Stephen Nolan speaks to former Seanad Éireann member, Máiría Cahill, who comments on recent reports that Sinn Féin is overseen by the IRA Army Council.
Where’s the Audio? This programme is not available for download. To listen along as you read please click here. (begins time stamp ~1:43:26)
Stephen: Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin leader in the Irish Republic, Mary Lou McDonald, says the IRA no longer exists. She has reacted to comments by the Irish Chief of Police, Drew Harris, who says the party, Sinn Féin, is overseen by the Army Council of the IRA. That’s the important part of this story. Today you’ve had the Chief of Police in Ireland saying that Sinn Féin is still overseen by the Army Council of the IRA. He told Ireland’s Virgin Radio that his view of the IRA’s rule was in line with the conclusions of other police forces and security services.
Drew Harris: We have contributed and continue to contribute to the IRC (Independent Reporting Commission) report on status of various paramilitary groups and we would hold then with their opinion in these matters but also I’m aware of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and the British security services assessment and we have, we do not differ from that view.
Reporter: Would it create an issue for you then with Sinn Féin, that government with a Sinn Féin for Minister for Justice?
Drew Harris: Well, in the end I’m a public servant. I will work with the government we have. In law, I have heavy responsibilities in terms of protecting the people of Ireland, preventing and detecting crime and we will work with whatever minister to achieve those aims.
Stephen: I’m speaking to former Irish Senator Máiría Cahill. Máiría, Good Evening to you.
Máiría: Good Evening, Stephen.
Stephen: So, you’ve got the Chief of Police in Ireland saying that the Army Council of the IRA still controls Sinn Féin which is trying to form a government in The South and is part of the government in Northern Ireland.
Well yes, that’s effectively what he is saying because he has pointed to a previous statement by the previous Chief Constable in Northern Ireland, George Hamilton, who, in 2015, said that the Provisional IRA still existed and some of its members were involved in the murder of a local man, Kevin McGuigan, although it wasn’t officially sanctioned. So that’s where that original statement came from. But this statement from Drew Harris today, in response to a question, in fairness to him, has come just on the back of an election in which Sinn Féin did particularly well on and yes, government formation talks are ongoing and it is significant because of the fact that just yesterday in the Dáil Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, stood up and ranged off a litany of reasons why his party should not go into government with Sinn Féin and this was one of them.
Stephen: You have the leader of Sinn Féin, the current leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, saying the IRA does not exists.
Máiría: Yeah, and she may well believe that. I’m not sure that particularly very many other people do. We have reason to believe, obviously, and this is publicly documented, you know, in 2007 for example, a young man, a twenty-one year old man, was beaten death (Paul Quinn) in Co. Monaghan and at that point in time the now Finance Minster for Sinn Féin, Conor Murphy, said that he had received assurances from the IRA in the local area that they weren’t involved and that was contrary to the view of other people again. In 2013, a man, Austin Stack, was taken in the back of a blacked-out van by Gerry Adams and another Sinn Féin official to meet an IRA member who admitted in a statement that the IRA had been involved in the murder of his father, a former prison officer, Brian Stack, some thirty years earlier. And again, we had the Kevin McGuigan murder in 2015 where the Chief Constable said that some members of the IRA were involved so I mean there are public utterances in relation to that which would say or suggest that the IRA does exist in some form…
Stephen: …Yeah, but that’s it though, isn’t it Máiría? – ‘In some form’ – because what the current assessment is of both the security forces in Northern Ireland and indeed in The South, that current security assessment is while the structures of the IRA still exist and the Army Council still has a degree of control over Sinn Féin they are on a ‘peace footing’.
