11 August 2016
Mark Carruthers (MC) hosts Martin Galvin (MG) and Ulster Unionist Party MLA Doug Beattie (DB) to discuss the comments made by prominent Irish Republican Gerry McGeough on the American radio programme, Radio Free Éireann.
MC: Comments made by a high profile Republican on a New York radio station have caused controversy this week. Speaking on Radio Free Éireann on WBAI radio in New York Gerry McGeough criticised Catholic judges and prosecutors calling them ‘traitors’ in effect who are administering British rule here. Here is what he had to say: (audio clip played) So that’s what Gerry McGeough had to say on that radio station earlier. Well, the comments have been criticised by a number of Unionist politicians including the Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie who said they border on an incitement to commit an unlawful act against members of the judiciary in Northern Ireland. Doug Beattie joins me now from Stormont I think. Martin Galvin, the former Publicity Director of course of NORAID, Irish Northern Aid, is the radio presenter who carried out that interview with Gerry McGeough, and he joins me now from New York. Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Thanks very much indeed for being with us on the programme today.
First of all Martin Galvin, we’ve tried to get hold of Gerry McGeough and at the moment – and I know you tried on our behalf as well to track him down. We’re not quite sure where he is. He’s not answering our calls. We can’t get hold of him. We’re very keen to talk to him. So if he happens to be listening or anybody close to him is listening we’d be very keen to take a call from him. But in the meantime, you were there. You conducted the interview…
MG: …Mark, I have spoke – I got a message back from him. First of all he asked me to thank BBC Talkback for trying to reach him. He’s actually in the middle – he’s about halfway – he was on the road with most of his family – his oldest daughter was at home, and he happened to call home, got my message – he’s on the road, could not do the interview, obviously – we just found out about this just a little less than a hour ago. But he’s very appreciative that at least BBC Talkback tried to make the effort to contact him and get his real views as opposed to some of the things that he’s read. He asked me to do the interview and he will be back at the weekend and happy to comment and speak for himself. He wanted – he appreciate again your efforts to at least try to give him a chance to speak instead of just taking one sentence out of a twenty minute interview and putting it in a totally different context.
MC: Okay. Well, certainly there’s been some coverage in the newspapers. We’re very keen to get as rounded a picture of precisely what was said and what Mr. McGeough meant by what he said and I guess the best way of finding that out is to talk to him. So it’s a pity he’s not available. But look, we did our best and you were there, you were part of that conversation so we’ve lifted the clip that’s causing all of the controversy in the media. Can you just tell us how those comments came about first of all, Mr. Galvin, and what you make of what he had to say?
MG Well if you listen to the interview – and anybody – I would encourage listeners just to go to the internet, type in, as an address, rfe (for Radio Free Éireann) 123.org, that’s rfe123.org. There’s an entire written transcript of his full interview as well as a link so you can hear his entire interview.
This was a twenty minute interview. He talked about, for example, 1916 – the fact that Tyrone is left out of – one of the counties that there is a feasible right to national freedom – but they are left behind. There was a vote in 1918 – the One Ireland One Vote – they were left behind. Partition was supposed to be temporary. Arlene Foster’s in a position where she says a region in a country can’t veto what happened in terms of Brexit no matter how disastrous that decision is for Ireland – how much it ignored Ireland as a whole, all thirty-two counties, and yet she First Ministers a region which is based on the principle that six counties had the right to veto a One Ireland One Vote election and always have a veto.
MC: …Sure, well okay, well look, we know that. We’ve heard that before…
MG: …the context was has happened…
MC: ….I understand and that’s a fairly traditional…
MG: I’m trying to get you the context…
MC: And I understand that context and it’s something that many of our listeners would be familiar with – the Republican world view.
MG: He talked about Brexit.
MG: He talked about how British rule – and what he was talking about is the difference between English rule suiting English policies in Brexit in the way that Theresa Villiers put in austerity, other policies that suited Westminster – all of that and how that doesn’t really reflect or take into account what fully serves Irish interests. He even talked about Scotland and how that was administered. Then he talked about a situation like himself – he was imprisoned for something that happened in 1981 – it was during the hunger strike of 1981 – he was a part of a campaign that both he and I would defend and say was a legitimate campaign against British rule but it’s a campaign which ended long ago and we’re in a new era of peace – which he would be the first to say.
