Ed Moloney RFÉ 19 August 2017

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

Martin Galvin speaks to the award-winning journalist, author and historian Ed Moloney via telephone about the British government’s first position paper on Brexit and about the FBI investigation of NORAID. (begins time stamp ~ 16:27)

Martin:   This week the British government issued its first position paper – and this is something that’s going to have to be negotiated – not with Ireland but with the European Community – and already I notice that there were complaints by the Daily Mail about having a back door to Britain, they’re worried about immigration controls and what of Britain’s wish to take back our borders, complaining about their own government proposals if it’s not a hard and fast border. Ed, could you tell us about that proposal and what the implications are?

Ed:    Yeah, essentially what the British have proposed, I suppose it’s come as a bit of a surprise to some people, which the proposal is that really then there won’t be what they call a ‘hard border’ between The South and The North or between The South of Ireland and the rest of it and Britain. There had been fears and predictions that they were going to return back to the 1950’s and the 1960’s where there were customs posts at every border stopping and everyone was held up and if you were carrying goods or freight across you had to have all sorts of documentation and stuff like that. That was something which was being opposed by the Irish government and being opposed by a lot of people in Europe as well who argued that this might serve to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and the peace accords in Northern Ireland and it seems that the British have been won over to that view. But, as you noted yourself there in your introduction, there are elements in British society who are very angry about this because they see the absence of border controls as a sort of ‘secret entree’ into Britain by jihadists and immigrants and people like that that would not be welcomed by the likes of the Daily Mail or The Sun and Rupert Murdoch’s papers so that has yet to be negotiated, of course, with the Europeans but it’s come as a bit of a surprise, and I suspect quite a welcomed surprise, although there are, you know, arguments and questions about how this could actually be implemented in practice.

And I’m beginning to see suggestions that there will actually be an electronic border – that people who cross over will be monitored, freight will be monitored, customs duties will be collected in due course etc – but that sounds like it’s going to be very, very difficult. So one of the predictions that’s being made is that if this soft border is introduced you’re going to see the resurgence of smuggling from places like South Armagh – which would be no surprise since they’ve been doing that for the most of the last hundred years or so. So it’s a development but it’s unsettled; it’s not negotiated and not agreed yet.

Martin:   Alright. And we should say when we talk about papers like the Daily Mail and some of the other papers that have said: What about our borders? those are papers that have a great deal of influence with the Tories, with the Conservative Party, which is the ones proposing Brexit, proposing its implementation, it has a big impact on them politically. And you also have the whole idea that this has to be approved by the European Community…

Ed:    ..Yeah…

Martin:   …and they don’t want to go out of their way to make it easy for states like Britain to leave because they’re concerned that other states might say: Well if the deal is so good for Britain I’ll get the same kind of deal and they’ll all start to leave the European Community.

Ed:   Yeah, but I think the Europeans have a ‘get out’ in this case by pleading special circumstances; special circumstances being the Good Friday Agreement, being the peace accord. And the argument, which I don’t actually buy into but it’s obviously been persuasive to certainly a lot in the media and politics in Europe you know that to have a hard border there is going to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and you know you could have a resurgence in violence. I think that’s based upon a misunderstanding of what The Troubles were really about but nonetheless, that’s what’s been widely accepted as being the conventional wisdom and the European authorities, the EU authorities, will be able to argue to other states: Look, this was very much an exception to the rule that doesn’t apply elsewhere.

Martin:   Okay. Now Ed, I should mention you have a blog, The Broken Elbow – there are new posts put up very frequently, almost daily – and recently you obtained and released some more of the FBI files regarding Irish Northern Aid (NORAID) although the files themselves went much further than Irish Northern Aid – they went through many groups in the Irish community. And one of the first things I spotted: The Irish-American Unity Conference (IAUC) was founded by Jim Delaney. He was a prominent, wealthy business man originally from Chicago, moved to Texas, invited a number of organisations to come together and form the Irish-American Unity Conference, that organisation still exists. And one of the files that you had relates to a letter that, or an advertisement, that he had of the Irish-American Unity Conference and how as simply as a result of posting this advertisement asking people to join he was visited by the FBI, they were worried that he might harbour some kind of anti-British feelings, harassed him that way. Could you tell us about that?

