Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
Martin Galvin speaks to Anthony McIntyre, former Republican prisoner now historian, author and commentator, via telephone from Co. Louth about several topics that are of interest to the Irish Republican community. (begins time stamp ~ 19:58)
Martin: We do have Dr. Anthony McIntyre – we had a little bit of difficulty reaching Dominic Óg McGlinchey, we’re going to try him towards the end of the programme. Anthony, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. Hello?
Martin: Anthony, are you with us?
Anthony: I am but you’re hard to hear. Go ahead.
Martin: Alright. No, we had a little trouble. We dialed Dominic Óg McGlinchey and weren’t able to make a connection. We’re going to try him again a little bit later in the programme but we wanted to go to you directly. There’ve been a number of important stories in The North of Ireland. This is one of our ‘catch-up’ programmes where we try to catch-up, bring the audience up-to-date, on a number of different issues and we can think of no better person than you, Dr. Anthony McIntyre, a commentator, journalist and somebody who keeps the blog, The Pensive Quill, to try and help us with all those stories so welcome back. Okay, first thing: When we discontinued for fund raising, obviously last January Sinn Féin had resigned from Stormont, there was a new election, there were talks, there were deadlines – many deadlines and deadlines were passed – and where are we now in terms of Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reconstituting the Stormont Assembly?
Anthony: Well, it’s not going to happen this week or next week. I think at the very least we will have to get past the party conferences. And I think Newton Emerson pointed this out in an article in the Irish News that the party conferences are coming up so there’s little chance of an agreement being reached prior to those conferences. Now the talks have broken down. James Brokenshire, the British Secretary of State, has said that he has to introduce a budget and he’s starting to move in the British Parliament, I think this Monday, to introduce a budget that will be imposed on The North and there’s an argument that he’s trying to say that this is not Direct Rule but you know this is rhetoric. It’s hard to see how it isn’t Direct Rule. It’s certainly the substance of Direct Rule – budgetary matters being controlled by London. So we’re – even though they’re saying it’s not Direct Rule I think Colum Eastwood of the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), the leader of the SDLP, made the point that it that looks very like Direct Rule – it walks like Direct Rule, it talks like Direct Rule so…
Martin: Yes. Alright. The Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – they have totally opposite objectives. Sinn Féin wants a united Ireland. The Democratic Union…
Anthony: …No, that’s not true. Sinn Féin says it wants a united Ireland. Sinn Féin’s a partitionist party that supports the partitionist principle of unity by consent. Sinn Féin for years had opposed that. Sinn Féin were the political wing of the IRA and the IRA killed over a thousand members of the security forces, the British security forces. The IRA killed over a thousand members of the British security forces with Sinn Fein’s endorsement. And those British security forces, at one level, were defending the Principle of Consent.
Martin: Alright. But the Democratic Unionist Party views any moves by Sinn Féin, whatever they try, as some sort of threat or bribe or some sort of secret move towards a united Ireland – even to the point where if you would just have an Irish Language Act (ILA) similar presumably to what they have in Wales, they have a Welsh language act in Wales, they have a Scottish language act in Scotland – even a move like that is viewed as a red line, something that the Democratic Unionist Party will not accept where even reconciliation gestures, sorry initiatives, like those of Declan Kearney and others, they are looked on suspiciously, they are looked on as some sort of trick to come over, a trojan horse, to get involved with undermining British rule. How do two parties – Alex Kane, the Unionist commentator, and others have made this same statement from a Unionist perspective – how do two parties which have totally different views how do they come together and work a coalition on any other basis other than what Suzanne Breen used to write about as ‘rollover Republicanism’ – going along, with Sinn Féin going along with the DUP – how do they ever get a real agreement that would recognise rights, that would jeopardise what the Unionist see, or Democratic Unionist Party sees, as the basis of continued British rule?
Anthony: Well, the way that they will get it will be through the Sinn Féin leader calculating that it’s in his career interest, in the interest of his political career, that they reach an agreement in The North. I’m not a pessimist about that some sort of agreement being reached in The North because I think it’s dependent whether or not (and we’ll learn more about this from the upcoming Ard Fheis) but it’s dependent on whether or not the Sinn Féin party can get into government in The South. Now, they’ve been making overtures to Fine Gael, they’ve been making overtures to Fianna Fáil, and I’ve no doubt that there’s been back-channel negotiations and feeling-out processes in place and what would happen then is the Sinn Féin president will reckon that his chances of getting into government will be greatly increased if he is also seen as being in government in The North. And at that point Sinn Féin will move into government in The North regardless of the Irish Language Act being in place or not. It has to be borne in mind that Sinn Féin were in government for ten years in The North – what did they actually do to go about securing an Irish Language Act? I mean the Executive didn’t collapse over an Irish Language Act. It collapsed over the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) in which the party had blamed Arlene Foster on – and with, I mean, good reason – but we hardly hear them mention that today. They’re claiming today that the talks are collapsing because or they can’t reach agreement because of the Irish Language Act, marriage equality and the legacy issues – the right to have inquests into killings in The North by British state security personnel.
