Ed Moloney RFÉ 25 June 2016

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John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to award winning journalist and author Ed Moloney (EM) via telephone from Dublin about the Brexit vote and its ramifications. (begins time stamp ~ 37:33)

MG: Ed, you’re with us. We we able to get through! Ed, the first thing I wanted to – this is Martin Galvin. Welcome!, Ed – you’re very welcome because we had trouble getting through on the phone lines but perhaps you could explain: This whole issue of Britain withdrawing from the European Union (EU) had more to do with inter-party politics within the Conservative Party. It was just a stunt to try to unite the Conservative Party that has backfired on David Cameron and elevated someone else within his party. But this is something that he concocted just to hold his party together as an election stunt, something which he thought would never happen because he never expected to be re-elected with a majority instead of a coalition government as he had before.

EM: The background was that Europe has expanded in the last few years way beyond the original six or seven members to include a lot of eastern European and former Soviet satellite countries like Poland and Ukraine and Lithuania and Latvia and Romania and under the rules of the European Union there is free movement of labour so you had an influx of people from these, to what would be to British eyes, more strange European countries with even stranger languages and stranger food and so on and so forth and it sort of stimulated a big anti-immigrant sentiment within very large sections of the British population, particularly in England. And that was all articulated by a party called the United Kingdom Independence Party which is a very extreme right-wing racist party very much like, I suppose, modeled on the right-wing parties that exist in France and now in Germany, and some people are also drawing parallels with the rise of Donald Trump – he’s appealing to exactly the same sort of audience – an anti-immigrant audience.

Add on to that the pressure to deal with refugees from Syria and you had enormous pressure and divisions opening up inside the Tory party and this was done, and you’re quite right, I mean Cameron assumed that they would win the referendum quite easily and that the results of that would be that this threat from the racist right-wing, both within his own party and this United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP as it’s known, would dissipate and he’d be able to restore law and order within his own party. Well, that didn’t work out as we now know. There was a much stronger ‘leave’ vote than people had predicted and the result is this extraordinary result on Friday morning.

JM: Ed, I wanted to talk about the Twenty-Six County’s reaction before this vote. When I was over there a couple of weeks ago there wasn’t all that much coverage of it – about what would happen if they did pull out of that and that what would happen with the border and now I’m listening to various reports and they were saying that Brussels will now control the border and tell the Twenty-Six Counties: This is how you’re going to treat the border now because you’re now a European country that borders a country that’s not in the European Union. Now, can Brussels come in and say to the Twenty-Six Counties: Listen, this is how you’re going to control this border now?

EM: Well yes, they would be able to do that because the Republic of Ireland, the South of Ireland, has agreed to join this organisation and be a member of the organisation and like any club you agree to abide by the rules. And if the rules are set by the majority and the majority says this is the way the border with a non-EU country should operate then they only have two choices: One is to accept that or to reject it and hold their own referendum on whether to leave the European Union, which is very, very unlikely I think, there’s such strong sentiment here in favour of Europe that they will go along with whatever Brussels tells them to do. They’ve joined the club and this is the rules of the club.

MG: Ed, David Cameron has now resigned. What do you think this means for – well, his Secretary for The North of Ireland was one of the people, Theresa Villiers, who was one of the people who was most vocal in supporting the of the idea of getting out of Europe, what sort of policies would you expect from his successor?

EM: Very right-wing policies, I think. Boris Johnson will, you know he’s a very ambitious guy and he’ll go with the flow and the flow in the Tory Party after this result will be very much to the right, and some of his colleagues, close colleagues, in this campaign to withdraw from Europe, and I’m thinking in particular of a guy called Michael Gove with whom I’ve clashed swords at least once and I wrote about it on my blog, is a neo-con of the most basic sort. And his attitude towards Ireland and towards the peace process is that it’s all a trick by the IRA and they want to go back to war as soon as conditions improve and he has no sympathy for the peace process at all so Messrs. Adams and McGuinness will have a tough time if that government is formed which I think it probably will. I mean the predictions are that Boris Johnson will succeed David Cameron. He’s the favourite according to all the pundits and Michael Gove will be his Number Two and they will have a very right-wing law and order-type approach to Northern Ireland. They will be unsympathetic to the peace process, unsympathetic as well to Sinn Féin and so there could be tough days ahead for that party in relation to their dealings with the British.

