Paul Gallagher and Derek Hussey The News at One BBC Radio Foyle 1 February 2018

The News at One
BBC Radio Foyle

Seán O’Halloran speaks to Derry City and Strabane District Council members Paul Gallagher (Independent) and Derek Hussey (UUP) about the ban on the Irish Tricolour in Strabane’s official 2018 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

Where’s the audio? It is not available for download. To listen as you read please click here. (begins time stamp ~13:28)

Seán:    The Irish Tricolour has been banned from this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Strabane. Derry and Strabane Council has confirmed that flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade. A spokesperson said it was designed to make the event a cross-community cultural celebration but it is believed at least one band has already pulled out as a result. Our reporter, Una Kelly, has been getting reaction in Strabane.

Audio:  Una Kelly reporting from Strabane.

(transcript pauses)

(transcript resumes)

Seán:  Well, some strong opinion from Strabane there. Well, listening to that is Paul Gallagher, an Independent Councillor from Strabane, and Derek Hussey, a UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) councillor. If we could start with you, Paul Gallagher: Is this something you support?

Paul: 

Cllr. Paul Gallagher
Independent
Sperrins
Photo: Council bio

Seán, could I first could I say, to set it in context: There’s been a community festival in Strabane around Saint Paddy’s Day for the last twelve years and flags were very much welcome. This year the Council has taken ownership of it and is providing funding for it. And they have used their interpretation, Council workers have used their interpretation for legislation, and have said they would prefer no Tricolours. However when we look, we as councillors, I think we must give direction and interpretation to our staff. We must give it through, as elected representatives, through the chamber. When we look at this legislation this is the same legislation that’s used by all councils throughout The North and we see in, for example, like Causeway Coast and Glens that Council can fly a Union Jack in the mainly Nationalist town of Ballycastle – that’s using the same interpretation. Therefore we, as councillors, must give the direction to our staff around interpretation of this legislation.

Seán:  When you mention interpretation there, when the council says flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade do you intend to voice your opposition to that?

Paul:  That was the current, that’s the current status quo that the Council staff are interpreting. I think as a result…

Seán:  …Do you disagree with that?

Paul:  What I’m saying to you is: In order to bring a balanced approach, in order to bring a balanced approach and to transition from being a community festival to a Council festival – the time to bring it forward from out of the chamber is too late for this year but, as a councillor, I had to bring it into the chamber that we change the interpretation that Council’s using.

Seán:  So you’re not happy with the interpretation for this year’s parade. I mean Derek Hussey, what’s your reaction to this? Is this something that you would welcome?

Derek: 

Alderman Derek Hussey
Ulster Unionist Party
Derg
Photo: Council bio

Well firstly, I think we all have to realise that the symbolism and heritage of Patrick belongs to all and commemoration of his feast day has the potential to bring citizens together and associated events of commemoration.  Non-partisan participation in these events is something to be desired and it’s something that should be encouraged. But it must be realised that the development of a more representative community involvement is a long-term project. Now the Council instruction that the ‘official’ events of the day would be flag-free is welcomed. But you know, I sometimes have to wonder at the absence of the Flag of Patrick during the day’s events throughout the world and fail to understand why there are those that find it necessary to have the flag of the Republic of Ireland so prominently on display.

Seán:  And then obviously if you take the statement at its word, Mr. Hussey, the ban of shamrocks – of flags and emblems – I mean that could technically mean that maybe shamrocks can’t be used in an ‘official’ parade.

Derek:  That’s where it is. And indeed you know, the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick, similarly, which I have failed to observe in many, many Saint Patrick’s Day commemorations throughout the world and it seems to have been overcome with the flag of a small nation.

Seán:   And in the interest of balance: Would you support on the ban of the Union flag on The Twelfth, for example?

Derek:   Absolutely not! Why would I?

Seán:    Well just going along, the letter from Council here in terms of how they’re governing their own Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Going back to you, Paul Gallagher, is this a Council official decision then?

