Jolene Bunting BBC Talkback 27 July 2017

Talkback
BBC Radio Ulster
27 July 2017

William Crawley has independent Unionist Councillor Jolene Bunting in studio. Councillor Bunting is the co-organiser of a rally which is to be held in Belfast next week and which features speakers from Britain First.

(begins)
William:  The far-right party, Britain First, is to take part in a rally outside Belfast City Hall in early August. It’s an event organised by the independent Unionist Councillor, Jolene Bunting, who’s in the studio with me. Welcome! Good Afternoon to you.

Jolene:  How you doing?

William:  What’s this event about?

Jolene:  William, I mean I am not solely organising this myself. There is a group of people who are completely against terrorism and we have decided to organise this to highlight the fact that terrorism is going on in the UK and sometimes I think the mainstream media don’t seem to highlight how much it actually is going on.

William:  So you’re one of the organisers.

Jolene:   I am.

William:  Who are the other organisers?

Jolene:  There’s a number of different people they, they…

William:  ….Are they groups? Or are they all individuals?

Jolene:   Yeah, they’re all individuals. They wouldn’t be known widely but they are a group of like-minded people.

William:  Many of those taking part seem to be from the Britain First group. You’ve got two of their leaders taking part in this event – speaking. Are they part of the organisation of it – as an organisation?

Jolene:   No, they’ve been invited to speak.

William:  You’ve invited them. Why did you invite Britain First to take part?

Jolene:  Britain First have been holding a number of demonstrations in England, Scotland and, I believe, Wales also. I have seen their demonstrations. I’ve heard them speak and I think they’re extremely articulate when it comes to international terrorism and I do want their views heard.

William:  What do you know about the organisation itself?

Jolene:   I have followed their organization quite a bit for when…

William:  …You’re not part of it – you’re not a member?

Jolene:   Not at all. No, no, no. And as I say, I invited them along with other patriotic groups to come and speak.

William:   Well the poster, the poster advertising this has a picture of you, described as an independent Unionist, two of their leaders who are described – one’s described as Britain First, the other’s described as a British patriot and a couple of others who are described as…

Jolene: …No, it’s two Britain First and then two British patriots who aren’t aligned with any group.

William:  Aren’t aligned with any group. One of them’s called ‘Banksy’.

Jolene:  Yes.

William:  It’s not the artist.

Jolene:  No.

William:   But what do you know about Britain First?

Jolene:  I know quite a lot. As I said…

William:  …You said they’re articulate. What do they stand for?

Jolene:  They are anti-Islamification in the UK. They don’t want to see the UK in the way that it has been put across. There has been terrorist attacks. There has been – there are ‘no-go’ zones in England which have been highlighted by Britain First, also other online media groups, and they stand up against that which I commend them for.

William:  One of their leaders, Paul Golding, has been convicted and has served time and I understand from the press in England last night was again arrested and is in custody to do with alleged incitement of religious hatred. He’s been on bail. Are you comfortable doing events with Paul Golding?

Jolene:  Paul is, as I say, he’s the leader of Britain First who are doing great work in the UK. He is a great speaker. Unfortunately, as I say, I’m not a member of Britain First and I can’t speak for them and I…(crosstalk)

William:  …So a great speaker’s enough for you? The fact that he’s done time in the past year – and this year – for eight weeks.

Jolene:   He believes in the right things. Whether he goes about that in the right way it may be questionable but he believes in the right things and I believe that he is only doing this for the good of the people in the UK.

William:  Well Joe Mulhall is listening to us speaking. He’s a Senior Researcher with the organisation Hope Not Hate. Joe, welcome! Good Afternoon to you.

Joe:  Good Afternoon to you.

William:  You’ve done a lot of work, I understand, on not just Britain First but other groups on the far-right. What can you tell us about Britain First?

Joe: 

Source: Huffington Post UK

Yeah, I mean Britain – well put simply, Britain First is a dangerous, far-right organisation. I mean, the party’s, or the movement’s been around since about 2011. It was created, as I said, by Paul Golding and another guy called Jim Dowson, both of which were former British National Party (BNP) – both of which have a long history of extreme racism, open racism, I’d say a number of convictions etc for things like, as you say, inciting racial violence, etc so they’re a deeply worrying group. I mean they’ve come to real prominence in England with really controversial acts – we’re talking about invading mosques across the UK, we’re talking about very controversial demonstrations – often in Muslim areas – and it’s very simple: I mean, Britain First itself is an explicitly far-right, an explicitly anti-Muslim organisation. And it’s not just them if you look actually at the other speakers that have been invited here – if you look at this ‘Banksy’, I mean that’s actually a guy call John Banks. He’s a former English Defence League (EDL), involved in those – I mean he’s had a long history, again, of explicit anti-Muslim activism. And Paul Rimmer was also part of a far-right party called the English Democrats. So all in all…

William:  …And he’s also speaking at the Belfast rally oragnised here by Jolene Bunting and others.

Joe:  Absolutely, yeah. Paul Rimmer – he’s noted here as a ‘British patriot’ – but he’s been involved with a far-right party called the English Democrats and Banksy, as I say, is a guy called John Banks who’s been involved with anti-Muslim street protest movements in the UK for a long time.