Ed:  Yeah, well first of all these aren’t my files. These are files that were actually collected by a journalist called Nate Lavey, who’s a cinematographer, he makes documentaries and stuff, he had collected these, or asked the Freedom of Information people at the FBI for documents or their files on NORAID and basically had forgotten all about his request and then one day in the post came this big bundle. He really didn’t know what to do with them and he asked me if I would take care of them and see if I could find anything of interest so these are really Nate’s files, not mine so I don’t want to claim credit for something that I didn’t actually dig out myself. But there are lots of files, and there’s a lot more to come yet, and this one is interesting as you say for that and other reasons as well, just the scope of the investigations that the FBI were undertaking into Irish groups were underneath the umbrella of NORAID. And I suspect that if you put them up against a wall, if you can ever do that to an FBI man, and say: Why did you include this Irish-American Unity Conference which really appears not to be associated with the Provos or IRA gun running etc – why did you do that? And the answer would be: Well, actually NORAID were involved in the foundation of the group and, as I understand it, were one of the member-groups invited along to the first meeting of the IAUC. So that’s why, I suspect, and that’s the justification, I suspect, that they would give if they were pressed for doing this. But it does show that you know they had a very, very broad remit in terms of the Irish community – anything which smacked of an attitude out of kilter with the American policy on Britain and Northern Ireland was bound to attract their attention. And I have to say, as well, you know just looking at what Nate was able to get and what he gave me, was that we’re only getting a fraction of what the FBI had on NORAID, I’m sure, you know – there’s an awful lot that’s being withheld because it’s hard to believe…

Martin:  …Well one of the things, Ed, that I thought was interesting: There’s documents which show there was great attention to protests of British regimental bands. Now what would happen is British regimental bands would come to the United States on tours, they’d play at places, the Nassau Coliseum, Madison Square Garden, different venues across the country and Irish Northern Aid would organise protests and we would say that, you know, if the Grenadier Guards or other regiments are in The North of Ireland they shoot down people, they oppress people – they shouldn’t be allowed just to play here and pose as entertainers. And these were legal protest, there would be permits, and in fact one of the first things I checked into they had – very concerned about Nassau Coliseum. The person who led that protest and would have been a speaker is Peter King, who’s presently a member of Congress, very much involved within the upper echelons of the House, Republicans, and you had people like that with legal protests, they would notify the government, they would keep to what was required of them and they would have clear First Amendment activity of protesting against British bands but yet this was spied on, this was attempts to infiltrate those protests and there seemed to be a great deal of effort by the FBI for these legal protests which never had any problems – any violations of the law.

Ed:  Yeah, but you can hardly be surprised that the FBI would follow such events because the rationale and the reasoning that they would follow would be something like this: People who are bothered enough about the situation in Northern Ireland to go along, maybe traveling many miles away to a place where an obscure band of the British Army is playing, are likely to be the most extreme and the most fanatical supporters of NORAID and the Irish Republican cause and therefore we ought to keep an eye on them and see who they’re meeting and who they’re talking to and stuff like that. From a policeman’s point of view, from an intelligence gatherer’s point of view, something like those sort of meetings would be an opportunity they would not want to miss – notwithstanding all the objections you would have on First Amendment grounds – but they wouldn’t really care too much about that they would say: Well you know there may be people meeting here, using this as a cover to arrange this or that – we need to keep an eye on these people. And as for Peter King: Peter King was under FBI surveillance and RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) Special Branch and MI5 surveillance for many, many years until he became a respectable anti-terrorist politician up in Congress. You know, he was persona non grata in the Republican Party, in large elements of the Republican Party. When Reagan went to Long Island, you know, his itinerary was carefully vetted to make sure that there was no chance that Peter King would ever cross his path, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to believe that now when you see Peter King on Fox News you know rounding on about jihadi terrorists and what have you. It wasn’t too long before or long ago that Peter King was consorting with people who were not very dissimilar, in many respects, but that’s all now forgotten, of course.