JM: (station identification) We’re speaking with Ed Moloney who’s over in Ireland and the blog he’s talking about is The Broken Elbow. I recommend it highly to go there and read what Ed has been writing about. Ed, one of the reactions now is Sinn Féin – Sinn Féin is calling for what’s known as a border poll. Now, this is the same Sinn Féin that can’t get Long Kesh to be made into some sort of a museum – they can’t get 1916 monuments put up in the Six Counties or get funding for it but now they’ve made this grandiose gesture that they want a border poll even though Enda Kenny said it’s not happening, the British government said it’s not happening but this is now what they want.

EM: Yeah. And to my mind it was just entirely a gimmick and I think it was also dictated by the knowledge that the result in Scotland where the Scottish voters overwhelming supported the EU and membership of the EU in contrast to the English, means inevitably there is going to be a referendum there about their relationship with the United Kingdom and with the English and it’s more than likely this time round that Scotland will go its own way and become an independent state and will join the EU separately as it were. So England will have a European power on its border. And faced with the knowledge that that was going to happen what was Sinn Féin going to say to that except to parrot what the Scots were saying which is: Well if they’re having a border poll or likely to have a border poll then we want one as well. But everyone knew: A) it wasn’t going to happen and B) even if it did happen the result would be predictable. I mean I think Martin McGuinness was demanding an all-Ireland border poll which is even less likely to happen because the Irish government down here would move heaven and earth to prevent something like that happening because they’re quite happy with the status quo, Good Friday Agreement, etc etc. They don’t want that disturbed at all so that’s a non-starter. So it was really a gimmick. And astonishingly of course the stupid media pick it up and run with it and it’s taken seriously – I even noticed the New Yorker today was taking that seriously and it’s just absolute nonsense and everyone knows it to be nonsense and it’s died away as you would expect it to die away in the last day or so.

JM: It’s amasing the turn of history, Ed, where Sinn Féin, back in the ’70’s were voting, even for the southern part of it, not to go into the European Union and now this is the whole big thing: Oh! We have to remain within the Union North and South. I mean, it’s just hard to keep up with all the nonsense that they’ve been…the flip-flops they’ve done on policies.

EM: Yeah, the U-turns would make you dizzy I guess and there’s been just so many of them that it’s impossible to count just how many reversals and changes to… I mean they’re morphing into sort of like a Fianna Fáil party if you’d like: pro-business by and large, pretty conservative on most issues, toeing the line on all important matters like European Union and stuff like that so that means abandoning a lot their Republican and even their Nationalist politics as they go along so quite an extraordinary sight. I mean you know, I’ve been over here for the best part of a month and a half now and you really do notice these changes much more than you do three thousand miles away, you know? That Sinn Féin are now treated by the media as if they’re like a normal, ordinary party and their history is sort of not talked about really you know – their past – it’s only a few people who are sort of like continuing to cover that, you know?

MG: Ed…Alright. We’re here on Radio Free Éireann, we’re talking to Ed Moloney, a great journalist, author of A Secret History of the IRA. Ed, I want to talk to you, just two things that you’ve just touched on. Number One: Since 1998, Sinn Féin had at that time said that they would agree to a Six County vote, a border poll, and they indicated it would follow that it was simply a matter of time, that working together, that once Martin McGuinness and others would get into Stormont, would work with the Unionists, work cross-border bodies, that there would be a shift among the Unionists, the Nationalist population would grow and there would be a shift among a significant segment of Unionist population that they would support union with the Twenty-Six Counties and that we would then win a border poll, have a united Ireland by consent. And the second thing you talked about, you’ve talked about Fianna Fáil: Fianna Fáil originally, went in, said if we can win elections in The South and use that power that will somehow bring us to a united Ireland. They began as a Republican party – many of its members had fought in the Easter Rising or had fought in the War of Independence, they had been executed in the Civil War, they fought the Civil War and if only they won these elections in The South that was going to somehow produce a united Ireland. Do you see any progress in Sinn Féin, in either of these aspects, in bringing us any way close or opening up a door to a united Ireland or are we getting further away from that goal?