Máiría: Yes, well it says they’re not on a war footing but what it did also point to was that there were units that were still there to gather intelligence and raise funds. And I think it really does send shock waves through anyone in terms of looking to build a proper democracy in Ireland and that is the whole point about the discussions around Sinn Féin in government. I mean, can you imagine if this was in England? – and I’m not suggesting in any way that this would be the case – but can you imagine if this assessment was made by the Chief of Police in England about the Labour Party or the Conservative Party which effectively stated that a very small group of people who had been members of an Army Council, a paramilitary council, were directing an over-arching strategy in relation to a political party? I mean, there would be absolute outrage and some people in Ireland seem to expect people to turn a blind eye to this…
Stephen: …and yet the reality – let me just call this as it is, Máiría – here we are on a network radio station that broadcasts throughout the UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the reality is people in England, Scotland and Wales, the vast majority of them, will be shrugging their shoulders to this saying: Why are they doing that story? They won’t really care about this story. And this story is that an organisation which has tried to bomb 10 Downing Street, that fired rockets into 10 Downing Street, which strapped bombs around human beings and turned them into human bombs, the current assessment of the security forces in Northern Ireland and the Irish government is that the IRA still has a degree of control over Sinn Féin who are trying to form a government in The South and are in the government in part of the UK, namely Northern Ireland. Now why would people throughout the rest of the UK not be more interested in that story?
Máiría: Well some people may not be interested, Stephen, but I’d hazard a guess that the victims of the IRA and other paramilitary outfits in England will be such as those who were affected by the Birmingham or Guildford pub bombings, for example. You know, those people will be deeply concerned around issues like that and indeed have campaigned for truth and justice for their loved ones for quite some time. You know, but my own assessment of this, I mean I believe that people, if they are committed entirely to peaceful means, should actually play a proper role and its much more welcomed than people who were involved in the IRA in the past or in political life or trying to at least to make their society better but where I differ from other people’s assessment, such as Sinn Féin’s in this, we still are in a situation here where the IRA have failed to take proper responsibility for the deep, deep hurt that they have caused to victims, both living and the relatives of those who have been killed. You know, we have people – I mean recently I mentioned the Paul Quinn case earlier – last week and the week before this case came to prominence again in the local media and the response from Sinn Féin was, shall we say, less than adequate in relation to that family. And the Quinn Family have been going through deep distress for the last thirteen years in order to try and get a smear lifted against their son.
So if those people who were involved in the IRA took proper responsibility and recognised that there was deep hurt caused and disbanded their organisation I think the Irish people would be having a different conversation in relation to this but it is hugely significant today – the statement from the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris.
Stephen: Máiría Cahill, thank you very much indeed. (ends time stamp ~1:50:59)
Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
John McDonagh and Malachy McCourt speak to former IRA blanketman now historian and political commentator, Anthony McIntyre, via telephone from Ireland, about the general election in Ireland and the Sinn Féin surge.(begins time stamp ~1:09:19 )
John: And we have with us on the line, before we get into the political earthquake, Dr. Anthony McIntyre. Anthony, you were in the H-Blocks that Francie Brolly is singing about – did you guys in the cell blocks, did you know about the song? And can you explain how is it Republicans know about the song but you’ll never hear it on the radio.
Well I don’t remember the song from the H-Blocks at all, John. I have a very clear memory of what we regarded as the H-Blocks song – even though I believe Francie had written his song about 1976 – there was a song made up by the blanketmen themselves, The Blanketmen of H-Block 5, and that is what we had known as the H-Block song. And our wing OC, Mickey Fitz, Mickey Fitzsimons from Lenadoon, always sang that H-Block song, not Francie’s one but the one that the blanketmen had composed, and it was very, very popular in the wing. I was actually out – I think my first memory, I could be wrong – but my first memory, I believe, of hearing Francie’s song was when I had’ve heard it at the clubs in West Belfast after release. I have no memory of it from the prison.
John: Right. And did you get information like that, of the songs, particularly with Christy Moore – I remember when I interviewed him one time and he went in and visited Bobby Sands and he said, you know, what can I do for you? And he said, you know, sing songs. And he sang and he got the words for Back Home in Derry and sang that but that did get popular on the radio and you could hear it here and there. But a lot of the Republican songs that most Republicans know, particularly Come Out You Black and Tans, which was sang today by Sinn Féin at some of the counting halls, you don’t hear it on radio or TV but everyone knows the words to it.
