John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) discuss the reaction in the North of Ireland to Gerry McGeough’s interview on last week’s show. (begins time stamp ~ 0:00)
Song: Henry Joy McCracken is performed by Joe Banjo Burke.
JM: (show introduction and announcement) Now if anybody was reading the newspapers there was a few stories about our guest from last week, Gerry McGeough, a lifelong Irish Republican who spent time in jails in Germany, in this country and he was a guest twenty years ago when he was out on bail before he went to jail. And some of the papers were writing about the interview we did with Gerry McGeough and here are some of the headlines:
- McGeough’s Language Vile
- Former Assembly Candidate Gerry McGeough Calls Catholic Judges ‘Traitors’
- Radio Host Clarifies McGeough’s ‘Collaborator’ Threat to the Judiciary
- Republican Claims Catholic Judiciary ‘Will Be Dealt With’
- McGeough’s Disturbing Threats
- McGeough’s Threat to Judges To Be Deplored
- Hussey Condemns Disgraceful Comments
And I just got this in – now those are from the Irish Times, The News Letter in Belfast and the Belfast Telegraph and this just came in from the Irish Post, which would be considered the Irish Echo of London and England: (John reads from the Irish Post) Republican Gerry McGeough calls out ‘pathetic old Shinners’ in explosive US radio interview. Prominent Tyrone Republican Gerry McGeough is known for his strong views and when he was interviewed on WBAI New York’s Radio Free Éireann last week he didn’t hold back. (reading ends) And they have clips to the transcript of last week’s show. We’re talking about the effect Gerry’s free speech on New York radio could be affecting his life very shortly. Charges are being filed against Gerry McGeough. There’s talk about revoking his licence. Gerry was charged and sentenced to two years under the Good Friday Agreement for being a member of the IRA in 1976. Gerry Adams will never have to worry about that charge being against him because Gerry Adams claims he was never in the IRA.
So based on an interview that Gerry McGeough gave in New York he is being brought up on charges and Martin, you were brought onto BBC Ulster. You did a radio show to talk about the interview but what exactly is happening for Gerry McGeough and how serious now are the charges that are being brought against him based on an interview he did here in New York?
MG: John, first of all: Charges are not being filed, should not be filed and hopefully will not be filed. What happened is that a number of people, particularly – that song we played at the beginning about Henry Joy McCracken – that goes out to The Belfast News Letter. The Belfast News Letter is one of the daily newspapers in the North of Ireland, particularly in Belfast. It would be considered a hardline, unionist, Orange paper as compared with the much more moderate unionist paper – which is still fairly hardline to some of our viewpoints – the Belfast Telegraph. And of course there’s a Nationalist paper, the Irish News. The founding family of that paper, The News Letter, was the Joy Family and if you listened to that song, Henry Joy McCracken – Henry Joy McCracken was a member of that family – the famous Joy Family – and his family was involved with founding the newspaper and Henry Joy McCracken was a great Irish patriot. That connection, that political affiliation, has changed very greatly down the years. So now we have the paper, The News Letter, which is very hardline in terms of Orange sentiments which would probably not complain if sentiments of a similar nature were introduced or put forward by Orange spokesmen at bonfires or marches such as that happening in Doire today at the Apprentice Boys.
