Bernadette Devlin McAliskey The Blindboy Podcast Recorded 6 October 2018 and Published 13 November 2018

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The Blindboy Podcast
Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey
Ulster Hall Belfast
6 October 2018

October 5th 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland. To mark this anniversary, Blindboy Boatclub of the Rubber Bandits hosted one of his awesome podcasts at Ulster Hall in Belfast on October 6th 2018. Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey was his guest. The house was sold out. The podcast is over two hours long. The Transcripts will be publishing the entire session with Bernadette – beginning to end. This transcript is Part 5 of 5. This is the Q and A, the questions for Bernadette; there were four questions from the audience. In this transcript the questions will be summarised and Bernadette’s answers transcribed. But certainly do enjoy listening to the entire Q&A as you read along. (begins time stamp ~2:04:12)

Blindboy:  Who would like to ask a question? And it can be about anything – that’s the joy of a podcast that the question doesn’t have to be about politics – it could be about inflating beach balls. (The Question and Answer segment begins.)

Question #1: What is Bernadette’s opinion about Brexit?

Bernadette: 


Bernadette McAliskey
Source: Hozier

Yeah, that could take a fortnight. I, let me try and answer this short: I try to say to Brexiteers, Lexiteers, Remainers, Remoaners and the lot that the starting point of the question is: What’s wrong with the country? And that’s not entirely dependent on whether we’re in the EU or not. I think, I campaigned against joining the EU, I think the EU is certainly not everything that the Remainers would tell us that it is. But who in their right mind would walk away from a bad situation with a worse person than the one you are running away from? So there may have been an argument, if we can build an alternative Europe, that is not based on the limitations of this Europe – it’s not about European Union capital and it’s not about sustaining the European Union’s existing power structures because we have to have European solidarity, you know, we have to have international solidarity, we’re all part of the same place, and I’m not sure how we change, reform, revolutionise, break-up and build a better European Union that means something outside of building the revolution – but what I definitely do know that voting ‘no’ in a referendum set up by a delusion, done for, past it’s sell-date empire that thought it could regenerate itself outside of the European Union – a right wing, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-human rights agenda – what possessed anybody that they could vote ‘no’, hand them that power on a plate and then, with the rise of the right and the fascism behind it of British Toryism, they could create a progressive exit along side it? All I could say to people I love dearly when they started to talk like that was: Tell me that again? Madness! So tactically, people needed to reject the British proposal. Every instinct you had would have to have told you: Anything that strengthens the hand of the British right is wrong. (applause) So even if we don’t like the European Union – and then there were people who said, that was the dissident Republican line, you know – the enemy of (what is it?) the enemy of my enemy is my friend. When are youse ever gonna get over that bit of nonsense? The enemy of your enemy is probably just a bigger bastard than your enemy. But that said, the issue that we need to organise around is not: Are we in or are we out of the European Union? Because, as Connolly put it a long time ago in a bigger European battle: We serve neither king nor kaiser – it’s not about being in or out. It’s about building a society here that links with solidarity movements everywhere else to build the kind of world we want and the kind of Europe within that. But leaving, Brexit, ain’t taking us nowhere – only into poverty.

Question #2:   Did slapping Reginald Maudling in Parliament take away from the newspapers reporting about what happened on Bloody Sunday and does Bernadette feel that she was manipulated by the state to react to Maudling?

Bernadette:   Oh, I love the theorising, intellectual statements of The Left – they’re feckin’ brilliant! No. No, no. Let me tell you in very plain, Tyrone English what happened: None of that. If I hadn’t hit yer man they would not have filled the British newspapers with the horror of Bloody Sunday. They would have filled it with the lies of the Secretary of State, unchallenged. So that’s the first bit – I didn’t take away from anything. It was when they were telling yer man’s lies they at least had to add, but they were outraged about that bit, that the ‘Mad Woman from Tyrone’ hit the man. What everybody else remembered was that didn’t go unchallenged. So the premise is theoretical, ideological and non-applicable because it assumes that if I hadn’t hit him all those journalists would have run out and said: Massacre Happened in Doire! No, they wouldn’t. They would have repeated, unchallenged, that man’s lie. That’s all they would have done.