William:  How do you characterise a group like that? In terms of the political spectrum that we have in Britain and across Europe these days – how do you characterise them?

Joe:  Yeah I mean, Britain First are very extreme. Let’s be kind of absolutely clear about that. Extreme and dangerous. I mean their ideology is well within the classes of the far-right. But even within the UK far-right they’re quite extreme. As I say, things like these – this is a movement that some times wear uniforms and has done controversial acts like having armoured cars etc engaging in actions that mark them out as more extreme than larger sections of the British far-right. Their ideas, as I say, are also extreme often rooted in a kind of religious identity which again marks them out from other elements of the UK far right. So we’re very clear about this: Britain First is a movement that is very extreme and dangerous.

William:  Do you put the in the category of ‘white Nationalists’?

Joe:   It depends. I mean their – most of their talk is generally about culture although clearly people within the movement are – maybe not clearly but most of them you would class as openly racist and in terms of white Nationalists there’s certain members within the movement that would be very happy to be called white Nationalists. But as I say, it’s a broad spectrum. I mean this is a group that has over one point nine million ‘likes’ on Facebook – now, of course, a huge amount of that isn’t either real people or it’s from all over the world so it’s difficult to say ‘all of them’ but yeah – would we comfortably say that there’s white Nationalists involved? Absolutely!

William:  Jolene, as you hear that kind of pan-sketch of this organisation you are partnering with at this rally does that give you pause for thought?

Jolene:  Well what I don’t understand is how they can be classed as a dangerous group. What I think is dangerous is people holding in their thoughts and being told that they can’t speak out against something that they find dangerous. And you know – what I don’t – they are seeing first-hand and have experienced first-hand Islamic extremists and they are speaking out against that. They are angry. And they may – as I have already said – they may not have went about that, in the past, in the right way. I can’t speak for them for what they done in the past but..

William:  …Some of the individuals in this organisation have their roots, I think, Joe, in the National Front – don’t they?

Joe:   Yes, I mean oh, yeah. I mean many of these activists – if you kind of look through their activists and the sort of people that they can get on the streets it’s a litany of numerous kind of prominent far-right movements. And on the violence thing: I’d add, actually, I mean this Britain First has been exposed, has involved, in things like knife training and martial arts training camps etc – so it’s not just us kind of picking this out of the air when we say they’re dangerous. I mean pictures have emerged of Paul, even including Paul Golding, engaged in knife training so they’re not to be taken lightly.

William:  Knife training, Jolene!

Jolene:  That’s the first I’ve heard of it. (crosstalk)

William:  Do you know enough about the group to, as a public representative, to invite them to Belfast, to stand outside Belfast City Hall, giving them a platform and sharing that platform with them because, as Joe speaks, it sounds like you’re getting an education here today.

Jolene:  I mean I have researched these people. I have researched the group. I have followed them for quite a while. I have never came up against knife training or anything else like that…

William:   …So you didn’t know about that.

Jolene:  …so that’s the first time I’ve heard about that.

William:  Did you know about the convictions?

Jolene:  Yes, I did. I did know and I’ve…

William:   …religious violence and religious hatred.

Jolene:  And I have also watched what he was arrested for and, to be honest with you…

William:  …that’s for the courts to decide.

Jolene:   Yeah.

William:  And did you also know that Paul Golding was in custody as we speak?

Jolene:  He’s not. He’s been released.

William:  He’s been released. This morning?

Jolene: No, yesterday.

William: Right. You knew about that?

Jolene: Yes.

William: You’re still comfortable having him speaking with you in Belfast?

Jolene: Yes.

William: Still very comfortable?

Jolene: Yes.

William: Joe, you wanted to say something.

Joe:  

Source: News Shopper

No, I was just going to say on the knife training thing: I mean it’s not hard to find this out. This has been covered in numerous national newspapers with pictures so this is you know a kind of a cursory google would have kind of shown that sort of thing up.

William:  Joe, thank you very much. Much appreciated. Joe Mulhall from the organisation Hope Not Hate. Danny in Birmingham is one of our listeners in Birmingham, says he can’t call in today but he is listening and he would like Jolene to explain to him where are these ‘no go’ zones are in England? He’d be interested to know because he’s not aware of any.

Jolene: I have spoke to a number of different people from parts of London who have said that they are terrified that they will be the subject of racist abuse when they cross the road to different areas within London – and I’m being told this by a number of different people- whether they may be exaggerating? I don’t know. I haven’t – it’s been a long time since I’ve been in London but why would anyone phone me and speak to me about this if it wasn’t true? And…

William: Do you believe, as a public representative – you’re elected – you’re an independent Unionist, you used to be a member of the TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice).

Headline: The Belfast Telegraph

You’re no longer a member of the TUV. But you’re a public representative in Belfast City Hall. Do you believe it’s appropriate for an organisation so characterised, Britain First, to be given a platform outside Belfast City Hall with you standing with them? Do you think that’s responsible?

Jolene:  I think they’re- I think they’re, you know, they can speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the BBC didn’t want them on today…

William:  …Everyone can speak for themselves…

Jolene:  …and I think if, you know, if people come along to the rally…

William:  …Given what you know about the organisation. Is that responsible?

