Anthony McIntyre RFÉ 11 November 2017

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

Martin Galvin speaks to Anthony McIntyre, former Republican prisoner now historian, author and commentator, via telephone from Co. Louth about several topics that are of interest to the Irish Republican community. (begins time stamp ~ 19:58)

Martin:  We do have Dr. Anthony McIntyre – we had a little bit of difficulty reaching Dominic Óg McGlinchey, we’re going to try him towards the end of the programme. Anthony, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. Hello?

Anthony:  Hello!

Martin:  Anthony, are you with us?

Anthony:  I am but you’re hard to hear. Go ahead.

Martin:  Alright. No, we had a little trouble. We dialed Dominic Óg McGlinchey and weren’t able to make a connection. We’re going to try him again a little bit later in the programme but we wanted to go to you directly. There’ve been a number of important stories in The North of Ireland. This is one of our ‘catch-up’ programmes where we try to catch-up, bring the audience up-to-date, on a number of different issues and we can think of no better person than you, Dr. Anthony McIntyre, a commentator, journalist and somebody who keeps the blog, The Pensive Quill, to try and help us with all those stories so welcome back. Okay, first thing: When we discontinued for fund raising, obviously last January Sinn Féin had resigned from Stormont, there was a new election, there were talks, there were deadlines – many deadlines and deadlines were passed – and where are we now in terms of Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reconstituting the Stormont Assembly?

Anthony:  Well, it’s not going to happen this week or next week. I think at the very least we will have to get past the party conferences. And I think Newton Emerson pointed this out in an article in the Irish News that the party conferences are coming up so there’s little chance of an agreement being reached prior to those conferences. Now the talks have broken down. James Brokenshire, the British Secretary of State, has said that he has to introduce a budget and he’s starting to move in the British Parliament, I think this Monday, to introduce a budget that will be imposed on The North and there’s an argument that he’s trying to say that this is not Direct Rule but you know this is rhetoric. It’s hard to see how it isn’t Direct Rule. It’s certainly the substance of Direct Rule – budgetary matters being controlled by London. So we’re – even though they’re saying it’s not Direct Rule I think Colum Eastwood of the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), the leader of the SDLP, made the point that it that looks very like Direct Rule – it walks like Direct Rule, it talks like Direct Rule so…

Martin:  Okay.

Anthony:  Hello?

Martin:  Yes. Alright. The Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – they have totally opposite objectives. Sinn Féin wants a united Ireland. The Democratic Union…

Anthony:  …No, that’s not true. Sinn Féin says it wants a united Ireland. Sinn Féin’s a partitionist party that supports the partitionist principle of unity by consent. Sinn Féin for years had opposed that. Sinn Féin were the political wing of the IRA and the IRA killed over a thousand members of the security forces, the British security forces. The IRA killed over a thousand members of the British security forces with Sinn Fein’s endorsement. And those British security forces, at one level, were defending the Principle of Consent.

Martin:  Alright. But the Democratic Unionist Party views any moves by Sinn Féin, whatever they try, as some sort of threat or bribe or some sort of secret move towards a united Ireland – even to the point where if you would just have an Irish Language Act (ILA) similar presumably to what they have in Wales, they have a Welsh language act in Wales, they have a Scottish language act in Scotland – even a move like that is viewed as a red line, something that the Democratic Unionist Party will not accept where even reconciliation gestures, sorry initiatives, like those of Declan Kearney and others, they are looked on suspiciously, they are looked on as some sort of trick to come over, a trojan horse, to get involved with undermining British rule. How do two parties – Alex Kane, the Unionist commentator, and others have made this same statement from a Unionist perspective – how do two parties which have totally different views how do they come together and work a coalition on any other basis other than what Suzanne Breen used to write about as ‘rollover Republicanism’ – going along, with Sinn Féin going along with the DUP – how do they ever get a real agreement that would recognise rights, that would jeopardise what the Unionist see, or Democratic Unionist Party sees, as the basis of continued British rule?

Anthony:  Well, the way that they will get it will be through the Sinn Féin leader calculating that it’s in his career interest, in the interest of his political career, that they reach an agreement in The North. I’m not a pessimist about that some sort of agreement being reached in The North because I think it’s dependent whether or not (and we’ll learn more about this from the upcoming Ard Fheis) but it’s dependent on whether or not the Sinn Féin party can get into government in The South. Now, they’ve been making overtures to Fine Gael, they’ve been making overtures to Fianna Fáil, and I’ve no doubt that there’s been back-channel negotiations and feeling-out processes in place and what would happen then is the Sinn Féin president will reckon that his chances of getting into government will be greatly increased if he is also seen as being in government in The North. And at that point Sinn Féin will move into government in The North regardless of the Irish Language Act being in place or not. It has to be borne in mind that Sinn Féin were in government for ten years in The North – what did they actually do to go about securing an Irish Language Act? I mean the Executive didn’t collapse over an Irish Language Act. It collapsed over the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) in which the party had blamed Arlene Foster on – and with, I mean, good reason – but we hardly hear them mention that today. They’re claiming today that the talks are collapsing because or they can’t reach agreement because of the Irish Language Act, marriage equality and the legacy issues – the right to have inquests into killings in The North by British state security personnel.