Martin:  Well, we could argue about the difference between the IRA and those groups but going on: One of the things that you cover is how we had an Irish People tour actually – it was not the Irish Northern Aid tour but it was the Irish People tour – it was the idea of Tom Hartley to bring, invite, Americans to come to Ireland, see The North themselves first hand what’s life is like under British rule and, of course, I led the first one and was banned from going back – but that’s another story – it was back to the ’84 and some of the other tours – but the FBI tried to put, or did put according to the files, people on each tour. And there were people that we kind of surmised were involved and they were all supposed to come back, and they had all this surveillance and all of this number of people involved and it was all with the idea that they were going to discover some kind of monies raised by Irish Northern Aid that was given to the IRA so that people could be arrested or charged or found out and yet, despite all of that, none of that ever happened. They were not able to ever point to an incidence where Irish Northern Aid monies were, in any way, spent other than ways they were supposed to be – for the families of political prisoners or publicity or education or organisational purposes. I just thought it was interesting – they note so many reports by so many people who were agents and yet they weren’t able to come up with one person who indicated that he saw what this activity was designed to discover: Money being transferred from Irish Northern Aid to the Irish Republican Army…

Ed:  …Well, that we know of, Martin. You know, my earlier point, I think, is relevant here which is that I don’t think we’re getting the full picture and full access to all the NORAID material that the FBI collected. I mean if the files I have represent the total of what the FBI did in terms of monitoring and surveilling NORAID then it’s a pretty poor operation because you know there’s not an awful lot of paper there and common sense tells me that there must be a mass of stuff that they are not disclosing and that they will probably never will disclose, you know, to journalists or to the public. So you know – yes, you’re right, in terms of what they have handed over to Nate Lavey – no, there was nothing there that shows that – that there was any type of that activity – but they clearly presumed or had reason to suspect or imagined or whatever verb you want to use that these NORAID trips presented an ideal opportunity for people to bring over messages, money, contacts, what have you from America to the Provos in Ireland – that’s the way the police think – that’s the police mind. I mean…

Martin:  …Right, but if they had discovered…

Ed:  …you must expect that. And you know – no, whether they had intelligence doesn’t mean to say they’re going to act on it.

Martin:  …wouldn’t they arrest people who were involved in it? Just – they could have brought down the whole organisation by doing so.

Ed:   Well maybe they had very, very you know important agents either in the IRA or on the American side of things which they – whose activities and whose preservation were of paramount importance to them – it came way ahead of you know putting people in court on trial on offences of one sort or another which might be, at the end of the day, might be almost impossible to prove. I mean you right – you could have evidence that  Person ‘X’ handed over fifty thousand dollars to Person ‘Y’. Person ‘X’ is from Detroit and Person’Y’ is in Crossmaglen but how do you know, how can you prove what that money was spent on? You know, you can’t. It’s very, very difficult to do. So I suspect that they, if they did that, if they were – if I’m right and that there’s material there which we’re not being told about – then it stands to reason that that type of logic may have applied but we don’t know because we don’t know what’s the sum of the FBI material. All I’m saying is that the files that Nate Lavey got, and he asked for everything, if this represents ‘everything’ then it was a very, very small surveillance operation by the FBI over all of these years and that doesn’t make sense to me given all the resources and the priority that they gave to the Irish situation in America.

Martin:   Alright. Ed, we just want to ask one more quick question before we have to go on to our next guest: We’re now at the end, next week will be the end of the marching season. Sinn Féin, the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) had said they would negotiate again when the marching season was over – that’s due to stop next week. What’s your prediction as to whether we will get Sinn Féin and the DUP back in partnership, or coalition, however you want to characterise it at Stormont? Will that happen, do you think? Or, will it remain as it is with Stormont having collapsed and being not in session?

