Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Independent Councillor Padraig McShane (PM) via telephone from Co. Antrim about the gates of the GAA and the altercations that occurred at the recent Ballycastle Orange Order parade. (begins time stamp ~ 10:49)
MG: We now have Padraig McShane. Padraig, welcome to Radio Free Éireann. I believe this is your first time with us.
PM: Thank you very much. I’m very honoured to be here.
MG: Padraig, I see in the Irish News a picture of two gates – McAllister McVeigh Memorial Park – background to the park is that it was named that in 1947 – that’s even before I was born, they had that name, they had those gates and it’s there to honour two men who died in 1922 – that’s nearly a century ago. Why is it that those two names, McAllister McVeigh Memorial Park, why is it that they are causing such a controversy when money was voted to that community, to that park, that there is pressure to take those names, those gates down – those names off it and to put them where – to hide those names so they would no longer be in an honoured place in the park?
PM: Yeah, first of all I’ll explain the background to you: The allocation of funding would be based on need, there had been needs analysis done and where there’s an identified need funding would go to that area – support them communities and help them to bring projects which support communities, support sport and support health and well-being. Obviously, the games was an area of neglect for years in the Nationalist community in The Glens of Antrim and it was neglected for years by local councils. When the opportunity arose with the new council it was immediately flashing red lights – these projects were bringing up red lights in this area here saying that money had to be spent and communities had to be supported in our area. The Council themselves had no grounds, no facilities whatsoever, so the GAA club offered to step in and facilitate a community group in the area and the community group applied for funding after leasing part of the grounds from the GAA club, the local GAA club in Glenariffe.
Whenever they had obtained the funding there was a caveat put on it and the caveat was by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) who called for the removal of the gates to two IRA Volunteers who were shot in 1922 during the Tan War.
MG: Alright. That was Charlie McAllister and Pat McVeigh. And you’re saying the Democratic Unionist Party, the party headed by Arlene Foster, founded by Ian Paisley, previously headed by Peter Robinson, then they objected to funding this park that had been named in the 1940’s. What was their reason for doing that?
PM: The reason for doing it was fairly simple: If I look at any funding that has went to Nationalist communities in the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council area, there would have been no gates, there would have been no IRA members here but what we’re seeing we’re seeing a pattern of blockage of community infrastructure funding the maintain area to support communities, to help with like chances, to help get them facilities. Now we would have seen them blocked in the past. I can think of one example in Dungiven where a major funding project was to go ahead and the Council themselves obtained eighty percent funding and had to submit twenty percent support funding to obtain a two point three million pound project. They refused. And they refused on the basis of nothing more than Dungiven would be seen as a strong Nationalist and strong Republican part of south Doire.
MG: So do you feel that it was really because of the gates or do you feel that it was more just because they didn’t want to fund a Nationalist area like this and this just gave them an excuse for doing so?
PM: The gates were one hundred percent were an excuse. Now obviously, the Democratic Unionist Party wouldn’t be renown for supporting Republicans and certainly Republican martyrs and the gates were to give them and their supporters an ideal opportunity to attack Republicans and Nationalists in the Causeway Coast and Glens area. That said, the Council took legal opinion and that legal opinion came back to suggest that there was actually nothing that could be done to block the funding. As I said before we had done quite a number of surveys and done needs analysis in that area and the money was needed in that area. The GAA did step up to the plate in Glenariffe and for that we were very thankful because the Causeway Coast and Glens never invested in the area. They do not have lands in the area when they should have lands and they should have public facilities in the area but they did not have that – the Friends of Glenariffe, which is a group set up to deliver support networks in The Glens ward obtained lands from the GAA. Subsequent to that the demand to removed the gates with the two Volunteers names on it stirred up a hornet’s nest as you could imagine and left a very bitter taste in the mouth of a lot of Republicans and Nationalists within the Glens community.
MG: Well, these are not just patriots who were killed almost a hundred years ago, May of 1922. They, Charlie McAllister and Pat McVeigh, they were actually from the local area and have families in the local area. Is that correct?
PM: They have families in the local area to this day. They would actually have family members part and parcel supporting the club itself so you can imagine it’s very small rural community but at its epicentre is the GAA and the epicentre of the GAA is obviously the sports grounds and the field itself named after these two Volunteers.
MG: Alright. Where does the funding stand? There was a meeting – I believe it was passed by a very small – by a vote of one vote. Is the club going to get this funding? Will they have to remove the gates in order to get it?
