range.

“The music carried on for a second before it came down, I remember a girl at the bar covered in blood,” said the 6ft 10in tall star.

“This guy just legged it out, sort of kicked the doors open. I made eye contact with him, I think we all made eye contact with him as he was coming out.

“It happened so fast. It was just like stunned silence, just like a bomb had gone off.”

‘He threw me out of the house’

While staff quit the venue and regulars stayed away from the venue, the consequences were far more personal for Nairn, who also appeared in the pirate comedy, Our Flag Means Death.

Having already come out to his mum, whom he says has “always been amazing” about his sexuality, Nairn was forced to reveal his sexuality to his grandfather, after explaining the horror he had seen. 

“He was quite a gossipy man in his time and he was around telling his old farmer friends. One of them had obviously been watching the news and he [said]: ‘That was a gay bar’.

“That wsas how my grandfather found out I was gay, and he threw me out of the house.”

Belfast’s Parliament Bar was a ‘safe space’ for the LGBTQ+ community

Prior to the shooting, the Parliament Bar was “an amazing place”, a “safe space [for] people who’ve been repressed their entire lives”, Nairn added. 

“We were there every Saturday, at one stage every night of the week. You’d walk into the bar downstairs and it’d be absolutely rammed.”

Although the Irish National Liberation Army, a Republican paramilitary group, claimed responsibility for Bradshaw’s death , no one has ever been tried for the crime and the case remains unsolved.

Police believe Bradshaw’s killing was planned after discovering a burnt-out getaway car after the shooting, the BBC reported. 

At the time of the shooting, homophobia was rife in Northern Ireland and the incident sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ+ community causing many to steer clear of the venue.

Prior to Northern Ireland introducing same-sex marriage in 2020, Nairn branded his home land’s failure to pass same-sex marriage legislation a disgrace.

In 2019, he spoke out again, in an interview with the Thompson Reuters Foundation, ands criticised Northern Ireland’s gay rights record.