Ed: Well the only prediction I think that is safe to make is that at some stage they will get back together and they will recreate, or re-form, the government at Stormont – doesn’t mean to say it’s going to happen this year or even next year because British politics is in the state of flux, the May government may collapse at any moment and then there’s a whole new ballgame – the deal that they had with the DUP will be up in the air and so on and so forth – but in terms of what the endgame is going to be I don’t think there’s any doubt that eventually, whether it takes two months or a year or whatever – those people who were involved in the Assembly up to its collapse a year or so ago will convene again and get the act going because, from everyone’s point of view – you know, these are politicians, these are professional politicians, and they have this place up on the hill and it’s a very comfortable place and they’re paid lots of money, a lot of them are allowed to employ their relatives, they have huge expenses, they have a status you know which is like totally out of proportion to the true importance of what they do and they also have lots of money to spend. And the idea that, for example, the DUP are going to give that up is just – I can’t accept that. And equally, I think there are even more pressing reasons why the Sinn Féin side will want to get back into Stormont and that is that: What else are they going to have to show, if they don’t go back into Stormont, for ending the IRA’s campaign for the peace process? I mean they gave up their weapons, they’ve accepted British rule, they’ve accepted the Principle of Consent and in return for that they get direct rule? Sure, they could have had direct rule for nothing a long time ago. They didn’t have to do all that. And it stands to reason, again, you know they’re an ambitious political party now, they’re morphing, increasingly, into the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) and becoming more and more constitutional as time goes on – it stands to reason that they would want to get back into to do what a constitutional politician does which is to govern and take seats in Parliament and so on and so forth. So eventually I think it will happen. They may squabble and argue the bit for a while yet until we’re really clear about what the future is – what the future is in relation to Brexit, what the future is in relation to is there going to be a stable Tory government there or not? But eventually a deal will be done.

Martin:  Alright. On that note, Ed, we want to thank you. We’re going to have to go on to our next guest, Mark Thompson. Again, thank you. That was Ed Moloney…

Ed:   …No problem. Bye…

Martin:  …author of A Secret History of the IRA, award-winning journalist with the Irish Times and the Sunday Tribune and political commentator extraordinaire. (ends time stamp ~ 36:19)

Ed Moloney RFÉ 6 May 2017

Radio Free Éireann
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New York City
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John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to award-winning journalist, author and historian Ed Moloney via telephone about documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act that show the infiltration and surveillance of the Irish Northern Aid Committee by the FBI during the Irish Republican prisoners’ hunger strikes. (begins time stamp ~ 2:50)

Martin:   Ed, are you with us?

Ed:   Yes, I am, Martin. Yes.

Martin:   Sorry, I didn’t know you were on the line. Welcome back to Radio Free Éireann and Ed Moloney is the author of A Secret History of the IRA. He was involved in the book and the television show, Voices From the Grave, that involved the great Brendan Hughes, a great patriot. He is the person who has been an award-winning journalist with the Irish Times, with the Sunday Tribune. He is also the person who maintains a blog, The Broken Elbow, if you hit up his name, Ed Moloney and Broken Elbow you’ll get it. And Ed, just within the last few days you have published some declassified FBI files on Irish Northern Aid for the particular time of 1980 and 1981; 1980 was a hunger strike at the end of the year led by Brendan Hughes and we thought it was going to lead to an agreement. In 1981, there was another hunger strike led by Bobby Sands and ten men would die on that hunger strike. And Ed, what is there that you show, the documents that were released, what was the FBI doing in terms of the Irish Northern Aid who would have all those demonstrations? I was on TV all the time as the Publicity Director – they didn’t allow people into the United States to speak, to represent the hunger strikers because of censorship-by-visa-denial – what was our government doing in terms of Americans who simply wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights and support the hunger strikers, support justice, oppose what the British were doing in the North of Ireland?