Martin:  Okay. Tell me – if the British government introduces a budget – that’s technically Direct Rule or may be considered Direct Rule. How much difference does that really make to people on the ground? The Tory/DUP, whatever you want to call it, partners, they set a block grant. The block grant really controls how much money is available. It is going to lead to and mean cuts of crucial services in The North of Ireland. Would it matter, how much does it matter if it’s the DUP and Sinn Féin at Stormont once they get – it’s like children getting an allowance – once you get that allowance there’s only so much you can do with it, you’re not going to get more money than that allowance – how much does it really matter if the budget is set by Westminster instead of by the DUP and Sinn Féin in some sort of partnership or carve-up?

Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism by Anthony McIntyre

Anthony:  Well, given that the DUP are neoliberal in their outlook, very neoliberal in their outlook, they will not worry too much about shafting the poorer sectors of Northern society. The Sinn Féin are not just as neoliberal and they have a constituency that would expect more. I mean, Sinn Féin have been promising to put manners on the PSNI – failed absolutely! They will not be able to put manners on the Tories. And Sinn Féin are always vulnerable to electoral erosion, particularly to groups like the People Before Profit (PBP) if they’re seen to be implementing the Tory austerity policy. Now Sinn Féin are quite prepared to implement austerity and Sinn Fein are quite prepared to basically shaft the poorest of the society in the interest of obtaining power. But it is convenient for them to have the Tories making them decisions and then they blame the Tories. But as you say, Sinn Féin in government – and I never call it power-sharing I call it power-splitting because this is what it is – they split power between, in a very ungenerous fashion, between the two main parties who, as you pointed out earlier and Alex Kane has said this as well, they absolutely hate each other but this devil’s alliance, this unholy alliance and it suits both to have this alliance. But it will suit Sinn Féin, to some extent, and let the Tories take the flak on the budget but at the end of the day if Adams decides that his political career is best served by that government in The North, getting it up and running, in conjunction with a government in The South – that’s what he’ll go for.

Martin:  Alright. Now, you mentioned the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland): Now ten years ago there were debates, John and I both worked for candidates who opposed Sinn Féin endorsing the PSNI. What everybody was told: You had the Patten Commission, you had 50/50 recruitment (which has since been done away with), you had policing boards, you had Sinn Féin being involved, very much, on those policing boards – as well as independents, as well as the DUP – and that that would give Nationalists the chance, as you said, to teach, put manners on the PSNI. And all we see in recent weeks, when you talk about legacy issues, when you talk about, for example, the Glenanne case, where about a hundred and thirty people were murdered by Loyalists with, it seems to be, in collusion with British Crown forces – in order to get the truth they were back in court to try and force the PSNI to investigate it and the case, the respondent, the defendant, the person against whom they bring the case is the PSNI Chief Constable. When you talk about not giving a budget for legacy inquests, starving them, stalling them out with money, if you look at the policing boards – they have overall responsibility. The PSNI Chief Constable is the one who implements a budget on a daily basis but the policing boards oversee that annually, they do reports on it – why is it that these structures, these boards, have had no effect whatsoever in getting justice for people who have been denied inquests, who were the victims of collusion? Why is it they now have to go to court, they now have to go to Ombudsman, which is a way of saying that the policing boards failed, that the political structures at Stormont failed, that we can’t get justice in that way. In fact, I just talked about a new film, No Stone Unturned – you have to go to an American film maker to try and get justice – policing boards seem not to work. Why is that?

Anthony:  Well, they were set up not to work. They were never set up to be a serious indictment of the state and they have shown their total ineffectualness in this very situation in that we now have the judiciary hitting out at the British police, the PSNI, because of their tardiness and their absolute reluctance to do anything in relation to truth recovery. See, the biggest change under Patten was the change of the name; the name changed from the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) to the PSNI. Now if the PSNI were to face a threat similar in nature and substance to the threat posed by the Provisional IRA the PSNI would behave exactly like the RUC did – no difference whatsoever – because it would probably find itself in a situation where it felt that was the best way to defeat any insurgency so there’s been no substantive change in this force. And this force now is defending and covering up for the worst atrocities. There has never been one member of the PSNI, when it was called the RUC, not one member of it has been brought before the courts for torture yet there were numerous people tortured by the PSNI when it was the RUC.


The Irish News
13 November 2017

They are doing everything possible to prevent investigations into the past yet they want to investigate Republicans – they’re even chasing after myself on charges of IRA membership and attempted escape from prison and bomb attacks that the Loyalists actually carried out. I mean, this is where they’re wasting public money in the American courts and in the courts in The North of Ireland and they’re not willing to spend money and bring in anybody, any of their own people, to trial.

Now if we look at the recent case involving Gary Haggarty where they say his evidence, despite it being substantial, his evidence would not stand up in court. Now that was a means for the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service and the British Public Prosecutor in The North, Barra McGrory, that is a means for them to allow the PSNI to get off the hook and probably more importantly it’s a signal – a shot across the bows of those who think that the John Boutcher Operation Kanova inquiry is going anywhere. Freddie Scappaticci, the agent Stakeknife, will be characterised and dismissed as an accomplice and accomplice evidence is not acceptable in the courts of The North at the moment. So I mean this force is doing its utmost to thwart justice and it is no surprise to me that people are increasingly alienated from it. Gerry Kelly will get up and talk rubbish about he supports people joining the PSNI because it’s an Irish police force. They’re no more Irish than the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) the RUC before it. They’re a British police force. They’re managed, effectively, in terms of what they can do and limited, effectively, in terms of what they can do by MI5. The PSNI are not accountable to an Irish administrative system they’re accountable to the British administrative system and British interests haven’t changed that much.