Question #3:    Why won’t Bernadette run for Parliament, Irish President or any office?

Bernadette:   Michael D.’s doing a good enough job as it is. And if I had a vote, which I ought to have but I don’t have, if I had a vote in the current presidential election I’d be voting for him twice – well, no, once, once – you’re only allowed to vote once! But I think there’s a serious point to the question: It’s in our culture, we just happen to get that way, it doesn’t matter whether we’re Catholics or Protestants or whatever, it’s in our culture to look for salvation from on high and to look to some god or some icon or some big person or some Bern’dette or some… to gallop to the rescue – and if only she was sitting in the job it would be alright. And that’s not true. It’s the job description, it’s the structure of the job, it’s the job itself that the problem is with. It’s the way we organise what we call democracy. It is the way we organise what we call power that is wrong.

And if we just keep voting people into a system that is corrupt and corrupting and then cry because the people we sent into it betray us, at what point are we going to catch on that then everybody will betray us as we go through this or there’s something wrong with the system we’re sending them into? The amount of power to change society that currently resides in the government is minimal. Power currently lies in the hands of the people who own wealth in the multinational industries. They tell the government who’ll pay tax and who won’t. Like you and me will pay it – they won’t. They tell the government what the penalty will be if you vote this way or that way: We’ll move this factory. We’ll take our finance there. We’ll close this down. Power? There’s very little democratic power. So what happens is that you vote people into Stormont – God bless yas! And youse don’t listen anyway. You don’t listen to me. I told youse that was a bum deal. I told youse: That was a bum deal. That Stormont – if you’d gone to as much trouble as I’d gone to taking that place apart you’d have had a very dim view of people coming sticking it together again. And now is doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work not because Sinn Féin are collaborators, not because the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) are stupid – these things don’t help – but they’re not the cause. The place doesn’t work! It doesn’t work! So, while I say ‘thank you’ and that’s all very flattering – I’m not good with flattery – you don’t need Bern’dette to form a party, you don’t need Bern’dette to do anything. You need the person that’s in you – that knows what you know, that believes what you know – which is why you think that I’m a good person and that if I could do something – and then you need to do it yourself – and you need to do it all yourselves – because I can’t do it for you. I can’t. But it’s in you all to do it. It’s in you all to do it. Or you wouldn’t be here!

You would be responding the way – you ought to feel the energy that we can feel up here – it’s the best political rally I’ve been at in a lifetime!

Bernadette and Blindboy at the Podcast
Source: JumPic.com

And yet, you’re not political people. You know, this is real. You know, this is real people with real feelings and a real understanding of what’s wrong and what could be right and it’s not about their political ideology or their political party or who did this or who did that or who they should vote for. This is people power and if we can get more people to begin to say: Look, it’s not about who voted for who it’s about what can we do to stop things from happening? And it might be that you write to the papers and it might be you get on the internet and it might be that you take over an empty house for homeless people to make a point. It might be that you read and get more understanding of what you want to do. But if your answer is – ’cause that used to drive me insane in the ’60’s – you know, you’d go to meetings and people say: ‘Somebody ought to’, you know, ‘Somebody would need to’ – and I’d say: Yeah. Since you had the bright idea how about that ‘somebody’ being you! So go for it! Go for it! Run for ‘something’ if you want. And if you don’t think that, you know think: Oh! You couldn’t do that – stand for, you run for council and let on your mate.

Question #4:  The splits.

