Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
Martin Galvin speaks to Kate Nash via telephone from Doire about the sit-in protest occupying the Museum of Free Derry (MOFD). (begins time stamp ~ 37:41)
Martin: And with us on the line we have Kate Nash. Kate, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.
Kate: Thank you very much, Martin.
Martin: Kate, some time ago, just a short time ago, we had you on and you were talking then about just some of the discontent that you and some of the families had about – families of victims of British forces – about the Free Derry Museum. And you said that at time you did not want the names of family members listed among the names of British troops, among the names of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), British forces. I know that that happened in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin where the names of Irish patriots were listed and there was a lot of bad feelings about that. How can you put them on the same pedestal, on the same places, if the names of those who were victims or those who died fighting for freedom would be the same and remembered equally with those who were trying to deny that freedom or to take innocent life? And we were hoping that that protest would be resolved. I know you had a petition. I signed it; a number of people signed it. And you were trying to work to get this done. But this week I heard that there was a dramatic new escalation – there’s actually an occupation of the Free Derry Museum. Could you tell us what’s going on and why?
Kate: Yes. Yes, my sister and my good friend, Helen Deery, who lost a brother to the Army of course on the nineteenth of June 1972 – just look – we were on the phone quite often asking and we were just told the same thing: Look, call back next, they were call back next week or give us a ring and just excuses, excuses all the time. And they said they we were doing a consultation. The petition we did do did force them into that – doing a consultation. And they sent out a two page form for families to fill in who wanted it up and who wanted it down. And my family actually filled it out then. And eight of the families actually wanted it down and four of them were happy enough with it. So we sent it back in, you know, this is how they work anyway – Sinn Féin, the majority – that’s what they seem to talk about over there – but however, this went on and on and there was no sign, they said that, they kept kept telling us that people hadn’t really sent the form back and you know they were waiting to see – and that’s what we were listening to the whole time, Martin, we were – and that’s was a couple of months – and this has been going on that long, a couple of months. And so eventually we thought, we took a decision last Sunday that we’d had enough of it. And the girls know, the girls know – we decided that I would stay outside and organise and the girls would go in and occupy the building. And that’s exactly what they did last Tuesday at one forty.
And they haven’t been treated very nicely, I can tell you, by the Bloody Sunday Trust. They’ve had no, they’d no access, they have had no access to facilities, for instance, until last night. They turned off the lift. One of the girls would have a walking problem, you know, she’s on disability, Helen, and they turned off the lift. They brought various people in, and I witnessed one of them, one of those people, they brought various people in and allowed them to hurl abuse at the two girls, the two ladies. And all the staff are refusing to speak to them despite being, despite only being only a couple of feet away.
And they released a statement last night without even speaking to them. They talked about mediation. They wanted to offer mediation but said at the same time: We won’t move an inch. And Helen actually answered that and said: Well, in that case we’re not moving an inch, either. Obviously, they’re not serious about trying to resolve this problem. And look, we’re simply asking them: Please take my brother’s name out of there. Helen wants her brother’s name out of there.
There’s another family, the Hegarty Family, young Daniel Hegarty, fifteen, was shot on (Operation) Motorman and they want their brother’s out of there. While we were there yesterday, for instance, there was a man came in, too, demanding artifacts that he had donated to the museum. He demanded those back. He said in support of the occupation done by the two women. He completely supported them. So that’s where we’re at…
Kate: …that’s really where we’re at…
Martin: …I mean, both of them are pensioners…
Kate: …Yes, they are…
Martin: …Helen Deery’s fifteen year old brother, Manus, was shot. Your brother, Linda’s brother, nineteen year old William, was shot on Bloody Sunday…
Kate: ..Uh huh, that’s right. Yes.
Martin: …and they’re there in overnight bags, sleeping bags…
…Yes, well it was actually, they’ve got blow-up beds now so they’re just a wee bit more comfortable. What they did say, the museum people, did say then yesterday as they have agreed – just suddenly they changed tact then yesterday and they have agreed to give them water. They recognise, they said, the protest and they would allow me in with their medications and stuff that they use you know, via me, but do you know what? They’re actually making faces – you know, trying to goad them, you know? And one of the younger members of staff – once a visitor, by the way, who had brought them in a couple of bags of sweets – sprayed them with air freshener! I mean, choking them! Do you know what I mean? He sprayed that much, a nineteen year old that works in there. And that’s the sort of treatment – you know that’s the sort of treatment! That’s where we’re at. I think that I’m (inaudible) at the moment. But I mean we intend to, and the two ladies intend, to stay in there until they take those names down.