Anthony: Well, they’re regarded as folk songs, rebel songs. In many ways, RTÉ has always had a, in particularly influenced by the Workers’ Party from the ’70’s and ’80’s, RTÉ have a policy of trying to sideline Republican culture and Come Out You Black and Tans has only been popularised as the result of the disgraceful decision by Charlie Flanagan to try and commemorate the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) last month, or sorry, back in December I think it was, and that just turned, I mean, the whole culture in many parts of Ireland against him. It demonstrated an arrogance but, to go back to your original point: We don’t expect to hear these songs. We also know even songs like Paul McCartney, Give Ireland Back to the Irish, it was banned back in the day by the British and we never got to hear it unless you were to hear it on a pirate radio. So I’m not surprised that we don’t get to hear it like the H-Block song. I mean Bobby Sands is mentioned on RTÉ but more often than not in terms of historical relevance; he’s not discussed in terms of reverence or anything like that. And it’s simply, I think, that we, the blanketmen, were an embarrassment to the political establishment in The South here so we don’t expect those sort of things.
But look, the guy that wrote it and sang it, Francie Brolly, he stayed with Sinn Féin and then he folded his tent and left them I think in relation to their stance on abortion. I obviously had disagreements with Francie because of how long he held on but that’s all secondary to the fact that he put in a long shift, trying his best at the Republican helm. He’s immortalised the H-Blocks men through that song. And I mean, deepest sympathy to his loved ones and his family and his wider circle of friends. I met him at John Kelly’s funeral back in 2007 in south Doire. It was the only time I actually met Francie and we just shook hands and I spoke to him – a very civil man, so I mean, it’s sad that he’s passed.
John: Well Anthony, before we talk about the political earthquake that’s currently ongoing in the Twenty-Six Counties I want to talk about some of the politics that’s going on in The North. If you go to Facebook and Twitter you’ll see that during the week that Sinn Féin has fully endorsed the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) asking – because there’s not enough Catholics on the force, they had a big ad campaign or whatever to join up with the PSNI – and that leads into the treaty that was signed by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in 1998 that they got a special carve-out, which a lot of people said they didn’t know about, they were called ‘on-the-runs’, or OTRs, where letters, I think from the Queen of England, stating that they would not be prosecuted for whatever they did within the IRA and that seems to be torn up this week where the PSNI have just said they’ve done investigations – because they’re treating The Troubles as a thirty year crime wave, not as a revolution or an uprising – and that they’re going to go after these former IRA members, who are probably in their sixties and seventies, what, I mean you know, how far back are they going to go to start arresting people throughout the Six Counties?
Anthony: Well they’ll go right back as far as they can. I mean, the person in charge of it, Bobby Singleton, was laughed out of court a number of months ago after he tried to take a case against IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) members – the judge threw it out. I mean, it seemed to be very much a very partisan approach. He’d be widely regarded as a bigot – totally opposed to any form of Republicanism. And it’s interesting that he’s going after former IRA activists yet we have what the BBC described as ‘murder on an industrial scale’ and he’s not, he didn’t mention going after the cops who have been involved in this, he didn’t mention going after the British soldiers who have been involved in this so it’s an attempt, I think to some extent, it’s an attempt by Singleton to try and justify the terrible waste of public money that has gone into legacy issues with very little coming forward as a result. I wouldn’t expect to see a good deal emerging from this other. I do think they’re firing a shot across Sinn Féin’s bows. They certainly rubbed Gerry Kelly’s nose in it because Gerry Kelly was a senior IRA figure who had sent people out on, given his position, the seniority of command, had sent people out on IRA activity and now he’s recruiting for a police force that is determined to put the people that he sent out into prison. And we’ve already seen that John Downey was extradited from The South up to The North and so Gerry Kelly and Michelle O’Neill were out recruiting for the people who have extradited John Downey to The North and are trying to imprison him for conflict related activity going back to 1972. So that gives you an indication of how far they will go back. Sinn Féin promised to put manners on the police. They didn’t put manners on the police. The police put manners on Sinn Féin and we’re seeing the result of it today.