Aye, well that’s a whole different conversation that will take another evening. The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP or the Isrps, Irps) first of all, you had that Provo (Provisional IRA) split and again, you know, I was telling youse about going back to the days of the Magdalene Laundries and people didn’t really know certain things, if you go back to the split, you know the war was, and whatever you want to call it – ‘Troubles’ or war – but the civil rights movement and tensions were becoming flash points of conflict and then that was being armed and so in that debate within the Republican Movement about self-defence and whether attack was the best method of self-defence and the taking up of armed struggle, while that split was there then, effectively, there was no Provisional Sinn Féin. There’s things that people forget. Sinn Féin, Provisional Sinn Féin did not have a functioning cumann in East Tyrone, North Armagh, South Doire which, during the war, became big flash point areas. Sinn Féin didn’t have a functioning political cumann in those areas until the hunger strike – that was 1982. So when you’re going back to the early ’70’s, the Provisionals were an army and what bits of Sinn Féin cumainn they basically had around the country were, to an extent – and I don’t want to say this in a bad way – but they were effectively cheerleaders in support for the army. They didn’t have a political ideology. They stole Roy Johnson’s federation solution and took it with them, just in case they would need it, because they didn’t like the democratisation of Ulster but the federal solution didn’t sound so bad. But there was none of the political education and political organising in Sinn Féin that is the Sinn Féin that you know now or that is the post-hunger strike Sinn Féin.

So in ’70, in the mid’70’s, you had a position where the politics were with the Officials (the Official IRA) who had kind of, well, in my perspective, in challenging the drift towards militarism and Hibernianisation, which I thought they were right in doing, but they’d kind of thrown the baby out with the bath water and, to my mind, and said the national question itself was shelved and it seemed to me that the national question pushes itself into the middle of everything because it’s unresolved. And then (Seamus) Costello started, he started the IRSP around that question; that there had to be a place where the progressive politics and social movement politics of The Left and the national question could come together. So we didn’t have: Either self-determination must wait on democracy or democratisation must wait on self-determination. And that attracted me and I joined him in putting the Irsps together. And in the very first year there were meetings, when we had meetings, there were five hundred people coming to the meetings – the basis of it was there.

And the big argument that we fell out over was that the traditional model of Republicanism was the sister or brotherhood of organisations – that you had a democratic political movement over here and you had a military organisation over here – and that this was a secret organisation. I don’t like secrecy. I think if you don’t do the thing out in the open – don’t do it at all. You may not want everybody to know your business but on the day that everybody finds out your business, good, bad or indifferent, you’d want to be standing over it. Otherwise you’re done for! You’re open to manipulation, blackmail – whatever. So the day that, don’t put your hand in the till, but the day you do know that there’ll come a day somebody’ll tell you you did it and you have to say: Yes, that was me. Or else you’re done for!

So that was that argument. And my argument with Costello, it went on, and there was other peoples arguing was that if the IRSP was to be a democratic political organisation in the way it was it could not tolerate dual-membership of a secret faction, armed or unarmed. You can’t have secret factions because you can’t have democracy. You can’t have a political party where nobody in the political party knows who in the political party owes a first allegiance to another organisation that you’re not allowed to know about, talk about and you’ve no idea what they stand for – especially if they shoot people, especially if they’re an army. And that argument was not resolved and, in the midst of it, then the Officials decided that having allowed the Provisionals (PIRA) to develop they couldn’t allow the Irsps to develop and the whole militarisation started again. And those of us who argued that’s not – you can’t do that – you have to be brave enough to build an open, democratic, progressive party with no secret army because there was already enough armies. And I still don’t know, I don’t accept – I know what people say – but you see, once you take the weapon in your hands and fire it there is no more revolutionary or less revolutionary way of pointing a rifle – it doesn’t matter. You see, when to take the rifle in your hand and point it and aim it and pull the trigger – see the person on the other end where the bullet’s going – don’t make any difference to them whether you were in the Irsps, the IRA, the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) or the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) – they’re dead. And there were already enough armies. So within eleven months of that prolonged debate we, those of us who believed the same as me, lost the argument – and we left.

