Seamus Delaney RFÉ 16 July 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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Martin Galvin (MG) interviews former blanketman and now solicitor Seamus Delaney (SD) via telephone from Belfast about July Twelfth in Belfast this year.    (begins time stamp ~ 20:10)

MG: With us on the line we have Seamus Delaney. Seamus, as listeners know, he is a former blanketman – is a solicitor also – the reason he’s allowed to do both is that his case was dismissed on appeal. Most former blanketmen whose cases weren’t dismissed they’re disqualified from professions like Seamus has. He has now used that ability, came to the United States in 1981, campaigned for the hunger strikers at that time and people smarter than I did recognised his eloquence and verbal ability and said he should go back and become a solicitor, or a lawyer. He’s done that and he’s used his skill to defend others. So Seamus, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann, you’ve been here in the past.

SD: Thanks very much, Martin. Good to hear from you.

MG: Alright, Now Seamus, we’re going to talk about July the Twelfth and all that happened throughout the North of Ireland last week. You have an office – you’re originally from Belfast – you have an office in Ardoyne, one of the hot points of July Twelfth, but I was going to ask you to try to put in words that Americans listening to you can understand but instead I’m just going to read something that was in the Larne Times today – it’s on nuzhound, n-u-z-h-o-u-n-d, if you want to read the article, and ask you to comment and make that explanation in these terms. It’s from an individual named Danny Donnelly and he was an Alliance Party Councillor. Now Alliance, for our audience, they’re people who are supposed to be cross-community, they are Unionists, they’re Catholics and Protestants who want to support a union, who want to support getting better conditions within the North of Ireland so he’s not somebody described as a Republican. And he wrote an article:

As I was driving to work on Monday July 11th I drove past a local bonfire and was horrified to see my face at the top of it. I lived in Larne most of my life. My friends and family are here. There are generations of my family buried in the town cemetery and I chose to bring my children up in my hometown, too. To see my face and family name targeted to be incinerated for the entertainment of people chilled me to the bone. I’ve seen pictures and effigies of the Pope, Sinn Féin politicians, Celtic tops atop bonfires over the years but I never expected to see myself there. And he concluded, he said: I understand bonfires are important to Unionist culture but the burning of flags, election posters, religious items or anything deliberately placed there to offend is hugely disrespectful and hurtful.

Seamus, why does this go on and why is this supposedly part of a Loyalist celebration?

SD: Well we’ve seen, we witnessed what happened on the Eleventh Night bonfires with John O’Dowd and Sinn Féin and other Sinn Féin election posters that were stolen after elections and hidden away until the bonfire nights and then they’re placed onto the bonfires to be set on fire. I would imagine the reason why this particular politician from the Alliance Party has been pinpointed, for want of a different expression, is because of the flags issue: As you remember a few years ago at Belfast City Hall when the Alliance Party supported a motion put forward to City Hall that prevents the Union Jack from being flied on a daily basis; from being flown on a daily basis. And the Alliance Party at that time really came under immense pressure – their offices were attacked – in some cases they were burned out – their politicians were vilified on the streets. Naomi Long, who represented East Belfast and took the seat from Peter Robinson, her office was attacked on a number of occasions due to this so I would imagine this particular individual has been set upon in this way would be more to do with that issue.

But the fact of the matter is that it happens on an annual basis with Sinn Féin politicians and it was raised then, as I said by John O’Dowd last week, and in actual fact it was raised and condemned by a Ulster Unionist Councillor whose job it was for her to go around the bonfires because these bonfires, Martin, as you understand, they are funded, to a large extent, by the local district councils. And in order to acquire funding they have to be of a cross-community nature similar to the issue that during the week here when you had Paul Givan, the new Arts Minister, re-introducing the funding for Orange parades, for Orange bands – two hundred thousand pounds pinpointed to give to Orange bands allegedly for new instruments. Now, even in that particular mechanism I would be surprised if there wasn’t a challenge there in some way by way of judicial review because there is under no circumstances can it be seen, can it be agreed, under any stretch of the imagination that that money, directed to that particular area, would be for a cross-community project. It’s simply not cross-community. The Orange Order, by their ethos, by their every fibre that makes them up, are not cross-community. So this is money…

MG: …Alright. Seamus is talking about Paul Givan. He is actually a Democratic Unionist Party Councillor – or Minister – and they are part of a cabinet which includes Sinn Féin members. He was able to, he was pictured actually, lighting one of these bonfires that we just talked about where images or sometimes pictures, religious symbols, etc can be put on top of, he was actually pictured lighting a bonfire. And his colleague, Edwin Poots, also a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, also an elected official – the Democratic Unionist Party being the leading party in the North of Ireland. It is a Loyalist party. Edwin Poots was pictured next to a bonfire, enjoying it, where members of Sinn Féin, as Seamus has just pointed out, their pictures, their election posters were placed on top of it and burned.

Seamus, why are these parades, why do these bonfires – why is it so important for Unionists to burn Catholics, burn religious symbols, burn people in effigy, why is that featured so strongly in Unionist celebrations of July the Twelfth?

SD: Well July the Twelfth, and the Orange Order will tell you that they are not sectarian by ethos, that they are simply celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and the defeat of King James by King William of Orange and this is a celebration of that battle that took place in 1690. It’s difficult to understand as well but to the people in America it must hard to understand it. Basically it’s a situation where there are over three thousand five hundred Orange parades per year and they are all managed as well by the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) at a cost to the state – not a cost to the Orange Order. A lot of them at the moment would be seen as controversy.

You’ve seen the Twaddell Camp up at Ardoyne where at the insistence of the Orange Order to march past a Catholic area of Ardoyne and the residents of Ardoyne have been preventing that from going on. Now they’ve been marching down the road at the early hours and there was a protest against that and the Parades Commission allowed it to happen but they prevented them from walking back up the road. And you now have an absolute absurd situation where after the celebrations, at the field which it’s called, at the end of the day when the Orange celebrations have taken part and they march back to their lodges – they get bused, they get buses, bring them to the flash point of Ardoyne simply to insist on trying to march past – instead of staying on the bus and going directly home – they’re trying to march directly past the area of Ardoyne and it’s causing tremendous, tremendous trouble there, as we’ve seen in the past few years.

And because it’s been prevented by the Parades Commission and there is an encampment at the top of Twaddell Avenue, it’s now called the Twaddell Camp, and it’s sitting there as protest because of the Parades Commission refusing to let the march go ahead. And that’s been there now, it’s coming on to be years, and it’s cost millions in order to maintain that and it’s actually – the land where they’re occupying belongs to the council and was earmarked for social housing and that is housing that can’t go ahead until this has been settled. It’s a complete absurd situation that the insistence of the Orange Order to march up the fifty yards past Ardoyne where people do not want them to go. There’s no reason that my area, or people from that area of the Ardoyne, are preventing the Orange Order or those who follow that to celebrate their culture. That is not the case, absolutely. I certainly would not defend anyone saying to take anyone’s culture away. But the fact of the matter remains that people in this area do not want to see Orange celebrations. They see them as a bigoted exercise against the Catholic community. They do not want them in their area and they’re quite happy to accept the fact of the matter that they go on but not in their areas – and it doesn’t prevent their day-to-day domestic issues from taking part and it’s simply the two residents groups that are in Ardoyne at the moment that strongly object to this parade going ahead.

MG: Alright. We’re talking with Seamus Delaney, he is a former blanketman now a very prominent solicitor – his firm is moving up the ladder on the legal aid – they’re going to overtake Kevin Winters’ firm very shortly I believe. But Seamus, just to go back: The Ardoyne is a very strongly Nationalist, probably a very strongly Republican, enclave. It’s near the Shankill Road. It is the Unionists or Loyalists who would march by it, or Orangemen, have a route to go.

They’re allowed to pass by Ardoyne shops in the morning but they were asked to take a different route to avoid that Nationalist area, avoid insulting, intimidating, causing hardship to that Nationalist area in the evening and because of that you said they formed a camp. They camp out every night. They have nightly demonstrations. They cause noise every night. It’s cost millions of pounds to the community simply in an effort to force that march – not just going down into the centre of Belfast and taking another route back but it has to go back and annoy – if it doesn’t intimidate Nationalists in that Nationalist enclave it’s seems like it’s not a total – they won’t really enjoy it. Is that a correct understanding of what’s going on?

SD: That’s it in a nutshell, Martin. You got it in one. And for anyone listening it can seem very frustrating to see what’s going on but the fact of the matter is that on the one hand we have the organisers of these Orange parades saying that their members behave themselves, there’s no issues as far as sectarianism is concerned. Then we look at what happens with the bonfires and what’s being burned on these bonfires as far as election posters are concerned, as far as Glasgow Celtic football jerseys – I mean everything imaginable that can cry out in a sectarian way is being burned on these bonfires.