Martin: Okay. Well I’m just reading a very emotional statement by Helen Deery who is one of the people inside. She said:
We’re occupying the Museum of Free Derry. We’re not coming out until that display is down. We’ve tried every other form of protest to have them take our loved ones’ names down. I’ve told them on numerous occasions of the hurt and anxiety that this is causing me and other family members. I’m staying here until they take this down. I have eight pins in my legs, a spinal injury and I’m sore this morning but I’m adamant that I’m not leaving. I am Manus’ voice now. His next of kin. I want to keep his name sacred. He was just a child.
And, of course, Linda…
Kate: …Helen made that – it’s very emotional but a very powerful statement, yes.
Martin: Okay. Just tell our audience again: What is the Museum of Free Derry? What is it supposed to represent?
Well, according to them, according to them it’s a museum it’s now representing from 1969 to 1972 the civil rights – or the Free Derry, the Free Derry time and basically that’s it. You know I mean on the charity status, for instance, the Bloody Sunday Trust, they say that they exist to assist the Bloody Sunday families, you know, and to keep the memory of you know Bloody Sunday with respect. You know, so.
Martin: Alright. But now here is the list of names, names of British troops, names of Royal Ulster Constabulary and mixed in with that is Helen Deery’s brother…
Kate: …Can I explain, Martin, to you about that? They say that those names – that is simply a list – a chronological list. But anybody looking at that display – for instance, where they don’t have a photograph there’s a cross – there you are -that’s a sacred thing. That’s a memorial. There’s also a short biography of each person down below. On one of the soldiers, for instance, it actually says that his wife was pregnant at the time and that she went on to have the baby. So there you are – they’re humanising that. Do you know what I mean? So that is a memorial. That is not a list.
Martin: Well what concerns me, two things: Number One, as a family member of William Nash, as a family member of Manus Deery, certainly you should have the right to say how your family or how you react to it and that it’s hurtful and gets heard. But beyond that when the names of British forces were put up, the ones killed in 1916, were put along side the names of people like James Connolly and Pádraig Pearse and the other patriots of that time – all Republicans made a statement about how angry they were that the names of patriots are not equal or should not be among, should not be remembered along side as if they were the same as, no different than, those who were trying to deny freedom who would execute the men of 1916, they would jail people and now it seems like the same thing is happening in Free Derry Museum.
Kate: Yeah. Well that’s the British government via Sinn Féin. I mean, what we’re facing now, what we’re challenging is The Establishment – and that’s the British government. And this is what their psychological thing is – they actually try and get us to, to attempt to get us, to be used to think that soldiers are okay and so on and that’s what that is attempting to do. But I have to say, too, Sinn Féin and their workers, what they’re, what they, if they meet certain criteria, for instance ‘inclusive’ – then they will get funding. And it’s about that, too. It’s about greed.
Martin: Alright, funding from whom?
Kate: Well, the government. They get funding from the government. The council – they actually get money from the council as well. I believe there’s one part of it’s a charity and then the museum is a business.
Martin: Right. They charge an admission, they make money, people get paid wages…
Kate: …Oh, yes. Four pound a head…
Martin: …and they get money from the British government. Now I think what…
Kate: …That’s right. Yeah. They got funding to build that, you know to build that – I think they got over two million, didn’t they?
Martin: Alright. I think one of the proposals that you and the other people who have the protest have made is for mediation and I think, correct me if I’m wrong, that you had or someone had suggested that Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey would be acceptable…
Kate: …Absolutely, yes, we did. But it was dismissed.
Martin: Well nobody played a bigger part in that whole period, 1968 to 1972, than Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey…
Kate: Absolutely! Well she’s not mentioned. I haven’t seen, you know when I’ve been in there with the girls, I haven’t seen anything about Bernadette Devlin in there. And strange – I haven’t seen anything about John Hume either, you know – quite odd.
Martin: Well how would you tell about that period in history? She was a leading political figure…
Kate: …Yeah, and leave them out…
Martin: …she was – she was the person elected to Parliament from that area…
Kate: …that’s right, yeah…
Martin: …who attacked a British official who tried to apologise or defend Bloody Sunday. She was involved with so many civil rights marches that are involved in that period. She would have been involved in Bloody Sunday very much. How do you leave her out?
Kate: She was there – she was actually there on Bloody Sunday.
Martin: Right. Wasn’t she due to be one of the speakers?
Kate: I suppose actually, yeah. They had to jump down from the stage, you remember! They had to jump down from the stage when the bullets started.