Sometimes I think that we shouldn’t have walked out at that point – we should have stayed and fought the argument more. Because what happened when we did leave was the disintegration of the Isrps into all, everything, that came after that and perhaps a moment was lost. But is there any resemblance to that and, in my book, (such a note to end the night on) and the present ‘dissident Republicans’ as they’re called – the fragmentation? No. I think that most, and this is my own perspective, I think most of these small, fragmented Republican organisations are made up of people who are understandably angry that the organisation they were in over the years of the struggle did not deliver on the expectations and then turned on them who were a party of it. I think part of their anger is a denial that right up until the point where they individually or collectively woke up and smelled the coffee they were part of in the organisations and complicit in taking it where it went. And then when the penny dropped blamed everybody else except themselves for not paying attention. But most of the people in the dissident Republican Movement are people who were in the main movement – signed up to the Good Friday Agreement, signed up to bit by bit by bit ’til they came to the bit they didn’t like – and when enough was enough they left and blamed – forgot they signed up to all the rest of it – and they’re going nowhere. That’s the road to no time. And any foolish belief, any foolish belief that they have, that somehow they can put something together, that will… What? Will what?

That’s the question I ask all the time: Will what? What do you think will happen when you go down the same road you went down before and end up in the same place as every single Republican leadership in the country has ended up. Do you know, Fianna Fáil came out of Sinn Féin – you just go back over the history – they all came out of Sinn Féin. And at every time what happens is: The leadership settles and a rump goes away over here, and then after a while the rump tries the same thing and then they settle. And at some point you have to realise your methodology is flawed – it keeps taking you round in the same destructive circle and no further, no nearer, that vision of Tone and Connolly – and I don’t mean that they don’t have it – it takes you no nearer it. So you need to quit!

You know, what was it Einstein said? You know, doing the same thing over and over again gets you the same results. You have to recognise that we are where we are and to move to a better place we have to do things differently and the Republican Movement isn’t going to lead us anywhere. We needed a bigger, mass, broader political movement. You will not – militarism doesn’t work. Give it up! It doesn’t work! (applause)

Blindboy:   Thank you all for coming here tonight. It was absolutely fantastic! Like, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long, long time and I just, I felt like a member of the audience. I was quite happy and it’s hard to shut me up. That was unbelievable! That was incredible! Thank you so much, Bernadette. (ends time stamp ~2:33:35)

A little extra from The Transcripts.

Try to name all the faces you see in the video.
(Not sure?  Read Hozier’s uploader comment on YouTube.)

Enjoy!

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey The Blindboy Podcast Recorded 6 October 2018 and Published 13 November 2018

Follow me

The Blindboy Podcast
Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey
Ulster Hall Belfast
6 October 2018

October 5th 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland. To mark this anniversary, Blindboy Boatclub of the Rubber Bandits hosted one of his awesome podcasts at Ulster Hall in Belfast on October 6th 2018. Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey was his guest. The house was sold out. The podcast is over two hours long. The Transcripts will be publishing the entire session with Bernadette – beginning to end. This transcript is Part 4 of 5. In this part Blindboy asks Bernadette to discuss four subjects: 1) The government policy dealing with people who come to Ireland seeking refuge or asylum called ‘Direct Provision’ 2) the rise of the ‘Irish Right’ 3) the UFF (Ulster Freedom Fighters) attempt to assassinate her on 16 January 1981 and 4) Sinn Féin’s attempt to write itself into the Civil Rights Movement.
(begins time stamp ~1:33:51)

Blindboy:   The way you’re kind of speaking about it – it’s kind of drawing parallels with – one thing that young people in Ireland are quite concerned with at the moment is that direct provision will be our Magdalene Laundries.

Bernadette:   Yep.

Blindboy:   And like how do you feel about that? Are looking at direct provision? Are you – ’cause currently you’re working with STEP (South Tyrone Empowerment Programe) organisation which – you work with migrant populations.

Bernadette:  You know, we don’t have direct provision in The North. We have many bad things – we don’t have direct provision. Direct provision, and many of the young people maybe here in The North, because I can’t see you in the dark – not that I call tell southerners from northerners in the daylight. (all laugh)

Blindboy:   (asks the audience) But you know what direct provision is – yeah?