EM: What I do see is that more and more Catholics are content with the Good Friday Agreement, content with the constitutional situation as it exists now which is union with Britain and that’s far from automatically every Catholic is a Nationalist and every Nationalist will vote for Irish unity. I would say that, if anything, sentiment is moving in a different direction. And I’ve always believed that there was always a very large slice of the Catholic population which was happy enough with the way things were, happy enough with the union and that if every single Nationalist in Northern Ireland was as opposed to the union as let’s say Sinn Féin were or even as the Nationalist Party were, the state would never have been viable. I mean the Catholic population was just too large for that to happen. So I’ve always believed that there’s a big slice there, ten-twenty percent of the Catholic population, which is quite content with the union with Britain, and if anything that’s probably growing now because now they see their representatives, they see Martin McGuinness sharing power with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) and they’ve got a wee Parliament there and what they would regard, what a lot of the them would regard as progress and therefore even less reason to be unhappy about the union. Meanwhile, there is no sign of any equivalent change in a different direction from the Unionists. If anything they are… you know, you go to Belfast as I did in the last few days or so and the Union Jacks, interestingly, are now flying everywhere. It used to be years ago, before I left, that the flags this time of the year would all be Ulster flags. And that was an indication of sort of like an Ulster Nationalism, Protestant Nationalism, a discontent with London for taking away Stormont and for insisting on equal opportunities and stuff like that in employment laws and so on and so forth and they reverted to a form of nationalism and the symbol of that was the Ulster flag, the one that you see being flown or being used in the European football games at the moment.

But if you go to Belfast, and indeed I noticed this going through other places as well, it’s now Union Jacks and that’s a very symbolic change. That is saying that they are now content with the union, they have more faith and trust in the British. So if anything their pro-union sentiment is probably strengthening rather than weakening. And so the idea that the border poll, which has been around for – this idea has been sort of implicit in the peace process – I think was always flawed – and it’s even more so now, I think.

JM: Ed, one final question: And we’re going to have the irony now of American companies, when they go to invest in Ireland, North or South, where the Twenty-Six County government’ll say: Listen, why would you invest in the North? They’re not part of the European Union. Come here! I mean there was a headline today in the Independent – Morgan Stanley moving two thousand jobs to remain within the European Union to Frankfurt and Dublin – so you could have now the Dublin government squeezing The North making sure no investment goes in there because they’re not part of the European Union.

EM: Yeah, although part of this deal that the parties in The North cut with the British last year which also gave approval to very tough austerity policies also agreed that the level of corporation tax would be the same in both parts of Ireland. So I guess they’re probably hoping that any disadvantages that flow from this Brexit vote in relation to Northern Ireland will be offset by these corporation tax changes but we’ll see. But you’re quite right there will be other benefits or disadvantages from Brexit which we haven’t really calculated yet and the odds are that, generally speaking, it will be a less attractive place for the Monsantos and whoever to invest their money from now on so maybe that will change opinions but that’s a very, very long and slow process – we’ll all be long dead before there’s any sign of those changes having any political effect.

JM: Alright. Thanks Ed, for coming on. And that’s Ed Moloney. You go to The Broken Elbow to keep up-to-date on everything that’s happening over in Ireland and Ed’s over there at the moment. (ends time stamp ~ 55:17)

Suzanne Breen RFÉ 18 June 2016

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Martin Galvin (MG) interviews journalist Suzanne Breen (SB) via telephone from Belfast about the upcoming Brexit referendum, the Police Ombudsman’s report on Loughinisland and a threat allegedly made to Ballymurphy Republican Seán Cahill.        (begins time stamp ~ 16:09)

MG: And with us on the line we have an award-winning journalist from Belfast, Suzanne Breen. Suzanne has been with the Irish Times, she’s been with the Sunday Tribune. She now writes for a number of papers including the Belfast Telegraph and others. Her work is seen very frequently on nuzhound. Suzanne, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

SB: Hello, Martin.

