Martin Galvin 23 October 2016 The Brendan Hughes Memorial Lecture

Martin Galvin delivered the annual Brendan Hughes Memorial Lecture, entitled ‘1916-2016: What Was It About? Where Are We Now?’, at The Playhouse Theatre in Doire on 23 October 2016.

Brendan Hughes Memorial Lecture

1916-2016: What Was It About? Where Are We Now?

A chairde,

It is important to begin by thanking the committee for inviting me but much more importantly for holding a Brendan Hughes Memorial Lecture each year and reminding us today of the fundamental question: 1916-2016: What was it about? Where are we now?

Those who knew Brendan know he would be thankful to be remembered at the yearly commemoration but he would be keenly thankful that there would be a lecture bringing Republicans together for a strategic discussion about the fundamental political challenge which he faced throughout his life and which faces us critically today.

Will we find a political strategy that makes an end of British rule in Derry and the Six Counties, what 1916, or the hunger strikes, or the years of struggle were really about? Can we overcome British plans for what Arlene Foster calls the ‘second century of Northern Ireland’ in a tone that tells us that she takes for granted more centuries of ‘Northern Ireland’ to come?

Brendan Hughes said something to me in a short telephone conversation almost ten years ago which needs repeating here today. Many of you remember those days when the movement which Brendan Hughes had fought for and helped lead proclaimed that a one-sided pledge of allegiance to the renamed RUC would be a major long term victory on the road to uniting Ireland and would mean truth and justice for victims in the short term.

Today’s Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, was then writing in the Andytown News how it would be ‘fun’ bringing the Crown constabulary to heel. We could trust his judgment, he wrote, because he ‘was in the middle of the police riot on the Andersonstown Road in August 1984 when Sean Downes was killed by the RUC… those of us who were on the Andersonstown Road learnt a lesson in policing that day which we have not forgotten.’ They even used photos of that murderous day to make his point.

As someone who was on the Anderstonstown Road and the RUC’s excuse for murder and riot I saw a vastly different lesson. How did RUC murder and riot become an argument in favor of backing the RUC? Why would a new reformed Crown constabulary be willing to stonewall and cover-up by denying the truth on murders committed by proxy with loyalists or shoot-to-kill committed by the old constabulary? Why if they were not one and the same? Pledging allegiance to all that seemed no victory for a united Ireland but the jewel in the Crown of the old British strategic objectives of Ulsterization, criminalization and normalization!

I wrote pieces for Anthony McIntyre’s site The Blanket, which preceded The Pensive Quill , as one of the best sources for dissenting Republican thought. In Fermanagh-South Tyrone my friend Gerry McGeough invited me to come and campaign. He wanted to go into Stormont, stand up, speak out or walk out for Republican principles. This would mean Sinn Féin could stand behind him on Republican issues or be seen leaving Republican issues behind. Gerry McGeough clearly had paid Republican dues to speak out. At his trial the Crown submitted photos of his body which they charged showed bullet wounds suffered as Gerry fought for the IRA. So it was hard to deny that he had played his part in the struggle.

Here in Derry Mrs. O’Hara agreed to stand. I had been friends with the O’Haras since Elizabeth, along with other hunger strike family members, went to America shortly after Patsy’s death in 1981 to campaign for those who came behind Patsy. Peggy O’Hara was never going into Stormont to challenge anyone to a debate. She agreed to stand as a mother who saw her son suffer at the hands of the RUC, saw him suffer death on hunger strike and saw how his body was marked by cigarette burns before it was returned to her. She stood as a quiet dignified statement that it was wrong to buy into injustice by backing this renamed British constabulary. The O’Hara family, as well as friends like Danny McBrearty and John McDonagh, who were on her election team invited me to campaign here in Derry.

So I had what seemed to me a big problem. How do I campaign for Mrs. O’Hara, an abstentionist candidate in Derry, and then campaign for Gerry McGeough taking his seat in Fermanagh-South Tyrone? How could I support one and refuse the other? How do I escape insulting and losing more friends? (And after being blacklisted ten years earlier for debating Martin Ferris in America and daring to say that the Good Friday deal would not lead to a united Ireland within five years by 2003 as promised by Joe Cahill I did not want to lose any more.)

I contacted Brendan Hughes. I hoped he would tell me it was alright not to come. Instead, he said something that bears repeating here:

Martin don’t sweat the small stuff.  Gerry McGeough is brendanhughesnot taking any seat in Fermanagh- South Tyrone and Peggy O’Hara is not taking any seat in Derry. The seats this time will go to the people promising them a magic wand to make a united Ireland appear. This campaign is more important than seats. The Brits think they have got the means to finish it for good. This election campaign is about trying to build something to see that they don’t.