Bernadette: 


Bernadette McAliskey
Photo: Field Day

Yeah. No, direct provision in the south of Ireland is that people who come seeking refuge and seeking political asylum and seeking protection are all housed in what they call ‘direct provision’. So they’re all essentially interned. You know, if you’re looking at the Northern parallel it’s like being interned – in the early days of internment when you’re all put in the one place and hutments and whatever. And the biggest direct provision is in the former Butlin’s Mosney. And people are there for years. And they have so little control. It is a prison. And to describe it as anything other than prison – if it’s not a prison it’s a form of concentration camp…

Blindboy:  …Yeah…

Bernadette:  …You know, it’s in there and thereabouts. People have no control over their own lives. They have no idea when they’re getting out. They have no capacity to earn. They have no real family life and their mental health is then destroyed by that, their self-worth is diminished by it. Having survived the things they survived to reach what they thought was protection they are being slowly tortured, destroyed and being dehumanised by direct provision. Why?

Blindboy:   It’s the Irish government’s attempt to send them away and to not encourage other people to come.

Bernadette:   Exactly. It’s so that other people won’t come. And I’ll tell you this: At the time of the famine, when you look at what the population was in 1845, and it was deciminated and destroyed by famine, there are not enough people on this island. There are room for more people on this island. There’s plenty of room for people here. (applause) We could take another million people and still – a million – you know, not five hundred Syrian refugees and two from here and four from there. The reason we don’t have the resources for a million is that about one percent of the population here have hoarded everything for their greedy, corrupt selves. (applause)

Blindboy:  Yeah.

Bernadette:  But direct provision is our Magdalene Laundry is our – worse even – even worse because it’s being done with the hindsight and knowledge that we now have, that we now have. You know, if there was any excuse – and there’s none – to say that in the ignorance and stupidity of what the clergy believe to be God’s Word caused that in the past we now know that it’s wrong. I mean, the most superstitious clergyman must know, by this stage, that the Magdalene Laundries and things that happened were wrong. So then how do you make an excuse, how does a secular government make an excuse for direct provision? It’s a fundamental breech of human rights that should not be tolerated. (applause)

Blindboy:  Yeah. And one thing I’ll say: Like the fact that when I mentioned it to the room like there was genuinely people here who never heard of it, right?


One of the Direct Provision Centres
This location: Lissywollen, Athlone
Photo: Braca Karic
Source: Wikipedia

It’s like there’s actual internment happening on this island and if you don’t know about it that means the state and the media are doing a brilliant job of hiding it away. So like, make it visible. Do whatever you can. There’s a lot of groups at the moment – what they’re trying to do is help kids in direct provision just have clothing for school and things like that, you know? Find out about your local direct provision group. Try and help through that way and make it an issue. Make it an issue. Even though we’re in The North of Ireland here – learn about it – it’s happening on the same island, you know? No one wants internment, like. (applause)

Bernadette:   Yeah. Right.

Blindboy:  When you said there, Bernadette, that like you know Ireland has got space for more people, which it does, if you said that on the internet like the Irish Right would go fucking ape shit.

Bernadette:  I know. Oh, I know!

Blindboy:  Like how are you feeling about this emergence of the Irish Right or the alt-right or whatever they want to call themselves?

Bernadette:   Well, going back to where we started the conversation and about ‘revolting young people’: When we were young and the civil rights movement here and things were rising we were part of and we were seeking justice in a world that, for a whole lot of different reasons had, at that time, the rise of new liberal, new progressive, new solidarity thinking. And I think what young people need to know now, because I think it’s much more difficult, is that you’re working for justice against the rise of the right…

Blindboy:  …Yeah…

Bernadette:   And that’s happening the world over. I think we’re looking at, I think the period that you might want, you know, that’s most similar to, is that period from the ’28 crash, the Wall Street crash, right through to the ’30’s and the rise of fascism, not so much in Germany – it was rising everywhere – but the rise of fascism in Spain first because if we had finished it in Spain before it took hold everywhere else we’d have done the world a favour. But we’re looking at – and when we were young like we used to think everybody over the age of twenty-five was fascists…

Blindboy:  …That hasn’t changed!…

Bernadette:  … just a word that you used. But fascism is real and it’s raising it’s head again everywhere. And it’s more important, then, that young people speak out – and I don’t mean just young people – but you are the leadership of today and tomorrow. People like myself are old people who got wise very painfully and have some of that wisdom to share but the future’s not mine. The future belongs to you. I’m biding my time here ’til I pay for my sins – Ha! – no chance! No chance! (applause) But I think the rise of the right – and we’re it, we’re seeing it in – seeing the manipulation of ignorance and fear and unmet expectations. You know, there’s a world out there that’s being shown to people through the media and people are being asked to look like this and own this and have this and be this – and you can’t. Not because there’s anything wrong with you. All that imagery is about flogging you shit so that they can make money. And then they keep the money and you stay even poorer ’cause you just bought all their shit. (applause) But there’s no work. There’s no money.