Martin: Okay. Tell me – if the British government introduces a budget – that’s technically Direct Rule or may be considered Direct Rule. How much difference does that really make to people on the ground? The Tory/DUP, whatever you want to call it, partners, they set a block grant. The block grant really controls how much money is available. It is going to lead to and mean cuts of crucial services in The North of Ireland. Would it matter, how much does it matter if it’s the DUP and Sinn Féin at Stormont once they get – it’s like children getting an allowance – once you get that allowance there’s only so much you can do with it, you’re not going to get more money than that allowance – how much does it really matter if the budget is set by Westminster instead of by the DUP and Sinn Féin in some sort of partnership or carve-up?
Anthony: Well, given that the DUP are neoliberal in their outlook, very neoliberal in their outlook, they will not worry too much about shafting the poorer sectors of Northern society. The Sinn Féin are not just as neoliberal and they have a constituency that would expect more. I mean, Sinn Féin have been promising to put manners on the PSNI – failed absolutely! They will not be able to put manners on the Tories. And Sinn Féin are always vulnerable to electoral erosion, particularly to groups like the People Before Profit (PBP) if they’re seen to be implementing the Tory austerity policy. Now Sinn Féin are quite prepared to implement austerity and Sinn Fein are quite prepared to basically shaft the poorest of the society in the interest of obtaining power. But it is convenient for them to have the Tories making them decisions and then they blame the Tories. But as you say, Sinn Féin in government – and I never call it power-sharing I call it power-splitting because this is what it is – they split power between, in a very ungenerous fashion, between the two main parties who, as you pointed out earlier and Alex Kane has said this as well, they absolutely hate each other but this devil’s alliance, this unholy alliance and it suits both to have this alliance. But it will suit Sinn Féin, to some extent, and let the Tories take the flak on the budget but at the end of the day if Adams decides that his political career is best served by that government in The North, getting it up and running, in conjunction with a government in The South – that’s what he’ll go for.
Martin: Alright. Now, you mentioned the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland): Now ten years ago there were debates, John and I both worked for candidates who opposed Sinn Féin endorsing the PSNI. What everybody was told: You had the Patten Commission, you had 50/50 recruitment (which has since been done away with), you had policing boards, you had Sinn Féin being involved, very much, on those policing boards – as well as independents, as well as the DUP – and that that would give Nationalists the chance, as you said, to teach, put manners on the PSNI. And all we see in recent weeks, when you talk about legacy issues, when you talk about, for example, the Glenanne case, where about a hundred and thirty people were murdered by Loyalists with, it seems to be, in collusion with British Crown forces – in order to get the truth they were back in court to try and force the PSNI to investigate it and the case, the respondent, the defendant, the person against whom they bring the case is the PSNI Chief Constable. When you talk about not giving a budget for legacy inquests, starving them, stalling them out with money, if you look at the policing boards – they have overall responsibility. The PSNI Chief Constable is the one who implements a budget on a daily basis but the policing boards oversee that annually, they do reports on it – why is it that these structures, these boards, have had no effect whatsoever in getting justice for people who have been denied inquests, who were the victims of collusion? Why is it they now have to go to court, they now have to go to Ombudsman, which is a way of saying that the policing boards failed, that the political structures at Stormont failed, that we can’t get justice in that way. In fact, I just talked about a new film, No Stone Unturned – you have to go to an American film maker to try and get justice – policing boards seem not to work. Why is that?