I did not bother to ask whether he was referring to the war he had fought or the fight against criminalization during the blanket protest and hunger strikes or even 1916 and The Proclamation. I knew he saw them as part of the same thing. (At the start of the first hunger strike in 1980 he had sent me a personal piece headed an ‘Appeal to America‘ about the connection and ‘remarkable similarities’ which I published and can be read in the online archives of the Irish People newspaper in the November 1, 1980 edition.) (Ed.Note: On Pg 2.)

I campaigned for both happily.

Today the question, indeed the challenge, Brendan Hughes summed up in those few words must be faced. We no longer have the luxury or leisure time to let small stuff or minor divisions derail us. The British think they have us caught in a position where your right to national freedom and sovereignty in this part of Ireland will never be more than an unfulfilled wish or aspiration. They think they have set up cosmetic institutions and structures which will, over time, make us content to think of a six county British Ulster as normal and those who want it otherwise as criminal. They think they can ‘finish it for good’ as Brendan Hughes put it. Can we unite and do the work needed to build something to see that they don’t?

There are those in this city and elsewhere in Ireland who say we should not question or seek alternative Republican political strategies. They claim to have the answers. All we need do is follow their leadership without troubling questions and they will give us a united Ireland. Maybe they did not deliver it by 2003, as Joe Cahill promised, or 2014 or 2016 as Martin McGuinness promised, but they will get it somehow, someday and in some ‘acceptable’ to Britain and Unionists shape or form. They will not be caught out again because they gave up on definite time frames and now talk of a countdown to freedom. When you promise you will deliver something in 2003 or 2016, you buy yourself five or ten years but sooner or later your time is up. The clock never runs out on a ‘countdown’ to freedom.

Why are they so eager to reach out to British royalty, uncompromising Unionists and former enemies but turn away from honest questions by disillusioned Republicans about where Sinn Féin is leading?

We understand they have a strategy. We read ‘Towards an Agreed Ireland and Reconciled Future’. We see them put great effort into meeting English royal family members, standing behind Arlene Foster no matter what, working to make way for Orange parades in Ardoyne, giving the constabulary platforms in West Belfast, sorry initiatives and uncomfortable conversations. What is hard to see or understand are signs this strategy is working for Nationalists. Where is there a sign that any segment of Unionism or Loyalism is being converted towards voting for a united Ireland in a six county border poll? Are they instead reconciling Nationalists, who see them alongside the DUP, taking up jobs and positions to agree that British rule does not look so bad?

Such questions get answered by attacking those who dare ask. Brendan Hughes was the first example of this. He asked heartfelt questions and was smeared that he was against the leadership for personal reasons. This was a movement led by some with whom he had fought alongside, been imprisoned with and risked his life. The idea of speaking against close friends must have been heartbreaking for him and harder in some ways than refusing the Crown uniform in Long Kesh.

I was last month’s example. Last May while visiting Derry to speak at a commemoration for an IRA Volunteer, George McBrearty, I was interviewed by Spotlight about self-confessed British agent Denis Donaldson. When he was in America he proved himself a British agent. I warned a very senior Republican about Denis. I refused to name the senior Republican, just as I have always refused to answer questions about whether other senior Republicans were in the IRA. I had no knowledge of what else would be aired and certainly no part in any accusations about who killed him.

Martin McGuinness answered the program by saying I had an anti-Sinn Féin agenda. Ironically, Spotlight included footage of me walking alongside Martin McGuinness when I was banned, being arrested beside him, him shaking my hand as I was put in the RUC jeep to be helicoptered to England. Can any Republican disagree with Sinn Féin policies not because they are against Sinn Féin but because they are against misguided policies twisted to prop up British rule? When Martin McGuinness or any Sinn Féin leaders answer honest questions with slurs about being anti-peace or anti-Sinn Féin it is because they have no better answer.

1916-2016: What Was It About?

The real meaning of 1916 does not require much discussion. The men and women who believed strongly enough to take on the might of the British Empire, and brave the ‘utter detestation and horror’ of elected Irish politicians spoke for themselves in the 1916 Proclamation. They believed that the Irish people had a right to national freedom and sovereignty. In case anyone questions whether that right belongs just as much to Derry as Dublin or Donegal just look back a few months before The Rising. Pearse wrote that freedom meant ‘not the freedom of a geographical fragment of Ireland but the freedom of all Ireland of every sod of Ireland.’ They believed that this right to national freedom and sovereignty would allow the Irish people to make economic and political decisions in Irish interests rather than having policies made to serve British interests at Westminster like we see with Brexit today. They believed that such a state would not need and could therefore end the artificial sectarian divisions that the British would always foster to divide and rule as they do at Stormont today. They said these rights were indefeasible, a very specific word, meaning rights which cannot be sold, given up or bartered away even by a dual referenda.

These ideals so changed history forever when they were proclaimed and fought for in 1916 and inspired people in the months following 1916 just as the 50th anniversary inspired Brendan Hughes and his generation in 1966. They are the ideals read to commemorate fallen IRA Volunteers.