Bernadette Speaks!
West Against Racism Network

And then, because ‘the dream’ can’t be lived, it’s the other person’s fault – it’s the black person’s fault, it’s the gay person’s fault, it’s the foreign person’s fault, it’s the person on benefits fault, it’s the person with mental health problems fault – it’s anybody-that-isn’t-you’s fault. And so you’re being twisted and turned against everybody else and your fear and your anger is being diverted towards other people and that’s happening. You know things don’t happen across the entire world at the same time by accident. That’s happening ’cause somebody’s feeding it and ideas are feeding it. And it’s not, you know, it’s not – you know, you see the stereotypes. You know the boy in the boots that hasn’t got his grammar right, that’s putting graffiti on the wall and breaking people’s windies – it’s not him. He’s the consequence of it. Not the cause of it. It’s the suited and booted up here who are feeding it because it’s keeping them up there while people here are turned against each other. And so you need to stop it. And you need to find ways of supporting each other to stop it. So when somebody thinks it’s funny to make misogynist remarks about women in your company and they’re your friend you have to say: You know, that’s not good enough. You have to stop it. Everywhere you see it – you have to stop it. (applause)

Blindboy:   When we were backstage I was asking you about, we were discussing the nature of trauma and I was asking would it be okay if I asked you about the time you had an assassination attempt. And you said: Yes, that would be okay.

Bernadette:  Uh-huh. Yep. That’s okay. That’s okay. Yeah.

Blindboy:   Can we talk about that?

Bernadette:  Yes, we can talk about that.

Blindboy:  So – what was it like being shot nine times?

Bernadette:  It was interesting. It was interesting. And it’s funny that I can talk about that much more easily than I can talk about that memory, you know, that memory of Bloody Sunday is more traumatic for me than the time that I was shot. And I think it was because, you know, as we were saying, it’s because I didn’t see Bloody Sunday coming. I didn’t see the 5th of October coming.

Source: CAIN

But by the time people came to our house and kicked the door in and held my two daughters, one at that time four and the other nine, at gunpoint while their parents were shot I knew they were coming, if you know what I mean?

Source: CAIN

I didn’t know they were coming then. But Miriam Daly had been shot. John Turnley had been shot. Noel (Lyttle) and Ronnie Bunting had been shot. And we knew that the penalty for defending the rights of prisoners, the human rights of prisoners, was putting civil rights and human rights campaigners in the firing line and we kept on doing it and that’s why I was saying to you the question is nearly not: What did it feel like to be shot? But was: Since you knew at some point the penalty for doing this was that we were going to be shot. And John McMichael went on television and said we would be shot.

So when the people came to our door it was, for us, a day that was always coming and because you understood the context of what was happening I think, for us, the trauma was somewhat less – I mean the emotional trauma afterwards not the physical trauma of it – than for people who got caught up in a bomb or something and didn’t know what was going to happen to them. But what it was I was shot nine times.

And again, the real point of this is: The UDA (Ulster Defence Association) just didn’t decide to come to our house. It was part of a campaign that they had been involved in. The British Army and the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) knew they were coming, on the day they were coming and the time they were coming. And they let that happen. They let that go ahead. And after we were shot and left to die on the floor of our own house and our children there the soldiers that I spoke to going home, going into my house that night – and I know why I was shot:  The hunger strike had ended after Christmas, the whatever deal was not done – and that’s a whole new story – but it was clear that within the prison itself Bobby Sands and others were unhappy with what had happened – this deal that was supposed to be done didn’t materialise and that there was going to be another hunger strike. And I, in fact, was coming from an H-Block meeting that was discussing this problem and fear and what we would do if it happened. And I almost knew that it was going to be my turn to be shot because I was the PR and I was good at what I was doing so the key person to take out of the equation before the next hunger strike started had to be me. And we were taking precautions at home because of that.