Anthony: Well, they were set up not to work. They were never set up to be a serious indictment of the state and they have shown their total ineffectualness in this very situation in that we now have the judiciary hitting out at the British police, the PSNI, because of their tardiness and their absolute reluctance to do anything in relation to truth recovery. See, the biggest change under Patten was the change of the name; the name changed from the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) to the PSNI. Now if the PSNI were to face a threat similar in nature and substance to the threat posed by the Provisional IRA the PSNI would behave exactly like the RUC did – no difference whatsoever – because it would probably find itself in a situation where it felt that was the best way to defeat any insurgency so there’s been no substantive change in this force. And this force now is defending and covering up for the worst atrocities. There has never been one member of the PSNI, when it was called the RUC, not one member of it has been brought before the courts for torture yet there were numerous people tortured by the PSNI when it was the RUC.
They are doing everything possible to prevent investigations into the past yet they want to investigate Republicans – they’re even chasing after myself on charges of IRA membership and attempted escape from prison and bomb attacks that the Loyalists actually carried out. I mean, this is where they’re wasting public money in the American courts and in the courts in The North of Ireland and they’re not willing to spend money and bring in anybody, any of their own people, to trial.
Now if we look at the recent case involving Gary Haggarty where they say his evidence, despite it being substantial, his evidence would not stand up in court. Now that was a means for the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service and the British Public Prosecutor in The North, Barra McGrory, that is a means for them to allow the PSNI to get off the hook and probably more importantly it’s a signal – a shot across the bows of those who think that the John Boutcher Operation Kanova inquiry is going anywhere. Freddie Scappaticci, the agent Stakeknife, will be characterised and dismissed as an accomplice and accomplice evidence is not acceptable in the courts of The North at the moment. So I mean this force is doing its utmost to thwart justice and it is no surprise to me that people are increasingly alienated from it. Gerry Kelly will get up and talk rubbish about he supports people joining the PSNI because it’s an Irish police force. They’re no more Irish than the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) the RUC before it. They’re a British police force. They’re managed, effectively, in terms of what they can do and limited, effectively, in terms of what they can do by MI5. The PSNI are not accountable to an Irish administrative system they’re accountable to the British administrative system and British interests haven’t changed that much.
Martin: Alright. – we’re talking with Dr. Anthony McIntyre – Anthony, there was a new bill introduced – it’s not formally endorsed by the government yet although it’s a member of their party and it was drawn by members of the Democratic Unionist Party and what this bill would do is impose a ten year statute of limitations on any murders or crimes committed by British troopers in The North of Ireland as well as other areas. We’ve had Kate Nash and others on campaigning for prosecutions of British troopers for Bloody Sunday going back to 1972. We’ve had people like the Ballymurphy Massacre Families – if they are cleared by an inquest it might mean that somebody else is guilty of shooting down these people, unarmed people on the street, without provocation, including a Catholic priest, a mother, people going to the aid of others who were wounded – what would it mean to those families, Kate Nash, the Bloody Sunday families, if the British do introduce this ten year statute of limitations?
Anthony: Well, I mean it’s a ruse. The first question we ask ourselves is it’s a general amnesty – a blanket amnesty for all British security forces because how many people have been killed by British state security forces in The North in the last ten years? So anybody killed before that – you know, there’s been none – I mean, maybe one or two but not in sort of political circumstances. What happens there is that they’re given an amnesty. And I, I mean I have told Kate Nash myself (and other people) that I disagree with the pursuit of prosecution strategies because it’s a means of preventing the truth from emerging about the past. We will never get the truth while we insist on prosecution strategies but the problem here it’s a one-sided, skewed manner in which the British are trying again to apply this. They want it to apply to only British soldiers and the RUC. And so what it means is that the people who’ll continue to appear in courts for activities that occurred, events that occurred forty, forty-five years ago will be Republicans, in some cases Loyalists – no state forces – which means there’s a hierarchy of victims and some victims are going to be treated vastly different from others. Like if you can drag an eighty year old Republican like Ivor Bell in front of the courts why the hypocrisy and shouting about eighty year old soldiers getting dragged in front of the courts?
Martin: …And in particularly…
Anthony: …the law has to…
Martin: …And in particularly demonstrations in front of Westminster, people walking around, how it’s ‘Frankenstein justice’ if you bring somebody like Dennis Hutchings into a court for shooting down a young man running away in Benburb, you know, years ago. Okay…
Anthony: …Well I mean the complaint…
Martin: …I just want to get to a couple of more things: Brexit – the negotiations are still going on. It just reminds me what happened here in the United States with Obamacare: You had the Trump Administration and others, Republicans were saying for years we want to repeal and replace Obamacare and everything’ll be great after that, it’ll be great for the economy, all the problems will be solved, all the problems with medical care and costs of medical care will be solved, just elect us, give us our chance. And then obviously when they got elected they had the chance to do that – they have no idea what to do. They have no replacement. They have no programme to do it with. It just seemed to be a good slogan to get elected. In terms of Brexit in The North of Ireland: You had the Tories, you had people calling for Brexit – for breaking away from the European Community – that that was going to make the British a great empire again, it was going to solve all their economic problems, it was going to give everybody jobs and better pay and now it seems they have no strategy for dealing with it, no strategy for what happens. It seems like they thought it would never happen, they don’t have a way to go forward and Ireland, particularly counties – like you live in Co. Louth – and Donegal, others are going to pay a very heavy price for it if it is implemented. How do you see it?
