Seamus Delaney RFÉ 16 July 2016

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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

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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)