Jolene:  …if people come along to the rally next Sunday they will, they will…

William:  Aren’t you stoking far-right sentiments in Belfast by doing that?

Jolene:  Not at all. No. And as I say, the rally will hold a code of conduct for speakers and for the people coming along…

William:  Presumably you could have gotten all kinds of other people to speak on that rally. Why these people?

Jolene:  People, well other people, were invited to speak.

William:  But these people accepted.

Jolene:   These people accepted and I’m pleased to say that they accepted.

William:  And the SDLP’s (Social Democratic and Labour Party) Tim Attwood is listening as well. Hi, Tim. Good Afternoon to you.

Tim:  Good Afternoon.

William:   What do you make of this?

Tim:  Well in the past we’ve seen some Unionists being prepared to share platforms with Loyalist paramilitaries. I think now the fact that we have a Unionist Councillor prepared to stand on a platform with spokespersons for organisations that clearly spout hatred and racism I think is shameful. And I think Jolene’s learning a little bit about Britain First today. I think she should research it a little bit more but it’s quite clear that they are a far right-wing organisation who do not support multiculturalism. They want to target Muslims and challenge the Muslim community in a very offensive way. And the question is: Do we want that in Belfast? We have many particular problems in Belfast and some of these people who may be on the platform were involved in the flag protest – remember – do we really want them speaking in Belfast promoting a policy against multiculturalism? Belfast has changed rapidly in the last ten years and we embrace the different and various cultures that have moved in in a positive way. We do not want people coming here, creating difficulties, creating hatred and spouting racism.

William:  Jolene?

Jolene:  Tim, this isn’t a rally against multiculturalism. It’s against terrorism. And I believe that any form of terrorism should be opposed. And I think that if the mainstream media were not to demonise everyone who speaks out against terrorists then maybe these people wouldn’t be so angry and wouldn’t be being called racist and the things that I have heard them called.

Tim:   Jolene, just read what some of the spokespersons have said – there’s radio evidence, there’s Facebook evidence of them spouting racism and hatred – so whatever the rally’s intent may be that’s what will happen. And it will incite hatred in Belfast. The way that we’ve seen people in London and Manchester rally against terrorist acts is the way forward – where the communities come together – Muslim, Christian, no faith – coming together,rallying around in solidarity with each other – that was the generous way to deal with the situation – how to oppose terrorism – it’s not to try to create further extremism and further difficulties in Belfast or in any other city – that’s the danger of what you’ve organised.

William:  Let’s go to the phone lines on this. (William solicits listener calls and recaps the facts and opinions expressed on the segment so far. ) Dee’s there first. Welcome, Dee.

Dee:  How’s it going, William?

William:  Go ahead, Dee.

Dee:  Well my name’s Dee Fennell. I’m the Chairperson of the Anti-Internment League and this will be the fifth year we organised a national march against the continuing use of internment-by-remand, miscarriage of justice and revocation of licence in the case of people like Tony Taylor. And each year we…(crosstalk)

William: …Alright, we’re going to keep the focus on this, Dee…

Dee: …Yep, yep, yep – but the focus, the focus…

William: …but just on this issue and it’s got to be brief, sorry.

Dee:  It’s something I think maybe, if you’d care to notice, William, is the fact that this year’s march will take place at the exactly the same time, and the application has been made for the same time….

Anti-Internment League March poster

William: …On the 6th of August?

Dee: On the 6th of August, leaving Ardoyne at 11 AM, passing through Royal Avenue…(crosstalk)

William:  Alright Dee, thank you. I’ll put that to Jolene. Thank you very much. Is that part of the reason why you chose that date?

Jolene:  …No. That certainly has nothing to do with that.

William:  Why did you chose that date?

Jolene:  It was actually the only day that I could get a number of people together so that was the reason the day was chosen. It was a group decision from the people that I have to work with.

William:  Alright. Damien’s in Doire. Hello, Damien.

Damien:  Hey, how are you, William? William, I just wanted to ask Jolene if she would condemn Thomas Mair, the man who stabbed and shot MP Jo Cox shouting: ‘Britain first. You must put Britain first!’. Would you condemn him as a terrorist?

Jolene:  I would one hundred percent condemn anyone who takes any innocent person’s life and Jo Cox was innocent.

William:   Damien, thank you very much. Do you condemn people who try to invade mosques?

Jolene:   I have just seen no evidence that they actually invaded a mosque. I know that they do protests outside a mosque and asked mosque…

William:  …Are you actually briefed? Are you actually briefed on what happened to Paul Golding? Why he went to prison?

Jolene:  They tried to find out the truth from mosque leaders and I have seen evidence that they have asked mosque leaders to speak about the terrorism and to speak about the things that – certain preachers within mosques have… (crosstalk)

William:  …Do you condemn intimidating behaviour?

Jolene:  Yes. Certainly.

William:   Yeah. And you acknowledge that Paul Golding went to prison for eight weeks around those issues?

Jolene:  Yes, I have knowledge of the event…

William:  …Do you regard that as a kind of terror? To engage in that kind of behaviour?

Jolene:  It’s not…

William:  …to intimidate a community?