John: And what is your status, Anthony? I mean we’ve had you on throughout the years with the Boston Tapes where you did interviews where they weren’t to be released by Boston College – people that were involved with the thirty years of The Troubles and then they were released – Boston College released them, and you’re living in the Twenty-Six Counties now. Could you be extradited back based on the interviews and your own interview within the Boston Tapes?
Anthony : Well I mean the PSNI are pretending that they were carrying out an investigation but yes they could, there is a possibility that I could be extradited back to the British. It would be interesting if Sinn Féin were in government and they would be extraditing Republicans, part of a government that’s extraditing Republicans to the British in The North. I mean people who were on protest with Bobby Sands – look, it’s all up in the air – Sinn Féin are not the party that we knew many years ago. They don’t stand for the same things. They’re a very popular party as the election showed but they no longer stand for the type of things that we stood together for – the ethos of resistance, challenging British authority, challenging the consent principle. Sinn Féin have become the type of party that Fianna Fáil were and will have the same approach as Fianna Fáil had. It’s just that it’s been many Republicans have always been unhappy with it. But they have to get realistic and see that they’re living in new times. Our campaign of coercion, the Unionists and a united Ireland and coercing the British out of The North, failed completely and this is what we’re left with today.
John: Well Anthony, now we’ll go down to the earthquake that’s happening in the Twenty-Six Counties: A lot of this, from my remembering, started when Danny Morrison got up at an Ard Fheis down in Dublin and said that they’ll take control of the Twenty-Six Counties with a ballot box in one hand and an Armalite in the other. Well, the Armalite has since been handed over to the British and they are using the ballot box – in 1986 they got rid of abstentionism when thenRuairí Ó Brádaigh and Joe O’Neill and Dáithí O’Connell walked out of the Ard Fheis and formed Republican Sinn Féin but they’ve been on a long steady road to get into power in Dublin and I’ve been listening to RTÉ since five o’clock this morning and it – the people that are in the state of shock are the people at RTÉ. For them describing the results that are coming in right now throughout the country and they’re saying had Sinn Féin ran more candidates they would be the largest party in the Twenty-Six Counties right now.
Anthony: Well, there’s no doubt that Sinn Féin made a serious mistake here but you can’t fault them for it because Sinn Féin were not to know, after their last electoral disaster, Sinn Féin were not to know that the public mood was going to give them the lift that it did so I think Sinn Féin, as much as anybody else, are surprised. Many other people are not delighted although Sinn Féin are obviously delighted. It’s a major, major vote for them. It’s a major endorsement of the oppositional sounds that they have been making to what is going on. They have some very capable people, people like Eoin Ó Broin, who many people reckon would be a brilliant Housing Minister compared to what, certainly compared to what we had in the past, Eoghan Murphy (current Fine Gael TD and Minister for Housing).