And to say that the marches that are going past in these flash point areas are not sectarian coat-trailing exercises then there’s something wrong. The people of those areas see them as something different, see them as sectarian, and don’t want them in the area and that’s where the controversy is coming from. That’s it in a nutshell.

MG: Now just – we’re coming to the end – but there was claims that they were very near a resolution. You said there are two groups: the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) and another group, CARA (Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association). I know that you’re friends, you have good terms, you represent people at various times from both groups, you don’t take one side over another but the resolution seemed to fall through. Some people have suggested because it’s the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that’s associated with the lodge that pulled out – what exactly prevented there from being any kind of resolution?

SD: Well as you know, like in any legal negotiations, Martin, you need to have all stakeholders there at the table. You need to have all stakeholders who have to have their say. And in this particular instance what happened was one of the Orange lodges disagreed with what arrangements, what proposals, were reached during one of those meetings. It was also claimed also that, as far as Ardoyne is concerned, that not everyone was being represented, but you did have representatives of Sinn Féin, representatives of the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), representatives of the local communities there and it was simply, basically, the situation – if it was a situation where there was going to be a resolution to allow this parade to go ahead then that was just basically a step too far for a lot of the people in Ardoyne and they would be seen to be represented from the GARC residents’ collective but unless you have everyone that’s a stakeholder, everyone at the table, I don’t think it’s going to end up in a positive resolution.

People will say: ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ – a lot of people want to see this resolved. And no more so than the people of Ardoyne but in order to do that you going to have to have everyone at the table and everybody’s going to have to be in agreement. And as you said apparently the fingerprints of the UVF were seen to be down in there and that prevented the resolution also – so unless everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet I’m afraid we’re going to be here talking about this and talking about this encampment this time next year.

MG: Alright. One quick question: I know you don’t represent him but just today the story broke, Tony Taylor, he’s a Doire Republican. He had been imprisoned, he was released on licence, he was brought in again, he was imprisoned on licence. They said he was being investigated for charges and held without bail on the decision of now former Secretary Theresa Villiers. And it was announced today that there are no charges against him, he committed no illegal activity, but he’s still being held on licence and they don’t know if he’ll get any kind of legal proceeding to challenge this, to get released. How can that be that somebody who – they’re not going to be charged with any offence, was released on licence, that he can’t see what the information against him is, that he can’t challenge it – and that he’s still – this Doire Republican is still in prison?

SD: Well I mean it’s happened before as you know, Martin, but in this particular case and obviously as you said, I don’t represent Tony Taylor, but where I think that the case against him is coming from is under licence he would be prevented from associating with those that the state would see to be subversives or anti-state and therefore they use it as an excuse – and as I understand it I think Tony Taylor was with his wife in the car on his way to some function when he was stopped and he was just taken. He wasn’t questioned, wasn’t taken to the detention centre and questioned about any activity, and simply returned to the prison to be later told that his licence was revoked. And it’s assumed that the reason for it is because he was associating with people he’d think of as friends, people who he grew up with who the state now say he shouldn’t be associating with those individuals and that they have simply revoked his licence.

MG: Well I’m familiar with the area of Doire where he lives and if you could avoid all political prisoners, I don’t know how you would do that unless you locked yourself in the bathroom at home.

SD: Absolutely.

MG: Alright, Seamus, thank you again for trying to make some sense of what there may not be any sense to – the Orange parades on July the Twelfth – and telling us or explaining a little bit of what it’s like for those who have to endure those parades and hopefully we’ll be back to you again in future.

SD: Okay, Martin. Good to talk to you. (ends time stamp ~ 37:45)

Ed Moloney RFÉ 16 July 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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New York City
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Martin Galvin (MG) interviews award-winning journalist and author Ed Moloney (EM) via telephone about the new British Prime Minister, Brexit and the Boston College tape case. (begins time stamp ~ 39:41)

MG: Ed, there is now a new British Prime Minister in the North of Ireland, well for England, what they call the United Kingdom and who would govern the North of Ireland, but before we go to that…

EM: …I’m sorry, say that…

MG: Ed, can you hear me?

EM: Yeah, I can now. I’m getting feedback, Martin, that’s the problem. But go on.

MG: Alright Ed, I just want a comment on the legacy of the past British Secretary for the North of Ireland, Theresa Villiers. Now I always regard her as some sort of Lady Macbeth figure – Lady Macbeth famously wandered the halls trying to rub out the blood stains and the crimes – Theresa Villiers tries to do that in the North of Ireland by giving speeches about that it’s all part of some mysterious counter-narrative when anybody says that the British or their Loyalist agents tried to kill people, by cutting off funding for inquests, by saying that there has to be some sort of national security so that they can’t give over information. What final comment do you have about the legacy of Theresa Villiers as the person who’s been running the North of Ireland for the British government over the last number of years?

EM: Well I mean, to be cynical about this, Martin, she’s already forgotten. I mean you know, people probably in a week’s time won’t even remember her name – just one in a long, long line of British Secretaries of State who come and go – usually regarding their date in Belfast as a stepping stone to greater and higher things. I don’t know whether she’s been promoted by Theresa May but she was…

MG: …She has not been. She was turned down. She was offered a demotion and did not accept it so she is out of the Cabinet now. She can go back to making….

EM: …Well when you consider that she was on the same side as May in relation to the Brexit debate and hasn’t been promoted it may also be a refection on the way that she performed her job in Belfast. But as you say, she will be remembered for these comments about the Loughinisland inquiry by the Police Ombudsman which is a really quite devastating document which has exposed a level of either collusion at it’s worst and at its least, or at its best, an indifference on the part of the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) towards Loyalist gunmen and Loyalist bombers and she issued this statement, or she had a speech in which she said that it wasn’t the police or the Army that pulled the triggers or planted the bombs in Loughinisland and Enniskillen and in a few other places. Well, the problem is that from what we’re beginning to learn about the level of either infiltration of groups like the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) and the IRA by British Special Branch, by the MI5, by other intelligence organisations, military intelligence for example, it’s very, very debatable as to who was really controlling a lot of these organisations at the end – the level of infiltration being so high that it reaches a certain point when you’re actually directing these organisations – you’re controlling which direction they’re going to move in, what operations they’re allowed to carry out, who becomes the top brass and who gets thrown into jail and so on and so forth. And what that points to is a level of involvement and complicity and therefore guilt in the killings that took place on the part of the British intelligence machine that it really is not something that people like Villiers want to face up to. And that’s….

MG: …It was said, in her statement that Ed referred to, she said that it was not the RUC who fired the bullets at Loughinisland where six people were killed for the crime of watching an Irish football match at a pub. All they did, if you look at the Ombudsman’s report, is: provide the weapons, provide the bullets, making sure that the individuals, the assassins, could get there, get away and provide the intelligence but – they didn’t actually fire the bullets! They directed, employed, paid those who did do that so that was – Theresa Villiers felt there was no reason to apologise to the Loughinisland families for their remarks. Alright Ed, Theresa May has now taken over for David Cameron. Judging by the conservative majority she may be there for quite some time. What can we expect initially from Theresa May given her background?

EM: Well I mean, she’s a hard-liner, in terms of like law and order, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. One of the things that she has spoken about publicly in the past but appears to have slightly dropped it at the moment is her opposition to the European Court on Human Rights and the Charter on Human Rights in Europe. She is one of those right-wing Tories who believes that this is interference in the British judicial system and they would rather like to get rid of it. Now she hasn’t mentioned it since she became Prime Minister so maybe she’s beginning to realise that’s going to be much more difficult to implement than it is to say. But she is regarded as a fairly strong right-winger on law and order and one of her first comments I think that drew attention was in the context of the post-Brexit situation in which she talked about her affection and fondness and devotion to ‘the Union’ and the union including England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And of course you know, that’s the sort of comment which immediately gets Nationalists upset and beginning to regard the possibility that we have in Theresa May another Margaret Thatcher. But another reading of that of course is the Brexit situation – is that while there is absolutely no chance that the Brexit vote, in my view at least, the Brexit vote – leading to Northern Ireland’s Unionists voting to join The South – there is a very strong possibility that the Scottish will vote for independence and this is going to be her biggest challenge so she has to embrace the union very widely and very warmly and that’s what she’s doing. And of course that’s a signal which is going to upset a lot of Nationalists because the whole notion behind the peace process was that you’re beginning to see possibly in the peace process the beginnings of disengagement by the British and to have a Prime Minister who’s doing quite the opposite, is stressing the importance and the value of the Union, is going to cause tensions.

