Ed Moloney RFÉ 25 March 2017

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
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Martin Galvin speaks to award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, via telephone about Martin McGuinness’ career and the immediate future of the Stormont government. (begins time stamp ~ 42:37)

Audio:  Portion of Martin McGuinness’ speech at the 1986 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis is played. (audio ends)

Martin:  And welcome back. We have with us on the line the author, commentator, columnist, journalist Ed Moloney. Ed, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Ed:  Hi, Martin. Hi.

Martin:    Ed, I have in front of me something that you wrote for The Guardian and you said that: ‘The Martin McGuinness of 2016 could not have delivered the IRA of 1994 into a ceasefire’. Just wondering if we could start there. What did you mean by that?

Ed:   Well, well because sufficient time has passed since 1994 to change Martin McGuinness. I mean you know, in 1994 and round that period, I mean he was able to reassure the IRA that, for example, there would never be a ceasefire without a special Army Convention being called and people believed him. But we know what happened. There was a ceasefire without a convention and there was a decommissioning without an IRA Convention. And the sort of the hard line image that enabled Martin McGuinness – you know, the guy who wouldn’t let the IRA down, who wouldn’t settle for a quote ‘sellout’ end quote of the early 1990’s – you know had changed so much, and events had changed him as well, that it be impossible for him to have given the same reassurances in 2015-2016 and be believed by the IRA grassroots. In 1994 the image of the tough IRA leader who would not compromise on basics, even for example a ceasefire without getting the approval of the grassroots much less accepting issues like consent, the Principle of Consent for Irish unity or IRA decommissioning, that image you know has gone and gone by this stage and I don’t think he would have the same sway at all with the IRA grassroots.

Martin:   Alright. What was is that brought Martin McGuinness into the IRA to believe that somebody from a very religious background, a Catholic background, somebody whose family was believed to be Nationalist as opposed to Republican – what was it that led him first to be the person who would take up arms and rise to a leadership p0sition in the IRA?

Ed:   Well you know in some ways Martin McGuinness is a prototype of the post-1970 IRA in the sense that if this was – and we’ve had this discussion before and I think we disagree on this, but my view is, and it has been for some time now, that the Provisional IRA grew out of the civil rights movement and civil rights protests largely because of Unionist intransigence which created the circumstances of August 1969 and then put the Nationalist community on a collision course with the British government. Martin McGuinness was motivated to join the IRA and to become politically active almost entirely by those events – by the civil rights movement and then by the collision of the Nationalist community with the British Army. And he said himself more than once that it was you know, it was the deaths of Beattie and Cusack in Doire in 1970-1971 (I forget the exact date) but very early on in The Troubles at a point when there was really no Provisional IRA to talk of in Doire.

The largest, the Republican group that held the greatest sway in Doire at that time was the Officials, the Official IRA, and the Provisional IRA was almost non-existent. There were a few members and I think they were almost entirely wiped out in an accidental explosion. It was only after the deaths of Beattie and Cusack that the Provisional IRA grew at all in Doire and Martin McGuinness was one of the very, very first recruits. So he came from a very, very different Republican background from someone like Gerry Adams or indeed traditional Republicans in Doire, like the Keenan Family. You know, the Adams Family can trace their Republican lineage way back to you know – way back in time. I mean Gerry Adams’ own father, also called Gerry, was an active IRA member in the 1930’s and 1940’s and his uncle was involved in the 1940’s IRA campaign in Britain. Martin McGuinness didn’t have any of that history in his family’s lineage at all. His family were good Catholic, Doire folk who voted for the Nationalist party and believed everything that the local bishop told them. And he came from that and it was the events, the civil rights events and the collision course that the civil rights put the Nationalist community on with the British government, that produced Martin McGuinness, the IRA leader. So you could actually say he’s a much more authentic representative of the modern Provisional IRA than was Gerry Adams and people of his ilk.

Martin:  Well just a question I always have is the, the analysis that was always given, is that you would always have injustice, you’d always have discrimination, whether it’s legacy, whether it was the result of various things like that until British rule was ended – it’s not just not getting equality it’s ending the British government, British rule, which has inherent inequality in it. But I just want to get beyond that: He joins the IRA, he becomes a leading figure. And one of the things people sometimes ask is – he did two stints in The South of Ireland in Portlaoise. He gets out of the second one around 1974. There are actually people who believe that what he said to the Saville Inquiry that he left the IRA at that time. How long was Martin McGuinness a leading member of the IRA?