And I mean Pearse Doherty, very, very clever on economics, makes an appeal to people. People have a sense that he knows what he’s talking about unlike when Gerry Adams was trying to wax economic against Michael McDowell and effectively got demolished in the discussion. That never happens to Pearse Doherty. I mean they got a massive lift, Sinn Féin, and I suppose I’ve noticed a lot of Republicans who are unhappy with the party and have been opposed to them for years, particularly in The North, have been gloomy about the outcome but other Republicans who have lived down here, who have been about, can take a different view. I spoke to people who at one time were linked to the dissident groups and they have been saying for years that they would vote Sinn Féin if they get rid of Adams and his northern cabal because they were never trusted. But the policies that Sinn Féin are articulating today do appeal to a wide spectrum of opinion including many of those who were critical of Sinn Féin. I didn’t vote them. I don’t trust them. I see the three, now three, big parties as Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Tweedleduh. I don’t really see Sinn Féin making a lot of difference. I mean Eoin Ó Broin, the (inaudible) Housing Minister, will have, no doubt a definite commitment to changing things but what happens when you go into government you end up getting destroyed by the restrictions of government. I don’t think that if Sinn Féin do go into government they will find it easy to make any change. I still expect my pension to come not at sixty-five but, I mean, well into my sixties regardless of who is in Dublin. I don’t expect to be any richer or any poorer – after I think I’ll be as poor no matter who is in government. I don’t think I have a chance or my daughter has a chance of getting a home or a start regardless of who is in government. So to me it’s pretty much a question of changing the chairs on the Titanic and no real structural change. But it’s the nature of society in which we live. But it’s the nature of western society – there is no revolutionary force. I give my vote to People Before Profit not because I’m a great fan of People Before Profit but I do feel that at least they make the best critique of The Establishment. People like Richard Boyd Barrett make a very strong critique that I can identify with. Would it be realistic when they get into government? That’s another matter. The left continuously let us down and if anything, I mean, the best emotion that I would have as a result of today’s election is when I heard that Joan Burton was going to lose her seat because the Labour Party has been disgraceful and she was at the head of it and they have been disgraceful every time they get into government. They’re quite happy to behave as a condom for Fine Gael while Fine Gael is chopping and screwing the poorest people in this society and the Labour Party have always happily given them the protection that they wait for and they’ve never went into that government and done what they said they were going to do. And I’ve even seen (Brendan) Howlin today, the Labour Party leader, contemplating getting himself back into government, getting his tiny little ass on the ministerial seat. To me, it’s a disgrace. So I mean, that’s my view on the election. I take a view: ‘Pity they all couldn’t lose’ – much as Henry Kissinger said about the Iran-Iraq War.
John: (station identification) And it is now 5:24 over in Dublin and what are the latest results right now? I mean, I haven’t listened to RTÉ now in a couple of hours but on the way down to the station in Brooklyn I mean just Sinn Féin was just sweeping everywhere – they were topping the poll and they said it was something they’ve never done before – how are we going to divide up Sinn Féin’s excess votes to the other candidates which that never happened because they didn’t top the poll in order to divide up the votes.
Anthony: Well, that’s true. I mean, we don’t know what way the second preferences will go. I mean, first indications are that they’re very promiscuous in who the second preference are going to. One would expected that they would go to the left but that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve listen today to Fine Gaelers saying that they were getting a substantial amount of Sinn Féin votes and also passed on from Sinn Féin to Fianna Fáil so – and I’ve heard people saying that they voted Fine Gael number one and Sinn Féin number two – now this is anecdotal and we never effectively know until the end of the election but Sinn Féin will, certainly the public in the south of Ireland have stated very clearly that Sinn Féin are to be representative in government. Now the other two main parties have hitched themselves to their own wagon and that wagon – in a sense, they’re hoisted on their own petard – because the wagon they’ve hitched themselves to is very much one they have painted on the side of it: ‘No government with Sinn Féin’. And I mean, it’s the height of arrogance. I’m not a Sinn Féin supporter by any stretch of the imagination but it’s the height of arrogance for these two parties to sit and say and treat with contempt the demand from the voting public for change. And they’re not voting for revolution they’re simply voting for the participation by Sinn Féin in government and if these – I think if the two parties decide not to go into government with Sinn Féin the only way they’ll have a workable, sustainable government for one term will be for the two of them to align and that would make Sinn Féin the opposition – almost certainly guaranteed to become the government next time round. If Sinn Féin go in with the two parties, Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, the hope will be of leadership of those parties that Sinn Féin will end up as Labour have ended up – Sinn Féin may just be too shrewd for that as they go in and see things going badly they might pull the plug and hope for a fresh election on which they will be rewarded for pulling the plug on an austere government.