Then you also have the problem of what are they going to do with the border between The North and South. Is it going to be this so called ‘hard’ border ie with customs checks and immigrant checks and stuff like that in order to prevent immigrants coming in from Europe into England via the back door of Northern Ireland which of course is ironic because the fear of being invaded from Ireland was the very reason why the British and the English got involved in Ireland in the very first place so we have it now – history repeating itself. What is she going to do about that? The Irish government will obviously oppose any notion of a hard border. It will be divisive as well in Northern Ireland. So yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how see shapes up in relation to all of these things.

MG: Alright. Two things I just want to go back over for our audience: You talked about how Theresa May had made a speech about the British withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Right now that is an important source of justice. There is a case now, an appeal, trying to find the British guilty of torture for the treatment of internees in 1971 that’s proceeding that has a lot of political significance. There are other cases such as the length of time that you can detain someone that have been challenged in the European Court.

A lot of the work done on inquests and to force the British government to give over documents and truth about investigations into the murder of people, just as you just talked about, at places like Loughinisland and elsewhere, is because the European Convention requires that there be such investigations. If Britain withdraws from that convention, from the European Court of Human Rights, that would be an important source of potential justice that is lost to people living in the North of Ireland would it not, Ed?

EM: Oh, absolutely! There’s absolutely no doubt about that. And if you read the Good Friday Agreement the role of the European Convention and the European Court is woven through that document in all sorts of ways as a sort of arbiter and a court to which or a venue to which everyone will refer all of their problems at one stage or another. And if that goes, and I find it hard to believe that they will be able to do that, then it pulls away a very crucial leg from underneath the Good Friday Agreement and that’s going to cause great difficulties. So whether she does it or not remains to be seen but there’s no doubt that she represents a very strong body of opinion within the Conservative Party, the Tories in England, who hate the idea of these foreigners – you know, Italians and French and German judges sitting in places like Strasbourg and pontificating about the inadequacies or injustices of the British legal system. It’s really annoying and frustrating and anger making for them so they may decide to do it but at the moment it looks as if she has too much on her plate elsewhere with Brexit to go down that particular road.

MG: Well on Brexit, one of the interesting things is the Irish government will have, or may have, very little say about what happens. You could have a situation, would you not, where the European Community is going to make a decision about its new border arrangements with Britain if Britain withdraws? So that the decision itself about what form, from the Irish side – the negotiations and what form the border will be – could be made not in Dublin but it could be made elsewhere in Europe by the European Community. And in addition, as you said, one of the key reasons for Brexit was to cut off the flow of immigration. There was a famous poster of refugees coming across the border that Farage…

EM: …Yeah, Sir Nigel. Farage.

MG: …that is going to have to be done if the British, especially those in England who were the ones who made this decision in terms of voting – the Scottish voted against it – if the English want that border, if they want to make sure that people from the European Community don’t come from Ireland, they’re going to have a hard border. So you may have something that’s negotiated in which the Irish government, which is most strongly affected, the people in the Six Counties, which are most strongly affected, have absolutely no say in what sort of border will take place – what sort of new border arrangements will take place.

EM: Well I mean, yes. I mean, Europe won’t be able to impose the border between north and south. I mean, whatever the Dublin government wants – you know they don’t control the ground or the land on the northern side of the border and on the northern side of the border the British would be able to erect whatever barriers and impediments and obstacles they feel is appropriate so that will be a British decision. But clearly it has implications for everyone else and I suspect at the end of the day that you’re going to get a negotiated settlement, which gives a little bit to each side, and that you end up with a sort of with like a moderately hard/moderately soft-type of border because, to be honest with you, what are the chances that tens of thousands of immigrants are going to come from Romania all the way over to Ireland by sea, because they won’t be able to do it by land, or fly over and then catch lorries and buses and taxis up to Belfast and then from Belfast to Liverpool? It’s stretching things, I think, to think that that’s going to be a major, real possibility.

MG: Alright, Ed, just before we let you go: Every week there seems to be something new with the Boston tapes; last week we covered the case of Ivor Bell. What’s the latest development in terms of those tapes?

EM: Well absolutely nothing. That’s the latest. That was the preliminary inquiry into Ivor Bell’s case. They decided they’re going to take him to trial. That is not a surprise. At magistrate’s level it’s very, very unusual for a magistrate, even though the evidence may be very strongly against holding a trial, it’s very unusual for them to say ‘no’; they leave that to a higher authority and so we expect that to happen early in the new year. But there are troubling aspects to this whole business. One is that the charge has been changed from aiding and abetting to soliciting and soliciting makes it appear as if the person charged with soliciting is the main mover when all the evidence that we have so far, from everything that’s been revealed about the Jean McConville case, suggests that the main mover was someone else (we all know who we’re talking about there and it certainly wasn’t Ivor Bell.) So that’s quite a sinister development I think. Even though it doesn’t really affect what penalty comes if a guilty verdict is reached in the trial, it’s been the aim and objective as far as I know since this whole disappearing saga began in the late 1990’s, for people who were really responsible for the disappearing tactic, to shift the blame onto others, including people like Ivor Bell. And here you have a Prosecution Service which is headed by the guy who used to be lawyer, a lawyer – the solicitor – for one of the main movers facilitating that particular move. It’s very, very sinister indeed.

Secondly, we have the fact that a complete denial, or a complete contradiction of a court of appeals decision in Boston, the First Circuit Court of Appeal, which said that only two interviews related to Jean McConville that were in the archive under the name or under the letter ‘Zed’ or ‘Z’, which the prosecution are attempting to say is Ivor Bell, could be handed over. It now appears that the Department of Justice in the US, the US Attorney’s office in Boston, the PSNI and the Prosecution Service in Belfast said to themselves said: Well, we’re just going to go round that verdict and ignore it. And it seems that they have served a secret subpoena, one of many secret subpoenas we believe, which has been more or less facilitated by Boston College and as a result of that four more interviews have been handed over from Zed’s archive to the PSNI. And this is at a time when the First Circuit Court of Appeal said only two should be allowed. Now this is like cocking a snook at the American judicial system big time. I mean, the First Circuit Court of Appeal is directly underneath the Supreme Court – it’s the second highest level of judicial decision making in the United States. And here you have a foreign power and bureaucrats in the Washington Department of Justice set up deciding they’re just going to subvert and ignored this ruling. That hasn’t as yet, unfortunately, gotten the sort of media attention it should have but it indicates the extent to which, I think, the authorities are desperate to try and get a verdict against Ivor Bell because what that tells you is that the evidence that they have is useless and they’re trying to…(crosstalk)

MG: …Ed, we’re going to have to leave it there; we’re coming to the end of the programme. I just will note: I was talking to Malachy McAllister during the week at the Ancient Order of Hibernians convention and we were both noting a Loyalist has been charged with the attack on his home, the attempt on his life, the life of his children, but there were documents, the De Silva Report, other things that show that he was targeted, that there was evidence or information from British agents directing this – none of them have been charged or brought before a court so it’s interesting how this goes. Ed, we want to thank you. We’re going to leave it there. (ends time stamp ~ 57:50)

AOH Unanimous: One Ireland One Vote

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
16 July 2016
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Martin Galvin (MG) and Jim Sullivan (JS) are in the studio and discuss the resolution on the 1916 Societies’ One Ireland One Vote initiative which passed unanimously at the recently concluded Ancient Order of Hibernians national convention.
(begins time stamp ~ 7:45)

JS: But the main thing that was done at this convention was, as Martin was just saying, is one of the resolutions that were put up. Do you want to speak further on that?

MG: Well Jim, what had happened is there has been a resolution in the works for some time – there was an issue or question that some Hibernians had – people like you, Jim, like Vic Sackett, others would go to Hibernian events, try to get signatures on the One Ireland One Vote petition, try to promote forums, the idea of a national vote throughout all of Ireland. Particularly in 1918, and in two years we’re going to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of that important election throughout all of Ireland, where the vast majority of people voted for one Ireland and of course the British partitioned the country.

But you’ve heard about the 1916 (Societies) One Ireland One Vote resolution. At this convention a resolution had been drafted as far back as February and March. Jim, you had done a great job with Greg-Seán Canning, Ciaran Geraghty, the leader of the Freedom for All Ireland Committee (FFAI) in New York. Greg-Séan Canning, one of the leaders of Freedom for All Ireland Committee on a national basis, and others. Vic Sackett had done a great job lobbying on this resolution. And the resolution passed unanimously. And what is does is simply say that it encourages Hibernians, it commends this One Ireland One Vote initiative. It says that it’s something that Hibernians can get behind and support – it doesn’t knock out anything else or it’s not exclusive – but it says that this is something that Hibernians should appreciate, should support, should build support for, have, promote forum, debates about One Ireland One Vote because that promotes support for an all-Ireland referendum and for a united Ireland.

