–>Radio Free Éireann<–
WBAI 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
listen on the internet: wbai.org Saturdays Noon EST
Martin Galvin (MG) talks to Gerry McGeough (GM) via telephone from Co. Tyrone about Óglach Liam Ryan. (begins time stamp ~ 48:20 in first hour)
–>Radio Free Éireann<– This heading title line is usually hyperlinked to the entire show on the WBAI archive page. As this week’s show was a two hour fund raising special and Gerry McGeough’s interview began in the first hour and ended in the second hour there are two ‘entire show’ links. The first hour is here. The second hour is here. Gerry’s interview is on the player below. Enjoy!
MG: We have Gerry – we’ve never introduced him as a poet before but after that poem was read by Una McGeough we have to introduce Gerry as a poet. Gerry, how was that poem that we just heard so eloquently read by Una, your daughter, how did you happen to compose that poem about Liam Ryan?
GM: Yeah, well…first of all: Hello! Martin and John and everyone there. I didn’t actually hear the poem being read out but I heard it earlier on the DVD and so forth. Yeah, that particular time that Liam was assassinated by the British forces I find myself in high isolation in a prison in Germany, it was then West Germany, in 1989. And I remember a news piece had come across, whether it was on German radio I can’t remember, but it just said someone had been assassinated, two people killed in the location of East Tyrone and so on and so forth. They didn’t give any names. And yet, I instinctively knew that, and don’t ask me how I knew this but I did know, I sensed in any case that this was Liam, and I immediately wrote a little piece, a condolence piece if you like, for the An Phoblacht/Republican News. At that time the Republican Movement was one sort of big, happy family before it’s now fragmented into absolutely nothing worth talking about but then it had a sense of mission, a sense of purpose and a great sense of solidarity and of course, like all of us, I was a member of the Republican Movement. And I wrote and mentioned Liam’s name without any facts to back it up but as it transpired it was him and the letter eventually made its way to Dublin and it was published in a subsequent edition of the Republican News/An Phoblacht. And I suppose in the course of the next few weeks and whatnot and being as I was in isolation, I had no outside stimulus, no one to talk to or anything of that nature, I started thinking about the past quite a bit and this poem germinated in that sense and it just came out so it was a reference to all the men, the Volunteers of Tyrone and so on, and it really was a heartfelt piece of poetry I suppose – so that’s, essentially, how it came about. And you know it’s remarkable when you stop and think of it and if you read the list of honour, the roll of honour and so on – the heroism of men and women, not just in Tyrone and not just across the Six Counties, but right across from the island of Ireland and the Irish people in general who gave their lives – some of them obviously in the central theater of the war, which was in The North, but others overseas, like in Gibraltar and elsewhere and England and whatnot who died, who were killed in action, fighting for an independent Ireland.
And I feel such a terrible sense of betrayal now that after all that sacrifice, after all that endurance and all that death what have we ended up with? You know? I mean it just beggers belief and I don’t think…there are more and more Republicans here in The North, particularly here in East Tyrone, who have come round to our way of thinking that we have basically been sold a pup and the Sinn Féin leadership stands indicted for their betrayal of the sacrifice and the struggle. An they use most of their energy, when they’re not sucking up to the English or the Unionists, most of their energy denigrating old comrades and all of us here on this radio station speaking right now have been through the mill in that regard and it would fit them better if they just moved over and let other politicians and other politically active people take the helm I think at this point in time.
MG: Gerry, before we heard your daughter, Una, recite that poem we had a clip from Brian Arthurs on the DVD. And in it he talked about, well first of all he talked about how when Liam was assassinated the British Army, members of the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) has scouted the area, sealed it off, sealed the lakes, sealed the roadway and monitored and committed the assassination. But he said that when they couldn’t get at Volunteers they would do the same thing and assassinate family members and he mentions specifically Roseann Mallon, he mentions specifically members of The McKearney Family, he mentions specifically members of the Fox Family – now those are all people, families, who are in the same area of Tyrone that you are and they all lost family members, older family members, who were simply assassinated – that’s the case that Brian Arthurs made. How common was that that the British would not only try to attack and monitor and use their position as forces of so-called ‘law and order’ to assassinate Republican Volunteers but that they would ‘make do’ with family members in your area?