So I mean, in all things – it does look up for Sinn Féin. Now again, you need to see a pattern over elections and Sinn Féin have gone up and down – too early to say. But if I was in Sinn Féin I would be pretty happy and confident about the future because this society has given the two, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, a serious slap and if they have voted for Tweedleduh it’s secondary to the fact that they have given The Establishment a serious slap. Although, when we talk about The Establishment, Gerry Adams did say, during the debate with Ruairi Quinn who was in the Labour Party, that Sinn Féin was an establishment party – I think he’s very much right. There’s a lot of people in Sinn Féin hearing that anti-establishment,who sorry, that they’re not establishment they’re very much anti-establishment. But as we’ve seen over the years the leadership has a great way of de-fanging the radicalism within Sinn Féin and bringing it on board from much less radical projects. We have seen in The North how they colluded with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) to push the pension age up to sixty-six, how they’ve been responsible for introducing measures that have really punished the disadvantaged in The North. So, it’s by no means guaranteed that we’re going to see, and I doubt very much that we’ll see any real, radical change, certainly no structural change as a result of Sinn Féin participating in government but the arrogance of the parties annoys me that Sinn Féin has been told its vote doesn’t count. I mean the government parties, and I have to include Fianna Fáil in this, that they give support to the government and the confidence-and-supply business, we have to regard them in the same light as the DUP when the DUP were refusing to talk to Sinn Féin. People represent Sinn Féin and that vote of those people has to be respected. As some writer once wrote very famously: The people have voted, the bastards. Well, they voted and let that vote be respected. We may not like it but it has to be respected.
Malachy: Anthony, Malachy McCourt here.
Anthony: Hi, Malachy.
Malachy: Great to hear you. Grand to talk to you. In the overall situation of the world, as somebody said the government always gets in – ‘the government’ and it just covers every bloody thing. But it seems to me that when the rebels and the revolutionaries and the upstarts get the power all morality and principle goes out the window and prosperity and money take over. So what – if that border remains – and there is talk about that the minority, as they are right now, are going to have more sex and more children so there’ll be more Catholics than Protestants – what happens even if the border – will the border go? And that to me, until that goes, then there’s going to be fierce disagreement on where people stand whether it’s Fianna Fáil, who used to be revolutionary and Republican, Fine Gael was tending towards – but all of them, all revolutionaries, become right-wing when they get in. Isn’t that correct?
Anthony: It’s been my experience of the world. I don’t trust revolutionaries. I am not a revolutionary. I don’t believe a change, good change, lasting change, comes about through revolution. I used to believe it. But my experience has been that revolutionaries, as Orwell said, nine times out of ten they’re social climbers with bombs. I think that’s very much the case in Sinn Féin now. Sinn Féin, many people in Sinn Féin have never been associated with a bomb, particularly in the south of Ireland, but that clique of Adams and Gerry Kelly – I mean seriously, Gerry Kelly looks as radical as Ian Paisley, Jr.! Alright, Kelly’s less corrupt, in fact, Kelly’s not corrupt but he’s as radical as Ian Paisley, Jr. There’s no radicalism about Gerry Kelly and there will not be a united Ireland as the result of Sinn Féin getting a big vote down here. That is going to be determined by the people in The North. And one of the strange things about Sinn Féin getting voted in down here is that the people in The North, the Unionists certainly, are going to be much more frightened and hostile towards the idea of a united Ireland. You can see how much, although they cooperate together in The North and in (inaudible) of the time they hate each other, so the Unionist population in The North are going to be hopelessly opposed to any sort of realignment within the country…
Malachy: …is there no way that…
Anthony: …Would you get enough Nationalists in The North to vote? I don’t believe you will. I’m still of the view that the vast, not the vast, but the majority of the people in The North will hold onto (inaudible) for fear something worse and they expect from London than go to Dublin.
Malachy: Isn’t it a fact, though, that Sinn Féin ostensibly is supposedly democratic, non-sectarian and democratic and that wouldn’t it be a good thing for them to reassure the people who are of a different religion that they’re not going to be persecuted or thrown out or discriminated against? Is there any way of doing that?