And now whenever someone like you, Jim, someone like Vic Sackett, somebody else goes to a table at an Hibernian event they can now say: Yes! This has the full approval of the Hibernians, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, because it was endorsed, unanimously, at a national convention.

JS: Martin, you’re forgetting yourself, too. You were strategically involved in this and another one was a co-chairman, a national chairman of the FFAI, was Paul Gowdy.

MG: And I want to mention in addition to the resolution and everybody who worked, and had been working for months – there were position papers, there were resolutions that were drafted, circulated around which led to this – this was a big success but it took a lot of time. During the convention there was a table I know, Jim, you and your wife, I met her for the first time, and she was at a table. Vic Sackett manned the table, or personed the table, and of course Helen McClafferty and Declan Swift were both there at the convention distributing petitions, distributing literature and hand-outs and they did a great job. And we were able to point people to that table outside and people signed the petition, took the literature and many people wanted, asked about it, they want to go back to their local areas and build support for this. So it was a great success for the One Ireland One Vote initiative and for the 1916 Societies. And Jim, you and Vic and Helen and Declan and your wife and everybody involved with this who got support for it – this is going to be a springboard to something throughout the country. So I want to congratulate the 1916 Societies in Ireland and the committee in New York on that initiative, on getting that resolution passed. (ends time stamp ~ 11:15)

Martin Galvin RFÉ 9 July 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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John McDonagh (JM) interviews Martin Galvin (MG) in the studio about his involvement in the film Bobby Sands: 66 Days.
(begins time stamp ~ 18:45)

JM: Now a topic that’s coming up in Galway: There’s a film out called 66 Days Bobby Sands and it’s about his diary when he was on hunger strike and they made it into a film. But there’s a little re-writing of history that’s going on about Bobby Sands. We’re going to play the trailer and then talk to Martin Galvin who was part of the process for the film but didn’t quite make it in.

Audio: Trailer for film, Bobby Sands: 66 Days, is played. (trailer ends time stamp ~ 21:18)

JM: And that is the trailer from 66 Days which is debuting at the Galway Film Festival. I would recommend go watch it because in it it’s strange how they use a picture of Bobby Sands in Long Kesh with his arms around Denis Donaldson who turned out to be an MI5 informer who worked here in New York City for a little while. And also one of the little clips shows the Union Jack being burned on 3rd Avenue at the British Consulate so you can see it in ties in New York with what was going on in Belfast. And someone that was instrumental in what was happening here in New York and organising the demonstrations down at the British Consulate was Martin Galvin. And Martin, you were approached to be in this film. Were you?

MG: John, I did hear about the film. I was contacted to be in the film. I had been the national Publicity Director of Irish Northern Aid from 1979 onward. And when I was appointed to that position what I was told from people from Belfast is that the situation in Long Kesh was critical, that prisoners were at a stage where they had asked for support. They wanted support from America and that if this situation with the five demands, where the British were trying to make these prisoners dress up as criminals so they could say to the world that there were no more political prisoners in Ireland, there was no real conflict or struggle. It was just an inordinate number of criminals in the North of Ireland and that’s what Britain was fighting against.

And Bobby Sands, Brendan Hughes, the other prisoners – three hundred spartans as my friend Richard O’Rawe called them in his book – refused to do that. The British, beginning with Kieran Nugent who was one of the people who was out here who had toured about that protest – and what had happened is gradually the British tried an escalating system of pressure to break their determination. They would be confined naked except for a blanket, they’d be denied visits, they’d be denied remission, they would be subjected to beatings, they would be subjected to brutal searches, mirror searches, beaten up, bones broken – all of that gradually to force them to accept wearing a criminal uniform and be a prop in the propaganda war of Margaret Thatcher to label the Irish Republican cause, the Irish Republican resistance to British rule, as criminal. So in 1979 it was at a critical stage. America – people were sent from Ireland to America to say we had to play more of a part in exposing this – that America could actually make the difference and be the difference in breaking the determination of the British and forcing them to have some sort of honourable compromise which would have resolved this sort of a hunger strike. And so gradually we started up, we started to publicise what was going on in the H Blocks at that time, the significance was not understood, was not known – I gave one of my first major speeches in Ireland in 1979 in Casement Park in the anniversary of internment.

But what we were doing was building up so that if there was a hunger strike we would be ready. We would have demonstrations in front of British Consulates not only in New York but around the country. We would have people who would be prepared and informed enough and committed enough to go in front of the British Consulates, talk in British areas around the country and then do that on a daily basis. And we had a professional – I had gone back to train actually at the Belfast Republican Press Centre – wanted to have something – a professional press office, a professional publicity office, a professional political lobbying office as best that we could without money. And so we did that. We began to organise that. And as we moved gradually towards 1980 and the first hunger strike those things that we set in motion so when the first hunger strike began it would be coordinated, there would be a national campaign, it would emanate from Irish Northern Aid, from the office on 207 Street, the Irish People office, and I was the person chosen to run that campaign in America.

JM: So did they approach you? You knew about the movie being made – who was approached and what happened?

MG: Well I was approached to generate that because the American impact in the hunger strike – it was unbelievable! People would demonstrate day after day, they did this month after month, you’d be there at the British Consulate five o’clock to seven o’clock on weekdays after work. You’d then go from three to five on the weekends. There were actually, when a hunger striker died, there would be individuals who would build a coffin, have it in front of the British Consulate, stand guard for twenty-four hours a day until the individual was buried. All of that – the press – the publicity they were able to do, news people came into America day after day. So as a result of that, as the leader of that campaign in the United States, I was asked by the film crew, I think Richard O’Rawe gave them my name, I was asked to do an interview. I was happy to do it because I just thought – not for anything that I did but I think it’s important to highlight what America did and I think that the full impact of what we had will never be fully appreciated. We later saw that there were individuals in the British Consulate who complained about having to go to work every day with demonstrations – being criticised – being called murderers – all of that had. So the film crew came, they asked me to do an interview and I did – a lengthy period – it was supposed to be for about a half hour, an hour – they ended up keeping me for a long period of time.

JM: And it was filmed here in New York.

MG: It was filmed here. It was done in the Irish Consulate. They did interviews – I was able to talk – just funny stories about people coming out – what made them come out day after day. How many people – thousands of people had come around. How the county associations, the AOH divisions, fought – they stood up and said our banners are not there as much as other counties – so much so. And how – what would happen when a hunger striker died: I would get a call at my home at five o’clock. I would go to the office. We would put out a press statement. I would call individuals from Irish Northern Aid in the New England states, in Pennsylvania, in California in San Francisco, in the Mid-West in Chicago, and they would circulate so that everybody would be alerted. There would be demonstrations that day across the country that would be escalated because a hunger striker had died.

So I was able to talk about this and about one of the funniest stories I love repeating: When the hunger strike ended we announced, as we had planned to, that the demonstrations, the daily demonstrations, would stop. And we congratulated everybody, talked about how they had insured that the hunger strikers had won – that the world saw that these men were not criminals – that criminals don’t die such deaths for the freedom of their country. And I got a call when I got home from Michael Flannery and he started laughing and he said: Martin, you’ll never guess – there’s some complaints about you! And I couldn’t believe it and we were laughing about it because at that time I was thought very highly of – he said people complained – they want to keep on demonstrating in front of the British Consulate – they don’t want to stop just because the hunger strike has stopped. We were able to continue – the Long Green Line continued for a number of years. But stories like that – the impact – people going every day – people in front of the British Consulate every day – how you couldn’t fly a British flag anywhere in New York – anywhere in many places around the country – because it was a stain. Even, one of the best stories: How when Prince Charles and Diana, people weren’t lining up to shake their hands, they actually, when they came to New York – thirty thousand people went to Lincoln Center to be there with Elizabeth O’Hara, to be there with the family of Bobby Sands, the family of Patsy O’Hara, to be there with Maura McDonnell whose brother then was on hunger strike.

And we had one of the favorite stories: Police officers on the special squad who guarded Prince Charles came to the demonstration afterwards, asked if they could participate, one of them said his family was from Doire – another said his family was from Monaghan – they wanted to give interviews on the record saying that they had had to guard people like Idi Amin and other people, international criminals and pariahs, but they had never felt so ashamed about their job as that time – having to guard Prince Charles – that’s where they were. I put those interviews on tape, I was happy to do that and I thought that would make a tremendous impact, a tremendous addition to anything and you couldn’t tell the story of the hunger strike without having that and they had come to me because I was the person who was in charge of that who had all those stories.