Anthony: Well I mean I think you’re right. The British who were pushing for this, and Theresa May was not a Brexiteer, but the British who were pushing for this had simply no – the right-wing of the Tory party had no idea and they didn’t anticipate a victory and then when they were handed a victory they didn’t know what to do with it. I think that’s been proved in recent times. And the interesting thing is that in The North there has been, in relation to The North, there has been a document uncovered in recent days which shows that the European Union (EU) are pushing for The North to remain within Europe and while Britain will not – now, that would cause serious problems for Unionism but also would be an administrative nightmare for the British and they’re already responding by saying there will be no borders within the UK – it’s not happening. So it’s very unlikely to happen. And the Taoiseach has rolled back from suggestions, well he hasn’t rolled back himself but he’s disputed suggestions, and Simon Coveney, the Foreign Minister, disputed suggestions that the Irish government has been pushing to have The North to stay within the EU which would sort of make it very, it would become very much identifiable as an island totally separate from Britain and the Unionists and the Tories don’t want that but because the Tories have handled it so badly it’s impossible to say what way it will go because there’s no pattern or plan or logic that can be followed here. You’re just watching them dance about and jump from issue to issue. They’re getting ridiculed in Europe. They simply have no idea how to handle this and because there’s no plan of action we’re not able to sit down and look at the blueprint – it’s make it up as you go along. And I mean Theresa May is under pressure, although I don’t think it’s terminal, but it’s certainly causing her government pressure in that she’s lost two ministers this month. She’s lost a Minister for Defense due to his sexual harassment of women and she’s lost a Minister of International Development for striking secret deals with the State of Israel. So she is under pressure and there’s everything to play for here in terms of what way things will go. But I’m of the view that coming into the new year we will still have Theresa May at the head of the Tory government but The North, I mean she’s too dependent on the DUP for us to see any type of policy introduced which the DUP would find anathema. So all, I think, will be pretty much the same.
Martin: Alright. We were not able to get Dominic Óg McGlinchey but you ran a piece on The Pensive Quill in which there was a controversy: Peadar Heffron wrote a piece and he was interviewed by a journalist for the Irish Independent. Peter Heffron was, or Peadar Heffron, excuse me, was somebody from a Nationalist area, played Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sports and joined the PSNI which we’ve talked about – he was a victim of a – was injured in an attack and he says he’s a bitter man – he didn’t like the way that the football club that he had belonged to received him – they weren’t sympathetic enough to him and Dominic Óg McGlinchey had written a piece saying that much of what Peadar Heffron said might be the basis of neighbours of Peadar Heffron, former neighbours of Peadar Heffron, being targeted, being victimised, that in that area there are numerous people who were victims of assassinations – either with the help of or covered up by people who joined the PSNI. Why do you think Dominic Óg McGlinchey wrote that piece or what were the themes in that piece that you printed on The Pensive Quill?
Anthony: Well firstly, Peadar Heffron yeah, I mean he’s a bitter man who joined a bitter force. And I mean what happened to Peadar Heffron – and I’ve written about this and I’ve expressed my view in relation to his – the attack on him and the attack also on Ronan Kerr, another Catholic on that force, that ended up, he died, I think there’s no justification for these attacks whatsoever. But, what Dominic McGlinchey was writing about was the sentiment that exists at local level in some communities, in Nationalist communities in The North, towards the PSNI. The acceptance of the PSNI by Sinn Féin is to enhance political careers. It’s not to deliver justice. There’s never been manners put on the PSNI. And people who are sitting in Nationalists areas watching the PSNI cover-up for the RUC murders, the RUC tortures, are very unhappy and a lot of Nationalists lost their lives in that particular area where Peadar Heffron lived and, although he wasn’t a serving member of the PSNI – he served, I think, in Woodbourne and Belfast – Peadar Heffron’s joining of the PSNI would have angered a lot of people who have every right to dissent from his decision to join equally as they have the right to applaud his decision to join. And his colleagues in the Gaelic Club seemed not to have liked it at the time and were pretty blunt and telling him that they didn’t respect his decision.