Jolene:  I don’t believe that it’s – I don’t believe that it is something that Paul intended to do – whether that is the case that he…

William:  …We can’t re-try him. That’s what the courts are for.

Jolene:  Yes.

William:  He was found guilty.

Jolene:   Yes, but his intentions were not that and I have spoken to Paul about this and about not demonising a whole community.

William:  What do you make of that, Tim?

Tim:  Well you know, again, this is the problem: Some politicians equivocate over violence and illegal activity. There should be no equivocation. Terrorism is wrong.

Headline: The Belfast Telegraph

Racism is wrong. Intimidation is wrong. And what we’re bringing to the streets of Belfast on the 6th of August, and there’s other activities that day as well, is dangerous. We know in the past number of years there’s been attacks on ethic communities across Belfast and across The North. All this will serve to do is will put fear in many communities, in many cultures, that some people who attend this may rally against creating a more multicultural society. What we should be doing is trying to work together to create an equal society where we embrace all cultures and the rich traditions that come with them. This…

William: …Jolene, do you agree with that? We should work together to create an equate society where we respect diversity?

Jolene: One hundred percent. Yes.

William: You agree with that?

Jolene: Yes.

William: Would you be concerned that members of the Muslim community, for example, would feel nervous, at the very least – to put it mildly- about the presence of Britain First on a platform outside the City Hall?

Jolene: If Muslims would feel nervous about this you know, I question why they would feel nervous about a group of people coming together to speak out against terrorism.

William: A group who has an anti-Muslim record who’s party leader has gone to prison…

Jolene: …We are speaking out against terrorism…

William: …around those issues and you wonder why they might feel nervous?

Jolene: But we’re speaking out about terrorism we’re not speaking out against the Muslim faith and I would not have the Muslim faith – yes, Sharia Law I do believe is wrong but I would not have anyone putting down any faith. People fought and died so that we have freedom of religion in this country. We also have freedom of speech. And people should be allowed to come together to discuss this and to speak about it and not be demonised for speaking out against terrorism.

(transcript pauses)

Audio: William takes listener calls.

(transcript resumes)

William: Jolene, you’ve been trying to get in. Go ahead.

Jolene: William, the only hate crime that will be – the only hate speech which you will hear at that rally is hatred against terrorism. And if you’re not allowed to express hatred against people killing innocent people then how is there freedom of speech in this country?

(transcript pauses)

Audio: William takes listener calls.

(transcript resumes)

William: So you condemn racism. You condemn racist attacks. But you’re going to stand on a platform with someone convicted of engaging in the incitement of racist hatred (crosstalk)…

Jolene: …What I don’t understand, William, and this is something…

William: …I’m just asking about the consistency.

Jolene: …that I feel that the courts have got wrong because Islam is not a race – it’s a culture. And it’s a culture that is harming the world. All over the world we see Islam and its ideology destroying countries, destroying people and killing innocent people.

William: Are you anti-Islam?

Jolene: I would be anti-Islam, yes.

William: You’re anti the religion?

Jolene: I’m not anti-Muslim and I believe everyone has…

William: …you’re anti the religion of Islam.

Jolene: …I believe that the ideology of Islam is wrong…

William: …the teachings, the teaching are wrong?

Jolene: …is wrong. Yes.

William: Well, you’re entitled to believe that the teachings of any religion are wrong but why do you..

Jolene: …these people – and I can’t say that I have read far enough…

William: …but why do you focus on Islam? If you are oppose to…are you a Christian incidentally?

Jolene: I am, yes.

William: Do you think that all religions, apart from Christianity, are wrong?

Jolene: I don’t believe that they are wrong and I believe people have the right to their own faith…

William: …Of course they do. But what’s your particular beef with Islam?

Jolene: My particular beef with Islam is the things that we have seen. Their teachings, the Koran, the hatred that is built in the Koran where you know the prophet Muhammad was, you know, he was extremely brutal at times and I personally think that that’s where…

William: …We had a Muslim theologian on this week saying it’s not in the Koran…

Jolene: …I believe that – I believe that these terrorists who have killed innocent people around the UK, these people who have raped young girls – they are following the word of the Koran which you know it is there are passages…

William: …Which is deeply offensive to decent Muslim people…

Jolene: …There are passages within the Koran which tell them to do that…

William: …It’s deeply offensive. It’s deeply offensive to Muslim people to say that rapists are simply following the teachings of the Koran when they rape. That’s an outrageous thing to say.

Jolene: That’s what the Koran says. There are passages within the Koran.

William: What’s the passage?

Jolene: I don’t have the passage with me here but I can get it up.

William: Have you read the Koran? Have you read the Koran?

Jolene: I haven’t myself. No.

William: No, you haven’t read the Koran…

Jolene: No, but I have seen the…

William: And yet you come onto a radio programme…

Jolene: I have seen it in the book…

William: …and say that!…

Jolene: …I have seen it in the book…

William: …and you say that the Koran recommends raping!

Jolene: I have seen it, I have seen it in the book…

William: Shouldn’t you inform yourself?

Jolene: I have seen it, I have seen it in the book. I haven’t read the Koran.

William: Do you know any Muslims? Do you know any Muslims, personally?

Jolene: Personally, no, no.

William: Never met a Muslim personally?