JM: And what happened to the interview?

MG: Well when I was over in Doire I was at the demonstration or commemoration for George McBrearty and people who had been interviewed came to me and they said: You know what happened with that? Anybody, if you were seen as being not being fully supportive of Sinn Féin, other than Richard O’Rawe whom they needed and who had help them, everybody else who was not really supportive of Sinn Féin or fully in line with Sinn Féin was going to be censored out. And I said: Look. First of all I didn’t even mention anything about any difficulties or any criticisms of Sinn Féin. At the time of the hunger strike I was the person they were calling from Ireland to organise. Irish Northern Aid was the organisation they’d look to. I was the press officer, the national publicity director, the person in charge of all of this. So I said I couldn’t believe it.

And just to be sure I contacted the people who had done the film and said: Look, I got this crazy rumour that I was going to be censored out just because right now I’m no longer in line, I’m with people and groups like the 1916 Societies or I’m viewed as an independent Republican or I work with other organisations and not fully on board with Sinn Féin and I’m probably due to give the Brendan Hughes Commemoration speech – somebody (inaudible). And after a couple of days in following up I finally got something: Yes, you gave us great material and we’re going to include all this material about America in the film but unfortunately we couldn’t have you on it but we’re going to send you a copy of the video and we’ll let you know information about the premiere. I just said: Look! I’m very friendly with many of the hunger strikers’ families, I know the Sands Family did not want to be involved because of that reason – they thought there would be a political agenda behind it – there are other families who were not invited to be on and would not be on it because of that. And I said I’m sorry now that I did not listen to them, that I listened to you, that I sat down and did the interview and if you have a political agenda like that, that somebody like me can’t be on, then I think you’re doing a disservice to everything that Bobby Sands stood for. And I was told I was going to be censored out for that reason.

JM: Alright. So you know that film will be coming to New York at some stage and we’ll discuss it even more with Martin about how, if you’re not with the political process of Sinn Féin, you’re not even going to be written into the historical things that you were there part of.

And Martin, you were telling one story there, before we go to a song, about making the coffins. I was down at the British Consulate and Mike Murphy, who was a 608 carpenter, or 6R8 as he called it, was making the coffins at Clancy’s because Clancy’s was two blocks away from the British Consulate. And we got the wood by going out at night and stealing the wooden barricades of the NYPD, bringing them into Clancy’s and sanding off the blue paint and the NYPD and then chopping them up and making coffins out of it. And the cops could never understand where the wooden barricades were going because they would come back for the demonstration and say: ‘Jeez, who’s stealing wooden barricades?’ The next thing you’d see a coffin coming out of Clancy’s heading up to the British Consulate – so that was just one of those side stories.

MG: They may have let it go because the police – they used to shake our hands I mean they were – like I said – we had a demonstration in front of Lincoln Center – they’re coming over saying: ‘Can we put on IRA badges?’ and ‘Can we be interviewed to disavow anything that we just did?’ – they used to be great to us! (ends time stamp ~ 33:53)

Gerard Hodgins RFÉ 9 July 2016

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John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) interview Gerard Hodgins (GH) via telephone from Belfast about the Boston College tapes case against prominent Irish Republican Ivor Bell.  (begins time stamp ~ 36:35)

MG: We are talking – we had an appropriate lead-in because somebody who knows what it’s like being inside a prison – former hunger striker, former political prisoner in Long Kesh, Gerard Hodgins, is on the line. Gerard, are you with us?

GH: Good Day! Good Morning, Martin! How are you?

MG: Well, it’s Good Afternoon now with the five hour time difference. Gerard, we have a number of things we want to cover with you and we can think of no better man to cover them with but first of all – there is an historic trial or legal proceeding moving forward. We’ve had trials of people from decades-old offences. We had the trial of Gerry McGeough, who was the first person brought back for a decades-old offence for a Republican, we had Seamus Kearney and we now have a trial – well we’re not yet at the trial stage – but we have a legal proceeding charging Ivor Bell, a very prominent Irish Republican from the Belfast area, that case was in court last week. I saw the BBC footage. You were in court with him. Could you tell us a little bit about this case and why it is so important to our audience?

GH: Well, Ivor is being charged in connection with the disappearance and the killing of a lady called Jean McConville in 1972. Part of the evidence against him is based upon tapes that the British security got from Boston College. These were tapes, oral histories, of participants in the struggle here which were given under, they believed, under conditions of confidentiality that they would never be released until their death. However, the British security services went on a plundering fishing expedition through the Boston College archive and as a result they have a tape of a man they believe to be Ivor Bell. They haven’t conclusively proved that it is Ivor Bell but they call him ‘Witness Z’, or Witness Zed as we say in this part of the world, and they’re saying in this tape he talks about events that happened around that time and he has been charged with being involved in the killing of Jean McConville. Now, although the British have charged him with this offence, they know that Ivor Bell had nothing to do with it. Yes, Ivor Bell is a lifelong Irish Republican. He has been active in Republican politics from the 1950’s and he was a senior leader within the IRA in the early 1970’s and at the time of Jean McConville being kidnapped and disappeared Ivor Bell wasn’t in Belfast on that day and so he had no part in neither the commission of it, the ordering of it or anything else to do with it.

MG: Alright. Why do you think the British are moving in this case? Is there a political agenda behind it?

GH: The political agenda I would see behind it was about two or three years back, John Larkin, the man who was the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, he came up with the proposal that a line be drawn in the sand into all inquiries into the past and everybody just move on which in itself sounds reasonable. However, the ‘line in the sand’ would cover many atrocities like the Bloody Sunday killings, the Loughinisland massacres and hundreds of other massacres and killings by British state agents on mainly Irish civilian people. They killed very few actually IRA members but they they orchestrated a ‘dirty war‘. They imported arms for the Loyalist paramilitaries. They gave the Loyalist paramilitaries intelligence about Nationalist people and sent them off to kill us. So drawing a line in the sand would cover the British lovely from all those investigations that are coming down the road. But at the last minute that proposal – most of the political parties agreed with it – once it was pointed out to the Shinners (Sinn Féin) and the Shinners were criticised over having to give amnesty to the British they withdrew their support from it. So I would suspect that the political ramifications behind Ivor Bell is that the British are clearly sending the message to the upper echelons within Sinn Féin that if they don’t come to an agreement on the past then the future could be a bit messy for them.

MG: Ivor Bell is accused, as you say, under the tape – if you believe that it is him on the tape – and by the way it’s ironic that he’s there as the letter ‘Z’. There was a famous political movie, Z, years ago that dealt with Greece and that was supposed to be a classic miscarriage of justice (inaudible) at the time it was known. But who is he accused of soliciting, aiding or abetting in this incident that happened in 1972? How can he be accused of that if no one else is charged or there’s no one else as identified that he was aiding, soliciting, abetting – getting somebody to take some action against Jean McConville?

GH: That’s the amasing thing about the case, Martin. As you rightly say, that there is nobody else who has been arrested and actually charged with either kidnapping that woman, holding her against her will or killing her. Yet Ivor, who wasn’t in Belfast on the day that this happened, is somehow charged with soliciting it and arranging for people to do it. It just doesn’t follow. The trial should be interesting to see what way the – if they go the whole way with the trial – to see what way the British try to present it and present the case of blame on a man who is clearly blameless. But as I said just before there there’s more of a political implication behind this and, in my view, it’s aimed more at the leadership of the Shinners to bring them back on board for the British sort of analysis here.

MG: Alright. One of the parties who gets no credit for its conduct during this incident is Boston College. Apparently during the hearing, which you were at the judgment last week and we’ll get to that – what that judgment was, Boston College had submitted testimony that was given from the United States and it was admitted that they had – agreements were given to anybody who gave such an interview that the interview would not be made public until, without specific permission, until the person’s death. And yet the British, as soon as they got a subpoena from the British government, sent tapes over and in Ivor Bell’s case I’m told there were only two tapes that were mentioned in the initial subpoena but they gave additional tapes over to the Crown which could be used for the prosecution of Ivor Bell. What is the reaction to Boston College’s conduct and involvement in this prosecution?