Martin:  Alright. – we’re talking with Dr. Anthony McIntyre – Anthony, there was a new bill introduced – it’s not formally endorsed by the government yet although it’s a member of their party and it was drawn by members of the Democratic Unionist Party and what this bill would do is impose a ten year statute of limitations on any murders or crimes committed by British troopers in The North of Ireland as well as other areas. We’ve had Kate Nash and others on campaigning for prosecutions of British troopers for Bloody Sunday going back to 1972. We’ve had people like the Ballymurphy Massacre Families – if they are cleared by an inquest it might mean that somebody else is guilty of shooting down these people, unarmed people on the street, without provocation, including a Catholic priest, a mother, people going to the aid of others who were wounded – what would it mean to those families, Kate Nash, the Bloody Sunday families, if the British do introduce this ten year statute of limitations?

Anthony:  Well, I mean it’s a ruse. The first question we ask ourselves is it’s a general amnesty – a blanket amnesty for all British security forces because how many people have been killed by British state security forces in The North in the last ten years? So anybody killed before that – you know, there’s been none – I mean, maybe one or two but not in sort of political circumstances. What happens there is that they’re given an amnesty. And I, I mean I have told Kate Nash myself (and other people) that I disagree with the pursuit of prosecution strategies because it’s a means of preventing the truth from emerging about the past. We will never get the truth while we insist on prosecution strategies but the problem here it’s a one-sided, skewed manner in which the British are trying again to apply this. They want it to apply to only British soldiers and the RUC. And so what it means is that the people who’ll continue to appear in courts for activities that occurred, events that occurred forty, forty-five years ago will be Republicans, in some cases Loyalists – no state forces – which means there’s a hierarchy of victims and some victims are going to be treated vastly different from others. Like if you can drag an eighty year old Republican like Ivor Bell in front of the courts why the hypocrisy and shouting about eighty year old soldiers getting dragged in front of the courts?

Martin:  …And in particularly…

Anthony:  …the law has to…

Martin:  …And in particularly demonstrations in front of Westminster, people walking around, how it’s ‘Frankenstein justice’ if you bring somebody like Dennis Hutchings into a court for shooting down a young man running away in Benburb, you know, years ago. Okay…

Anthony:  …Well I mean the complaint…

Martin:  …I just want to get to a couple of more things: Brexit – the negotiations are still going on. It just reminds me what happened here in the United States with Obamacare: You had the Trump Administration and others, Republicans were saying for years we want to repeal and replace Obamacare and everything’ll be great after that, it’ll be great for the economy, all the problems will be solved, all the problems with medical care and costs of medical care will be solved, just elect us, give us our chance. And then obviously when they got elected they had the chance to do that – they have no idea what to do. They have no replacement. They have no programme to do it with. It just seemed to be a good slogan to get elected. In terms of Brexit in The North of Ireland: You had the Tories, you had people calling for Brexit – for breaking away from the European Community – that that was going to make the British a great empire again, it was going to solve all their economic problems, it was going to give everybody jobs and better pay and now it seems they have no strategy for dealing with it, no strategy for what happens. It seems like they thought it would never happen, they don’t have a way to go forward and Ireland, particularly counties – like you live in Co. Louth – and Donegal, others are going to pay a very heavy price for it if it is implemented. How do you see it?

Anthony:  Well I mean I think you’re right. The British who were pushing for this, and Theresa May was not a Brexiteer, but the British who were pushing for this had simply no – the right-wing of the Tory party had no idea and they didn’t anticipate a victory and then when they were handed a victory they didn’t know what to do with it. I think that’s been proved in recent times. And the interesting thing is that in The North there has been, in relation to The North, there has been a document uncovered in recent days which shows that the European Union (EU) are pushing for The North to remain within Europe and while Britain will not – now, that would cause serious problems for Unionism but also would be an administrative nightmare for the British and they’re already responding by saying there will be no borders within the UK – it’s not happening. So it’s very unlikely to happen. And the Taoiseach has rolled back from suggestions, well he hasn’t rolled back himself but he’s disputed suggestions, and Simon Coveney, the Foreign Minister, disputed suggestions that the Irish government has been pushing to have The North to stay within the EU which would sort of make it very, it would become very much identifiable as an island totally separate from Britain and the Unionists and the Tories don’t want that but because the Tories have handled it so badly it’s impossible to say what way it will go because there’s no pattern or plan or logic that can be followed here. You’re just watching them dance about and jump from issue to issue. They’re getting ridiculed in Europe. They simply have no idea how to handle this and because there’s no plan of action we’re not able to sit down and look at the blueprint – it’s make it up as you go along. And I mean Theresa May is under pressure, although I don’t think it’s terminal, but it’s certainly causing her government pressure in that she’s lost two ministers this month. She’s lost a Minister for Defense due to his sexual harassment of women and she’s lost a Minister of International Development for striking secret deals with the State of Israel. So she is under pressure and there’s everything to play for here in terms of what way things will go. But I’m of the view that coming into the new year we will still have Theresa May at the head of the Tory government but The North, I mean she’s too dependent on the DUP for us to see any type of policy introduced which the DUP would find anathema. So all, I think, will be pretty much the same.