MC: Well, that’s the interesting part, Martin. Let’s just pick up on that point. That campaign happened. You still support it – other people think it wasn’t a bad idea. We don’t need to re-rehearse that. The point is that in the new scenario that you have just described Mr. McGeough still said, and let me lift that line** again because we’ve got it highlighted here and you can see it in the transcript:
under the cover you have Catholic Nationalist, people from Republican families, who are now sitting as Diplock court judges and prosecutors and all the other stuff of the day that you can’t possibly imagine and they are arrogantly passing judgment on patriots.
** (Ed Note: This was not one continuous quote as read by the BBC Talkback presenter here. The words in the block quote below this note did not immediately follow the words in the block quote above this note in the transcript of Gerry McGeough’s Radio Free Éireann interview.)
you have Irish Catholics, traitors in effect, administering British rule here in the Six Counties.
That doesn’t seem to fit with where Northern Ireland, the North of Ireland, the Six Counties – whatever you want to call it – is in 2016. That’s the point.
MG: Well what he was talking about is that, for example, we could, historically – I think The Newsletter was the first paper where all of these stories appeared. That was actually the Joy Family, Henry Joy McCracken was one of the people…
MC: …No, I know. Listen – we don’t need to go back to the origins of The Newsletter. Seriously.
MG: …(crosstalk) (inaudible) he was a patriot because he wanted a united Ireland – he wanted an end to British rule. Some people may say, historically, that he was a traitor – that he worked against Unionist interests…
MC: …I know, I honestly…
MG: We can have a debate about that…
MC: …Well we can but not now if you don’t mind. We haven’t got time to talk about the rights or wrongs of Henry Joy McCracken, fascinating though I agree it is…
MG: …But (crosstalk) (inaudible) we can talk about people who played that role – who served different interests – the interests of another country. He was talking about that philosophically. It certainly was not, somebody who believes we are at peace, not talking about going out and attacking anybody or doing anything other than politically working for a united Ireland and having, recognising the people who are working against a united Ireland from communities (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …But it’s not helpful. But the point is it’s not, it’s not…okay, yeah. But the kind of language, and it’s the language that he’s used that many people have picked up on here – to refer to Irish Catholics as….
MG: …But again…
MC: …now let me ask the question, Martin, I mean we’ll not get anywhere if we both talk at the same time. He talks about Irish Catholics – traitors, in effect, administering British rule here in the Six Counties. That is a pretty unreconstructed world view and we have moved on and that’s the point. We have a statement just here, which you might be interested in from the Chairman of the Bar Council who represents lawyers in Northern Ireland, who says he wants to take issue…he wants to take this opportunity to utterly condemn the threats made by Gerry McGeough over the past weekend as reported in The Newsletter on Monday the eighth of August in which he stated Catholic servants serving as judges and prosecutors in the Northern Ireland legal system are traitors who will be dealt with as collaborators once the English are removed. You can see that it is colourful, controversial language employed by Gerry McGeough which some people, people involved in this regard as, frankly, incitement.
MG: Okay. I can see that it is colourful, controversial language. I’m telling you: Knowing him. Speaking (with) him, being there for the entire interview that there was no threat intended against anybody. He was speaking in effect as somebody who believes in a united Ireland, who thinks that the present British strategy in The North is there to keep and copper-fasten British rule – not give Irish-Nationalists self-determination for all thirty-two counties – that his county, Tyrone, and five others have been victimised by this system. But he was talking about politically moving towards a united Ireland. That’s (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …Did he go too far? There’s the question: Did he over egg the pudding? Did he use the kind of language that perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, he might now regret? Should he have toned it down a little bit?
MG: Did he use a term explaining on New York radio explaining in the course of a twenty minute interview which has been deliberately over-hyped and taken out of context to imply something entirely different by others? Yes. He did use a term which others have totally misrepresented. I’m trying to correct that impression about the world view and what Mr. McGeough was saying during that interview which was not to threaten anybody except in terms of a political threat (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …What did he mean then? I understand that, Martin. But when he said:
Catholics serving as judges and prosecutors in the Northern Ireland legal system are – quote – traitors who will be dealt with as – quote – collaborators once the English are removed. (Ed. Note: This statement, attributed to Mr. McGeough, does not appear in the transcript of Gerry McGeough’s interview on Radio Free Éireann.)
What did he mean by that? If that’s not threatening what is it?