But when I came home from that meeting, and I live in the country, pulled my wee car up very close to the wall because it was a frosty night, I could see the soldiers and I spoke to them and I said: Have you no homes of your own to go to? That’s what I said to them. Have you no homes of your own to go to – lying out there outside decent people’s houses? And I can still see their wee eyes peeping up at me and their camouflaged faces but nobody spoke. And I went in, and you know it was about one o’clock in the morning, really cold night and I said to Michael: Soldiers are lying outside our house. Now we lived in, we live in the bog, we lived in the moss, it was up a long lane and an isolated place. And then I got into bed and went to sleep. And the next morning – and there are things, you know, there’s a touch of terrible humour in the midst of tragedies, but when we look back on it sometimes we have to laugh at the chaotic nature of it – but Michael heard the car coming and pulling up right behind mine and he looked out the window and he saw the three men getting out of the car and coming round the front of the house and one of them had the sledgehammer. So he’s shouting at me to get up, get up – they’re outside the house. I don’t like being wakened and I’m not really good at this and I’m saying: I know! (You know what it’s like?) I told you that last night! ‘Cause I thought he was talking about the soldiers. Because he was saying: Get up! Get up! They’re outside the house! He was talking about those men but I thought he was talking about the soldiers I saw.

So what really woke me up was the sound of the sledgehammer hitting the front door which bounced the door open and the first gunshots were fired then through the hall door at Michael who was trying to hold it shut and then they came – Smallwoods stood and held my two daughters, Róisín and Deirdre, in their bed at gunpoint. Róisín was the older of the two. She got the younger one into her bed with her and covered her head up so that she couldn’t see what was happening and she kept, I remember her saying in her statement, she kept watching the gunman so – the funny thing I did that myself, that kind of belief that if you’re looking the people in the face they’re not going to do anything to you – and then Smallwoods was doing that and watching them. Graham – it was like a firm of solicitors when you heard of them in the court: Watson, Smallwoods and Graham – they came on in and Michael tried to draw them into the kitchen and he was shot there. And then Watson came into the bedroom and I had just lifted Fintan, who was the youngest, and I realised when I lifted him:
If I’m shot he’ll be shot, too.

So then I had to throw him – he was only a toddler, he wasn’t two – and it was just as I threw the child away that Watson came in very close behind me and I think he was startled by the fact that I was standing up with my back to him so close to him because he fired straightaway – and I can still remember in slow-motion each place I was hit and how I fell back. And not that it’s a comfort to people but, you know, and I’ve told people who have had relatives killed and whatever little comfort that is that I was totally aware of the impact of being hit and I could smell the gunfire, I had a very strong sense of smell and vision – I could see the blue light of the flashes of the gun and I knew I was being hit – but I couldn’t feel the pain. And I didn’t feel any pain until I was actually being trundled across on a trolley from the helicopter to the military hospital and that was about, must have been about a good hour later. But while we were lying, they shot us and they walked – now they were roaring and shouting when they put the door in and came into the house – but they walked out casually like you’d walk out of a pub. And just when they walked out I heard the English voices saying: Put your hands against the wall. And at that minute I thought it was the soldiers who killed us. I’m still thinking, I saw these soldiers and I thought that a neighbour had heard the shooting and come over and I was waiting to hear more shots to hear the neighbour being killed. But I heard a gun drop and I knew a gun had been dropped on the bonnet of my car and a voice said:
Fuck this for a double-cross!