Jolene: No.

William: Listen to yourself, Jolene.

Jolene: I’m listening to myself.

William: You’ve got, you’ve got to back up arguments with evidence and experience.

Jolene: I understand that. I understand that. But what I’m saying to you, William, is that there are passages within the Koran which do ask….

William: …encourage people to go and rape people and rob them?

Jolene: To look at unbelievers as – I apologise, William…

William: …No, it’s alright.

Jolene: I should have had the, I should have had that if I am gonna say that…

William: …(crosstalk) I brought the question. It’s fair that you don’t have everything at your fingertips. Tim, sorry, you were trying to jump in.

Tim:   Yet, again – I think this is the problem when you – the mask slips after a period of time. Jolene has said this is all about a rally against terrorism and very quickly you get into offensive comments about Islam. And that is the primary purpose of Britain First. It is to – they see Islam in the UK as the problem and that’s just offensive to many, many, many people of various religions. And what we should be doing, instead of making offensive comments, is we should be uniting together all creeds, all faiths against terrorism. And the danger is what will happen on the 6th of August will be a hate-fest and they may talk a bit about terrorism but very soon they’ll come in and vilify and make offensive comments against Muslims and Islam and I think that’s unfortunate.

Jolene: Tim, I hope that you do listen to the speeches and you see a different side of the story. I’m not saying that all Muslims take what is in the Koran literally but there are many out there who we call extremists who take what is in the Koran and act it out in real life which is – it has been seen in the streets of Manchester and …

William: …Well I take – I take that clarification. So you’re not saying you’re making comments about all of Islam – it’s just the extremists because there are Christian extremists…

Jolene: No, one hundred percent…

William: …there are Christian extremists who kill in the name of the Bible and they don’t represent the mainstream of Christianity any moreso.

Jolene: Definitely not.

(transcript pauses)

Audio: William takes listener calls.

(transcript resumes)

William: We’re nearly out of time on this but we have been contacted by the Belfast Islamic Centre to make an offer – to make an offer to you because they heard you saying that you haven’t read the Koran and you haven’t met a Muslim – you don’t have any personal experience of meeting Muslims. They’re making an offer: Would you like to meet the Belfast Muslim community in the Belfast Islamic Centre? Come in. You’re welcome. Talk with them. Find out a little bit about Islam from actual Muslims. Would you take up the offer?

Jolene:  Yeah, I think I will. Yes.

William:  You would?

Jolene:  Yes. I would appreciate an open and frank conversation…

William:  …Oh, really?…

Jolene:  …and I would like to have a chat with them. That would be…

William:  …And I think what will be helpful – we’ll let you do that, we’ll put you in touch with them if you’re open to doing that because it’s a genuine offer on their part and they said it’s a genuine offer and they’re not just trying to be difficult or anything. If you do that would it be possible to bring you and a representative from the Islamic Centre back together again in the studio to talk about what you discover – of the conversations you’ve had, the progress you’ve made in the conversations?

Jolene:  Certainly. Yes.

William:   That would be very interesting, wouldn’t it?

Jolene:  But, William, I want to make this very clear…

William:  Please, yeah.

Jolene:  This rally is not about demonising anyone other than terrorists and anyone who wants to take an innocent person’s life, who thinks that it is okay to run cars over people and to slaughter people in the street, who thinks it’s okay to plant a bomb or to use themselves as a bomb. No one has the right to take innocent peoples’ lives whether that’s at a pop concert or whether that’s at a remembrance service in Northern Ireland. You know, this is against terrorism and any hate that is spoken at this rally will be against terrorists. And I would like to think that the country would unite against terrorism. I know that we have a very – not humane structure at times and where we do have terrorists within our government but we need to unite against terrorism.

William:  And others will object to that kind of language I know – but we’re into all the language debates around where we’ve been – what we’ve been through in the last few decades and everything. Jolene, thank you very much. You didn’t have to come in. You came in and sat in the studio and took some calls and talked about it. We’re grateful to you for doing that. Jolene Bunting. Thanks also to Tim Attwood from the SDLP. (ends)

Matt Treacy RFÉ 8 July 2017

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
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listen on the internet: wbai.org Saturdays Noon EST

John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to former IRA Volunteer, political prisoner and Sinn Féin insider now historian and author, Dr. Matt Treacy, about his new book, A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army. (begins time stamp ~ 28:48)

Martin:    And with us on the line we have Matt Treacy. Matt is a thirty year veteran of the Republican Movement. He’s the author of a new book, A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army and you’re a first time visitor to Radio Free Éireann. We want to talk to you about that book and about your analysis of the situation. Welcome to Radio Free Éireann, Matt.

Matt:   Thank you.

Martin:    And we played that song by The Dubliners so you would feel at home when you call in. Alright. Matt, you are listed – just to review: I came to know of your book through Anthony McIntyre’s site. Anthony has been a guest on the programme, he blogs our or promotes our programme through The Pensive Quill and publishes transcripts of interviews that appear on rfe123 dot org, our website. And there was a review of your book and it described you as a thirty year veteran Republican and so why don’t we start there. How it was that you became involved with the Republican Movement and what you did as a member of the Irish Republican Army that brought you into prison?