MG: He’s not threatening anybody or didn’t intend to threaten anybody. What he was trying to say is that those who are working – for example, right now Diplock courts were abolished in 2007 but they’re used in each and every case where they would have been used before they were abolished. When he was arrested for charges that happened in 1981 and sent to Maghaberry by an administration which included…
MC: …You’re not answering my question. What did he mean by the use of the word ‘traitor’ and collaborator’? Just answer that question! Don’t give me another history lesson. Just tell me what did he meant by the use of the word ‘traitor’ and ‘collaborator’?
MG: In the same way people can debate and say that Henry Joy McCracken: Was he a patriot or a traitor? and you can argue about that – it doesn’t mean that he’s threatening them. He regards people who are working against a united Ireland as wrong, as his political opponents. He believes that many of them should be working harder for a united Ireland. But it’s not to say: Let’s go after them in a threat. Let’s go after them in any way other than trying to get a political solution… (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …Okay. Well let me bring in…I want to bring, I want to bring in…hang on a second. I want to bring Doug Beattie in in a second. But here’s the point, here’s the point: We have a Catholic Attorney General. We have a Catholic Director of Public Prosecutions. We have a Catholic Lord Chief Justice. We have several high profile high court judges who are Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. Those people know that they live under the threat of security from dissident Republicans who have targeted them in the past and who, apparently, would wish to target them in future. And I’m not saying, I’m not saying for a second – just to be clear – that Gerry McGeough is one of those – but in that climate the use of language like ‘traitor’ and ‘collaborator’ is unhelpful and those individuals and the professionals who represent them see that as extremely dangerous and very foolish. Do you not agree?
MG: If you’re asking me about how they might see something? I am telling you that what Gerry McGeough intended – he used a word which seemed to be taken out of context to mean something that he did not intend. He’s somebody who wants to see a united Ireland – wants to see it peacefully – and if you look at the whole interview there was no mention of any armed group, any armed action, anything like that – he was talking about stirrings throughout the country, a yearning for a united Ireland and getting that, achieving it, by peaceful, political means and finding a strategy which can achieve that because he doesn’t think that the current Good Friday Agreement is going to work towards that end. He wants to see a united Ireland. That’s what he was talking about.
MC: Okay. Alright. Let me bring Doug Beattie. Doug Beattie – Martin Galvin’s making the position here that Gerry McGeough has been misquoted and taken out of context. How do you respond to that?
DB: I think Martin Galvin is trying to defend the undefensible. I would be the first one to say that Republicanism, if peaceful, striving towards a united Ireland – I have no issue with that in the same way Unionism striving to remain part of the United Kingdom – if it remains peaceful -then that’s right and that’s proper. But when you use terms like ‘Irish Catholic traitors’, you use terms like ‘collaborators’ when you’re talking about the judiciary – a judiciary that was in the ’70’s and ’80’s and early ’90’s murdered on a frequent basis. When you talk about getting the English out of Northern Ireland what he’s really talking about is getting Unionists…
MG: …Not so!
DB: …and Unionism and anybody who’s linked to it – the Scots-Irish – out of the North of Ireland. Because I don’t see these big swathes of Englishmen who are living in the North of Ireland whatsoever. And I think you have to look at this and you have to say that these are archaic references that he’s using to – he’s throwing us back to a bygone era and I hope there’s people out there – decent people, decent people who are striving for a united Ireland who are decent, good, law-abiding people can look at this and disown these comments and realise that we have really moved on from this. And we don’t need that. And I think Martin needs to be really honest here and he needs to get the views of the people of Northern Ireland and the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland want to remain part of the United Kingdom.
I am an Irishman. I am an Ulsterman. I’m a Northern Irishman. And I am British. And I deserve to live in this part of the country as much as anybody else and anybody else who have been here for the last five or six hundred years. And I take exception to anybody telling me that I don’t belong here or my views don’t belong here and I think Martin is absolutely barking up the wrong tree and he needs to speak to a wider audience than the people he’s speaking to now.
MC: How do you respond to that, Martin Galvin?
MG: Yes, I’m glad Mr. Beattie brought these points up. First of all, Gerry McGeough, during the interview drew an exact, a clear distinction between Unionists, which includes Mr. Beattie, and the English administration – serving English interests in policies like Brexit, like other policies that Theresa Villiers was responsible (for) before her unlamented replacement so he made that clear in the interview; he’s not saying everybody should leave.