Paul:   Well, it’s an interpretation by the staff and can I say to you that Council officially…

Seán:   …Official staff at Council have taken this interpretation?

Paul:   Yes, yes. And as I say, in fairness to them, that we, as councillors, must give direction and leadership. But can I say to you: The precedent has already been set when Council officially, ‘officially’ now, supported 1916 Easter Rising events as well as World War I events in 2016. So the precedent of Council officially funding projects and events where the Tricolour was present and the Union Jack was present has already been made. Therefore I think it’s for us, as councillors, to be fair to our staff as to give clear direction and at the minute that clear direction is not there.

Seán:   And maybe that’s why we know that at least one band has already pulled out?

Paul:   Well, one band has pulled out and what I would say to the community in Strabane who’s previously engaged is: Not to pull out of the events that are going to get organised on the day. The bands can organise their own events that can run alongside the Council’s ‘official’ events. So you know, like the language around ‘banned’, language around ‘banned’ – it’s what we, as councillors, would say has been introduced in Strabane. So it’s all around interpretation and you hear Councillor Hussey there doesn’t like interpretation when it comes to the Union Jack.

Seán:   Okay. Paul Gallagher and Derek Hussey, thanks for joining us.

Derek:   Seán, Seán, you’ve cut me very short there. Can I just add something to that?

Seán:   Yes, very briefly if you could.

Derek:   Thank you. You know, one thing that’s been overlooked in this is that it’s regrettable that Council have now determined to also incorporate the commemorative events in Strabane into a so-called ‘Irish Language Week’ which lasts seventeen days. And you know, the former Saint Patrick’s Day in Strabane is now being re-branded within the Strabane Spring Festival and it seemingly has morphed effectively into an Irish language festival in Strabane. In such a context can you envisage a tsunami from the PUL (Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist) community back when (inaudible) in Strabane rather the perception of Strabane…

Seán:   …Okay, Mr. Hussey, we will, we really will have to leave it there. Apologies, that might be an issue for another day. (ends time stamp ~ 21:40)

Gerry Adams The Andrew Marr Show BBC One 4 February 2018

The Andrew Marr Show
BBC One

Andrew Marr sat down with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams last week in Dundalk and talked about the future of Sinn Féin, Brexit and Irish unity.

Andrew:   Now then, few political lives divide opinion like Gerry Adams. For some, he’s a man of blood who defended many IRA atrocities during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. To others, he’s a courageous peacemaker who was instrumental in the Good Friday Agreement twenty years ago. After thirty-five years as president of Sinn Féin Mr. Adams is standing down this month and handing over to a new generation of Republican leaders. I sat down with him last week in Dundalk near the Irish border to reflect on his life campaigning for a united Ireland. I began by asking him whether he had failed in that endeavour?

Gerry:  No, because when I joined Sinn Féin, which was over fifty years ago, it was banned, it was outlawed. There was no prospect, really, of a strategy for Irish unity. If I look back now, a half a million people vote for Sinn Féin. We’re the second largest party in The North. There’s now a peaceful way to get Irish unity.

Andrew:  Your old comrade, Martin McGuinness, never saw it. Do you think you’ll see it?

Gerry:    Yes, if I live long enough and you know, with Martin’s passing, I suppose, proves to all of us that you can’t be certain about anything. You know Martin – I miss Martin every single – day so, is an Irish Republic, is Irish unity inevitable? No, it isn’t. It’s only going to happen if we work at it. I come from a very, very straightforward position: I want to see an end to the British connection with Ireland.

Andrew:  How much does the Brexit vote help your ideal of a united Ireland?

Gerry:  


Gerry Adams with Andrew Marr
Photo: BBC News

I think we need to be very, very careful that we don’t see Brexit as something which can be exploited. Brexit is disastrous for the people of Ireland. The British government are not at all clear about what their future relationship with the European Union’s going to be and they are arguing that they’re going to leave the customs union and they are going to leave the single market and that will end up a complete disaster for people here on the island of Ireland. The agreement that was made recently, which moved the negotiations into their second phase, was a fudge. It’s filled with contradictions. The, the…

Andrew:  …Fudge is not always bad.