Martin: Alright. Why wouldn’t she, for example – if you have a mediator they don’t impose a settlement they’re just supposed to bring people together. She’s somebody that’s been heard on this programme on these airwaves many times. Why would Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey not be acceptable? It doesn’t have to be the sole mediator but as one of the mediators to try and resolve an (inaudible) situation?
Kate: …Well I’ll tell you what – I mean we’re going to pursue that you know and ask if, you know formally ask – you know it’s just been, unofficially, it’s just been discussed in there, do know what I mean?
But I don’t think they want her. I don’t think they want Bernadette. But I mean we’re going to sort of ask officially: Could Bernadette mediate? We trust that lady – I mean of course we do.
Martin: Okay. Is there anything else that can be done to get a resolution? I know there was a petition. I was one of the signatories, it was up…
Kate: Well actually that was an online one. We actually did one on the street here in Doire. We actually polled the people in the Bogside and got them to sign one. And every single door we went to in that entire Bogside signed it.
We took in a thousand names to them, you know? And it was only weeks later when, weeks later they said – they dismissed it at the time – but it was only weeks later then they said: Look, because of that, because of that petition, we will do a wider consultation. And then a month later they come back to us and says: We’re only going to do the families. Now we did ask, too, does mean that you’re going to contact soldiers’ families and RUC families and stuff? Absolutely not. They’re not going to contact them. But herein lies the deeper problem. They consult nobody. I mean people are just treated with total disrespect and no caring whatsoever in it. Total disrespect.
Martin: You’re dealing, you’re dealing with people who lost loved ones, who feel very strongly about it, whose loved ones were killed by British troops, who – they’ve been there for a number of days. How do they – they stay in overnight, they sleep in either sleeping bags or just the accommodations that you’ve said. How do they get food?
Kate: Well I tell you what – determination. Because what – how they get through that is because what’s happening to them is hurtful and I mean it’s so hurtful that determination drives them. And you know what? You just find strength. You find strength from that determination. You know so…
Kate: …it means so much, Martin, it means so much that that doesn’t happen. We cannot let that equivalent stand between soldiers and innocent people. We simply can’t let that display go.
Martin: Okay, Kate, is there anything…
Kate: …We have to do something about it.
Martin: And we’re taking to Kate Nash whose brother was one of the people killed on Bloody Sunday and whose sister is Linda, is one of the people inside occupying the Free Derry Museum. Is there anything in particular that people in the United States can do?
Kate: Well do you know what? I think it would be terribly helpful – support’s always a wonderful thing – I think it would be terribly helpful if they were to, say, email for instance, the Museum of Free Derry and show their support for what we’re trying to do – or show you know, just tell them they do something or talk to the families and do what makes them happy – what they can, you know what they can – what they want – what they want, really.
Martin: Okay. Kate, could I suggest: Next week, we just had Gerry McGeough on, there’s a weekend of events in Tyrone.
Kate: Yeah, I heard about that, yeah.
Martin: I’m sure he would give you some kind of facility. They’re going to have hunger strikers families honoured. It’s a Hibernian Day parade. I know they would be very sympathetic to victims of, relatives of victims who were killed by British troops. If this is still going on – if you can’t get a proposal, a mediation, something that satisfies everybody and allows Linda, your sister Linda Nash, and Helen Deery to come out of that building, and I heard there are other families talking about joining – I’d suggest you have somebody there at that event. I’m sure Gerry McGeough and the others would be interested in what’s going on and interested in supporting you and that is going to be a big weekend next week. I can’t speak for him but just knowing Gerry I’m sure he would give you that facility.
Kate: Oh, that’s great. Thank you very much.
Martin: Okay. We’ve been talking to Kate Nash. Kate, we wish Linda and Helen and you all our best. And the names of your family members, those victims, innocent victims, should not be there along side British troopers. And we’re going to give you – we hope there’s not a big update next week to have to follow through on and that this can be resolved in some way that satisfies you and the other family members.
Kate: Thank you very much, Martin. We really appreciate your support and all your listeners. Thank you very much. (ends time stamp ~54:37)
Update 4 September 2017:
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) September 4, 2017
Second Update 4 September 2017:
UPDATE @MuseumFreeDerry exhibit has been taken down in order to facilitate dialogue and the two ladies have agreed to leave the museum…(1)
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) September 4, 2017
… as reciprocal gesture. Both parties in agreement to this and may I take this opportunity to thank you all for your wonderful support (2)
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) September 4, 2017
Third Update 4 September 2017: The Agreement
at the Museum of Free Derry (MOFD)
(Monday, Sept. 4th 2017)