Number two: Certainly Mr. Beattie is right to say that he is an Irishman and an Ulsterman and he should be allowed to remain in Ireland and have his own views. What Gerry McGeough believes is that people in Donegal, people throughout The North in the rest of the three counties in Ulster, which are excluded from any vote, that people of (the) Twenty-Six Counties, that they are also Irishmen. That they should also have an equal say about what happens in Ireland and that we should not carve out an area where six counties are able to veto the wishes of (crosstalk) (inaudible)….
MC: …Yeah, but look, we’ve made done with that. You know you’ve heard of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998…
MG: …Yes, I have.
MC: … – you’ve heard of the St. Andrews Agreement…
MG: And I….
MC: …Hang on! You know that the Irish government supports the current arrangements in Northern Ireland and you know that Sinn Féin, which is by far the largest Republican party in Northern Ireland which commands twenty-five percent of the popular vote and whose leader in Northern Ireland is the Deputy First Minister has absolutely bought into the arrangements for political governance in this part of the world. So you are harking back to something which is frankly decades out of date – that’s the point.
MG: The Good Friday Agreement gives people like Gerry McGeough the right to have a legitimate aspiration – as if we needed some sort of agreement to have a legitimate aspiration to national freedom – to have something – a thirty-two county Ireland – to have the same right to freedom as people in other parts of Ireland…
MC: …So exactly. So that’s there. And he has that legitimate right. Nobody’s arguing about that. Doug Beattie’s not arguing about that.
MG: That’s what Gerry McGeough was doing. He was arguing for it. He was saying the current arrangements don’t work. Sinn Féin sold those to the people on the basis that it was going to lead to a united Ireland. We were told first in 2003 by Joe Cahill… (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …but the problem is – look – the problem is that – and I’m sorry to keep harking back to it – and by the way we did contact Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin didn’t want to take part in the conversation today; didn’t want to have anything to do with it which is perfectly reasonable from that party’s point of view. If it doesn’t want to take part that’s fine but the invitation was extended.
The difficulty that people have, and there have been several pieces in the newspaper which you will have seen and Doug Beattie has made his comments today and I’ve quoted the Bar Council. The difficulty is that what Gerry McGeough is, in the view of those people who are critical of his comments, is that he goes too far goes to far, goes way beyond the line, beyond saying: I have a right, under the 1998 agreement, to have this view. He actually explicitly threatens Catholics in Northern Ireland by calling them traitors and says they should be dealt with as collaborators once the English are removed. And once you say something like that you generate a whole different climate and a whole different context that you seem either not to understand or not to want to understand.
MG: What I’m saying is: He wanted to clarify – I’m trying to clarify those remarks – that there was no threat intended. He was not encouraging any threat against anybody. He is against them politically. He believes that they’re doing an historic role under British rule serving an administration which he would disagree with and wants to overcome to get to a united Ireland. But he’s saying, and I thought this was part of what Mr. Beattie and you would want said – that he’s not threatening anybody – he’s not recommending a threat against anybody – he’s not recommending any kind of threat other than a political threat to work peacefully towards a legitimate aspiration of a united Ireland.
MC: And what’s your response, then, to the Chair…Okay, so I’m going to bring some callers in – but your response to the Chair, Gerry McAlinden QC, the Chairman of the Bar Council, who says in that statement, his final paragraph is this: any attempt, and these are his words, any attempt to intimidate members of the judiciary or members of the legal profession engaged in prosecution work is to be deplored by all right-thinking members of society. These sinister messages were a frequent part of our troubled past. They were wrong then and are wrong now. What do you say to Mr. McAlinden ?
MG: I’m saying as somebody who would be represented by a Bar Council here in New York Gerry McGeough did not intend any threat against anybody other a political threat to achieve a situation where there was a united Ireland. And he would express political opposition to some of the attitudes people have…
MC: …Right. But how do you deal with collaborators politically? How do you deal with traitors and collaborators politically?
MG: In a united Ireland…
DB: …But Martin, Martin…
MC: …Hang on, Doug. Just let Martin Galvin answer that. How to you deal with traitors and collaborators politically?
MG: I’m talking about – well, look – you’re using a statement that was taken out of context I’m saying – and I thought that that statement would be welcomed – that I know Mr. McGeough has tried to emphasise in the interview and through me that he’s not trying or did not intend to make any threat, other than a political threat, of achieving a united Ireland, against anybody. I thought that would be welcomed, that it would calm the situation – that what was interpreted was perhaps it was improperly put or perhaps taken out of context but it’s not what Mr. McGeough intended and that’s not Mr. McGeough’s position. It’s certainly wasn’t a position that I would advocate.