Ed:  Well, you know the irony of that – he has to say that he was in the – you know people say Gerry Adams lies when he says he was never in the IRA. The issue is not like to try and get an admission from these people that they were in the IRA but to point out that they come from, that their attitude towards that question is so very different from the traditional Republican response that it raises all sorts of other questions. I mean the traditional Republican response to that question always was, until the Adams-McGuinness leadership: Was that you never admitted IRA membership. That would be a very, very foolish thing to do because you’d talk yourself into a jail sentence – at the same time you’d never deny it. And so you know, the Republicans of the Ó Brádaigh years when presented with that question by someone like myself or any other journalist would essentially, either politely or impolitely, tell me to mind my own business. But McGuinness and Adams chose not to.

And McGuinness had to admit membership of the IRA, that he had been in the IRA at least until 1974 because of two events: 1) When he was imprisoned by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin he made a statement to the effect that he was a proud member of the Irish Republican Army. And also there’s a famous television interview in which he’s walking down the street with an interviewer who asks him: Well, Martin McGuinness, as the leader of the IRA Provisionals in Belfast (Doire) can you tell us when are you going to stop the bombing campaign? And he takes no issue with that and gives an answer about: Well we will consult with our Army leadership and we will then make an informed, you know etc etc – makes a response. So he quite clearly accepts that he’s the leader of the Provos. So he couldn’t deny it. Adams never had that similar sort of, had not that similar type of experience therefore he was able to say that he was never, ever in the IRA. The irony about him saying that he left in 1974 was that his IRA was only beginning to take off in the mid-1970’s. I mean he was, first of all, he was a major figure in the first Northern Command that was created as the result of these reforms and changes that people like Adams and Ivor Bell and Brendan Hughes had discussed and debated along with fellow-minded colleagues in Long Kesh.

And then in 1978 Gerry Adams was Chief of Staff of the IRA. The IRA commits a horrible atrocity in Co. Down at a hotel called La Mon – fire bombs the place, screws up the warnings and there are lots of people killed in the most horrible circumstances imaginable and Adams, in the outrage that greets all of this, is arrested by the police and charged with IRA membership. He immediately loses, as is the custom, his rank as IRA Chief of Staff and McGuinness takes over, and that’s in February 1978. And he stays as Chief of Staff, and as Kathryn Johnston was describing, makes a very spectacular mark as IRA Chief of Staff by the Warrenpoint and Mountbatten ambushes which sort of like copper-fastened his reputation with the grassroots as a sort of military genius of some sort. But it’s not just that. He actually revives the fortunes of the IRA during those three or four years that he was Chief of Staff to the extent that they’re back in the game, as it were, you know? And he stays there and then in 1982 he quits because of the elections, he stands for the election but then he’s re-appointed Northern Commander, in about 1985-1986, and he stays as Northern Commander right through until 1996.

Martin:  Ed, I just want to – I know he had other ranks – I just want to ask you, just very briefly, we’ve just got about a minute left: Monday they’re back in negotiations. There’s a deadline for Stormont coming together. What does this mean for Gerry Adams leading these negotiations without, no longer having Martin McGuinness there? Or Gerry Adams and Michelle O’Neill leading the negotiations?

Ed:   Well the thing is you know, like Lennon and McCartney, they were never quite the same when John Lennon died and Adams and McGuinness – the two names that go together – it’s now just Gerry Adams and he’s got this problem in The North: He needs to – he needs to reconstruct the Assembly and the Stormont government otherwise what does he have to show for the peace process? And then he’s got the problem of not having achieved power in The South. And he’s knocking the door at the age seventy now – he’ll be sixty-nine in October – and you know, Martin McGuinness’ death is a reminder of his own mortality. He doesn’t have much time left to achieve, I think, his main ambition, which is to get into government in The South so that you have a Sinn Féin presence at the cabinet tables in both parts of Ireland and that will be his claim for a special place in the history books.

Martin:  Okay.

Ed:  But he’s running out of time. He’s in the ‘Last Chance Saloon’.

Martin:   Alright. Ed, we want to thank you for that. We’re running out of time ourselves in the Last Chance Saloon. We’re going to play one song, Back Home in Derry, just and then go out – exit on that basis. Thank you, Ed.

Ed:   Okay. Bye-bye now. (ends time stamp ~ 56:11)

Anthony McIntyre RFÉ 25 March 2017

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
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Martin Galvin speaks to Anthony McIntyre, former IRA prisoner now author, historian and political commentator, via telephone from Ireland about Martin McGuinness’ legacy. (begins time stamp ~ 27:08)

Audio:  Portion of Martin McGuinness’ speech at the 1986 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis is played. (audio ends)

Martin:  Alright. With us on the line from Ireland we have Dr. Anthony McIntyre; he’s a former IRA Volunteer, somebody who is an author of a blog, The Pensive Quill. He’s an author of the book, Good Friday, a great analysis of the Good Friday Agreement and Anthony, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Anthony:   Good Afternoon, Martin. I’m pleased to be on.