Because Sinn Féin want to go along with policing doesn’t me that everybody and their gran have to think that the police are a good thing. Sinn Féin needed to accept the police to get into government. They didn’t reform the police to any great extent and, as you pointed out, the 50/50 Catholic/Protestant balance was just done away with, and Dominic McGlinchey was trying to point out that when a guy like Joe Brolly comes up and interviews Peadar Heffron and then – Heffron’s less at fault here in fact, Heffron’s not at fault at all for feeling the way he does but Brolly is very much at fault, in Dominic’s view, and also in the view of Seán Mallory who earlier, the day before, had written a piece – Seán Mallory’s a former Republican prisoner, here’s from the Tyrone area, he also knows that people on the ground and in the Gaelic Clubs were very unhappy with Peadar Heffron deciding to join a force – a force that’s been involved, heavily involved, in cover-up and truth denial and keeping families, like those of Bloody Sunday and those in North Belfast who were the victims of the Mount Vernon killers, the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) killers and those victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre that there’s a genuine feeling out there of resentment towards that force.
Now Joe Brolly, who was in the GAA himself, a successful GAA man, an All-Ireland Medal winner, Joe Brolly then accused the former members of widespread cowardice and seems to imply that they may have been in some way involved in the fate that befell Peadar Heffron. Now there’s anger at Joe Brolly because Joe Brolly’s saying things about the GAA that haven’t been heard in years and, when they were heard, they were coming from people like Willie McCrea and, therefore, Dominic thinks and Seán Mallory thinks that this expression of blame, culpability, being assigned to the GAA Club, the local GAA club of which Peadar Heffron was a member, they are of the view that this is an egregious attempt and it causes problems for many, many Nationalists. They’re not, in any way, trying to justify the bomb attack on Peadar Heffron they are simply trying to put it in, put the reaction of the GAA Club to his decision to join the PSNI, they’re trying to put that in context and explain it and give an alternative narrative because this is one of the problems in The North: They want this narrative of the peace process to be accepted. They talk to us about democracy but democracy is the right to choose – choose to do something or choose not to do it and people democratically expressed their views that Peadar Heffron made the wrong decision and they’re quite entitled to express that view and the GAA, his fellow colleagues, his fellow players in the GAA, are quite entitled to be unhappy with him and they’re quite entitled to express that view and they’re doing it in a democratic fashion. There’s nobody saying that Peadar Heffron should have been attacked. I think the attack on Peadar Heffron was terrible, terrible brutal, wholly unjustified. I also feel and when he was denied compensation, when they tried some terrible way to bamboozle, or try to bamboozle their way out of paying him the compensation by saying he wasn’t on duty at the time – well, he was traveling to work – and I spoke out against it and thought he was treated terribly. So people like myself who run this blog or people like Dominic McGlinchey and Seán Mallory who contribute to this blog through insightful articles are not justifying any attack on Peadar Heffron. They’re simply trying to place in context that he is a bitter man who joined a bitter force.
Martin: Alright. We’re going to have to leave that there. Anthony, thank you for being with us. The website, the blog that he was talking about is The Pensive Quill. It covers articles on a daily basis like what we’ve just heard. And I note: We’re not going to have time to discuss it but before we were on fund raising and on a hiatus one of the cases that we have talked about was that of Tony Taylor, a Doire man, who had been – served a sentence, was released and then just suddenly got picked up on what is called licence, or parole, where you can’t attend your hearing, you can’t pick your representative at a hearing so if your representative can’t talk to you you he can’t get information about to prove your innocence. And there was somebody named Gabriel Mackle who was just picked up within the last number of days and it seems like he is going to be another victim of that policy of internment-by-licence so we’re – well, we’ll look forward to reading about it and getting behind it and getting on top of that case, hopefully it’s not true. We want to thank you for bringing us up-to-date on so many stories.
Anthony: Thank you for having me on, Martin. And the Gabriel Mackle case is another example of what this force, the PSNI, is doing. They’re continuing the policy of internment and they’re not being opposed by the people who were interned, previously interned, and who should be standing up opposing them. Thanks very much!
Martin: Alright. Good Luck! Thank you, Anthony. (ends time stamp ~ 51:37)