Anthony: No, I don’t believe there is because it’s not Sinn Féin’s fault. Sinn Féin didn’t create the sectarianism in The North. And Sinn Féin, in a sense, is a product of sectarianism. There’s just a sectarian, structural sectarian chasm in The North that is not going to be overcome by good will on the part of Sinn Féin. It’ll be a generational change over a long, long period. And I think this is what Seamus Mallon was trying to do, as much as I disagreed with Seamus Mallon, suggesting what he did his otherwise very good book he had written just before he died, Seamus Mallon had argued that what you need to do is change the goalpost in The North so that rather than having fifty plus one, fifty percent plus one, as a majority to go in to reunify the country and have Britain leave you should increase it to sixty and that would be a complete violation of the Good Friday Agreement and Judge Humphreys in his book, Richard Humpherys in his book, Beyond the Border, has written an excellent – I mean, highly recommended – he worked on what the Good Friday Agreement actually means and he has dealt with this question, he’s dealt with it efficiently and comprehensively, but Seamus Mallon, I believe, was trying to take the sting out of the eventual move towards a united Ireland from the perspective of the Unionists because the animosity – it’s so intense. There’s been no bridging of the gap in The North. It’s a state deeply enshrined in a sectarian society. It has never transcended sectarianism. It’s institutionalised it in the structures up there and for the foreseeable future I don’t see any change in that mindset in the North and I don’t think there’s anything that Sinn Féin can do even if Sinn Féin rolled over, lay on the ground, gave the Unionists cuddles – it wouldn’t change a thing. And Gerry Kelly’s sort of differential attitude to the police, who are still involved in covering up the past, it’s not going to change anything other than the Unionist are not going to view it as a move, as a conciliatory move.
Malachy: Do you think one of the things that frightens those who are or don’t – I was trying to recall the literal translation of ‘Sinn Féin’ – is it not ‘ourselves alone’?
Anthony: Well it is ‘ourselves alone’ and Sinn Féin are seen by many as being a very career structure – they’re not viewed as a generous party. In fact, they have a reputation for bullying. Now hopefully we can see that mood, the influence of Adams in The North,…
Malachy: …yeah, they punish people, yeah…
Anthony: …sort of diminish as a result of the vote in The South and we might see the culture of bullying moving but that sends out vibes to people. Sinn Féin (inaudible) WASPish, nasty, pugnacious – it alienates certainly the Unionists and even when it doesn’t alienate them as such it certainly gives them an excuse for not wanting to reconcile. The fact is that the Unionists have the sway on the border and the border is not going to change, the constitutional status of The North, is not going to change until such time as a majority of people in The North want that change to come about and then that’ll have to be tied into a referendum in The South where the referendum will, if the referendum approves it – there are arguments about any such referendum in The South that it wouldn’t because of the cost. The Sinn Féin vote – I’m not sure, it’s not even – far from anything to do with a united Ireland.
It’s to do with the homeless crisis, it’s to do with the health crisis, it’s to do with the arrogance of a government that was quite prepared to reward the bankers – plenty of money to pay back and bail out the banks and no money to bail out the homeless – and when they were offered fifteen billion, when Apple were required to pay back I think it was something like fifteen billion, they found every excuse for refusing to take it. I mean, that’s the government of
free-marketeers and does not have the slightest inkling of being a social, a strategic social state – it has no idea whatsoever – it’s all about the market.
Malachy: So what if the people who want independence from the Crown and don’t necessarily want adhering to become part of the Republic, could they possibly in the Six Counties declare themselves a separate country?
Anthony: Well, it’s certainly not part of the Good Friday Agreement. There doesn’t seem to be a great appetite for it. It might mushroom if they were beginning to think that there was going to be a referendum that would lead to a united Ireland. I think then that they would probably go for re-partition, which again isn’t part of the Good Friday Agreement, they would push for some sort of re-partition and hold onto what little they have. Look, Unionism has lasted quite a long time. The North has lasted quite a long time. Charlie Haughey once said that The North is a failed political entity but we have found, to maybe our dismay, that the strategy that we had and that we pursued for years, unity by coercion, is actually the Republicanism that was embodied in that concept is the failed political entity. And I don’t see The North continuing forever but I’ll certainly not see it united in my lifetime with The South. Nobody who actually fought in the ranks of the Provisional IRA will ever live to see a united Ireland. And Sinn Féin tell us today that they’re still fighting for a united Ireland. They’ve been fighting for a united Ireland for the past fifty years since the start of the IRA campaign. We’re no closer to it.