MC: …Okay, no – I absolutely understand that and listen I…
MG: (crosstalk)(inaudible) criticise me.
MC: I’m not criticising you. I’m simply trying to get at the bottom of what precisely what he meant. Now you’re explaining what he meant and I’m now suggesting to you that perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, his use of language was somewhat careless. And he needs to rethink and reconsider and take on board the criticisms that have been leveled at the language he used because he was, at best, careless in what he said in the interview with you. Now, if you accept that I think that’s a bit of progress. If you don’t accept that it’s hard to see quite where you’re coming from. Do you think he said nothing wrong and none of these criticisms are at all valid in any way?
MG: No, I would accept that the language, the exact language, in that twenty minute interview that that particular line – and there was just so much that he covered in the interview that…
MC: …Well stick with this one sentence if you would!
MG: Okay. I’m sure that he would re-phrase that if given the opportunity.
MC: Ah! Right. So there’s an interesting point. You think he would re-phrase it if he got an opportunity.
MG: Well, I can’t guarantee. (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: So twenty-nine minutes past twelve you can see maybe his language wasn’t as carefully chosen as it might have been?
MC: Right. That’s interesting because that’s the first time you said that.
MG: And it was not intended to threaten anybody which again, I would think that that would be welcomed by you and Mr. Beattie…
MC: …Well, let’s see: Doug Beattie, do you welcome that?
DB: Well what I was going to try and say to Martin, and I’m trying to be really rational here about this, Martin. We live in an environment in Northern Ireland where we have a fragile peace where dissident Republicans and others are still murdering people on a weekly basis or shooting people on a weekly basis and murdering people as well.
I’m a member of the Assembly. I’m an an ex-soldier. I check under my car every single day and every time I get into that car. That is because of what happened in the past. These words incite us to go back to that again. I think they were poorly chosen words. I think they’re words that incited violence. And it doesn’t matter what you say. You don’t live here. I live here. I lived through it and you need to understand that.
MC: But do you also accept, Doug Beattie, that Martin Galvin has faced up today to our request to take part in the programme. He has spoken to Gerry McGeough. He has endeavoured, as best he can, to put in context the comments that were made and to clarify that and he’s just done it a moment ago that, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps Gerry McGeough might have expressed that view slightly differently. So do you accept a degree of progress has been made throughout this conversation so far?
DB: Well, absolutely. I have no ax to grind with Martin Galvin whatsoever here. I have the ax to grind with the words that were used. Now if Martin if they were choice words that maybe he shouldn’t have been using then that is progress. The problem is: Those words are out there and there’s people out there who will be influenced by words like this from a person like Gerry. So I think we need to be really, really mindful and I think Martin needs to be mindful. And I think Martin would really do well to speak to people from the Unionist community, from ex-soldiers like me who fought for thirty-four years along side his countrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan who are marginalised because they are too busy peddling a single message and I think that needs to be taken on board as well.
MC: Well, maybe that’s your next interview on your radio programme, Martin Galvin. Maybe you should have Doug Beattie on to get the other side of things and hear a different perspective one that maybe one that you and your listeners are not just so familiar with?
MG: Well again, I know at every Unionist party convention there is a speaker on a united Ireland to put that forward so I’m sure it will be as balanced – well I’m being facetious, obviously. Mr. Beattie, we used to have actually a relative of one of the McGimpseys used to appear on the show quite regularly. We have tried to put that view forward. One of the things that I’d like to ask Mr. Beattie about is that Gerry McGeough, during that interview, talked about civilians who were killed with the support of members of the British Crown forces in collusion by some of the Loyalists who killed somebody during the past week. I’m surprised that nobody hit out at that – nobody was concerned about that allegation. He talked about Roseann Mallon or members of the Fox Family or members of the McKearney Family…
MC: …Well let’s let Doug…Doug.
MG: … British law and order forces (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: Doug, Doug, do you want to clarify your position on that for the benefit of Martin Galvin before I bring some callers in?
DB: Martin, it’s really quite simple: If anybody committed a murder, be they in the British military, be they a police officer, be they civilian or anybody else if they committed a murder – and it was wrong – if there’s evidence they should be brought to court. I condemn anybody who conducts a murder so don’t try and drag me down a road here where I’m trying to defend anybody who committed an unlawful act. I’m absolutely against that so you’ll not get me on that one.
MG: …(crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …Okay, let’s bring in some callers.