Matt:  Well I had a long-time family connection through my grandmother, who was born in Dublin; her great-grandfather and grandfather being involved in the The Fenians. And either her grandfather or her great-grandfather had worked with Joe Brady, The Invincible. That was after he passed on – her family, her brother and brother-in-law, were involved in the Tan War as part of the Dublin Active Service Unit. Then I had uncles who were involved in the ’50’s and ’60’s so…

Martin:  …Okay. But you grew up in Dublin. Dublin was independent of the British, thankfully, because of the War of Independence that your family was involved in. What made you decide sometime in the ’70s, ’80’s, ’90’s, whenever it was, to get involved – to join the IRA?

Matt:  Well I applied to join, I applied to join in 1986 and became a member in 1987. It was also partly from the family historical background but also in support of what was going on in The North at the time.

Martin:  Your objective – you joined the IRA. What was it that you thought you and the IRA were going to achieve?

Matt:   A thirty-two county republic.

Martin:  …Okay, now…

Matt:   …That’s what we signed up for. That’s the (inaudible). I mean people waffle on now about equality and there’s nothing wrong with equality but the basic objective of the Irish Republican Army was to achieve a thirty-two county republic and it disbanded before that was achieved or even looked likely of being achieved.

Martin:  Okay. Now I just want to say: You ended up in imprisoned, in Portlaoise Prison in the South of Ireland, you served a term of imprisonment for being a member of the IRA. What was it exactly that you were doing that led to you being imprisoned?

Matt:  Well I was part of the Intelligence Department and it was at the time when the weapons had come in from Libya and were being moved around the country up towards the border and we managed to break the radio code of the (inaudible) group of Special Branch who were watching all this and, foolishly enough, we took a flat in Harcourt Street opposite their headquarters and that’s where I was caught (inaudible).

Martin:   Okay. Now in addition to the work you did for the IRA that led you to be imprisoned, I know you were attached to Leinster House, you used to work for Martin Ferris and you were also involved with Mary Lou McDonald in her first election campaign. And she’s one of the people being spoken of as a possible leader of Sinn Féin should Gerry Adams ever step down. Just, could you give us your assessment working with her, your assessment of her in terms of, you know, Republicanism or what sort of person in terms of Republican politics – how do you assess her?

Matt:   Well she’s an affable enough person and I got on well enough with her until the book came out but she’s one of these people who joined the Republican Movement in 2003 or 2004 – long after the ceasefire even. I think she had been in Fianna Fáil for a few years when she was in college. And members of the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Workers Party, or former members I should say, who are now Sinn Féin elected representatives, or apparatchiks, and like I’m not talking about twenty year olds which would be understandable I’m talking about people in their forties and fifties who wouldn’t open their door to us twelve years ago and are now in positions of influence.

Martin:  Okay. Alright. Let’s get to the book: Your book, A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army. Why did you choose that title and you know where do you think we are in terms of the objective for which you joined the IRA: Ending British rule and getting a thirty-two country Ireland?

Matt:   Well I was struck by the phrase. It was used by Anthony McIntyre in an article in 1997 I think, and he used it as a analogy between tunneling to the moon and achieving a united Ireland through the Good Friday Agreement so it always stuck in my head. Now granted, it took me a few more years after that to come to the full realisation that this was, actually, not going anywhere. So that’s why I chose the title.

John:  Matt, John McDonagh here. Your book is talking about the winding up of the Irish Republican Army and it was a long process in order to achieve that or for Gerry Adams to really achieve that. But it really, a lot of it had to do with the work of MI5, British intelligence, the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) – I’m reading a book now by an RUC man how he’s writing about how they beat the IRA – and just the amount of infiltration – from the person you worked with – he used to work with Seán O’Callaghan out of Kerry. You had – Martin McGuinness had an MI5 agent working, Denis Donaldson, Freddie Scappaticci – and it just seemed it took a while for the British government get a handle on the Republican Movement because you saw what they did with internment in the ’70’s – they didn’t know who they were picking up but eventually, as the war dragged on – and like a lot of revolutions, they have to be fairly quick because whoever you’re having the revolution against they’re going to get their act together at some stage. And it looks like British intelligence got their act together and were able to infiltrate at key positions throughout the thirty-two counties and, thereby you know, put the movement in a certain direction that they would surrender their weapons and they would administer British rule in Ireland but yet Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would make this as every step that they did: Surrendering the weapons – This is a stepping stone to a united Ireland. Administering British rule in Ireland – That’s another stepping stone. You were part of the intelligence. Was there any talk about how riddled the whole movement was with MI5 intelligence?

Matt:  There’s always rumours about people. I knew Denis Donaldson. He stayed at my house a couple of times. No one would have ever suspected him of being an agent…

Martin:  …Ah, Matt, we actually out here, the way he acted…

John:  …No, no, Martin. You never said he was an MI5 agent.

Martin:  Just, just I have to take an issue: No, we spotted him as an agent after some of the…

John:  …No, no. Martin, you’re wrong there.

Martin:  Okay. Alright.

John:   You never mentioned it the whole time he was out here and said: I believe he’s an MI5 agent.