GH: Well, in a way I was surprised that they rolled over so quickly. They have a bit of a reputation as a standard of academic excellence in research and stuff and the sort of people you could put your trust in. But they rolled over with precipitous haste and handed everything over lock, stock and two smoking barrels without putting up any sort of a concerned face, a concerted challenge against the British to say no, this is academic privilege. So from a personal point of view, I mean if a researcher or a reporter came along from Boston College to ask me about opinions on the past as some people do, I wouldn’t have any dealings with them because I wouldn’t feel safe having any dealings with them because it seems when it comes to Boston College you run the risk of revisiting historic charges upon yourself from many years ago. So no, I…Boston College rolled over too quick and the cynic within me would wonder: Was the whole thing a long-term strategy made by MI6 or MI5 within the British security establishment cooperating with by elements within the American security establishment and Boston College obviously.

MG: Alright. One of the ironies of this case: The decision whether to prosecute, and this is a charge that goes back to 1972, the decision to prosecute is made by a Director of Public Prosecutions, like a District Attorney in the United States, is made by an individual named Barra McGrory whose father, PJ McGrory, was an extremely well-known fighter for Irish civil rights and Irish justice. He was one of the people, the first people that if you got arrested as an Irish Nationalist or Republican or person arrested by the British that you would go to and now Barra McGrory is the person making the decision as to whether prosecutions would be had. Do you see an irony in this?

GH: Oh! Big irony, Martin! I mean you’re right! Paddy McGrory cut his teeth fighting against the injustices of the British state, fighting against the injustices of partition and defended many thousands of people in the courts throughout his life. And his son is now the top legal official of the partitioned Six County state and is the main legal officer who is pursuing people like Ivor Bell, people like Gerry McGeough and also, everyday in the courts here there are good human rights lawyers here from some good companies, like the Kevin Winters and that, and they are constantly trying to access documentation on the past, on the sins of the state, and Barra McGrory, as the main legal officer of the state here, is actively opposing them and using a thing they call ‘closed material procedures‘ which, in effect, a closed material procedure is a secret court where there’s only the prosecution and the judge – you are not allowed to be there, your legal representatives are not allowed to be there and you’re not allowed to be told anything whatsoever what is discussed in that and that’s how rotten and much more rotten the legal system here has become. Even though we’re in the post-Good Friday Agreement era and the levels of conflict, armed conflict, are gone and there is a patina of peace about the place but underneath the laws have become much, much more draconian and repressive and anti-human rights.

JM: Gerard, John McDonagh here. I want to talk about just what’s going on now – the re-writing of the history or the erasing of history in the Six Counties. Martin Galvin just talked about a movie that’s debuting down at the Galway Film Festival, 66 Days Bobby Sands – he did an interview. He was taken out because at this stage of history he’s not aligned with Sinn Féin. I’ve been looking at pictures, some photo journals, of Long Kesh how that is crumbling into the ground while in Dublin I was on the Kilmainham tour just a couple of weeks ago, you even said you would be afraid to give an interview. So not only maybe you’re afraid to give an interview and talk about The Troubles but the history that’s being written now and the movies that are being written – they’re writing you out. They’re writing Galvin out. So there’s a whole new history that’s coming in about the Six Counties with Gerry Adams – the head of the civil rights movement!

GH: John, it’s good to talk to you. Yes! You’re right to point out – because pathetic Gerry’s been consistent all his life – he was never in the IRA but he created the CRA (Civil Rights Association) which was a bit amasing!

But no, you’re right. Sometimes a history can be sort of condensed down into a single narrative to suit a political purpose and people will re-invent roles for themselves or invent roles that they never, ever had. But the conflict that raged here over those thirty years was a conflict which was waged for Irish freedom to finally bring about the creation of the Irish Republic pertaining to 1916.

We failed. We failed in our objective – we didn’t get it. So we didn’t win so we were defeated. But the sort of historical nonsense that’s being spouted out by Adams and Co. that it was really for civil rights and it all worked out brilliant and sure everything’s great now. It’s not. We live in a system which has much worse – far less legal protections than we had at any time during the conflict. And also we’re living in a system of neo-liberalism where practically every safeguard we once had in terms of health and social security is disappearing before our eyes. (crosstalk) And that’s the Ireland we got. Sorry, John?

MG: Well, this is Martin Galvin again and we’re talking to Gerard Hodgins – Gerard, we’re coming to the end – you won’t expect much more in that direction when you get a new Conservative Prime Minister but how and ever. What happened last Thursday – there was a preliminary hearing, there was evidence taken, a judgment was rendered – you were in court for that judgment. Could you tell us what happened in that preliminary hearing and what happens next to Ivor Bell?

GH: Well, in the preliminary hearing Ivor’s legal team argued that it should not be returned to the Crown court for trial because there’s insufficient evidence and they were arguing that on the, mainly on the point, that Ivor had nothing to do with the offence. It was a magistrate who heard the case…(telephone connection is lost)

MG: Have we lost?…this was – you know – we talked about censorship! In any event if we can’t get Gerard back…

JM: …No. There’s only two or three more minutes left.

MG: The Magistrate, he (Gerard) was about to say, the Magistrate ruled that the case could go ahead and no one was surprised because if she wanted to get to a higher court judge and get promoted in the system by the British Crown if she had done the right thing, the correct thing, the just thing and said the case should end here she wouldn’t get too much further. So she ruled the case could go ahead. Gerard and Ivor Bell walked out of the court. The case will proceed. We will have more information. One of the things we didn’t get to ask him was how much money the British government has in the part of the budget which says that they can come to Boston, get tapes like this, prosecute people like Ivor Bell but they don’t have any money for the inquests or anything like that which would show British troop involvement in killings. So we are coming to the end. We deliberately made a decision not to talk about July the Twelfth because we wouldn’t have time to cover this important case on Ivor Bell, to go all through it – it’s the next real case that should be a concern for anybody in the United States, particularly, there’s groups like the Brehon Law Society and others who are about legal justice – I know Frank Durkan would have been the type of person who would have been on top of this case, who would have been very concerned about it and bringing American pressure for justice for a person like Ivor Bell. John?

JM: Well, this should be more of an American story really than an Irish story because it really has to do with Boston College. And you know, colleges around this country now have to re-assess – any conflict in the world, you really can’t tape the combatants – particularly if you lost. If you won then it really doesn’t matter because the government that gets into power – they won – they’re not going to prosecute their own. Just like the ANC (African National Congress). When the ANC got into South Africa they didn’t go after their own and say: Oh, what did you do twenty or thirty years ago? So when you lose a conflict like the IRA did and Sinn Féin did then you have to suffer the consequences and the British are going to go back into history and say: Now we’re going to try you for this. So now there’ll be nobody speaking to anyone because you don’t want to be brought up on charges thirty or forty years later.

MG: John, one of the tragic things is Boston College, they had this agreement they represented to people and those who trusted them and believed them – and some of them did not – others trusted them and believed what was on the agreement and now you find Ivor Bell in this position. But one of the things that saddens me and concerns me is what the British are really doing. They seem to be criminalising the struggle. They couldn’t make criminals of Bobby Sands, of Patsy O’Hara, of Francis Hughes and the others who died on hunger strike but they seem to be criminalising the struggle because what you can do is have Barra McGrory decide that people like Gerry McGeough or Ivor Bell or Seamus Kearney should be treated as criminals, tried as criminals, brought before courts as criminals and you will have a Sinn Féin involvement endorsing that part of the system, approving of Barra McGrory, part of the system making these men criminals.

Ivor Bell’s seventy-nine years of age. He’s a respected and prominent Republican. He shouldn’t be on trial for these charges dating back to 1972 – shouldn’t be charged for soliciting, aiding and abetting when the others who supposedly he solicited, aided and abetted are never going to be named or charged for a political agenda. This case is wrong. America should pay attention and get behind it. (ends time stamp ~ 55:08)

Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 2 July 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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Martin Galvin (MG) interviews journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) via telephone from Doire about current topics related to Doire and the effects Brexit may have on the Doire area.  (begins time stamp ~ 16:25)

MG: Yes, we have Eamon Sweeney on the line. Eamon, this is Martin Galvin. We’re to you a few minutes early. We had a problem with the other number on the line so I hope you don’t mind doing the interview now. And just we’re moving you up to the top of the programme.

ES: Okay.

MG: Alright. Eamon, you’re a journalist with the Derry Journal and that’s one area where the effects of Brexit are going to be more deeply felt than anywhere else. I did want to ask you about one other issue before we get to Brexit: I met you, I spoke to you covering the demonstration for George McBrearty in Doire a few weeks back. Now this week Theresa Villiers, the Secretary appointed by Cameron to run the North of Ireland for him, made a speech and she patted people in Ireland on the head because of their dignified and inclusive way they commemorated Easter 1916 – and they brought in British soldiers, and they brought in people who had been trying to put down The Rising and execute the patriots and they hadn’t said anything about the North of Ireland in those – the Irish government said nothing about the North of Ireland or the unfulfilled right of those people in Doire, in Tom Clarke’s county of Tyrone and in the Six Counties, to freedom.