Martin:   We’re trying to push everybody, this is a very big subject, we’ve got a number of people on, so we’re not giving anybody as much time as we would like to – what do you think, as somebody who, like Martin McGuinness, would have felt at one time that the only way there could be justice would be to end British rule and that the only way to achieve that would be to take up armed struggle – you served time in that, a number of years in that in The North – he served two separate times of imprisonment within The Twenty-Six Counties. What do you think Martin McGuinness’ legacy will be to the Republican struggle?

Anthony:  Well I think it will have, in many ways, it will have failed on two fronts: the military and the non-military. I mean Martin McGuinness was a key IRA figure – former Chief of Staff, former Northern Commander, former president of the IRA Army Council, sat on the Army Council for years. And the IRA campaign was aimed at coercing the British out of Ireland regardless of the wishes of the people in The North. The British objective was to insure that the IRA did not succeed in that campaign and that the IRA would be brought to embrace the Principle of Consent which meant that the British would only leave The North if a majority of people in The North consented to the British leaving. That means that the IRA campaign, in respect of getting the British out of Ireland, was an unmitigated failure. So Martin McGuinness failed there. Secondly, in terms of political institutions, he became the Deputy First Minister and ended up, at the end, being compelled by the force of logic and passion at the grassroots, which even surprised me, to bring to an end the institutions by coming out of his sickbed – in a very admirable manner it has to be said because it took some strength even to get from Belfast to Doire and to put on the performance that he did but that’s by-the-by – he brought down the institutions and what he brought to an end there was a period of Sinn Féin failure in government which they concede and for which they’ve been called ‘roll-over Republicans’ or ‘Martin and his Muppets’ because it’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous looking team ever on the benches of Parliament than the Sinn Féin team at Stormont and for ten years they took abuse, arrogance yet never told the grassroots about it, the voter, until such time as they decided to bring it down. And I often wonder, well I don’t often wonder but I’ve taken to wondering recently, if was Martin McGuinness was compelled to signing the closure order on essentially his own project in the manner that Jimmy Drumm was forced to signing the closure order on his ceasefire, which he was party to in 1976 when the new emerging leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness forced Jimmy Drumm, against his wishes, to read out the Bodenstown commemoration speech in 1977, June 1977, and during that speech Jimmy Drumm stated that the ceasefire had been a mistake. I think there’s a possibility the same has happened in Martin McGuinness’ case. So in my view, Martin McGuinness’ leadership has been called into question on two serious fronts.

Martin:  Anthony, I should note that when I got involved working with Irish Northern Aid I was asked to train over in the Belfast Press Centre and we never even talked about consent – that was a term you would never use. You would refer to it as ‘the Unionist veto in The North’ because the majority of people – you know as the 1916 Societies and other groups proclaim now, majority of people throughout all of Ireland favoured an end to British rule and you’re not talking about getting their consent to partition you’re talking about a veto within The Six Counties. And it just shows you how that language has changed. What is your reaction to the funeral? There was a Tricolour there, there was a number of noted political figures attended the funeral, how does that funeral play into the legacy, as you’ve described it, of Martin McGuinness?

Anthony:  Well I think what happened there is that the, like much else about Martin McGuinness’ life, the IRA has been pushed to the background and the IRA was, in effect, hidden from that funeral. There may have been key IRA figures putting on the Tricolour standing at the coffin as it was leaving his home but in order to allow the dignitaries, as they are called, and the luminaries to come to bury Mr. McGuinness but not to mourn him they had to hide the IRA. And therefore there was no chance of Arlene Foster and Bill Clinton and that whole parade of politicians marching behind a coffin with the beret on it and the black gloves, the sort of standard funerary symbols of the IRA dead. Now in my view, we may well have a whispering campaign of some sort, or at least a whispering to the grassroots, that the beret and gloves were inside the coffin – basically still hiding the IRA away – and that the whispering that the IRA went up and put the Tricoulor on the coffin – this is all for people who are prepared to believe anything as long as it’s whispered to them. In terms of political reality, the people who came to bury Martin McGuinness but not mourn him were from the political class. They were those people who were authenticating the rule, the victory, the triumph of consent over Martin’s earlier life where he advocated, and was a strong advocate and a forceful advocate of the politics of coercion, the war to coerce the British out of Ireland. And I think this is what this funeral was about from their point of view and ensuring that that was the dominant political message that went out: Unity only by consent. And the sort of subtext of it was: The IRA campaign failed. The British Principle of Consent won. The British did not ever accept the IRA’s terms for disengagement from Ireland. The IRA accepted the British terms for British disengagement from Ireland and that, in my view, sums it up.