Ed:   Well first of all, these documents were obtained by a New York based television journalist, called Nate Lavey, who got them for a particular purpose and decided that only one or two of these files were of interest to him and he passed the rest of them onto me so I’ve been sort of slowly releasing them, going through them, trying to summarise what’s in them and I think there’s about nearly twenty-five all together so I’ve only just started it, really, I think four. And as you said the last two files dealt with that period, 1980-81, and it’s clear that the FBI had launched what they call FCI, which is a foreign counter-intelligence investigation, into Irish Northern Aid, or NORAID as it was known, round about 1979 or thereabouts. And that enabled, because it was declared officially to be an FCI, a Foreign Counterintelligence Investigation, they were allowed to put NORAID and its various figures involved with it under the most intense surveillance and scrutiny which included electronic surveillance and physical surveillance. And if you go through the files you can see evidence, although a lot of the stuff is redacted, you can clearly see that they’re following them around and taking photographs at demonstrations and stuff like that and obviously there are references to electronic surveillance although none of the transcripts of conversations etc are reproduced in these files but one imagines that there’s lots of them there. And essentially what they were trying to do during this period was to link NORAID with arms smuggling to the IRA in Ireland. And this was at a time, if you remember I’m sure – we’re going back a long time now – but this was the time when Michael Flannery and George Harrison and other people were put on trial and that was followed by another trial, the Red Eye Missile trial as some people call it, in which Gerry McGeough managed to escape and traveled across the length and breadth of America to escape from the FBI and got back to Ireland. The Flannery and Harrison trial ended in their acquittal primarily because the jury believed a defence they put forward which was that they thought they were acting with the approval of the CIA because the arms dealer that they were having dealings with was also registered as a CIA source so they assumed that, their defence was, that they assumed that they were doing all of this with the approval of the United States government – the idea being that it was far better that the IRA get hold of American guns than they turn to the Soviet Union. Anyway, however far-fetched that argument might appear, it was successful and one wonders whether, in fact, this was a New York jury also delivering a verdict on the British handling of the hunger strike which was very fresh in people’s minds when that trial took place. But anyway, the files I’ve managed to read so far, and I’m reading them and then publishing them just after I’ve read them, the latest one actually shows a good deal of confusion on the part of the FBI. They’re not entirely sure, first of all, how much money NORAID is bringing in. They estimate the income in those years, prior to the – the normal years outside the hunger strike years because you probably remember the money going into NOARID during the hunger strike years like really increased quite dramatically – but normally they estimated it at around two hundred and twenty thousand. And because they got hold of NORAID’s financial accounts by virtue of a subpoena that had been served on the organisation, and it didn’t add up to two hundred and twenty thousand they therefore assumed that the missing whatever money was, a hundred thousand or thereabouts, was being used to buy weapons.

But what was their source for the two hundred and twenty thousand? It was a human source; someone inside NORAID had told them this. And that’s a pretty flimsy basis on which to then build this gigantic plot of arms smuggling, however credible it may have appeared to the outsider, and they based their subsequent investigations of NORAID on that. But in one of the documents there’s quite an extraordinary admission – they don’t really know whether NORAID is involved in arms smuggling. It may be, they say, that really the value of NORAID to the IRA is that it sends over money which is used to support the families of IRA prisoners and thereby releases IRA funds, which otherwise would have to be spent on that, to spend then on things like weapons and stuff like that. So they’re really not entirely sure and they’re proposing in this document a vast undercover operation inside NORAID which is going to take at least a year to bear any sort of fruit in which they will burrow someone in and he will try, or she will try, and find out as much as they can about any links to arms smuggling in NORAID and the grand jury will be set up and prosecutions will follow. Well we don’t know whether that recommendation was followed or whether it was rejected. If it was followed it clearly didn’t produce anything because there were no subsequent trials that, at least I’m aware of, which directly link NORAID in that sort of way. So what you get is like a – clearly the FBI – I would imagine as a result of pressure from both Dublin and London – are trying to discover what links there are between NORAID and gun running, essentially that’s what this is about.