John: (station identification and fund raising pitch) And Anthony, we’ve had you on over the years. I don’t know if you get that much airtime on RTÉ or at different venues. I know you have a great website called The Pensive Quill and if anybody wants to see like dissident views – you might not like what he has up there but he’s giving other people that he might not even like a platform to put up their views. It’s called…
Malachy: …and people like it as well…
John: Yeah well, that’s why it’s a popular website. It’s called The Pensive Quill. But we’ve had you on ‘BAI now ten-twenty years now – since the ’90’s at least anyway.
Anthony: Yep. You very much had. You had us on when we were all on The Blanket and now we’re on The Pensive Quill. The Pensive Quill allows – it’s basically a free speech website. It tries to mould freedom of opinion so there’s a wide range of views and many of those views I do not like but it’s open to everybody who wants to write something and we get a good readership and we get good assistance from people who support it. But the editorial policy is to promote as much discussion, freedom of information, enhance public understanding and while Republicans run it it’s very much a promiscuous website in terms of of its – and it’s intellectually promiscuous – it flirts with a wide range of ideas. We have, for example, the Monday columnist who has a regular slot tied down is John Coulter and John Coulter is a Unionist and evangelical christian – all the sort of things that I most definitely am not but John’s goes out there and makes his case every Monday and people are welcome to read him.
John: (fund raising pitch) Anthony, one thing I can tell you now before the votes are counted, before whoever gets into government, the money that Sinn Féin will raise in this country will be unbelievable because I already know Niall, or Lord, O’Dowd, who runs Irish Central and The Irish Voice, I can only imagine the headlines he’s going to be running when they’re coming over for their big dinner dance at the Sheraton – that’ll be sold out way ahead of time. The doors that will be open now to Sinn Féin, not that they were closed, but they’ll be wide open right now based on this election result.
Anthony: Well, if Sinn Féin were a serious left-wing party those doors would not be open.
John: Well, that is true I mean they get greeted by Peter King and everybody else that’s – and whoever’s in the White House but I just know the reaction to this and the way – well, there’s only one way you could spin it: Is they had an unbelievable election – even beyond their wildest imagination.
Anthony: They had a great election and well beyond their wildest imagination. As I said earlier, their mistake for which they can’t be faulted is not putting out more candidates because they could have swept the board everywhere they appeared. They have tapped into the resentment of what is going on in this society where the rich are continuously rewarded by a government of the rich supported by an opposition of the rich and people are simply fed up with it. And it’s across – I know they’re talking about it being a ‘youth quit ‘. It’s not. It’s across all the age categories.
There’s people of my age are getting very concerned about their pensions. Now, I say to them: Well, Sinn Féin put their pensions up to sixty-six in The North they’re not going to do anything about it here. But sometimes it’s just good to be able to vote the government out and I think it’s always important to be able to have elections for voting the governments in but as Tony Benn once said: The most important thing to be able to do with your vote is to vote them out.
John: (station identification) Anthony, we’re going to let you drop off now because we’re going to do a bit of pitching and then…
Anthony: …Okay, John, okay.
Malachy: Anthony, thank you very much. Great to talk to you. Thank you. You’re very eloquent.
Anthony: Thank you very much, John. Thank you very much, Mr. McCourt. All the best. Malachy, take care.
John: And that was Anthony McIntyre who has many long years that he spent in Long Kesh and then when he got out he fell out with Sinn Féin and they did protests around his house up in Belfast so for the safety of his family he moved to The South which, on another front, was good because of what’s going on with the Boston Tapes – that he could be extradited back to stand trial based on an interview with himself so – and we’ll be always covering that with Anthony McIntyre.
(ends time stamp ~1:47:20)