And I mentioned that when I spoke at the commemoration for George McBrearty. And I can’t tell you how many people came up to me afterwards and said that that is a theme that they deeply resent, that that is not mentioned more, that they seem to be forgotten by the Dublin government, they seem to be forgotten in all of these commemorations and that is something they felt very strongly about and very angry about. Could you tell me about that feeling? Do you recognise that same feeling in the North of Ireland?

ES: Well in the round I think that it’s why – Easter 1916 was obviously one hundred years ago and it’s at a safe, historical distance – now for commemorations to take place in Dublin and in other places around world including Australia and they were marked in many countries including the US, in your own country – the intervening years, for the past forty years, in the North of Ireland where the conflict raged and various shades of Republicanism take their sort of cue from the lineages of 1916 and their inspiration and claim legitimacy through that for their actions, whether that be right or wrong, I think it’s still a very thorny issue in the North of Ireland. It’s too soon, perhaps, to recognise in the round what the patriots of 1916 did in terms of taking on the British Empire and eventually succeeding a few years later in getting them to leave a portion of the country. So I think it’s generally glossed over to a certain extent; not by the people in Doire or the Nationalist people in The North, but in terms of there’s still a prickliness, an uncomfortable sort of attitude or recognition from Britain about Nationalists in Northern Ireland because it’s still ascribed to be a political territory belonging to Britain and that’s what I think it is. That has, in recent months, had a knock-on effect in electoral terms for Nationalist parties I think where you saw in the Assembly elections that Nationalists didn’t come out to vote in the numbers they used to come out and vote, and that’s votes for Sinn Féin and the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), because I think they feel that they’re not getting anything out of the Good Friday Agreement almost twenty years after it was signed. They see that the aspiration that was granted to legitimately look for a united Ireland some time in the future isn’t being spoken about to a great extent by Nationalists and political representation and therefore they feel: Why should we bother going out and vote? We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this at all.

MG: Alright, Eamon. We’re talking with Eamon Sweeney who’s a journalist with the Derry Journal, with other papers in The North of Ireland – Eamon, your area, Doire City, will be one of the areas most affected by Brexit when that, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Community, when that actually comes. Could you just tell the audience, an American audience, where Doire City is in terms of the border, such as it is, with the Twenty-Six Counties?

ES: Well, the outer western side of Doire City is approximately about three miles from the border with the Republic of Ireland and Inishowen in Co. Donegal. So I mean at certain points it’s walking distance. From my house – twenty minutes will walk you across the border from here to where I stand.

MG: I’m just laughing when you say that. When I was banned from the North of Ireland I did have occasion to walk that a couple of times some evenings and it is certainly walking distance. So they’re now talking about having a border and the decisions about that border – they won’t be made by people in Doire, they won’t be made by people in Ireland even. The decisions are going to be made by two parties. Number One: You have a Tory government – they, in campaigning for Brexit, had ads about Syrian refugees fleeing or getting into the European Community and coming across the border. They are the majority party – they constitute Parliament in London – they’re going to make the decisions on one side. And the other side is going to be the European Community – that if they decide there has to be a hard border – there has to be some sort of customs check, there have to be checks on immigration – they are going to be the ones who will tell the Twenty-Six County government how and what must be done. Now what does this have the potential to mean for Doire where you’re right, literally, on the border with Donegal?

ES: Well, the wider northwestern region can take the border out of the equation, that includes Doire City and portions of Inishowen, which since partition have been largely isolated in many ways. We don’t really as a people, a Nationalist people in Doire, believe we belong inside the British state but neither do the Dublin government want us attached to them for purely economic reasons. The upside of that was that the Articles 2 and 3 in the Irish Constitution that made a territorial claim at least on all Irish territory, including Doire, were abandoned during the signing of that particular agreement almost twenty years ago. So obviously, in terms of the Irish Constitution, the government no longer have the ability to assert a territorial claim, albeit theoretically, as it stood for all those years. That no longer exists. The more practical side of it would be that there’s an economic hinterland that runs from Doire City right into Inishowen. And you know, if you draw a physical line again across that border point  then what the ramifications are for trade, both north and south of that border, are going to be disastrous. I’ve spoken to the president of the Chamber of Commerce in the nearest Donegal Inishowen town closest to Doire City recently and he said that the whole debate on and around Brexit was it was characterised by nothing more than uncertainty. The Inishowen region was benefiting, getting a boost, for the first time in many years simply because of the strength of the pound sterling against the euro, which is used in the Republic of Ireland, and people moving freely in either direction across the border to spend their money.

So the re-imposition of a physical border, whilst it won’t be militaristic in tone as it was during The Troubles, will put people off. You also have a lot of Doire people and, on the other side of the coin a lot of Donegal people, who live in either area and work in either area. So having to cross the border every morning and the spectre of having to produce your passport at a border on the island of Ireland simply to get to work every day, in practical terms, is going to be intensely annoying for a start, time consuming and its going to cost people money in the long run.

MG: Alright. Another thing that you pointed out to me when we were speaking about this interview – and we’re talking with Eamon Sweeney who’s a journalist with the Derry Journal and other papers in the North of Ireland – the European Community gives a great deal of money to all of Ireland, North and South. For example, you were saying farmers, almost all farmers, or a large majority of farmers in the Six Counties would get a subsidy from the European Community. Now if you take away European funding you’re giving that there may be money coming but you’re talking about a Parliament – and you used this phrase when we were speaking about preparing for this interview – where it’s run by the people you call ‘Thatcher’s children’ and who are not likely – who support austerity, who have pushed through austerity throughout poor Ireland as through well as everywhere else under their jurisdiction and who are very loathe to give support, prop up, give benefits to people who may need them, particularly in the Six Counties. What effect do you think that that’s going to have, the withdrawal of European funding, and is it going to be replaced from London?

ES: Well, my take on it is that the only streams of funding that have kept portions of the North of Ireland going over the last forty years through community development and industrial development has majorly come from the European Parliament in Brussels. You know, that was spearheaded by both John Hume and Ian Paisley whilst they were MEPs (Member of the European Parliament) and both of those guys, you know, they’d harness the European mechanisms to bring and attract inward investment to the North of Ireland. Once there’s withdrawal from Europe by Britain I mean that, by necessity of the fact that that they don’t want to participate, why should the European Union (EU) therefore keep pumping money in? And on a very practical level within Doire City all those community programmes that were basically born out of the peace process and linchpinned into the Good Friday Agreement are funded by the European Community. Those are things that in a place where there’s still high levels of unemployment, no opportunities for youth, that gives them a bit of hope, a bit of aspiration for training and development and so on and so forth – if that’s gone what replaces it? What comes into that vacuum? Certainly the money won’t come from London because they’re telling us that they’re not only not able to fund community programmes but they’re cutting peoples’ welfare benefits. So what happens next? We really don’t know. It’s a massive period of uncertainty. The advertisements for the next batch of peace funding from Europe are actually appearing in local papers north and south of the border at the minute.

The Peace IV programme, which is an inter-regional programme based on not only cross-community aspects but also on cross-border aspects. So if that’s gone, I mean even something as simple as providing programmes for older people, educational programmes for people who are unemployed, for youth programmes, for sports programmes, that’s going to end. You know, this city, and Inishowen as well, have largely been forgotten about by both the British and the Dublin governments for a long, long time. So it’s going to be a disaster if this follows through and there is a full-blown withdrawal. I mean, Britain can’t cherry-pick anymore about wanting access to the single European market without having to pay in. The whole thing for me was, as you said, a grubby little power grab by the children of Margaret Thatcher to try and wrest the keys of Number 10 Downing Street from David Cameron. This guy foolishly, in my estimation, agreed to an EU referendum and when it backfired it’s gone spectacularly out of control. What it also has shown, also in my estimation, is that the whole concept of a United Kingdom is faltering greatly. I don’t see how it can survive another ten or fifteen years. So where does that leave Northern Ireland in terms of being a political entity? Scotland have already said they wish to remain in the European Union and if that means searching for their own independence from the UK in order to maintain that they will do so.