MG: Suzanne, this week there is a referendum. A vote is going to be heard. It’s a very simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union (EU) or leave the European Union and one of the people who has spoken out at great length on the results of this referendum because it’s going to have a major impact in Ireland is the head of the Twenty-Six County government, Enda Kenny. Who actually will vote and make the decision in this referendum as to whether Britain should remain in the European Union, where they’ve been since the 1970’s, or leave the European Union?

SB: Well the people making the decision are voters in the UK; that’s voters in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. At the moment it’s neck-and-neck. Some opinions polls show that the ‘leave campaign’ are leading by fifty-three percent to forty-seven percent. Other opinion polls show that the ‘remain campaign’ are ahead fifty-two percent to forty-eight percent. It really, really is tight and every vote will count next Thursday. The arguments are mainly economic and they’re mainly about immigration as well. The people who want to leave say that Britain is a net contributor to the EU that has cost people within Britain two hundred and fifty million pounds a week to belong. They say that the EU is bureaucratic, it’s undemocratic, that it’s unfair that rules from Brussels dictate what happens to citizens in the UK. Now these aren’t specifically British arguments. You would hear similar arguments about the undemocratic nature of the EU made in the Irish Republic by people on the left there. On the other hand, people who want to remain within the EU say that there will be a nightmare scenario if Britain withdraws – house prices will go up, wages will fall – there has been a lot of scaremongering on both sides.

MG: Suzanne, one of the people who’s spoken to me about it, a friend of mine who listens to the programme on computer, John Crawley, he lives in Clones which is right on the border of Co. Monaghan with Fermanagh and there used to be nightmare scenarios of how would you get into The North – back into Co. Monaghan – there could be border patrols, there could be checks on customs, there could be travel restrictions back and forth and no one seems to know whether there will be hard border controls, custom controls, etc or not. In fact, the European Union may be making the decision in terms of the Twenty-Six Counties. What’s the latest that you hear on that?

SB: Well, nobody knows. We are in totally uncharted waters if Britain votes to leave the EU. I mean it’s just – I think both sides play things up so it’s very, very hard to know what the facts will be but the reality will be that we have two parts of Ireland will be on different sides of an EU land border and I would say some type of increased border controls, customs checks, would be inevitable. That I think maybe is one of the reasons why Nationalists/Catholics in Northern Ireland increasingly support staying within the EU. Unionists are generally pro-Brexit. Nationalists will say that it could be disastrous for businesses along the border; Britain is one of Ireland’s largest trading partners. I think Nationalists generally just like to feel that they don’t belong simply to the UK – that they are part of a wider European community. It basically softens the idea of Britain’s continuing role in Northern Ireland. But interestingly, I would have spoken to some militant Republicans and they are voting in favour of Brexit because they believe that at the moment the border is largely invisible but it does exist and in many ways a Brexit would show that it exists and it would be more likely to concentrate peoples’ minds in saying that they wanted to leave the UK and join the Irish Republic so there’s all sorts of arguments going on and there’s all sorts of divisions in places that you wouldn’t expect.

MG: Suzanne – we’re talking with Suzanne Breen who’s an award-winning journalist in Belfast, talking about the upcoming referendum on Brexit, or Britain leaving the European Union – one of the interesting divisions is within the Conservative Party itself. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, had promised that there would be a referendum but he is suggesting or recommending a stay vote – that Britain stay within the European community. Theresa Villiers, the person who he appointed to be his Secretary for The North of Ireland, she is a very vocal and loud voice in favour of leaving the European community. What effect is this going to have within the Conservation Party?