MG: (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: Hang on a second, Martin because I want to bring in John here. He’s gotten in touch with the programme at lunch time and we do try to bring callers in and were a bit tardy in doing so today because we’ve had to cover a lot of ground with both of you. So John, you’ve got in touch so let’s hear what you have to say at this lunch time.
John: Hello, Martin?
MC: Yes, yes. Martin Galvin can hear you. Yep, John. Go ahead if you want to make a point – quickly.
John: Martin, we have had people over here in Northern Ireland people on the Unionist side who yelled and squealed about things that young Unionists went out and did crimes because of what they heard and they’re in jail today. And their parents and their brothers and their sisters are visiting them every day. We have had young Nationalists who are in the same – who are not just as balanced – who are listening youse are commenting on there today. Now what about Judge Trainor, a Christian lovely man with his family in church on the Lord’s Day, not knowing that he was going to be come out and murdered on the steps of where he worships God. Now those people listening to that, on balance, feel they can go out and murder Catholics because they’re doing their duty. Martin, listen carefully: If there was a vote for a united Ireland and it went against us – and I’m one for an Irish – I am married but I’m part of the United Kingdom – and if we ever voted to go with the united Ireland would you like us to go out and murder and kill people? Now Martin, please be careful on the way you’re getting on. You don’t live here. We are living here in peace, ninety-nine point nine percent of us.
MC: Okay. Alright, John, thanks very much. Martin, do you want a quick response to that and then I want to bring in Sam.
MG: Quickly, first of all, Gerry McGeough was not talking about any kind of armed action or any kind of threat against anybody. If the caller believes that there should be or can be a legitimate vote for a united Ireland, and I believe it should take in all thirty-two counties, I would agree with him on that. And certainly, I’m trying to clarify and say as carefully as I can that Mr. McGeough was not advocating any kind of armed threat or any kind of threat against anybody and not intending to encourage anybody to do that.
MC: Okay. Alright. Thanks very much, indeed. Sam, you got in touch with us this lunch time. What are your thoughts?
Sam: Yeah, hi there. I just think that Mr. McGeough should be looked at in a different light: That yes, he is a Republican who’s been convicted of a terror act but this shouldn’t be the reason why the media is looking into him because according to the Irish News he was re-elected earlier in the year as the president of County Tyrone AOH, Ancient Order of Hibernians, which is a Roman Catholic fraternal organisation. Now if, for instance another Co. Tyrone man, Edward Stevenson, who is the Grand Master of the Orange Institution in Ireland and he made a similar repugnant comment would the media be presenting him as a County Tyrone Unionist farmer or would they be presenting him as the Grand Master of the Orange Institution in Ireland?
MC: Well I suppose it depends, it depends in which capacity an individual speaks. And just to be clear on that (and thank you for raising the point about the Ancient Order of Hibernians) – Hang on a second – I want to actually just – and this might help you understand where we’re coming from – we did contact the Ancient Order of Hibernians today and Gerry McGeough is indeed the president of the AOH in County Tyrone and a spokesman for the Ancient Order of Hibernians told this programme Gerry McGeough isn’t a member of the national board of that organisation and he was not speaking on its behalf and there would be no further comment.
Sam: Okay. Well if, but in a similar situation, if a County Grand Master of the Orange Institution in future months makes a similar repugnant comment I hope that the Orange will not be dragged into this if they haven’t been speaking in that capacity because I do feel…
MC: …Well, I’m sure that’s exactly the case – we would do exactly what we’ve done now. Well, the BBC would – I can’t speak for other media outlets.
Sam: Just one other point: On the issue that I’m bringing about Catholic collaborators I think that is truly awful to try and say that somebody, because of their faith, that their political aspirations are moulded because of their faith – that is totally wrong that he should have brought people, being Roman Catholic, that they can’t have different aspirations…
MC: …So you see his comments, you see Mr. McGeough’s comments as having a threatening dimension to them, do you, when you hear them?
Sam: I do believe so. I’m personally not a Roman Catholic but I do feel it’s entirely wrong, that if you’re a member of the judiciary that your faith or your political aspirations, which should be left at the door whenever you’re making judgments, that he should have brought that in at all and I think that is a serous point to say that Irish Nationalists being part of, rather he said they were Catholic, and that should mean that they shouldn’t be part of the judiciary I think that’s is truly wrong.
MC: Okay, well look thanks very much, indeed, Sam, for you thoughts. (station call-in announcement) Let’s hear from Thomas who has indeed got in touch with us this lunch time. Thomas, what are your thoughts?