Martin:  Alright. We were not able to get Dominic Óg McGlinchey but you ran a piece on The Pensive Quill in which there was a controversy: Peadar Heffron wrote a piece and he was interviewed by a journalist for the Irish Independent. Peter Heffron was, or Peadar Heffron, excuse me, was somebody from a Nationalist area, played Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sports and joined the PSNI which we’ve talked about – he was a victim of a – was injured in an attack and he says he’s a bitter man – he didn’t like the way that the football club that he had belonged to received him – they weren’t sympathetic enough to him and Dominic Óg McGlinchey had written a piece saying that much of what Peadar Heffron said might be the basis of neighbours of Peadar Heffron, former neighbours of Peadar Heffron, being targeted, being victimised, that in that area there are numerous people who were victims of assassinations – either with the help of or covered up by people who joined the PSNI. Why do you think Dominic Óg McGlinchey wrote that piece or what were the themes in that piece that you printed on The Pensive Quill?

Anthony:  Well firstly, Peadar Heffron yeah, I mean he’s a bitter man who joined a bitter force. And I mean what happened to Peadar Heffron – and I’ve written about this and I’ve expressed my view in relation to his – the attack on him and the attack also on Ronan Kerr, another Catholic on that force, that ended up, he died, I think there’s no justification for these attacks whatsoever. But, what Dominic McGlinchey was writing about was the sentiment that exists at local level in some communities, in Nationalist communities in The North, towards the PSNI. The acceptance of the PSNI by Sinn Féin is to enhance political careers. It’s not to deliver justice. There’s never been manners put on the PSNI. And people who are sitting in Nationalists areas watching the PSNI cover-up for the RUC murders, the RUC tortures, are very unhappy and a lot of Nationalists lost their lives in that particular area where Peadar Heffron lived and, although he wasn’t a serving member of the PSNI – he served, I think, in Woodbourne and Belfast – Peadar Heffron’s joining of the PSNI would have angered a lot of people who have every right to dissent from his decision to join equally as they have the right to applaud his decision to join. And his colleagues in the Gaelic Club seemed not to have liked it at the time and were pretty blunt and telling him that they didn’t respect his decision.

Because Sinn Féin want to go along with policing doesn’t me that everybody and their gran have to think that the police are a good thing. Sinn Féin needed to accept the police to get into government. They didn’t reform the police to any great extent and, as you pointed out, the 50/50 Catholic/Protestant balance was just done away with, and Dominic McGlinchey was trying to point out that when a guy like Joe Brolly comes up and interviews Peadar Heffron and then – Heffron’s less at fault here in fact, Heffron’s not at fault at all for feeling the way he does but Brolly is very much at fault, in Dominic’s view, and also in the view of Seán Mallory who earlier, the day before, had written a piece – Seán Mallory’s a former Republican prisoner, here’s from the Tyrone area, he also knows that people on the ground and in the Gaelic Clubs were very unhappy with Peadar Heffron deciding to join a force – a force that’s been involved, heavily involved, in cover-up and truth denial and keeping families, like those of Bloody Sunday and those in North Belfast who were the victims of the Mount Vernon killers, the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) killers and those victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre that there’s a genuine feeling out there of resentment towards that force.

Now Joe Brolly, who was in the GAA himself, a successful GAA man, an All-Ireland Medal winner, Joe Brolly then accused the former members of widespread cowardice and seems to imply that they may have been in some way involved in the fate that befell Peadar Heffron. Now there’s anger at Joe Brolly because Joe Brolly’s saying things about the GAA that haven’t been heard in years and, when they were heard, they were coming from people like Willie McCrea and, therefore, Dominic thinks and Seán Mallory thinks that this expression of blame, culpability, being assigned to the GAA Club, the local GAA club of which Peadar Heffron was a member, they are of the view that this is an egregious attempt and it causes problems for many, many Nationalists. They’re not, in any way, trying to justify the bomb attack on Peadar Heffron they are simply trying to put it in, put the reaction of the GAA Club to his decision to join the PSNI, they’re trying to put that in context and explain it and give an alternative narrative because this is one of the problems in The North: They want this narrative of the peace process to be accepted. They talk to us about democracy but democracy is the right to choose – choose to do something or choose not to do it and people democratically expressed their views that Peadar Heffron made the wrong decision and they’re quite entitled to express that view and the GAA, his fellow colleagues, his fellow players in the GAA, are quite entitled to be unhappy with him and they’re quite entitled to express that view and they’re doing it in a democratic fashion. There’s nobody saying that Peadar Heffron should have been attacked. I think the attack on Peadar Heffron was terrible, terrible brutal, wholly unjustified. I also feel and when he was denied compensation, when they tried some terrible way to bamboozle, or try to bamboozle their way out of paying him the compensation by saying he wasn’t on duty at the time – well, he was traveling to work – and I spoke out against it and thought he was treated terribly. So people like myself who run this blog or people like Dominic McGlinchey and Seán Mallory who contribute to this blog through insightful articles are not justifying any attack on Peadar Heffron. They’re simply trying to place in context that he is a bitter man who joined a bitter force.

Martin:  Alright. We’re going to have to leave that there. Anthony, thank you for being with us. The website, the blog that he was talking about is The Pensive Quill. It covers articles on a daily basis like what we’ve just heard. And I note: We’re not going to have time to discuss it but before we were on fund raising and on a hiatus one of the cases that we have talked about was that of Tony Taylor, a Doire man, who had been – served a sentence, was released and then just suddenly got picked up on what is called licence, or parole, where you can’t attend your hearing, you can’t pick your representative at a hearing so if your representative can’t talk to you you he can’t get information about to prove your innocence. And there was somebody named Gabriel Mackle who was just picked up within the last number of days and it seems like he is going to be another victim of that policy of internment-by-licence so we’re – well, we’ll look forward to reading about it and getting behind it and getting on top of that case, hopefully it’s not true. We want to thank you for bringing us up-to-date on so many stories.