Martin:   Ed, might – just a couple of things and I’ll just ask you to comment. Number One: If Irish Northern Aid had been involved itself in gun running or anything illegal – as you say with the amount of surveillance, electronic, individual, human surveillance – I would have been put in jail a long time ago. What the real concern that the British government had was that we could put thousands of people in front of buildings protesting. Politicians started to see just in – there are thousands of people now who will march the streets for the hunger strikers – well there’s a lot of them who might vote for the MacBride Principles, for an end of visa denial, for candidates who are as interested in Ireland and an end of British rule in Ireland as other voters are interested in say, supporting Israel, or supporting other countries around the world and that was what their concern was and they couldn’t undermine Irish Northern Aid by saying: Gee, they’re just too strong an influence against the British. They’re doing too much to expose what the British are doing in the North of Ireland, they’re contributing to the families of Irish political prisoners – we’ll say they must be involved with gun running and try and prosecute people and spy on them on that basis. What’s your feeling about that comment?

Ed:    Yeah, I mean I think clearly they were concerned, particularly in those hunger strike days when NORAID had the potential to bring out like tens of thousands of people and you had Michael Flannery being chosen as the Grand Marshal of the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, you had Peter whats-his-name from Long Island…

Martin:   …Peter King.

Ed:   Peter King in I think it was ’84 or ’85 was made Grand Marshal as well and he sort of gave a respectable face to Irish Republicanism in New York. I guess they were deeply concerned – but I suspect at the end of the day they were under pressure from their allies in Dublin and particularly in London to try to move against NORAID and try to put it out of business if only just to win a battle against them and to get the Americans on their side in the ideological argument as much as anything else about what was happening in Northern Ireland.

John:    Ed, I know you don’t have – the years you’re looking at is ’80 and ’81 but when I was the editor of the Irish People newspaper they raided the offices to arrest Hugh Feeney, who was convicted of the bombings in London along with Gerry Kelly, but you know years later we find out it was orchestrated really to get rid of him because the IRA or the Republican Movement always had someone in New York, when they got rid of him the Republican Movement sent over Denis Donaldson. So it looks like they were coordinating with British intelligence to make sure that they could get one of their agents into New York to get the intelligence they needed so even went beyond the surveillance and beyond that now…

Ed:   Oh! I would be amased, John, if there wasn’t like operational coordination of that sort between FBI, MI5, the Irish Special Branch and the security authorities in Northern Ireland over, you know, operational basis, you know? On like who are we’re going to arrest and who we put under surveillance – there would be a joint committee I’m sure. I mean a lot of this stuff is going to remain hidden forever but I would imagine that the structures existed, the bureaucratic structures existed, to facilitate that very detailed type of cooperation, operational cooperation, which they wouldn’t want the public to really know about – it would be embarrassing to have that sort of stuff revealed but common sense says there had to be that type of cooperation. Wouldn’t you think?

Martin:   Yeah Ed, this is Martin Galvin, I had the opportunity to review files that were released under the Irish People case – there was a case brought to try and force the Irish People newspaper to be registered as a foreign agent. We, the Irish People newspaper, won that case – thank you to Chuck Simms of the American Civil Liberties Union – but there were thousands of documents that were released at that time as part of the discovery that they had to go, having begun that case a federal judge demanded, required them, to turn over discovery as they would in any other case. And document after document was cc’d – the British embassy in Washington, British (legation) in London, Irish Em…all of that – everything was sent around to the various governments and it was particularly embarrassing for them that they were doing this – trying to put an American-produced newspaper out of business, undermine it, undercut it, have it registered as a foreign agent, maybe deny it post office facilities and subscription facilities, and they were dong this, it was obvious from these documents, that they had to report on this at every stage to the British government – not just in Washington, not just in the New York office – but they had to do it in London, they had to do it in the Irish government and how much they were being asked to do by these two governments as you say.