The Welsh result, in terms of their choice to withdraw from Europe and back the English vote, is still baffling to many people out there. As somebody who is supposed to know about these things I can’t for the life of me fathom why the Welsh, a Celtic nation, decided that they wanted to break away from the European Union. The English devolutionary programme has been one which has been running for many years. Blair, Tony Blair, actually started this in the mid-90’s as the peace process in Northern Ireland actually built up – that’s the origins of it while the culmination of it now is being played out in the Tory Party. The devolutionary project to give a degree of power to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as separate from England was started by Tony Blair for no other reason, in my estimation, than this guy wanted an England that was able to compete in a global market – and by ‘England’ I mean the confines of a square mile in London where he wanted to create an economic powerhouse and this is coming full circle now where you’re seeing the cracks appear in the United Kingdom political project.

MG: Eamon – and we’re talking again with Eamon Sweeney, journalist in the North of Ireland with the Derry Journal and other papers. Eamon, one of the things, the immediate reactions that happened, was that Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin asked for a border poll and that was immediately refused by Arlene Foster and by Theresa Villiers, the British Secretary for the North of Ireland. So it won’t happen. They’re now talking about having some kind of common approach to what’s going to happen with Brexit. How do Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster, who are on opposite ends of this issue – Arlene Foster, the First Minister, wanted to leave, they wanted Britain to leave and Martin McGuinness of course wanted The North to remain as part of the European Community – how do they now form a common approach to protect Irish interests at Stormont?

ES: Okay and it’s part of the political project at Stormont; the rules say that there must be a cross-community leadership approach in terms of the First and Deputy First Ministers’ offices. However, they are diametrically opposed in terms of ideology. Martin McGuinness is a Republican who wants to take Northern Ireland out of Britain. Arlene Foster wants to retain it. How do they come about in forming a joint approach in terms of dealing with Brexit is beyond my capability to explain. I don’t see how it’s possible. Martin MCGuinness is well within his rights, as is laid down in the legislation in terms of the Good Friday Agreement, to ask for a border poll. Why wouldn’t that not be allowed? I mean there are other societies out there, in terms of broad Nationalism and Republicanism in Ireland, including organisations like the 1916 Societies who are formulating a campaign for an all-Ireland referendum on a withdrawal from the UK. So while this legislation in ingrained in the Good Friday Agreement that the vast majority of people North and South signed up to almost twenty years ago the flat refusal by a Unionist leader in the form of Arlene Foster and then the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is flabbergasting. Theresa Villiers words were, basically, that there aren’t enough people out there wishing to sign up to a united Ireland. How does she know that without a poll being actually held? It’s impossible. She has no legitimate right to say that so it probably will be an argument that continues on. You may well see a wider Nationalist campaign to demand a border poll. I’m told this afternoon, after I spoke to you earlier, that there’s a huge cross-political, party political meeting being organised in our community being organised for the city in Doire next Wednesday specifically to thrash out what we do about Brexit next. But the one thing that the Unionists and Theresa Villiers can be assured of is that there will not be a ‘quieting down’ of the demands or an aspiration for a border poll; they simply do not have the power or the authority to say ‘no’ and to leave it at that. There has to be a rational explanation behind why they are refusing a border poll. That’s just nonsense.

MG: Well do you think, at this point, there’s been a strategy that Sinn Féin had of going into Stormont, working with the Unionists, trying to whittle away at any injustices and meeting the Queen for example this past week, do you think that that is achieving, growing, any Unionists coming forward who would now vote for a united Ireland or do you think it’s more likely that they’re seeing, that Nationalists seeing Martin McGuinness at Stormont, working with the British government, shaking hands with the Queen, that there are now more Nationalists who would not come out and vote for a united Ireland if there was such a border poll?

ES: You know, the symbolism that’s involved with Martin McGuinness as a Republican leader going to shake hands with the Queen of England I mean it’s becoming a recurrent thing. That’s part of his job. He signed up to take part in the Stormont Assembly. It’s part of a strategy to convince Unionists that Nationalists are not only their equals but appreciate their culture and respect their traditions. And that’s fine. It’s nothing more than symbolism. On the wider view what I would ask is: Why have Nationalists in general, those who would vote either for Sinn Féin or the SDLP or anybody else who ascribes to a Nationalist ideology, why aren’t voters coming out and backing them in the same manner that they used to? Is it because, for example, that Nationalists feel they’re not getting any benefit out of what they signed up to twenty years ago in terms of practical economics on the ground, in terms of jobs and investment, or in terms of the aspiration to someday seek a vote or a referendum, in a peaceful manner, for a united Ireland?

There’s something wrong there. Why are people not backing this anymore? Do they feel that the Nationalist political representatives have let them down in this matter? In Doire, for example, in May you had two candidates who were not in the mainstream parties in terms of Sinn Féin or the SDLP. Eamonn McCann, who stood for the People Before Profit Alliance – you know Eamonn a long time, he’s been a veteran campaigner, I think he’s been on your radio station many times – he came through and got himself elected. Now that was at the cost of a seat for the SDLP. Another independent, Dr. Anne McCloskey, who almost made it over the line as well. Now that tells me that there wouldn’t have been a lot of people from the Unionist direction voting for either Anne McCloskey or Eamonn McCann so it was a protest vote, perhaps to a certain extent within Nationalism, who decided to give somebody else, in the form of Eamonn McCann, a chance and let’s see if he could change anything in Belfast.

So there are problems within the wider Nationalist family. I think there’s a wider desire within the public, that I sense anyway, that the Nationalist parties need to talk a lot more about how, in the long term, they plan to reunify the island of Ireland. It’s something that has disappeared largely from the political agenda. And while there is an aspiration there for it the outlet or mechanism for it has been strangulated at every opportunity both in London and in Belfast. So that’s something that isn’t going to go away. It’s been centuries long in coming and it’ll come back again.

The crazy thing about it is that while Nationalists want to withdraw from the UK they want to remain within the European Union. And a lot of Nationalists want to remain within the European Union for very valid reasons, primarily because European courts of human rights provide us a lot of legal protection in terms of the injustices faced by Nationalists and Nationalism in the North of Ireland. It also provides workers’ rights that – you know the Tory government is nakedly capitalistic in London and don’t care about the working class in any shape or sense – want to destroy it.

If they withdraw from the European Union and those legal routes are blocked off in Europe in terms of investigating the past, holding the British state to account then what’s the political landscape in the North of Ireland going to look like for Nationalists come two years time when they eventually withdraw if the UK from the EU happens? It’s not a pretty picture.

MG: Eamon, we want to talk just on that one further issue before we let you go: There is a campaign right now for Tony Taylor. Tony Taylor is somebody from Doire who was, served a term of imprisonment for a Republican offence and then all of a sudden one day he is then brought back in, he’s held on licence, he’s not told what the charge is, what specific allegations are against him. His solicitor can’t be told about what is happening. Can you tell us what’s happening right now with Tony Taylor? Is there any campaign for his release?

ES: There is, yes. There is an on-the-ground campaign to try and get the guy back out of jail. I mean he was taken from his home, subsequently imprisoned at the will or the discretion of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State because she felt that he was involved in some non-specific, in some activity which has been non-specified without the right to trial, without the right to have a jury or have the accusations from the Secretary of State and it is her, in her person, that actually ascribes this power. If they were confident, for example, that Tony Taylor had committed what would be described as a criminal offence then put the man in court and give him access to the system of British justice that the British are very proud of. But no, it seems to be that, despite the political advances overS the last years in Northern Ireland, there are mechanisms by which people can still be taken from their homes and interned without trial.

Now this was one of the fulcrums of the civil rights campaign, one of the root sources of the conflict in Northern Ireland. It was the reason why people went marching on Bloody Sunday in January 1972 – to protest against people being taken without trial and imprisoned for whatever reason that the British saw fit. So are we coming full circle again here? Are people just going to be taken at will because they upset the British state? The British state seems to have the right to imprison people without accusing them of anything, to revoke a prison licence and put people back in jail. There is a campaign and I’m sure it’s being backed by both the Nationalist parties in Doire at least and the wider community. How far that will go because Ms Villiers seems to be very fond of the use of the word ‘no’ in the wider sense of all issues.

I may add as well, in my opinion, her behaviour during the Brexit campaign in terms of being a minister of state for Northern Ireland and supposed to demonstrate some aspects of impartiality as a minister of state was absolutely disgraceful. Her whole outlook was to campaign for a Brexit when she held a ministerial post, and a very sensitive one in the form of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. You know, she negated the entire wishes of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland who wanted and voted to remain in the European Union. She should have been censured for that.

MG: Well, we’ve been talking – Eamon, I want to thank you. We’ve covered a lot of ground – you spent more time with us than I had asked you to and we’ve covered a lot of issues and we’re looking forward to having you again in future. This has been Eamon Sweeney, a journalist with the Derry Journal and other newspapers in the North of Ireland. (ends time stamp ~ 42:27)