Anthony:  Thank you for having me on, Martin. And the Gabriel Mackle case is another example of what this force, the PSNI, is doing. They’re continuing the policy of internment and they’re not being opposed by the people who were interned, previously interned, and who should be standing up opposing them. Thanks very much!

Martin:  Alright. Good Luck! Thank you, Anthony. (ends time stamp ~ 51:37)

Gerry Conlon and Paddy Joe Hill RTÉ Radio One Sunday With Miriam 23 March 2014

Sunday with Miriam
RTÉ Radio One
23 March 2014

Miriam O’Callaghan speaks to Paddy Joe Hill and Gerry Conlon as this year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings.

(begins)

Miriam:  First though today this year marks forty years since the IRA bombings in Guildford and Birmingham which killed twenty-six people and injured hundreds of others. As well as the devastation those attacks caused for the immediate victims they also set in motion a chain of events that ended in the wrongful imprisonment of my first guests. Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford 4, spent fifteen years in prison and Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham 6, was wrongly jailed for nearly seventeen years.

Audio:  Paddy Joe Hill on 14 March 1991 addressing the media outside the Old Bailey in London after the Birmingham 6 convictions were quashed.

Audio:  Gerry Conlon on 19 October 1989 addressing the media outside the Old Bailey in London after the Guildford 4 convictions were quashed.

Miriam:   Morning, Gerry Conlon! Morning, Paddy Joe Hill!

Gerry:  Good Morning, Miriam.

Paddy:   Morning, Miriam.

Miriam:  I’m going to start with you, Gerry. Do you remember the first time you heard about the bombings in Guildford in 1974?

Gerry:  You know I think the first time I heard of them was when the allegation was put to me. I mean I came from West Belfast, the Lower Falls, and they were an everyday occurrence. And that was one of the reasons I went to England. You know, in the eyes of the local Republicans and the IRA I would have been one of these people who would have been creating problems by singing on corners and stuff like that, you know? So the bombings didn’t really mean a lot. The Birmingham pub bombing registered simply because of the amount of people that were murdered that night.

Miriam:  Do you recall the moment that you were arrested? Is it still very vivid in your memory?

Gerry:   Not only is my arrest vivid but everyday of the torture in the various police stations from Springfield Road to Addlestone to Godalming to Guildford and every day of my prison experience is indelibly stamped in my brain. And at the least drop of a hat memories come flooding back of what they did to us.

Miriam:  So time, the notion that time eases those memories, isn’t true for you, Gerry?

Gerry:  No, not at all. You know, my father came over on the assurance of Jim Neville, who was the then head of the bomb squad, and my father spoke to him from Springfield Road police station. And Jim Neville told my father: Come over. You’ll have access to him and you’d be able to get a solicitor of your choosing to represent him. My father was no sooner in the country, four hours, and he was arrested and never came out.

Miriam:  That was Guiseppe, of course, Gerry. Gerry, recall for me the actual arrest. Do you remember even where you were?

Gerry:  Oh, I was in 32 Cypress Street. That’s where we lived at the time in the Lower Falls. And it was the start of a horrendous nightmare that we’re still living through because we’ve never had help for it.

Miriam:  What do you mean you’ve never had help for it?

Gerry:  Well we’ve never had help. The government have never gave us help for the trauma we suffered. I witnessed not only my father dying in prison but two people being murdered in front of my eyes in the most brutal of fashion. And when we came out I was given thirty-four pound ninety of a discharge grant and told to get on with it.

Miriam:  Paddy, when was the first time you heard about the Birmingham bombings? Was it when you were detained that time, the first time, by the police?

Paddy:   It was at the boat, the Heysham boat terminal. I’d already gone through the security check. And as far as the Heysham and Morecambe Police are concerned I have no complaints about them at all, Miriam. They were absolutely brilliant. And it was Sergeant Willoughby who took me off the boat and he told me, the sergeant, he wanted to talk to me and I went out and I’ll never forget his words – they’re burned into my brain. He said to me: Paddy, please excuse the pun but you know how things gets blown up out of all proportion when something happens but he said I can tell you something now, this is bad. The first reports we have is that there’s over two hundred people injured and that there’s over twenty people dead. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, he said, that could be blown up out of all proportion but it is serious. And that was the first time that I heard about it.

Miriam:  But I assume, Paddy, a bit like Gerry there, when you look back on being detained, I assume at the very beginning you couldn’t actually believe this was happening to you.

Paddy:  No, that’s the thing about it. We went to the police station of our own free will. And I remember I was sitting on a bench reading this book and suddenly the door beside me opened and two cops walked in and they had a couple of bundles of clothes in their hands and they threw them behind the door. And I looked up and both of them were standing there staring at me and you could feel the hatred coming out of them. And I happened to look out the door and I seen this guy standing there, another cop, and the funny thing about it was I’ve seen cops before with guns but I’ve never seen a cop with two guns. This guy that was standing there and he had a shoulder holster with a thirty-eight in it and he had a side arm on his hip with a thirty-eight. And I remember looking at him thinking: Jaysus! Some poor people are in for a rough ride. I never thought for one second it had anything to do with us.