GM: Well it was very common. And of course, we have subsequently found out from archive material and from open statements by Loyalists and so on that East Tyrone and particular areas where there was a strong resistance to British rule were targeted, specifically targeted, and I suppose the assassination of the likes of Roseann Mallon, whom I knew and I know the family very well and others that you mentioned and a pregnant woman up north of Carrickmore in mid-Tyrone, what this did was it instilled a sense of terror on the one hand; it was very much a psychological operation and it was used to just to grind down the resistance of the people in a particular area. And it was very effective but there was a sense of helplessness as well because people knew that the British state was behind it – I mean anybody with an iota of sense would have seen that and as you quite rightly point out they would seal areas off – a dog couldn’t have move on the roads then all of a sudden there wasn’t a soldier or a member of the Crown forces to be found when assassination teams from Loyalist areas would move in and probably working in tandem with undercover British so yeah – that’s what happened.
And one of the interesting outcomes of that was that when the ceasefires came about and so on and so forth Adams was giving, Gerry Adams, was giving an interview to a journalist from The South of Ireland, Maol Muire Tynan, back in the 1990’s, and in the course of the interview he said nobody wants Billy Wright here – of course, the chief assassin for the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) – knocking at their back door again. He reminded people that if there was any return to conflict if you’d like that this would happen. So it was a kind of a psychological effort because people were actually were for a long, long time, years afterwards, really I suppose terrified is the best word you could use of that particular campaign – now that obviously had gone back way to the early ’70’s and so on and so forth but it had become extraordinarily intense in the last few years, certainly months, of the actual armed struggle and it was used, quite obviously, to target individual people, either active Republicans or failing that, as you mentioned, their families, to instill a sense of terror and a willingness to I suppose surrender, for want of a better term, albeit it’s called the peace process and so on and so forth.
So yeah, that was what went on and it was very common. Of course there was a de facto genocide in many respects. It was an attempt to ethnically cleanse parts of Tyrone here of Catholic Nationalists and it has happened in the past. For example, now we’re having the four hundredth anniversary of the death in exile of Hugh O’Neill very shortly and at that time, and if you read the archives you can see the British boasted, the English rather, boasted of having ‘put to the sword’ thousands of people, men, women and children from Lough Neagh to Dungannon, which is effectively East Tyrone, again as part of this terror campaign to break the Irish resistance – at that time of the Gaelic lords so really plus ça change as they say – nothing much has changed.
MG: Gerry, one of the things about this DVD, about the commemoration was how you had so many people from a very small area who had been so courageous in opposing British rule. You had, for example, Pete Ryan, Liam’s cousin, who was one of the best known Irish Republican Army soldiers who lost his life. He was killed along with Lawrence McNally who was somebody else who I met around Review Place, 238th Street in the Bronx, visiting Liam – again, from that same area, was in the car with Pete. You had Liam who was, of course, assassinated. You had so many others from an area, a small area like that, family connections, friends, who were able, over so many years, to mount a such a spirited resistance and opposition to British rule in Ireland.
GM: Yes, well that’s true and that’s one of the things that the British have targeted and they saw to it that they would break that resistance – it was a long, hard grind as I said towards the end with those types of assassinations and whatnot – and that’s precisely what they have done. And now you have, you know it’s been a very psychological type of warfare this past twenty years and whatnot since the ceasefires and a whole new generation has grown up who really only rely on information that’s anecdotal as regards The Troubles and they are being so anglicised it’s quite frightening; you know, they talk about ‘here in the UK’ and ‘Londonderry’ and nonsense like that, these are, some of them, the children of Republicans. So it’s a constant struggle. The chief culprits here are the Sinn Féin people, especially their elected representatives, who have encouraged people to inform as much as possible, to even join the British forces here in The North and all the rest of it so it’s a very ambiguous programme, it creates a lot of confusion among people. And then of course anyone who speaks out finds, as I did when I stood back in 2007 on a staunch Republican ticket, they find that they are corralled off and put in prison and basically marginalised and isolated and so on and so forth. So the English rule the Nationalist population of Ireland through Sinn Féin that’s the black-and-white bottom line at this point in time.
And I was speaking to you before, I was drawing the analogy with The Highlands of Scotland – they could never control the Catholic clans up in The Highlands except through The Campbells, which were another Gaelic clan albeit a Protestant one, and they used them to keep law and order, or English law and order, in The Highlands of Scotland. They use Sinn Féin now to do the same. And under the cover you have Catholic Nationalist, people from Republican families, who are now sitting as Diplock court judges and prosecutors and all the other stuff of the day that you can’t possibly imagine and they are arrogantly passing judgment on patriots. I remember when I was on the trial, and the trial was an absolute farce – no research done whatsoever on anything – they just threw out whatever they wanted – but they used to talk about ‘bad character’ – anyone who had shown any resistance to the British was deemed to have had ‘bad character’ and everything was to be criminalised. So again you have Irish Catholics, traitors in effect, administering British rule here in the Six Counties. But I’m happy to say that things are – I do detect a stirring, I do detect a stirring and it’s very important that we focus on this because the Brexit vote, which I’m sure you’re all familiar with which is where Britain withdrew itself from, voted to leave the European Union, is starting to stir things up a little bit here.