Now I believe that that voice was Andrew Watson’s. That’s that who said that. So the Army arrested people who did not expect to be arrested. And then the guys came in and they were Paratroopers and they ran away again, and they put up a flare and Argyll and Southern Highlanders came and administered first aid and then Hew Pike, the Chief of the Paras (Parachute Regiment), gave a press conference on our front street and we – you know, Hew Pike, head of the Paras, never went to give a press conference for anybody else that was shot in Northern Ireland – and Michael and myself were taken to Musgrave Military Hospital and we remain the only two non-combatants who weren’t British soldiers in the whole of The Troubles to have been taken directly to the military hospital. And the reason for that was because we didn’t die – and nobody knew what we knew or what anybody else knew – or what had happened and, much like Bloody Sunday, until the Army got its story straight everybody had to be controlled.

And we’re still looking for the truth of who ‘up there’ – you know, never mind Watson, Smallwoods and Graham were found guilty, pleaded guilty, and did their stint – but the real culprits, the same as Bloody Sunday, the same as the people who ran special agents, were ‘whoever’ – in British military and British politics and British Intelligence – were playing poker with the lives of people in this country for forty years.


Bernadette
Memorial Speech
Belfast 13 Oct 2002

For forty years it looks like British Intelligence were running the Provos (Provisional IRA), were running the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), were running the UDA. I remember a wise man once said to me: Every time you see, you know, you’re looking at the armed organisations, there’ll be one working for the CIA, there’ll be one working for the Brits, there’ll be one working for Free State Intelligence, there’ll be one carrying on for himself and the fifth one’s in the coffin that they’re carrying. And it’s sad but when you look back and see what’s now coming out of what the government, the government who’s supposed to be responsible for the safety of all its citizens equally, whether it likes them or not, was paying people to join unlawful organisations, was letting those people plan and get away with murder. There are victims who can’t get justice because national security doesn’t allow us to know that the people involved in the killing of them were paid by the government. You know, where – where do you start to find the truth about all of that? And yet, until we do and until we see justice done – there’ll be no peace, there’ll be, you know – we’re managing the absence of war but there’ll never be progress until we are able to hold the government to account for whatever it thought it was doing here because it left four thousand people dead. (applause)

Blindboy:   That’s heavy stuff, Bernadette.

Bernadette:  Yeah.

Blindboy:  Fucking hell!

Bernadette:   The morale is, you see, when they say: Well, I have a good idea – let’s form an army! Say: No, thank you! Let’s just, let’s keep, as (Eamonn) McCann says, the sound of marching feet. Let’s keep our feet on the street and we’ll get where we’re going. (applause)

Female Audience Member:  (shouts out to Bernadette) Please run for Parliament! Please!

Bernadette:  Pardon?

Blindboy:  ‘Run for Parliament’, she says.

Bernadette:  And if anybody suggests you should run for Parliament I’d cut that short – just run! (applause)

Blindboy:  Do you feel that Sinn Féin have written themselves into the civil rights movement?

Bernadette:  Well, I have to say they made a good effort.

Blindboy:  Gerry Adams is in the back wearing a hat.

Bernadette:   It’s interesting.

Blindboy:  He is!

Bernadette:  I’ll tell you and I’ve said before: The Civil Rights Movement was started as a broad-based movement. As a child, I wasn’t really, but as a young person – I didn’t start it. I tried to say that to Lord Scarman and that’s when he said the bit about The Troubles – I didn’t start it. But those who would now claim bragging rights for it would want to reflect more on where it all went wrong and how much we still have to do than to be trying to position themselves as the leaders of something many of those claiming leadership of were in nappies when it was happening – because it wasn’t them. They didn’t exist. Did the Republican Movement exist?  Yes, it did.  Most of them weren’t in it.

Some of them were and those who then went on to be the present Sinn Féin and the Provisional Republican Movement were the people who walked away and started a whole new ballgame because they didn’t like the Republican Movement’s policy of civil rights and democratising Ulster. And that’s where you got the Officials and the ‘Stickies’ (Official IRA).

By Stephen Walker
BBC News NI Political Correspondent

And there’s a wee bit of irony about the powerful Sinn Féin now that came out of the Provisional Republican Movement claiming the legacy of the organisation they left because they didn’t like what it was doing. But, you see when you get – see when you lose the run of yourself – anything’s possible. And Sinn Féin is losing the run of itself.
(ends time stamp ~ 2:04:12)