Thomas: Yeah, Martin, they can’t be taken in any other way other way other than a threat. I think Gerry used his words so that he wouldn’t sound sectarian. He picked out the Catholic judges as if they were only going to be dealt with. If Martin Galvin, I’m a Loyalist, if I said to Martin Galvin on your radio show if the English pull out of Ireland, Martin, you’re going to be dealt with. I mean it wouldn’t be taken in any other way than a direct threat to him. The waffling that he came off within the last thirty minutes just how deluded some of them Americans are, especially him, with raising money over the years to help the IRA murder people here. Whether he likes it or not our joint First Minister here (and I know there’s a wee of a messing about between Unionists on OFM and DFM) but they’re joint first ministers. And the joint First Minister of the country that we live in is an Irish Republican, is a former IRA Commander and he was voted in there and quite rightly so. And is Martin Galvin saying that all them IRA men, and all them IRA Volunteers, who are now running our country along with Unionists are all traitors and collaborators the same as them judges?
MC: Well, I don’t know that they’re all IRA men and all IRA Volunteers. Some of them may have been involved in….
Thomas: …No, not all but some are specific IRA men.
MC: Sure. Okay. Well I mean, you can speak directly to Martin Galvin because he’s still in the line. So Mr. Galvin, how do you respond to the question posed there by Thomas?
MG: I don’t want to make any comment on what Martin McGuinness’ role was…
Thomas: …Why not, Martin? That’s the question I asked you.
MG: (crosstalk) (inaudible) I certainly don’t to comment on that. I’ve been asked about it many times and certainly am not going to comment…
MC: …Well why not? Why not? He’s the Deputy First Minister. Why would you not comment on that?
MG: Because it maybe incite – or it might be felon setting if I said that he was involved – Gerry McGeough, for example, one of the charges against him that for he was jailed – was that he was a member of the IRA in 1981 – and he was jailed by the administration, which as this speaker I believe him to be correct – members of that same struggle, participants in that same struggle would have been part of the administration which jailed Gerry McGeough in Maghaberry…
MC: …Yeah but hang on – just to be absolutely clear – we’re pretty aware of the detail on this one. Martin McGuinness himself he is a former IRA leader. Martin McGuinness went to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in Doire and said he was the second in command on the 30th of January 1972 so there’s no secret about the fact that Martin McGuinness has a past within the IRA. Now the point that he makes is that he left it a long time ago, he’s no longer involved and he doesn’t regret his involvement then but he’s moved on politically so I don’t think you’re going to get you in hot water with Martin McGuinness. (crosstalk)
MG: Well, if I said…
Thomas: another question…(crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: …Hang on, hang on. Just let Martin Galvin respond to that point.
MG: If I were to say that he had a role within the Republican movement, within the IRA, after that that might be grounds of felon setting. (crosstalk) (inaudible)
MC: Well, he would disagree with you. Look, I’ve put that question to him many times before and he simply says that that’s not right.
MC: And you know, you pays your money you takes you choice. Gerry Adams says he was never in the IRA. A lot of people don’t believe him.
MG: I’m not commenting on that either.
Thomas: Martin, do you still raise money for Irish Republicans in Northern Ireland and do you support the peace process here?
MG: First of all, there’s no – well, I don’t raise money for Irish political prisoners or for the lobbying efforts in this country to advocate against British rule except through the Ancient Hibernians in New York for the Freedom for All Ireland Committee. And I never raised money directly for the IRA that was always something that was put forward by British information services because they wanted to distract (from) the reason that there was a conflict in Ireland which is the injustices under British rule in Ireland.
MC: Well it’s interesting you say you never raised money directly for the IRA. Did you raise money indirectly for the IRA?
MG: Well I raised money for Republican prisoners so they would get money on a weekly basis in accordance with need. I would raise money, for example, during the hunger strike – there was a film – one of the things that was most powerful during that time thousands upon thousands of people we were able to put on the streets in New York and across the United States – which Richard O’Rawe on the same radio programme that Gerry McGeough spoke on – said was the thing that really, was the thing that really won for the hunger strikers and showed the world that they were not criminals that they were political prisoners and patriots.
MC: Alright, Martin Galvin, thank you for now. Just stay with us. Thomas, thanks very much indeed for getting in touch and for making that point. I’m going to take a final caller on this: Ken Wilkinson, who’s the Progressive Unionist Party’s spokesperson for prisoners, has got in touch with us and wants to I think take issue with what Gerry McGeough said. Afternoon to you, Mr. Wilkinson, what are your thoughts?
