IN CONFESSING that in the wake of a female friend being raped nearly 40 years ago Liam Neeson took to the streets of Belfast looking to murder a black man he has thrown a rope over a tree, climbed onto a stool and wrapped the cord around his own neck.

Yet while the 66-year-old admits he played the role of racist vigilante in real life, should we kill him off in the form of boycotting his films?

Neeson who replaced Charles Bronson as Hollywood’s aged vigilante hero, says of the week he spent with a cosh in his hands: “It shocked me and it hurt me. I did seek help, I went to a priest.”

The actor argues his response to the rape was “primeval.” He maintains had his victim said the rapist was Scots or Lithuanian he’d have gone looking for men with matching accents. And he seems to suggest that growing up during the Troubles, a period of tit-for-tat revenge killings, produced a form of cultural brainwashing.

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Understandably, many reject all of this. Guardian columnist Gary Younge queries why Neeson asked the colour of his attacker, suggesting this implies inherent racism.

The columnist adds: “The next time someone asks me why I have a chip on my shoulder, I need no longer brush the question away with disdain. I can say, with all sincerity: ‘Because there may well be an Oscar-nominated actor out there who wants to kill me, so I have to be alert at all times’.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, concurs. “It [Neeson’s confession] has ramifications in real life for ethnic minorities because your life is in danger from a racist nuthead like Liam Neeson.”

Lasana Harris, associate professor of experimental psychology at University College London, points out there is unjustifiable prejudice when it comes to black people being perceived as perpetrators of sexual assault. And Los Angeles Times columnist Carla Hall wrote: “His conduct was despicable,” adding she now wants him to talk about whether he has dealt with “whatever racism still harbours.”

Neeson looks set to be lynched. But should his intended racist violence of four decades ago now be punished?

The American National Sexual Violence Resource Centre’s communications director Laura Palumbo seeks to explain rather than condemn.

“Such incidents, she says of a rape, “can lead to a variety of emotions ranging from shock to the shame of not being able to prevent the attack from happening.” Palumbo says men face “a number of pressures” due to the way they’re typically socialised. “They want to harm the person who did this to their loved one, to face the consequence. There’s that strong desire to redeem power, to redeem control.”

Neeson was brought up in a province which lived and died by displays of power. Lasana Harris acknowledges incidents as abhorrent as rape can shape the way someone thinks about a specific community. Any community, regardless of race.

But there is more to factor in; the actor has never revealed an instance of racism in his 43-year career. He wanted to, but he didn’t attack the first black man he came across. And perhaps that week of insanity wasn’t representative of the man.

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Mel Gibson famously trashed Jews – but was not considered anti-Semitic before that 2006 night. If we are being (very) generous, perhaps Gibson’s nervous breakdown and the eight tequila slammers he was going through at the time played a part in careering his brain into a state of hatred.

Neeson wasn’t drunk of course, but he was heady with rage, disturbed by years of being exposed to a world of revenge and retribution. What we also need to consider is the public confession of a man holding this horrendous script in his head for two thirds of his life. The interview question was the release valve he needed. And knowing – he is far from a stupid man – the consequence would be worldwide condemnation he carried on regardless.

Gary Younge, and many more however, won’t agree with Neeson’s atonement. “Look into your hearts,” says the writer, presumably to a white readership,” and tell me who among you has not had racially motivated homicidal urges.”

Well, I can look into my heart, Gary, and say for sure I’ve never wanted to murder anyone, black brown or white, and to suggest this has always been lurking in Neeson’s head is speculation to suit his agenda. If it had been lurking, if it were indicative of who the actor truly is, why would he reveal it?

Already, Neeson is in purgatory. His red carpet night for new movie Cold Pursuit has been cancelled. He may lose a huge amount of work, his reputation and even friends. And factor this in. Even Dr Hacque doesn’t believe Neeson’s interview should be career ending.

Perhaps in revealing the story of his own week of insanity Neeson has made a case for racial tolerance and awareness.

That’s why we don’t need another revenge story. Let’s not kick away the stool and damn him to Hell for all time.