Now I voted to get out for the simple reason is we wanted to see that the – to create the chaos that is now coming about as any good Irish Nationalist would want to do – and all the Irish Republicans that I know, except for the Sinn Féin people, all Irish Republicans voted to get out – not because they give a damn about England or Britain but because they wanted to break up the United Kingdom in order to bring about a united Ireland. The only way we’re going to get a united Ireland is to break up the United Kingdom, so-called.
And now what we’re seeing is people are starting to openly talk about border polls and all the rest of it. Why do we need a border poll? Why do we have to vote to prove anything? They just need to get the hell out of our country. They don’t belong here. They’ve no right to be here. Their presence here has been at the cost of the blood of the Irish so it’s time for them now to get out. I’m quite hopeful that this will come about but we have to see to it that mass movements get up and running here over the next say few years so that by, I would like to think January of 1919 (2019), the English would be out of our country.
And we need a united Ireland – not for The North but for the sake of The South. The South urgently needs us Northerners to take control of things because they have just gone so wishy-washy it’s beyond belief – they’ve no spark of patriotism, they’ve turned their back on their faith, everything you could possibly imagine – they’ve really no sense of Irishness worth talking about so we have to re-instill all that in them. And I would hope that we will have this debate developing something more substantial whereby there will be an outcry and a demand that we get our country back. Because in here in Tyrone, I know the English have been in Ireland since 1169 and all of the rest of it but they haven’t been in The North only since the 1600’s so in historic terms it’s relatively fresh and we want them out. We’ve had enough of them. They’ve been on our backs for too long. And then we’ll deal with all these other issues that I’ve been referring to, the collaborators and all the rest of it, but in the meantime we need to get our country re-united and we need to get the English out of here – they’ve no right to be here. So hopefully we may see Scotland making some attempt to seek independence and that really is our cue.
MG: Alright. Gerry, we’re – are you still with us?
GM: Yes, of course.
MG: Gerry, sorry – Jim Sullivan’s going to ask you a question.
Jim: Alright Gerry, I just want to say: I’ll be over in a little more than a month to see you and Maria and the kids.
GM: Well, we look forward to it!
MG: (quips) See, Jim wanted to save the phone call expense.
Jim: Yeah – this is cheaper for me. As you know, they don’t make pockets in kilts.
GM: And the Ancient Order of Hibernains in Tyrone have something special (crosstalk)(inaudible) the Hugh O’Neill Medallion, one of which is being reserved for the Hibernians, members of the AOH who died as firemen in the line of duty on 9/11, fifteen years ago. So we look forward to presenting that to you, Jim, when you do get here which you can bring back to the United States as a mark of our respect for our fellow AOH members who died on that fateful day fifteen years ago.
Jim: Alright. Thank you, Gerry.
MG: Gerry, we’re pitching today. We’re asking people to show support for us so that we can show this programme has support in the Irish community. We’re asking that people will call (provides phone number). I have to use you as an example. I know when we were working on the Gerry McGeough Family Defence Fund – when you were arrested in 2007 and ultimately you went to prison in Maghaberry – we were able to use WBAI to support you. I know you have been on, both before you were imprisoned and afterwards, to talk about that. You were when, going back, you were around on different issues…
GM: …I can say, Martin, absolutely I fully and wholly, totally endorse Radio Free Éireann and WBAI. And I would encourage everyone to dig deep and help keep this station on air because it is vital, absolutely vital that we have access to what is effectively, thanks to social media now as a global mechanism, whereby we can get the voice of true Irishness, true Irish Republicanism, out and about and across the world and of course right back here to The North because there’s no really other outlet to say what we have to say. And yes, absolutely! We must keep this station on air so I would absolutely encourage everyone to do everything in their power, to be as generous as possible on this fund raising occasion and do help out. Keep Radio Free Éireann, keep WBAI on air. And I know all you guys, all the voluntary work that you do, deserves credit and we acknowledge that and I ask people to do their bit. It’s really part of a wider effort now because, as I said, we’re moving into a new stage whereby there is a strong possibility now that we can see political movement – if it’s properly harnessed and the right energy goes into it and the right thinking goes into it – and we get rid of these pathetic old Shinners who are just so sad it’s not funny and let’s get patriots back in the saddle again and we need WBAI to be part of the voice of that new Ireland that is coming up.
MG: Alright. We’ve been talking with Gerry McGeough. Gerry, we want to thank you. (ends time stamp ~ 6:16 in the second hour)