SB: Well there are deep divisions within the Tory Party and I think if Britain does vote for Brexit David Cameron’s position is untenable and there would be a belief that Boris Johnson, who is one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign, the leave campaign, former Lord Mayor of London, would be the next leader of the Tory Party so there’s all sorts of divisions. For a lot of ordinary people it looks like this is really just the rich Conservatives arguing among themselves in terms of who’s leading the campaign but for people at a grass-roots level membership of the EU is very, very important particularly regarding immigration in Britain. In working-class communities, people, even if they welcome immigrants, feel that it’s placing a huge strain on public services – people are waiting for much longer for GP, doctors, appointments to access prenatal clinics, pregnant women – there are all sorts of pressures at a time when public funds are already very, very stretched. Of course, there are many, many people in business who are just deeply concerned that leaving the EU would have a catastrophic effect in terms of jobs. We’re told that house prices would fall dramatically so there are all sorts of competing arguments and you will have the most right-wing people for Brexit and you will also have leading left-wing politicians, like Eamonn McCann, on the same side – there are all types of alliances going on here.

MG: Okay. Suzanne, we wanted to talk to you about two other articles that you’ve written, just for your comments on two other issues that you’ve written about very recently. First of all: Last week we covered Loughinisland, the incident where people had gathered to watch a football match or a soccer match as we would call it in the United States and Loyalists entered, opened fire, killed six people and how a British Crown Ombudsman has acknowledged that there was collusion, that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) had played a role in supplying the weapons. One of the people involved was an informer. The people who did it were known within a number of hours within the first day but nobody was arrested for quite some time. You’d written about that at length and you’re saying that truth alone is not enough. Somebody must be held accountable for monstrous outrage. Are there any indications that anyone will ever be held accountable or whether the British will even acknowledge and accept that more should be done about those who were involved with collusion in these murders?

SB: There has been some speculation that perhaps several of the Special Branch officers who were involved in the Loughinisland case could be prosecuted for, amongst other things, protecting their agents, for lying. The problem really is, well one: does the will exist to do that? – but as well, with the passage of time witnesses aren’t available, they are dead. The very act of collusion means that there will be important documentation missing so whether the evidential test would be met remains to be seen. I think what I would increasingly feel is that there is all this evidence of gross inadequacies in police investigations of collusion and that is on both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland and yet nothing ever happens. We get reports, we get some element of the truth and the families feel vindicated – what they have been saying for years and years when people swept aside what they said – didn’t believe them – said they were conspiracy theorists – it’s all proved true but in terms of justice that remains very, very elusive.

MG: Alright. And one final story that we wanted to report that you made for the Belfast Telegraph and wanted to ask you about: A member of the Cahill Family, now that’s somebody related to Joe Cahill who, of course, was very well known in the United States. Seán Cahill had reported to you that he had been actually threatened by fellow Republicans. They had tried to discourage him from being allowed to work – they come to his home. Could you tell us why Seán Cahill, he lives in Ardoyne, a very Republican area within Belfast, why he was threatened and what the implications of this story are?

SB: Well, Seán Cahill is a fifty-two year old electrician. He’s from Ballymurphy and he claims that he had been informed that Sinn Féin members were telling employers that he shouldn’t be given work because he was a dissident Republican. He said he outlined these attempts to destroy his livelihood on social media last Wednesday and that later that day he was visited by a senior member of the Provisional IRA. He said that this person threatened his life in front of everyone who was in the house and he said his wife was very distressed. The person that he alleges threatened his life was a key player in the 2004 Northern Bank robbery and he’s the brother-in-law of a prominent Sinn Féin figure. He would be a fairly well-known name in working-class Nationalist areas of Belfast. He is a career criminal. He became involved with the IRA in the early 1990’s and he now works for their Finance Department. He would have been in the past regularly seen in the company of veteran Provisional Bobby Storey. So Mr. Cahill and his family are concerned. They would like the threat lifted and they would like clarification made as to whether this individual was acting on a solo run or whether he had the weight of his organisation behind him when he made the threat.

MG: Alright. We hope that publicity such as you gave him in the Belfast Telegraph and publicising this in programmes like Radio Free Éireann will encourage those, if there is such a threat, to withdraw it and to make it known to Mr. Cahill that he’s not under threat simply because he disagrees about the best way to get a united Ireland. Suzanne, we want to thank you for being back on Radio Free Éireann again and we’ll be reading you on nuzhound and in the Belfast Telegraph and we hope to have you again when you come to break stories like this in future.

SB: Indeed. Thank you, Martin. (ends time stamp ~ 29:00)