Miriam:  I mean, not a lot of people, Paddy, know this but your own family – your dad, I think three of your brothers – they were in the British Army. It’s not like you were the kind of guy who was going to be joining up with the IRA.

Paddy:  No, definitely not.

Miriam:  Gerry, in terms of both of you surviving in prison for something you didn’t do you said in the past if there is a hell it’s being in prison and knowing you’re innocent. But what sustained you through the years?

Gerry:  What sustained me was knowing that my father was going to be tried by the same judge in the same dock in the same court by the same prosecutor and the possibility that he was going to be coming to prison – little did I know he was going to be dying in prison. But we made promises to each other, as Paddy and I did, and I think you find something in adversity and you find something when everything is against you.

Miriam:  Gerry, obviously what happened to both of you was so horrific but did you find it particularly difficult that because of the situation you found yourself in your dad, who you adored, got embroiled in it, too, and in the end ended up dying in prison. Did you feel guilty about that?

Gerry:  I still feel guilty about it. I remember being in Wormwood Scrubs in 1978 when two Labour MPs came, Philip Bennett and Andrew Whitehead, and they said – they called my dad ‘Joe’ because that’s the Anglicisation of Guiseppe – they said: Joe, we’ve secured a transfer for you back to the H-Blocks. You’d be out within three months. And he said: Is my son coming with me? And they went: No, we can’t get him a transfer. He says: Well, I’m not going. I came here to help my son. So of course I feel guilty. Of course I feel guilty.

Miriam:  Those moments when you finally got out, Paddy…

Paddy:  …Yes?

Miriam:   Do they, in the way in which you were both talking earlier about the horror of being put away for something you didn’t do stay indelibly etched in your mind, do you also remember the moments of release incredibly vividly?

Paddy:  Yes, I still remember it. Like even though I look back on it and I seen it that many times on television etc it seems a bit ethereal. It’s like something that you’re looking down on. You know?

Gerry:   You know you’re talking about the moment we got out which should have been filled with joy and elation but too much pain had gone on, Miriam, beforehand. You know, Paddy didn’t know what was happening to his children while he was in prison and obviously I had lost my father but too much had been done. When we went in, as Paddy says, the prison officers – they were defecating in our food, they were urinating in our food, they were putting glass and stones and crushed florescent tubing in our food – we were being targeted more so than any member of the IRA. But when my father died and the ‘appalling vista‘ happened there was a slow sea of change. And of course we were very lucky – British documentary makers started coming to our aid – World in Action, Panorama, First Tuesday – major broadsheet newspapers started publishing editorials. And what also should not be forgotten was that the Irish government, and the Irish Embassy in particular, didn’t do anything for us until after these programmes and these editorials were written. In fact, we never seen any Irish politicians until early ’87 – twelve years, thirteen years, after our incarceration – did any Irish politicians want to come to help us.

Paddy:  And not only that, Miriam, when they did come to see us in March 1987, that was the first time that the six of us had all been put together and they sent an all-party delegation. And when they came over they brought the six of us up into the education department, in a classroom, and they spent an hour with us. And about six o’clock they said they were leaving. And I said: What do you mean you’re leaving? What about Gerry Conlon? What about the Guildford 4? You better see them before you go. And they turned around and said: Oh, no. we haven’t get the time. We’ve got to get a plane. I said: Ach! The only thing you’ll be getting is an ambulance. And I picked up two of the table legs and Richard McIlkenny, God rest his soul, Richard grabbed the other two and I told them: The only place you’re going to go is to the hospital. You’re not leaving here until you see the Guildford 4. And ten minutes later they brought Gerry up and when he walked into the room you know the first thing they said to him? I’m sorry, Gerry, to hear about your uncle dying in prison. His uncle?! That’s how much they knew about us in 1987!

Miriam:  Paddy, had you thought beforehand about what you were going to say when you were released?

Paddy:  No. I never do. It just comes off the cuff.

Miriam:   Good! And you, Gerry, had you thought?

Gerry:   I mean those words that came out of my mouth that day I believe it was my father speaking through me. When you ‘go in’, Miriam, you learn a whole new vocabulary and it’s very coarse and very abrupt and very harsh. How those words came out in sequence and with the right amount of meaning and truth was just incredible. I don’t believe – I believe my father spoke them through me.

Miriam:  Of course we heard your eloquent words there at the beginning of today’s show. We have some clips now which is what you both said shortly after you were released about how life had changed from the time you went into prison to the time you were released. Let’s listen to them now.

Audio:  Paddy Joe Hill comments on technology and changes.

Audio:  Gerry Conlon comments on technology and changes.

Miriam:  Were they a huge change, Paddy?