Ed:   Hmm, yeah – well it makes sense. I mean it would be extraordinary I would think if it didn’t happen that way, you know, given their relationships so none of that is a surprise but it’s nice to have the detail that occasionally comes to light to sort of confirm this sort of stuff and historically it’s important, I think, to have these documents there and for people to make a study of this. Interestingly, I don’t know whether the FBI had separate files on Clann na Gael but Clann na Gael doesn’t, as far as the files that I have read (and I add that because you know there’s a lot more for me to read before I can make a definite statement on this), but there’s no mention so far in any of these files of Clann na Gael which I found quite extraordinary. I mean if you’re looking at militant Irish Republicanism in the United States and the sort of areas that the FBI was probing you would imagine that they would at least rate a mention if not more than that but they don’t.

Martin:   Right. And Michael Flannery was an officer, for example, in Clann na Gael for many years so some of the people involved in these cases were never involved with – such as George Harrison – was never a member of Irish Northern Aid but that is one of the reasons why – well, it’s another piece of evidence that supports my view that they were concerned about the publicity, about the lobbying, about more congressmen getting involved, about more public officials getting involved, about negative publicity about British rule in Ireland that that was really what was the worrisome thing – that the British government is putting pressure, the Irish government at that time putting a great deal of pressure and the FBI started to respond to that and if the rights of American citizens, First Amendment rights, to this information had to be violated they were prepared to try and do it. I want to ask you…

Ed:   …And also you know it’s a, we’re often sort of over-awed by these people. We imagine you know that because they’ve got all these powers and all this money and reputation and history and what have you you imagine that they are so much better than they actually are. I mean for example I’m sure it will come as a huge surprise to people who were active in NORAID right through The Troubles in Northern Ireland to find out that where they had their annual dinner was actually a place called the Astorian Manner (Ed spells manner) in Brooklyn! Now I mean that’s in an FBI document, alright? So like if you’re an FBI agent and you’re looking, you’re researching NORAID, you’ll think: Oh, right – they meet in the Astorian Manner in Brooklyn. I must find out where that is and go along to the next meeting – everyone knew – I mean basic stuff – it’s the Astoria Manor (Ed spells manor) in Queens which is an entirely different borough. I mean, if the FBI got very simple details like that wrong you know what does that say about their ability to really track things like arms shipments and who was doing what and when, etc?

Martin:   Which would have been advertised…

Ed:   Yeah.

Martin:   …pages, photographs in all the newspapers –

Ed:   …absolutely, absolutely…

Martin:   …exactly the politicians that were there. Ed, during that period – John McDonagh and I were laughing – during the demonstrations for the hunger strike I was approached on an almost weekly basis by people who said they wanted to sell arms and they would hand me their numbers or they would pass on phone numbers to me and would even say you know, when I refused to take it or say I’m not involved in anything like that, that if I really cared about Ireland I would get involved and work with them in buying guns which seemed to me to be so obvious an FBI plot – you’re talking about ability – it was just so ham-handed a way of going about things that even if I had been involved in something like that, which I was not, anybody would have seen through what they were trying to do, anybody would have rejected those overtures but that’s the level of activity, the level of ability, the level of the coordination that they had or perhaps it’s the level of desperation about how that they had to do something to support the British and that’s the lengths to which they were prepared to go – First Amendment or un-American activities like that.

Ed:   Or also, Martin, maybe not everyone was as clever as you were and responded differently, you know? I mean, you don’t know. Maybe they were just hoping that someone would say ‘yes’ at some point because they maybe – they were going to you, they might have been going to other people as well that you didn’t know about, you know? You don’t know.