Gerry:   Well, it is not always bad if it gets you over a particular difficulty. Tonnes of business people are totally dependent on the flow back and forth of business and commerce across what is an invisible border. When a hard economic border comes back that’s going to stump that – it’s going to destroy that.

Andrew:  If it comes back. If it comes back. One of your own MPs, Mr. (Chris) Hazzard, has said that if it comes back those customs posts and those hard pieces of infrastructure along the border could become a target for dissident Republican groups and mass civil disobedience and we could see the return of violence around the border. Do you share that worry?

Gerry:   Yes, I would. He didn’t say it was likely. He said it was a concern. And one has to be concerned that this would be exploited but look – you see, people have got used, after decades of conflict, people have got used to peace so the images which you may have or which I may have of border checkpoints and of heavy patrols and all of that…

Andrew:  …They belong to history…

Gerry:  That all belongs to history and nobody wants that back.

Andrew:  Now these debates are going to be thrashed out on the floor of the House of Commons and there are going to be some very substantial votes. If Sinn Féin took up its seats and even voted once or twice you could change the course of British history and change the course of history for the whole island of Ireland. Is it really worth Republican principle not taking those seats and not engaging in those votes?

Gerry:   Well before I deal with that let me tell you the solution to this problem: The solution to this problem is special designated status for The North within the European Union and that is do-able…

Andrew:  …but the Irish government don’t like this idea and nor do they like it in Brussels. They think it sets too many precedents for the rest of the EU.

Gerry:   Well, I don’t know whether they like it or not because they’re very flexible in terms of how they deal with the European Union and its relationships with the various different states and with political will that is very, very, very do-able. Now coming back to the issue of Sinn Féin taking our seats at Westminster: We just received the largest vote that we ever received…

Andrew:  …and you have leverage.

Gerry:   No, sorry,sorry, Andrew – we, when we get a mandate – obey that mandate and stay true to that mandate. But that vote was a vote for no British involvement in our affairs. The centre of political gravity being on the island of Ireland. So we will not betray those people who had a choice.

Andrew:   Let’s talk, if we may now, about the past: Why did you not join the IRA?

Gerry:   Because I was active in Sinn Féin when the IRA was just nonexistent. In the 1960’s after the Border Campaign the whole trajectory within Republicanism was to build politically and I’m one of the very small group of people who were activists before the pogroms in 1969 – I’m one of the very few Republicans in there. Now, having said that and, you know, it’s a matter of history, the IRA’s gone, Andrew. The IRA is gone. And I mean my position has been consistent that I was not a member of the IRA but I’ve never distanced myself from the IRA.

Andrew:   Well that’s the, so that’s – were you never tempted to join?

Gerry:   No, no, I wasn’t. No. I had my role in the struggle. I’d like to think I’ve served the struggle well.

Andrew:   Because, I mean you always supported the armed struggle. You always defended the IRA. You were treated by members of the IRA as a kind of commander when you were in Long Kesh and everybody who studied you – I mean I range from British politicians to journalists – they all think you were in the IRA. You always say: No, I wasn’t and I wasn’t on the Army Council. Why is it that everybody else, including the people who left their testimony in Boston and so forth, are sure that you were?

Gerry:  You’ll have to ask them that, Andrew. And you know some day I’ll do an interview and this issue won’t arise. Now I don’t mind dealing with the issue but I make the point again: See, the IRA have gone. I did defend the IRA but I also was very critical of the IRA at times. I don’t condone everything that the IRA did.

Andrew:  You were very, very vociferous and very clear in condemning the Manchester Arena bombing by an Islamic group. What is the moral difference between that, for instance, and the Birmingham Pub bombings?

Gerry:   Well the Birmingham Pub bombings were wrong. I condemn that as well.  I don’t have any compunction about it.

Andrew:   But those again, those were innocent people going in just to have a pint of Mild and listen to a jukebox.