Paddy:  Massive changes. Massive changes. Like when I came out I never believed there was that many motors and what have you, vehicles, on the road in the world never mind in London. In prison the one thing that you don’t have is long vision. You can only see ‘x’ amount of yards and then you come against a big wall and barbed wire. The only long-vision you have is looking up at the sky. And of course there’s no such thing as colours in prison. And when we came out all you could see was these big buildings with all these funny glass, coloured things and big fancy trucks flying down the road at you. The only time I seen some of these trucks was on television in one of these American movies. And suddenly you come out and you’re standing in the middle of Holloway Road and I’m standing there like somebody that’s been hypnotised or something. And I’m standing in the middle of the road and this big thing’s flying at me! And I couldn’t move. I was completely paralysed. Everything, everything had changed so much. And you’re completely lost. Your mind can’t take it in so quickly. And the more you try to take it in, the funny thing about it is, the more your mind closes down. You just can’t handle it. And then for so many people who come out, Gerry’ll tell you this, they start becoming hermits. They don’t go out because they can’t handle the outside world. And they start locking themselves in their room or where ever they are living. The only time that you go out is at night when it’s quiet and it’s dark and you walk the streets at night. Like I’ve had people that’s come out of jail and I’ve picked them up – Johnny Kamara etc – or Paddy Nicholls etc…

Gerry:  …Rob Brown.

Paddy:  Rob – I picked them all up and brought them home to live with me. And they were all the same. The only time they went out was at night. It’s just – I don’t know what it is. And as Gerry said, we get no help. No help whatsoever. And like I try to tell people when they come out: Don’t bother going to doctors. Going to doctors – the only thing they’re going to tell you is that you’re depressed and the only thing they’re going to do is try and shovel you full of pills. Our problem is not pill problems. Our problem is not medication. Our problem is trauma. And we’ve been fighting for years to get help. And yes, we get angry at times, and – don’t get me wrong, don’t take this the wrong way – if anybody that suffers trauma if there’s help and they need it and they can get it fair play to them for getting it and for having it and I thank the authorities for giving it to them but at the same time – why should we be left out?

Gerry:  But getting back to what you were saying about difficulties: There’s also this suspended animation in relation to maturing over those years you are in prison. So you’re playing catch-up. And Miriam, you became a close friend of my family’s. So you knew my mother well and you knew my sisters and you knew my aunts and uncles. I mean, we became disenfranchised from our families while we were in prison. Your visits were heavily populated by prisoner officers. You weren’t allowed to talk about prison. So you lied to each other. And then when you come out after fifteen years of telling lies, that you believed the other side is telling you the truth even though you knew you were telling them lies, because there’s this idea in their head: They don’t want to tell you something that you’re going to take back to your cell that’s going to worry you and you think: I’m not going to tell them anything about this prison that’s bad because I don’t want them taking it home and worrying. So the relationship fractures. I’ve been in treatment for nearly seven years – seeing a psychiatrist, a trauma counselor, twice a week, and for the first three years all I did was cry. I couldn’t get over when he mentioned my father or a certain prison I would just burst into tears – the trauma was so deep.

Miriam:  Gerry, are you still getting therapy now?

Gerry:  Yeah.

Miriam:   Because listening to you you sound in a very good place at the moment.

Gerry:  I am in a very good place, Miriam. I’ve been very lucky and I’ve had to fight very hard and I’ve had to go through – I mean, for a long time I wanted to kill myself. It’s only the last year that my life is, for some reason, the therapy has kicked in. I never thought I’d get to this position, Miriam, where I would be able to feel relatively happy, able to deal with what had happened in a positive way – but I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life.

Miriam:  Your mum and dad would be very pleased to hear you say that – to know you’re in a good place.

Gerry:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well you know, the healing started when my mother got cancer in 2005 and she asked me would I come home to look after her and it was a traumatic experience looking after her. It was always – it was crazy. But after nine months of living together, you know, I started to have this empathy again with her. I started to feel this paternal love. And she started to trust me and started to engage with me and we became not only a loving mother and son we became best friends. And I got enormous pleasure out of getting up every morning and going into the town and buying some food and cooking her different meals that she’d never tasted before and getting her to watch programmes she’d’ve never had watched and becoming good friends.

Miriam:  In terms of how you are, Paddy, right now – I know because you have, of course, children and you were missing from their lives for seventeen years. Is it possible to heal those fractured relationships after such a long time?

Paddy:  No. Definitely not. I’m still a stranger to my kids. I spent more time here this morning talking to you than I’ve done with my kids, some of them for years. I hardly ever see them. And when I go I get such – I don’t know what it is – for the want of a better word you get this sort of guilt feeling and I know we’ve got nothing to feel guilty about but, when you’re there, you feel like an intruder. There’s nothing there. I don’t know what it is. Prison kills you a little bit every day particularly for innocent people. One day you’ll waken up and you won’t feel nothing because one thing you can’t afford to have in prison is emotion. Emotions will get you killed in prison. So you bury your emotions so deep. And after a while it comes to the point in prison where you don’t even want to have visits because they’re too traumatic. And you don’t get visits – instead of having a visit every month you may get two visits a year – and you’re thankful for them but even at the time you don’t want them. Gerry will tell you the same things and so will most people in prison and when they come out trying to re-build relationships – it just doesn’t work. The money, the first fifty thousand pound they gave me interim payment, I was going out buying my kids and grand kids things. And what I was actually doing was just trying to buy love and affection and I realised after a year: You can’t do that. It’s an impossibility. But more importantly I realised, and had to be honest with myself and my kids, I didn’t feel nothing for them. Even today, I’ve been out twenty-three years now last week, and I feel sorry for my kids for the simple reason is that none of them is ever, ever going to have a father and daughter or father and son relationship with me like we should’ve have. And that’s just the way it is. It’s the only way I can handle it.