Martin:  Alright. I should note just on the BBC website there was a Martin McGuinness section on his obituary and I hit that up and it was actually – he and I carrying a coffin in 1985 at the funeral of an IRA Volunteer. And you can see people with berets, you can see a masked party of IRA Volunteers – and this was done at a time – I was banned, that’s why I was invited specifically to carry the coffin along side him in Doire under the watchful eyes of British troops – that’s a difference between the type of funeral that that might have been some time ago and the funeral that Martin McGuinness had and his legacy. Anthony, why was it, what was it about Martin McGuinness that made IRA Volunteers trust him so much to the degree that they did, that they made him so influential that they would follow him into this resolution of the conflict – this cessation that you’ve described?

Anthony:  Probably his longevity at the leadership level. I mean as far back as most people’s living memory can recall Martin McGuinness was there.  He was the alpha and the omega of the IRA in many respects. In 1972 he was already pretty famous by the time he went to London for negotiations with the British. After that he became a key figure in the minds of the Republican support base and a hate figure for the British. So people always identified Martin as ‘the IRA figure’. Someone who would be hard, someone who would be tough, someone who would have the Volunteers’ interests at heart and in that way I feel that because he had been around so long, because he had directed so many operations, because he was Chief of Staff at the time of the killings of the British paratroopers, the killing of Mountbatten, the killing of Robert Bradford – these are all things that took place on his watch – key IRA killings and I think that he was viewed very much as the man that could be trusted in a way that people came to feel Gerry Adams couldn’t be trusted because Gerry Adams began to be viewed as a politician and there was always a hostility towards politicians. But it wouldn’t have mattered had Martin went first rather than Gerry in terms of making the call for politics – he would have been mistrusted because bear in mind: Gerry Adams had the same military record that Martin McGuinness has. The two could be separated by a cigarette paper that we used to write out from Long Kesh on – two key military figures but is was the perception of Martin as, what the media would call the ‘hawk’, the guy who would never let us down.

Martin:   Okay. And just what did you think: Gerry Adams was the person who gave the oration at Martin McGuinness’ funeral. What’s your reaction to that oration?

Anthony:   Well I mean the fact that Gerry Adams gave the oration, in my view, was that he was really saying: We are burying Martin here today but what I want you to remember is me. This is all about me. And again, as is his tendency to impose himself on proceedings, I mean, on this day and at this time Gerry Adams should be letting Michelle O’Neill come to the fore. But he isn’t. He’s trying to overshadow her on everything. And there is some suspicions now being aired by people that Martin McGuinness didn’t bring down the Executive, that he in fact was ousted and was compelled by Adams and the Adams’ lobby to bring down the Executive. And now since the passing-on of Martin McGuinness, or the illness of Martin McGuinness, we’ve seen Adams come more and more to the fore. And I mean Adams does have this effect, even though he’s not personally sectarian, attitudinally he has this impact of alienating the Unionists in a way that one could say that Martin McGuinness didn’t have. So it certainly leads to an interesting time ahead and lots of things to play for. And I think the insertion of Gerry Adams back into it tends to create even more sectarian tension and inflame sectarian passions. And you cannot simply blame Adams for that – the Unionists have to take an awful lot of blame for this because their attitude has been woeful. And I know that they have decided to start to behave civilly – turning up at the funeral and so on – but the manner in which they treated that crowd of Sinn Féin people in Stormont that you had one SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) MLA saying he was shocked as he watched all the ranks of former IRA men and women being humiliated by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) and not a word out of them. I mean the DUP have done this and their complete arrogance has inflamed the situation in The North so I don’t know, I mean, what way it’ll go but what we can say is that high-profile funeral, the presence of people like Bill Clinton and everybody else at it, makes it very, very hard for people entering these negotiations, who are now in these negotiations, to face the blame for them going wrong. So we can see the whole thing pushed to the deadline – pushed to the point of brinkmanship. But it has to look now, one would argue, that the – I mean a possibility for a deal anyway does increase. And Sinn Féin have a get-out clause because Arlene Foster turned up at the funeral was clapped and they can say that: Well, now what we should do is – maybe we can go into government with her. She’s not so bad after all. She has come to her senses. The best situation, the best outcome for them is for Sinn Féin not to call for her to resign or stand aside and then for her to voluntarily stand aside for a period of weeks and that gets them all off the hook. And I think something like that is likely to happen.

Martin:  And that was exactly the offer that she was given by Martin McGuinness some time ago – just to stand aside for a few weeks – and just like Peter Robinson did. Had she taken that she wouldn’t have had the election, she’d still have a ten seat majority and people wouldn’t be talking about maybe replacing her in future within the DUP. Alright, Anthony, we want to thank you for that and we’ll just play one more clip and then we will be going to Ed Moloney.

Anthony:    Thank you very much.

Martin:   Thank you, Anthony. (ends time stamp ~ 42:36)