Alright. They picked up Gerry McGeough’s interview. They took one line out of that interview and used that to try and say that he was threatening Catholic members, Nationalist members of the judiciary or of lawyers. And that was completely nonsense, completely untrue, completely inaccurate. Listeners will have heard Gerry McGeough’s interview last week. If you didn’t hear it it’s up on rfe123.org – that’s rfe123.org. And I want to congratulate our transcriber. That transcriber, I can’t say he or she because that person is completely anonymous, has done a tremendous job. You not only can listen to and read that transcript in writing but you can play a radio interview that I got stuck doing for BBC Talkback last week about Gerry McGeough. And what they did is: Gerry McGeough, during a twenty minute interview, he was talking about Brexit, the British attempting to withdraw from the European Community, and the devastating effects that that would have on Ireland. He was talking about Tyrone, his own county – the fact that six of the nine counties of Ulster are cut off and they’re denied their rightful place, as set forth in 1916 and elsewhere, to be part of a free and independent thirty-two county Irish nation that governs Ireland and Irish interests rather than British interests from London at Westminster – and he talked about that. He talked about praise for new movements, in effect, a new wave that was shown with the vote on Brexit – that was shown in terms of ‘a stirring’, a yearning, for national freedom. He talked about the example in Scotland. He said if Scotland moves towards independence that would be a further inspiration for political change and getting back to a united Ireland. He talked about all those things and in it he talked about his own political case. Now Gerry McGeough was charged in 1981 – sorry – for an incident that happened in 1981. He was arrested in 2007 after a political campaign in which he had expressed opposition to support for the re-named Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) – the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). He expressed opposition to a situation in which Diplock courts were going to be used and which people would give credibility – from Nationalists who would give credibility – to these courts and not consider – try to use them for justice – to really abolish Diplock courts – the non-jury courts.
And he talked about the attitudes of some people who get positions within those courts – and when Gerry McGeough was on trial for something that happened in 1981 when he was brought to trial just a few years ago – so many years later – he said there was an attitude that people who opposed British rule were somehow of ‘bad character’ – they were looked down upon, that they were somehow of ‘bad character’ that’s the phrase they used. And meanwhile, there is an administration which people involved, as we mentioned in that BBC Talkback radio programme, were involved in the same campaign – had leading roles in that campaign – people who, Gerry and I, we would agree and say that that campaigned, which ended so long ago before the Good Friday Agreement, was a legitimate campaign, a legitimate fight for freedom but the conditions that would make conflict legitimate today no longer exist – haven’t existed for some time. And Gerry simply said that they are serving English interests, that he differentiated between what was happening – Unionists, living in the North of Ireland – and English interests at Westminster – a government that serves English interests at Westminster. That was completely taken out of context. Those words were deliberately misconstrued by people who never wanted to see Gerry get out of jail in the first place – who were against him getting any sort of justice or free speech or views or running for election or anything like that. People like Nelson McCausland who would be associated – you know we heard Seamus Delaney talk about the type of bigotry – and when he’s around the Orange bonfires or demonstrations on July the Twelfth or hearing today – at the Apprentice Boys in Doire. Nelson McCausland is a member of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) – Ian Paisley’s – the party that he founded which would be very much associated with The Belfast News Letter, very much associated with that sort of ideology – and they pulled that and tried to say that Gerry McGeough was somehow involved with threatening people and that is not true. And that is definitely wrong. And we hope that there will be no charges – no lifting of his licence because it was totally unjust, untrue, inaccurate.
JM: But was something filed? I mean in the lawyer’s statement there – in the very beginning…
MG: …Oh, what has happened is: There is an existing appeal against Gerry’s old conviction. And what his solicitor Aiden Carlin says is that:
Our client stood for election in 2007 on a manifesto for freedom, justice and peace. The interviews he gave to a United States radio station should be listened to in its entirety. They cover a plurality of subjects including Irish and Scottish history, poetry, prison memories, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, 9/11 and Brexit. Our client has always maintained his innocence and is working closely with his lawyers to assist.
So they’re trying to appeal that and then all of a sudden, all of a sudden, these articles, hysterical articles, appear in The Belfast News Letter. Now, I don’t know too many articles in The Belfast News Letter which would be worried about Nationalist members of the judiciary or Nationalist lawyers – and these articles were brought up just to have an improper, unfair manipulation, misconstruction of Gerry McGeough’s words and try and bring charges against him and take away his licence. He’s out on licence for that earlier case and they could do that very easily and do it without any real justice.
