John McDonagh speaks to Mary Ward of Republican Sinn Féin in studio about her memories of Martin McGuinness and Republican Sinn Féin’s stance on issues facing Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 41:33)
John: And with us in the studio is Mary Ward or, as she’s known in Donegal as ‘Corcaigh Mary’, because no matter how long she lives in Donegal she’s from County Corcaigh and she’ll be ever known as that. You were talking about Martin McGuinness – when you reported to him did you report to him as a member of Sinn Féin or as an IRA man?
Mary: Well I was reporting to him as an IRA person because I was reporting on behalf of Cumann na mBan.
John: And what years are you talking about now?
Mary: I’m talking right up until 1978.
John: Hmmm…that’s strange. He said he left in 1974.
Mary: Well I met with Martin McGuinness and other people that I assumed to be members of the IRA.
They approached myself and Geraldine Taylor, as president and adjutant of Cumann na mBan, when they wanted to dismiss Cumann na mBan. They wanted Cumann na mBan to stand down which we refused to do as did the women of 1916, refused to stand down. And at every split throughout the history of Irish Republicanism in the twentieth century Cumann na mBan were always to the fore and always went their own way when it came to the Irish Republic but that night I can still remember and hear Martin McGuinness to this day. He wanted to take of all them – they had a new structure within the IRA where they were setting up cells and he wanted to take the Cumann na mBan volunteers, the active Cumann na mBan volunteers, into their cells and for the Executive of Cumann na mBan to stand down and when I refused this he turned around and he said to myself and Geraldine Taylor: What are ye afraid of? Losing your stripes? So that was in I would say the Winter, the early Spring of 1978.
John: And Mary, you’re talking about 1916 – Republican Sinn Féin was very active in the commemorations and we covered it here on Radio Free Éireann but one of the biggest disgrace that the Free State government did – they put up a wall of all the people that were killed in 1916 – I was surprised they didn’t put up on the wall people that were killed jaywalking at that time on O’Connell Street. But anybody that was involved, they said it could be the IRA, it could be the British. How did you feel about it? And what is it called, this wall?
Mary: Well speaking on the day that it happened at the protest our president, Des Dalton, described it as a ‘wall of shame’ and on that day Des Dalton asked the question: Could anybody possibly see the Algerians honouring the French who tried to quash their revolution? Or indeed could anybody see the French honouring the German forces that killed Germans, you know? So why should Irish people be ashamed of honouring their dead? Why had The Rising to be linked into the Second World War and why should we, as a proud nation of long-standing, a thirty-two county ancient nation, honour those who we oppose to their occupation of our country?
John: Mary, one of the other topics that was brought up by Anthony about this vote that’s coming on now in June, is Brexit. Brexit affects particularly the border counties and being my mother’s from Donegal and I’m up there all the time (I’ll be going over now in May again) the effect that this border has and the Free State government will have no say on what type of border – hard border – soft border. Brussels will be directing the Dublin government – this is how you’re going to patrol that border and then the British government is going to dictate to everyone in The Six Counties – this is how you’re going to patrol it. So the Free State government’s going to have no say in this border that’s coming up. And maybe talk about some of the hardships of living on the border and Donegal being so isolated.
Mary: Well first of all I would say from a Republican Sinn Féin point of view: We welcomed the Brexit result in Britain because firstly – we welcomed it on two levels: Firstly, it exposed the inherent fissures within the so-called ‘united kingdom’ and from our point of view it will, hopefully, hasten its demise. Secondly, we welcomed the likelihood of a referendum on Scottish independence and secondly it strikes a blow against the EU project and gives encouragement to other progressive forces throughout Europe. Unfortunately, we regretted, that the whole debate was taken over by the alt-right and the right in Britain because their bluster, jockeying for positions within the British Conservative Party, blurred what was the thing. But where I live in Donegal we never benefited, we never benefited from EU membership, you know? So Brexit isn’t going to really – in some ways it will affect us. But we live in an area that was designated by the EU – the BMW Area, that was the border, Midlands and western area and we were disadvantaged – we were classed as a disadvantaged area in the area that I, myself, come from it has been decimated by Ireland’s EU membership because I live within a fishing community and the fishing industry in Ireland has been completely decimated. And like from the very beginning the successive Irish Free State governments, Twenty-Six County governments, were prepared to let the fishing go in favour of agriculture – that was from the beginning. It was one of the things I remember on the pier in Killybegs with the late Joe O’Neill back in 1972 telling the fishermen in Donegal this like, you know? Now another thing is: In Monaghan area, border area, over the last number of years would have had a thriving mushroom industry where they exported their mushrooms to Britain predominantly and it was a huge trade. Unfortunately now, with the fluctuations in the sterling – and this is probably the only way that it will be affected, with the fluctuations in sterling – that industry has gone to the wall. Now the Free State Twenty-Six County government, they have spent billions upon billions attracting foreign inward investment into Ireland and it’s estimated that for every job created by an American or a Dutch or Chinese company in Ireland that it will cost the Irish taxpayer something like a hundred thousand euros and yet they will not invest in indigenous industries. They will not save the mushroom industries. But they will come running out here to Boston Scientific offering them all kinds of inducements, all kinds of – you know all about their problem with the previous American government in collecting tax on multinationals who use Ireland as a kind of a tax haven for laundering their money. Now having said that, the ordinary people will rise to the occasion and they’ve already started to do so in places like Dundalk where they have started local coupons they call them, like you know, to attract business to stay local and that people will earn dividends – instead of running off to Newry if they work in Dundalk. But like most of the people along the border – will say they’ll survive. Now the big question, and the big question for the Irish government and for the Provos and everybody else is: They don’t want to see a return to custom posts on the border because that will give lie to the united Ireland in everything but name. It will show up that there actually is a border, there is a border there since 1922 and there will continue to be a border whether Britain is in or out of the EU – there is a border because you do not have a thirty-two county united Ireland.
John: And that’s Mary Ward from Republican Sinn Féin. (ends time stamp ~ 50:04)