Ken: Good Afternoon. Well you know, we had Martin on there saying maybe Gerry McGeough would change his statement. Gerry McGeough made the statement and as you were saying earlier I would like to hear Gerry McGeough on talking about this himself because more or less what he said was ‘Brits out.’ And I’m a Brit. And I’m not going anywhere. He was part of a campaign who tried to put the Brits out. We’re still here and we intend to remain.
MC: Well does it help you, Ken Wilkinson, that Gerry McGeough spoke to Martin Galvin, was happy – was unable to do the interview himself, he says – but was happy for Martin Galvin to come on and explain his position and Martin Galvin has clarified that position, has tried to put it into the wider context and did concede, just before half past twelve, that maybe with the benefit of hindsight Gerry McGeough might have chosen slightly different language?
MC: …Well that’s what he said. That’s what he said.
Ken: Maybe. Just maybe. But no, I would like to hear him. But the thing is, if the gentleman was here and talking and if a member of the Apprentice Boys, the Black Preceptory, the Orange or even my party leader had of said and come out with that statement about collaborators – the IRA dealt with collaborators in one way: they shot them in the back of the head – that was the way they dealt with collaborators. And this gentleman here doesn’t even belong in this country and he’s coming here and making statements…
MC: …Well, he’s not coming here. He’s on the line from New York and he’s entitled to an opinion. He’s a radio presenter in New York. He did an interview. He’s now taking about the interview. That’s reasonable is it not?
Ken: (crosstalk) the point is that I take great offence – Gerry McGeough’s statement was, more or less, ‘Brits Out’. What has Martin got to say about that?
MC: Okay, what have you got to say about that, Mr Galvin, in conclusion. That’s how it’s being viewed by someone who’s a member of the Progressive Unionist Party
MG: Well again, Gerry McGeough’s would be very different from the Progressive Unionist Party.
MC: Of course it would.
MG: In the interview, distinguish between what he called the English administration at Westminster and the Unionist population in The North. It’s there if you want to read it so he wasn’t making the connection that Mr. Wilkinson was. Certainly Gerry McGeough supports a united Ireland. I support a united Ireland very strongly. I believe that as a matter of justice there should be one Ireland that serves the interests of the Irish people as a whole and that that is the way forward and that is eventual position that we’ll get to if…
Ken: …It will never happen, Martin, it will never happen.
MG: Okay, then we have a political disagreement.
Ken: You ought to put your own country in order first before you try and interfere in this one.
MC: That’s a whole other discussion – I’ll tell you that, Ken.
MG: If we look into Donald Trump’s statements that he would change we could be on for the rest of the week.
MC: Sure. Well look – we were on for forty-five minutes on the programme this time yesterday talking about Donald Trump.
MG: You didn’t touch the surface.
MC: No, we didn’t. You’re absolutely right. Okay, Ken, thank you very much indeed for getting in touch. Martin Galvin thank you very much indeed for taking our call. We very much appreciate you making yourself available. If you get a chance to speak to Gerry McGeough I suspect that there are colleagues in the BBC who’d be very keen to have him on the airwaves just to clarify precisely what his position is in all of this.
Doug Beattie, a final comment to you: I’m just looking at your statement here and I see you’re saying that you’re calling on the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) to investigate Gerry McGeough’s words to see if an offence has been committed. After the conversation of the last forty-five minutes is that still your view?
DB: Absolutely. I don’t think it’s changed in any shape or form. I mean, what he said, whether he meant it or whether he did not, is an incitement to commit an offence. And I have to finish off by saying Gerry McGeough’s view of a pure Irish-Gael country which excludes people like myself and people of Ulster-Scots background, is something that hardens my resolve to make sure that Northern Ireland, as a country, is a success. (Ed. Note: This view, attributed to Mr. McGeough, does not appear in the transcript of Gerry McGeough’s interview on Radio Free Éireann.) So I think he’s gone in the wrong direction here.
MC: Okay. Alright. Gentlemen, thank you both very much indeed for joining us. Doug Beattie there, the Ulster Unionist MLA with his position – he still thinks that the PSNI should be investigating those comments from Gerry McGeough and Martin Galvin, former NORAID Publicity Director, radio presenter in New York was joining us there, he did the interview with Gerry McGeough. Thank you to both of them. Thank you to everyone else who called in.