PM: The club will get the funding. The club will not have to remove the gates. If it’s the choice of the club to remove the gates to avail of a far bigger and more substantial entrance into a far bigger complex they will do that but trust me, the gates, or similar, will go back up in the memory of the two Volunteers. The Glenariffe area and The Glens area in general are very, very proud of the two Volunteers and their sacrifice and while we’re not where we want to be specifically today we are in a position where we can obtain funding from the likes of local governments that would have been unthinkable at the time the two Volunteers were shot.
MG: Alright, we’re talking to Padraig McShane; he’s a independent councillor from that area. Padraig, we want to just move on to something else: You are a councillor in that area. There was a parade last month, an Orange parade, on July Twelfth. You were out on the street trying to monitor that. You and some other councillors had applied to protest that parade and it turns out that you, other councillors, Gary Donnelly, who’s been on this programme from Doire and some other councillors are now being told you’re being summoned, or arrested, as a result of just simply being on the streets watching the Orange Order. Can you tell us what happened?
PM: Yeah, I’ll be more specific – there was an application put in to protest – and that application is an eleven bar three form which is usually submitted to the Parades Commission and it was actually young people in the area that submitted that form and not ourselves. I, as an elected representative, I would be agreeing to go and monitor parades and make sure that anything that was happening at them parades, they are an unsavoury occasion for a place like Ballycastle. We have an Orange march in an eighty-five to ninety percent Nationalist and Republican community so these parades would be most unwelcomed to the local community. We monitor them parades as is our right as elected representatives. Others chose to protest which is their right as well. And I think there’s at least four individuals who have been notified of prosecutions coming out of what has been deemed an illegal protest. And…
MG: …Well, I’ve actually seen some YouTube of you just standing on the street. Somebody spits – one of the members of the parade appears to spit at you it – you complain about this – obscene gestures by band members, they obviously recognised you and played music loud – they keep going by and then you got arrested as well as Gary Donnelly and others who just simply standing on the street watching this Orange parade in your town.
PM: That’s correct. The Orange band was Dervock who support a proscribed organisation – they have on their own website support for a proscribed organisation. The idea that an organisation like that can march is – it’s unfathomable to me but it’s a regular occurrence in The North. What happened that day was: Yes. The band had passed. I had complained about a Union flag flying in a Catholic chapel at the edge of the village and the chapel itself would be under siege by Loyalists in the Dervock Village. I had indicated that the flag was unacceptable and should be removed. I indicated that in 2013. Subsequent to that there were attacks from Unionist representatives, Unionist Councillors, Loyalists – quite sustained attacks – so they would know me well and they’ve indicated their displeasure at my complaining about the Union flag in the Catholic chapel. And on the day itself I was spat on. I objected and complained to the police. The police then moved in and instead of facing off at the band they immediately faced off at me wrestled me to the ground and arrested me. And that was pretty much the story of that day but as far as the media was concerned a councillor had been arrested. But the real story of the day was that a town, an eighty-five percent Nationalist town, was held under siege by heavily armed police and Loyalist (inaudible) and the Orange Order.
MG: …Just to break in: When you say a ‘proscribed organisation’ you mean an illegal organisation – are you referring to like the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) or the Ulster Defence Association (UDA)?
PM: Ulster Defence Association. The band explicitly offers support to the UDA on their website – on the band website.
MG: Alright. And you had mentioned, in 2013 this band, or members of the UDA with whom they’re affiliated, had put a British flag onto the church grounds of a Catholic church and you had protested against that. And a number things have happened to you, your home since then. What has happened since then?
PM: Well since 2013 I would have been appearing in derogatory comments, would have been appearing graffiti throughout the area, also I would have been appearing on bonfires, election posters, messages scrawled on blankets, etc and placed on bonfires also then in 2014, October 2014, my house was firebombed and the messages of hate, etc continued. And it has continued right up until the Twelfth of July 2016 after the aforementioned parade took place.
MG: And that ends up with you protesting about this band, protesting about being spit on by an Orange band in a Nationalist area and then you being the ones arrested by the British Constabulary, the PSNI. Alright, Padraig, we’re going to follow that story…
MG: …We’re going to follow that story – we have to have to move on now. We’re going to follow that story – what happened to you, what happened to Gary Donnelly, who’s also been summoned, for simply protesting, monitoring a parade, an Orange bigoted parade like this – a sectarian, triumphal parade in your area having to face bonfires, your name put up on bonfires and burned in effigy in your own area and when you’re spit on, when you monitor a parade like this, you end up being the one who’s arrested by the British Constabulary, the PSNI. Alright. Thank you for being with us – bringing this out and we’re going to follow this and hopefully – this is your first but not last appearance with Radio Free Éireann.
PM: Thank you. An absolute pleasure to talk you you and good luck. (ends time stamp ~ 24:19)