Martin:  Well, I said that there was something wrong…(crosstalk)

John:  Right! You might have – Listen, there was a lot of things wrong with people in the movement. I knew Denis. I stayed with Denis when I was in Belfast and everything. No one had ever said to me, even in Irish Northern Aid, I believe he’s an MI5. You might not…(crosstalk)

Martin:  …(inaudible) the people in Ireland. Matt, let’s get back to you. (John and I will sort this out afterwards.) But John had asked you that question – about people infiltrating the movement, how that contributed to eventually where we ended up today.

Matt:  

To order Matt’s book click here.

Well my reading of it would be that certain people were in the leadership around Adams and decided, in the late ’80’s maybe, that they were going to stop the armed campaign and that opened the door to British intelligence putting people in. It’s very – it’s a murky world and I’ve never been in the business of accusing people of being agents or insinuating that they were facilitating people but as you say, Scappaticci, Donaldson – you could name a dozen people who were in positions of influence but the key factor in persuading Republicans to agree to a ceasefire was that at conventions and our local IRA meetings the leadership told people: Yeah, look – I know there’s nothing in the Downing Street Declaration but the Brits are telling us secretly, behind the scenes, that they’re going to sell-out the Unionists. And people went along with that for, up until, before decommissioning I suppose. There’s still people who believe that there was never any decommissioning.

Martin:   And who is some of the people who would tell you this at IRA meetings – about that: Oh! There’s some secret kind of promises behind the scenes that the British are going to get out and they’re going to put pressure on the Unionists?

Matt:   Well, when I was in prison and then when I came out it would be local leaders who were (inaudible) line because, I don’t want to get them in any trouble, but it was obviously being filtered down from the top. I remember one occasion somebody questioned, you know, the fact that he read all the documents that had come out and said: Look. This is only leading to one place: an internal settlement. And they said: Oh!, no, no, no. Don’t mind that. They’ve told us that they’re going to withdraw within five or ten or fifteen years. And people believed that until the final denouement when they turned up at meetings and said: That’s it, lads. Go home. You’re finished.

Martin:   Okay. Now you said that this started in the late ’80’s. At that time you had people like Jim Lynagh and others in Loughgall, you had people – John Crawley, that we’ve had, we’ve interviewed on this station, going to England as a member of the IRA just after that time, getting arrested, getting a lengthy prison sentence – how do you do this? Just make a decision that everything is going to end and then at the same time Volunteers are being sent out to imprisonment or death? How, you know, how did that…?

Matt:   …Yeah well John’s a good example because John’s a very intelligent person and he was opposed to what was going on and he would have, I would assume he’d realised what direction was going on (inaudible) himself but we stayed there and John could have ended up being killed as you say or getting tortured for years in prison and there’s lots of other people and that’s one of the points I make in the book: Is the cynicism of certain people who were sending people to England knowing that it was a fool’s errand basically – that they were going to finish. And there’s two people, a youngster from Wexford and another youngster from West Corgaigh, only twenty or twenty-one, and they were both killed in London one of them on the very same day when the Republican leadership was meeting with the British to agree to terms of another ceasefire – it’s just – that’s what I find upsetting.

John:   And Matt, maybe get particularly out to our audience here because they believe everything that Mary Lou McDonald or Rita O’Hare would say here that Gerry Adams was never in the IRA but he just had some ‘influence’, some weird spirituality or some sort of magic that he had over them. Maybe you could explain to us: What was your dealings with Gerry Adams and what did you meet him as? As some sort of spiritual leader?

Matt:    Well, I mean it’s been well-documented in books, like Ed Moloney’s and other places, that he was at IRA Army Conventions and he was on the IRA Army Council and he does have possibly practical reasons for denying that that you know, that he could be arrested and charged with membership but he creates this whole Orwellian mystique – what’s? An Orwellian fiction of what happened that’s totally at odds with the reality. My dealings with him were mainly through Leinster House. My impression was even people who were in senior positions were in awe of him and kind of even slightly afraid of him. Most of the conversations I ever had with him were about Gaelic football and hurling, because of mutual interest, but there’s no doubt he was the centre of the whole thing – nothing happens without his approval.

Martin:   Okay. We’re talking with Matt Treacy, author of A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army. Matt, what do you think of where we are now? You have Sinn Féin, there in – well, Stormont has been dissolved at the moment – but they will be back – they have been in Stormont and it’s thought that they will be back, they have seats in Leinster House. Where does this get us or is there a strategic route to a united Ireland that you can see that we’re (inaudible)…

Matt:   …See, that’s what we believed at the time the ceasefire was called and even after the Good Friday Agreement and even later on that while the armed conflict had finished that the Republican Movement was still going to be militantly directed towards creating a thirty-two county republic – that they wouldn’t go into Stormont and they wouldn’t, certainly wouldn’t, take any part in the Executive and certainly not be in coalition for ten years with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). But it took a long time for a lot of people, including myself, for the veil to be lifted and realise this is actually not going anywhere. And at the moment they’re creating this whole deception about a border poll which has no chance – well there’s no chance of it being called in the first place – but even it was called, judging by electoral statistics going back thirty years, it would be a sixty-forty at least vote in favour of staying within the British, under British rule so my take on that…

John:  …And, Matt. Yeah. And Matt, what about your over-all analysis? Do you think the Republican Movement just got so ‘Belfast-centric’ where everything was coming out of the Falls Road or Andersonstown and that Ed Moloney has always written that people that joined the IRA in Belfast were more of neighbourhood defenders – that they weren’t really Republicans. All they were defending were some of the pogroms that were going out and they joined up with like these like neighbourhood watch oragnisations which essentially then became the IRA but they weren’t Republican – say to the people like you, in Dublin, or people in Donegal or around the Thirty-Two Counties that had a political analysis and joined for a specific political reason – they weren’t being burnt out – but then the whole thing centres on Belfast, this ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ – Belfast – you know, with Gerry Adams and everybody up there and it just – What is your – did it get too ‘Belfast-centric’ and was is spread out enough? The Movement?