JM: But Martin, this is all part of the British strategy that they’ve brought in: If you’re against the peace process and did time in Long Kesh – you do not get a visa. If you support Gerry Adams – no matter how much time you did in jail – you get a visa. Now bail restrictions on Republicans getting out of jail – they can’t do interviews or associate with other Republicans and speech is taken very seriously in the Six Counties. And Martin, you were a victim of that. You gave a speech, I believe, in County Tyrone and Margaret Thatcher banned you from going to that part of Ireland.
MG: Well actually I gave the speech for somebody else – one of Henry Joy McCracken’s fellow Republican leaders in 1798 – they were unveiling a memorial to Roddy McCorley and I happened to be driving through the area with Danny Morrison – and we were there, we came over and they asked us to say a few words so I gave a speech. And it was the night after attending a funeral for somebody, a Republican killed in Doire, a member of the English Family – two young members of that family were killed in separate incidents. And I know the father, I met him, and I went to pay my respects at the funeral. And coming back we were asked to give a short speech. So that was fine, that was at one point – I believe it was in April because I was over for an Easter commemoration in Tyrone. Months later when I was intending to lead a tour back to the North of Ireland in August of 1984 all of a sudden Peter Robinson and the DUP said I should be banned because of the speech I gave months before. And of course I was banned at that time and when I was invited by Republicans to attend a rally in Belfast in 1984 – and John, you were at that rally. The rally was attacked; we just were involved in civil disobedience. One young man, John Downes, was killed. The RUC drove into that rally, fired plastic bullets, attacked people, drove in with Land Rovers, killed John Downes. And this year when they’re having the Internment Day rally it actually started from the spot where John Downes was killed but that’s how serious they take it. We’re concerned – Gerry McGeough – his real problem is that he stood up, he said basically that the Stormont deal, in terms of a united Ireland which we were promised, is not working. Even the other day, Unionist politicians who would not attend the funeral of Bishop Daly who was a man of peace – very highly respected – and again, there’s epithets, there are sorry initiatives, there are apologies, working together in Stormont to do away with the injustices – all of those things – the outreach, the reconciliation, that is supposed to, or was supposed to, get Unionists to support a united Ireland or feel at home in a united Ireland – none of that has happened and what Gerry McGeough was saying it’s getting more Nationalists comfortable or saying that British rule is not so bad for me.
JM: (station identification) and good thing…
MG: …But – that’s not to say that they should be, in any way, under threat expect politically – we want to work towards a united Ireland.
JM: And why do you have to clarify that? There’s nobody listening to ‘BAI. Ooh noo…there’s nobody out there listening….
MG: John, I was asked on that BBC Radio – you know I got asked a number of questions: Could you explain what happened and how Gerry got into that? And about two lines into the explanation of that twenty minute interview it’s: Let’s get to the point! Let’s just get to these words! And over and over again. And I was asked – you know somebody said: I’m an Ulsterman. Don’t I have a right to be here? And I said: Yeah, and how about the people in Donegal or Cavan or Monaghan? Don’t they have a right, as Ulstermen, a say about the future of their country? Or people from the Twenty-six Counties? Why should you get a veto on having One Ireland One Vote? Things like that? They shock people! And then I said: Yeah – if Gerry McGeough knew how badly his words would be misconstrued and taken out of context – and Gerry McGeough’s words wouldn’t have ‘gotten’ to anybody who was a Nationalist or the audience, if they were afraid about threatening members of the judiciary with a political movement to a united Ireland, except it was carried in The News Letter over and over again except it’s been carried in papers since.
What I said was: If he knew how badly his words would be deliberately misconstrued, deliberately misused and used to claim that he was saying something about some kind of threat when all he was talking about was working politically for a united Ireland, certainly something he had every right to do, he would have changed those words and not given them the opportunity.
JM: So there we are trying to clarify what happened last weekend. You wouldn’t believe the amount of coverage over in Ireland this got – from Dublin to Belfast and now over to London. And it just shows you the value of this station. (ends time stamp ~ 18:54)