John:   And you know, Ed, but you know the FBI weren’t looking for where the money was coming – because it definitely it had to be coming from somewhere because there were enough trials going on here with arms shipments going over to Ireland – and then you had the cases up in Boston where you had Whitey Bulger and that crew and people in Irish Northern Aid up there and sending over a huge shipment of guns so there was money in this country that was going to arms shipments…

Ed:   …Of course…

John:   …because we knew that…

Ed:   … well read Brendan Hughes’ interviews and he came over for that tour and the reason for that, it was an IRA tour, and it was to raise money to buy weapons and what have you.

You have the whole business about the smuggling of the Armalites – and clearly there was an awful lot of arms smuggling going on but you know, at the same time, the idea that – and it became part of the mythology and I think that’s probably one of the reasons why the FBI was under so much pressure to do something – that America was the major source of weapons for the IRA whereas in fact we know now that it was Libya and other places in the Middle East which were much more important. You know obviously we know the George Harrison linkage at the very start was extremely important but by the 1980’s I think that had been overshadowed by linkages to places like Libya, you know?

Martin:   Ed, I just want to clarify: The Brendan Hughes tour, which was tremendously successful, that was separate – people contributed to him saying this is not Irish Northern Aid money, this is not for the families of political prisoners, this is money that is going to go directly to Ireland. But even in the Flannery trial, he was actually inquired – Frank Durkan showed me the transcript – called me to ask me about it – they were asking him was it Irish Northern Aid money involved, in that trial – that arms trial – and where it was kept and he had to go through, at length, how there was money indeed in the United States that was collected for arms that went to him or George Harrison and others but it was separate and distinct, it was nothing to do with Irish Northern Aid. When people said if you give us money for the families of political prisoners or for publicity or for political lobbying that’s where it would go. We kept faith with people to contribute. If you wanted to contribute to one thing you would do it. There were people certainly contributing who wanted to do something more direct and send weapons back for people to defend themselves against British forces, but that was separate and that’s why the FBI had such trouble in terms of Irish Northern Aid. I do want to say though, the documents which you have, it relates to Colorado – Chicago was the area of the Irish Northern Aid Committee which was trying to organise in Colorado and it seems a particular problem in Chicago – there were a couple of cases – there was a guy named Tuttle – Dave Rupert would emerge from Chicago, I don’t know if he was involved in Irish Northern Aid at some point – but it seemed that that particular office did a great deal to try to get surveillance, to try to get infiltration. They didn’t have the success there in terms of Irish Northern Aid and I think that that’s why you ended up with Denis Donaldson coming to the United States and trying to get the surveillance that they couldn’t get otherwise.

Ed:   Well they seemed to have someone in Colorado on the organising committee for the – you know they were trying to create a chapter of Irish Northern Aid in Denver – and clearly this guy was attending the meetings and the reports show that, I think, pretty clearly, you know?

Martin:   No, I would agree with that. I have seen reports in Irish Northern Aid documents or Irish People documents where there were accounts of meetings that were completely accurate, that indicated that there was somebody in the meeting who – which were public meetings – who would have attended, who would have given information. Chicago, the Midwest Region, did not have a big say in terms of the organisation as a whole, they weren’t represented on the national executive, they didn’t have people coming to New York or where ever the national executive meetings would be – they wouldn’t have had that leadership level involvement or insight – just other areas around the country did not – that only came when they got Denis Donaldson. Ed, we are coming to the end of the first half hour. We do want to thank you…

Ed:   ….No problem.

Martin:   …there’s a lot more we could go into. We want to thank you for coming on today. (ends time stamp ~ 25:29)

Note: Since the airing of this interview Ed Moloney has published Declassified FBI Files on NORAID Parts 5 & 6 (1982-1984) here and here.

28 July 2017 Update:  Ed Moloney has published Parts 7,8 & 9 here.

13 November 2017 Update: Ed Moloney has published: Declassified FBI Files on Noraid, 1986 – Part One, A British Briefing Paper On Noraid here.