Gerry:   Oh, no, no – but I gave you my answer to that. I mean I would wish that no one, no one, had been killed or injured in the course of the conflict.

Andrew:   At some point you changed your mind about the physical force process and about the use of violence. When and why did you change your mind?

Gerry:   Because we were able to create an alternative. When you can put forward an alternative sensible people will embrace that alternative because no one wants to be either supporting or part – no one sensible, wants to be supporting or part of armed action – so once you present an alternative – it’s when you close down the options, when you say to people…

Andrew:  …So it was tactical rather than moral. It wasn’t you saying: This is morally wrong. Killing people like this is the wrong thing to do, morally – it no longer works is what you’re saying, in a sense.

Gerry:  No, no, sorry, Andrew, I’m better able to tell you what I think on these matters than you to put words into my mouth. If we want to talk about morality you’d need a longer show than this. But look, you can only make moral judgments about people when you walk in their shoes and that’s, that’s, thankfully, is we’re talking here about history, we’re talking about something that has passed…

Andrew:   …So there was not a moment when you looked at the death of Tim Parry or some kid…

Gerry:   …Of course! Of course!…

Andrew:   …or whatever and you thought: This has gone far enough. I can no longer stick with this…

Gerry:  …Of course! Of course! And I said that at the time…

Andrew:  …it was a moral revulsion?…

Gerry:   And I said that at the time. So how could anyone, even if it’s accidental, how could anyone stand over the killing of a child or stand over the killing of a civilian? It’s a much different matter entirely, if you want to be into all of that, if it’s soldiers versus soldiers but in the awfulness of and the horror of war you cannot stand over some of those incidents.

Andrew:  You spent a lot of time sitting on the other side of the table from a whole stream of British leaders – very, very early days – Ted Heath and Willie Whitelaw and so forth and then John Major, Tony Blair, Peter Mandleson, Mo Mowlam – which of those did most for peace in Ireland in your view?

Gerry:   Well I suppose Tony Blair – you know and I would have big issues with him around Iraq and other matters and we actually, myself and Martin, warned him about not getting involved in Iraq.

Andrew:   Did you?

Gerry:    Oh, yes, yes! We said to him: Don’t, don’t do – look at the Irish experience – don’t go in there. But he was given an opportunity, if you’d like, on a plate and he seized it.

Andrew:   So Tony Blair – and now Tony Blair’s party is led by a very, very different man who’s always supported a united Ireland, he’s been a big backer of yours over the years – what difference would it make to the island of Ireland and to Sinn Féin and your cause to have Jeremy Corbyn as British Prime Minister, which he might well be?

Gerry:   Well I would like to see Jeremy in that position for the benefit of the people in Britain – leaving Ireland out of it. I think Jeremy is an outstanding politician and I hope…

Andrew:   …Let’s put Ireland back into it…

Gerry:   …I hope my endorsement of him isn’t used against him in the time ahead. But yes, he and Ken Livingstone and others kept faith and they were the people who said, when others said no, talk. They were the people who were open to conversation about how to deal with conflict and how to get conflict resolution processes but look – let’s not preempt the next…

Andrew:  …Of course not…

Gerry:  …general election.

Andrew:    Gerry Adams, are you a man of faith?

Gerry:   Yes, I am. Yes.

Andrew:   So one day you’ll be judged by your maker and when you’re being judged by your maker will you be able to say: I have clean hands?

Gerry:   Well, the one thing that I understand about faith – and you know, as you get older you reflect on all of these things – the one thing I know about Jesus is that He forgave. He didn’t go round condemning. Treat people with dignity and people will respond in a dignified way. Treat people badly and people will respond badly.

Andrew:   Nobody gets to write their own obituary – but what would be the headline on yours?

Gerry:   Well, God knows. I’m not really interested. You know, some people say to me: What’s your legacy? I won’t be around, you know?

Andrew:   None of us will. Gerry Adams, thank you very much indeed for talking to us.