Gerry:  See you become dependent, you become institutionalised after that length of time. Whether you want to admit it or not. And the only people that you’re really comfortable around are people who have had a shared experience with you. So you gravitate to people who’d been in prison because there’s no need to qualify how you’re feeling. You know, I’ve often thought that they did ‘silent lobotomies’ on us when we were in prison – clip the emotion and clip the love – and it’s something that’s very hard to get back once it’s gone.

Miriam:  Paddy, obviously listening to Gerry he has said he’s been going to therapy, going to see a psychiatrist, still is and it has clearly worked a lot for him. Have you gone to therapy and do you think you’re in as good a place as say Gerry is psychologically at the moment?

Paddy:   No. I’m not in the same place as Gerry. And as far as treatment is concerned I’ve never had any.

Miriam:   Gerry and Paddy, you’re both very involved now in helping other people who are victims of miscarriages of justice, aren’t you?

Paddy:  Yes. I’ve been doing this ever since I got out. And I’m still doing it.

Miriam:  Do you find that in itself is almost therapeutic, Paddy? That you can work to try and help other people?

Paddy:  Yeah, yeah. It’s therapeutic in the simple fact that if I wasn’t doing it I’d probably be sitting at home and just thinking, thinking, thinking and that’s the worst thing for people coming out of jail, innocent people coming out. It’s having nothing to do and just sitting, hiding away in a room. It kept me going. I made a promise to certain people when I got out – the Bridgewater 4, the Tottenham 3, etc, John McGranahan and a number of other people and I gave them the first year of my life.

Miriam:  Also Paddy, I mentioned at the beginning it’s forty years since the Birmingham bombings themselves and you work also today, don’t you, with the families of the victims of those bombings? I mean, nobody’s ever been put away for those bombings.

Paddy:  No, no, no. I got involved with this just over a year ago in relation to a petition that was up by Brian and Julie Hambleton. This is a brother and sister whose other sister was killed in the bombs. And of course since we got out these people have been a thorn in the side of the Birmingham Police. And I must say, in Birmingham, I thought they would’ve got a hundred thousand signatures in no time. And all I can say, particularly to the Irish people in Birmingham: Shame on you for not joining this! If anyone should want to know the truth it should be the people of Birmingham, particularly the Irish people. And when I met Brian and Julie I think they were more nervous of meeting me, we had been the figures of hate and the police have made them hate us. And I sat with them for about two and a half three hours.

Miriam:  Gerry, I know the organisation, MOJO, Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, is the one that you and Paddy do a lot with. Are there any particular cases you’d like to mention this morning?

Gerry:  

Available everywhere in paperback and as an eBook.

Oh, well I certainly would like to mention the case of Brendan Dixon who’s a Doire man who’s been in prison in a Scottish jail for ten years for a crime we think he’s absolutely innocent of. And how he came to be a suspect was someone said that they seen ‘Irish Brendan’ near the house where the pensioner was murdered. And the evidence that we have checked out, you know, shows that Brendan Dixon was in another place. He was living an intransient type of life and he was involved in drugs and alcohol but because you’re involved in drugs and alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a killer. And of course there’s the case of the Craigavon Two. And the things that I heard there started to disturb me and you spoke to the family and you spoke to witnesses and stuff like that – you seen that here was a high profile case that need a conviction. But in the Brendan McConville – John Paul Wootten case I firmly believe that they’re innocent.

Miriam: 

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Well we’re going to put a link on our website as well, Paddy and Gerry, to that organisation you’re both really involved in, Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, anyone who wants to find out about it or about those cases can get in touch with you. Final question for you, Gerry: You seem in a good place. I’m so happy to see that. Do you wake up, by and large, content?

Gerry:  I still have the nightmares. I still have the nightmares. I don’t think they’ll ever go. The trauma people don’t think they’ll ever go. They’re so deep. They’re so brutal. And they lasted for so long in prison. But it’s something that’s now manageable, Miriam. It’s something within a short space of time of getting out of bed I’ve learned techniques how to not disassociate and how to focus on other things. So yeah, life is better than it’s ever been at the moment.

Miriam:  And you, Paddy?

Paddy:  No, I’m not there yet. I still have bad times, you know? But of course, I’ve never had any help. The only help, I learned a long time ago that the only help I’m going to get is the help that I give myself. They come up with this old cliché, Miriam, that time’s a great healer. That’s a load of garbage. Time doesn’t heal nothing. The only thing that you can do with time is hopefully, with time, you’ll learn to handle it a little bit better than you did.

Gerry:  Just to interject there: The guy who’s treating me and treats me twice a week has offered to help Paddy and Paddy’s met him but the government won’t pay for Paddy’s fares to come from Scotland two or three times a month to have that treatment. I think that would be very little for them to pay in order to give Paddy Joe Hill a quality of life that he so richly deserves and that his family deserves. I think we all should be getting it without having to go cap in hand.

Paddy:   Exactly.

Miriam:  Okay, listen Gerry, Paddy, it’s been a real pleasure and privilege for me to chat to you both today – delighted you’re in a great place, Gerry. And Paddy, I hope you get there one day very soon, too.

Gerry:  Miriam, thank you for your support down the years in highlighting the injustice that happens to people in life. Thank you!

Miriam:  Thanks, Gerry.

Paddy:   It’s been a pleasure and thanks for keeping other people aware of what is actually going on in miscarriage of justice cases.

Miriam:  Thank you, Paddy. Thank you, Gerry. Take good care of yourselves.

Gerry:   Bye.

Paddy:  Same to you. Bye. (ends)