Matt:    Oh, definitely! I spent a bit of time in Fermanagh and I remember a Belfast person coming down to address a meeting, this is around the time of well, the whole thing had finished and they were talking about decommissioning with people from Fermanagh and some Tyrone people there and they were objecting to it and the Belfast person was almost contemptuous of them – Who are you to be telling us what to do, you know? Just go home to your houses and forget about it! And the other thing is that: There was a huge influx of money, which mainly ended up in Belfast between Republican and Loyalist groups, to employ ex-prisoners and people who were loyal to their leaderships and that kept them quiet. And some of them have done very well so they’re happy and they can justify it on the basis that there’s no British soldiers walking down the Falls Road anymore. Well there were no British soldiers walking down the Falls Road in July 1969 either of course, it was still part of a partitioned state and it’s still constitutionally the same, so..

Martin:   …Okay. Alright, We’re talking with …

Matt:   …they’re happy.

Martin:   We’re talking with Matt Treacy, he’s the author of the new book, A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army . Matt, could you tell us: If people are interested in buying that book or finding out more about it, how would they get that information?

Matt:   Well currently it’s not in any shops at the moment but it’s online on Lulu and on the website brocairebooks dot ie.

Martin:   How do you spell that? (Martin spells Brocaire.) dot ie?

Matt:    Yeah.

Martin:    Okay. So that’s (Martin spells Brocaire) books?

Matt:   Yeah.

Martin:    Is that all one word?

Matt:   Yeah, dot ie. Yeah.

Martin:  So in other words you would go to brocairebooks (Martin spells brocaire and books) one word dot ie (for Ireland) and just what? Brocairebooks and that would come up and they would be able to order or get information on the book through that website?

Matt:  Yeah, well Lulu is probably the best way to order it at the moment.

Martin:  Okay, so you can order it through Lulu.

John:  Yeah and Matt, you’ve been talking about how people have done well out of the thirty years of conflict financially and buying property and we had the news stories just in recent weeks with Sinn Féin winning a lot of seats over in Westminster and having one of their Sinn Féin members out of Doire slash Londonderry stroke City complaining about the hotel room she had. And I’ve talked to Martin about how many IRA men that came over here to the Bronx and Queens and they all stayed on couches and you sent them down to Philadelphia on fund raising or out to Chicago or Boston – there’s was no talk of hotel rooms it was just who had a safe house in what area. And now their MPs are complaining about their accommodations now when they’re traveling. And I know Mary Lou McDonald I think flew first class down to Australia because she said: Do you know how long a flight that is? That you have to go first class when all the immigrants are sitting right behind her as they’re being shuttled down to Australia but – it’s come a long way, Sinn Féin and people in the Republican…

Matt:  …That’s another thing that I found objectionable in that you have all these people who came in when it was safe and there’s people like, say Anthony McIntyre, who spent eighteen years in prison, all the people who were killed, people died on hunger strike, they went on the blanket protest – now these people, and I know some of them personally who are now in Sinn Féin, who were asked to you know, provide certain supports and they refuse point-blank and now suddenly they’ve appeared like mushrooms and – it’s quite depressing.

John:  Yes, it certainly didn’t end well. We’ve had on people like Brendan Hughes here saying that if he had known this was going be the end result he would have never got out of bed and then we had on Liam Sutcliffe, who blew up Nelson’s Pillar back in 1996 (Ed. – 1966), and he says: You know, thirty years and we didn’t get one blade of grass – that it wasn’t worth it. And it’s just you could never have predicted or had anybody joined the movement and said: Listen! Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to wait thirty years and then we’re going to administer British rule in Ireland. That’s our objective. I don’t know how many people would have joined.

Martin:   Alright. Matt, we want to thank you. I’ll do it one more time: Brocaire (Martin spells Brocaire) books – that’s all one word. Is that with an ‘s’? Books, plural? brocairebooks dot ie for that book by Matt Treacy. The book is A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army and if you want to find out what happened, where we ended up and why people, a thirty-year veteran of the IRA like Matt Treacy, a former Irish political prisoner, served a sentence in Portlaoise, attached to the Intelligence Division, where he thinks it all went, how it ended up, where we are and why he’s so dubious about the idea of getting a united Ireland under the present way things are going now that is one place to get that research. And we would also refer you to Anthony McIntyre’s site, The Pensive Quill, because there are reviews and Matt Treacy writes on that, has contributed a number of pieces there. (ends time stamp ~ 51:34)