The Irish government commemorations this year, which took pains to speak of British troopers who fought against Irish freedom but were silent about those Irish still denied freedom, show how much sections of the Irish government fear the hold, inspiration and legacy of 1916 today. The blanket protest and hunger strikes were directly tied to these same ideals. Thatcher wanted to dress up Irish patriots and anyone who had struggled to end British rule as criminals. The blanketmen would not serve as human props for her propaganda. It was not about building electoral machines or equality of esteem with any Homeland Security loyalist prisoners. It was about refusing to allow the British to masquerade them and generations of patriots as criminals.

A sad reflection of where we are today is that a British administration, with Sinn Féin in tow, imprisoned Gerry McGeough and Seamus Kearney on criminal charges for actions that took place in 1980-81. They charge Ivor Bell. British troopers, even Bloody Sunday troopers, have never faced charges. The British will not criminalize their own.

1916-2016: Where Are We Now?

Gerry Adams said something earlier this year which I believe should be noted. He said ‘We are not going to go in and prop up a regressive and negative old conservative government whatever the particular party political complexion.’ He was referring to the Dáil and not being used to front for anti-Republican policies in a coalition. Why then prop up and front for a British Tory austerity government in tandem with the DUP?

For fifty years the British ruled behind a one party Orange State giving Unionists carte blanche to impose a system of discrimination and second class citizenship in housing, jobs and every aspect of citizenship. It served British interests. When that strategy no longer worked because of Orange excesses, civil rights and resistance from a growing Nationalist population that would no longer lay down the British made new plans to serve their interests. I seldom agree with Alex Kane but a little over a week ago in the Irish News he said the DUP and Sinn Féin provide ‘a sectarian headcount at the heart of government and a blind eye being turned to every difficult decision they were asked to make.’

What Kane called this ‘blind eye to difficult decisions’ was planned. It is central part of a British strategy whose objectives remain Ulsterization, normalization and criminalization. As Pearse, Clarke and Connolly might have put it the alien government, meaning the British government, carefully fosters, or maybe I should say Arlene Fosters, a sectarian veto. Because the interests of the DUP and Sinn Féin are diametrically opposed they will never agree on key issues. The British can then suit themselves while hiding behind the fiction that Westminster was forced to act because there is no agreement.

Look at Ballymurphy where James Brokenshire told the Ballymurphy families that he requires Arlene Foster’s permission to fund legacy inquests. Look at any funding for legacy inquests. This excuse is a fraud. Where is Martin McGuinness’ veto on paying the cost of imprisoning Tony Taylor? Look at last year’s appearance by George Hamilton in West Belfast, with Martin McGuinness to lend credibility, Hamilton said: ‘I’m accountable to a policing board that’s got four Sinn Féin members on it and an SDLP representative. I’m not going to be fettered by secretaries of state, prime ministers or anyone else.’ Glowing articles were written that victims’ families could now expect dramatic moves about Stalker-Sampson, Ballymurphy, McGurk and legacy inquest funding to flow from Hamilton’s invitation.

More than a year has passed. We got nothing.

Who do we blame? Was it the four DUP, one UUP and one Alliance Party members along with eight independents on the policing board? No one thought this an obstacle worth mentioning. Once, Sinn Féin would have led the outcry against British Crown officials being gifted platforms for making empty promises. Now they take out advertisements attacking those who dare leaflet against rewarding the constabulary with return engagements.

Look at collusion where British colonial secretaries Villiers and now Brokenshire still recycle pious statements about their stalwart forces being responsible for only 10% of the killings, as if hundreds of murders which they plotted, paid for and planned, cannot be blamed on them because their paid Loyalist proxies fired the shots or planted the bombs in Dublin and Monaghan. Look at Brexit where Ireland north and south had little or no say respectively and are ignored in favor of English interests.

Today the question, indeed the challenge, Brendan Hughes summed up ten years ago must be faced: The British think we are caught. They think their strategy is working day and daily to pacify us to be content with a six county British Ulster as normal and those who want it otherwise as criminal. They think they can ‘finish it for good’ as Brendan Hughes put it.

Can we unite and do the work needed to build something to see that they don’t?

Before 1916 the British thought they had ‘pacified Ireland.’ The very diverse groups and leaders from the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army saw this and were able to overcome everything that divided them to unite and build a force which defeated British plans for permanent Home Rule and Partition subordinate to Westminster. Thatcher thought she had Brendan Hughes and the blanketmen beaten. Brendan Hughes and his fellow political prisoners locked away in the H-Blocks or Armagh were able to inspire a unity and political awakening which broke anything that Thatcher or the British could throw at them. Can Republicans today forge a unity and strategy which can break through once more and get us back on the path to the united and free Ireland which so many of Brendan Hughes’ time and the men and women of 1916 sacrificed for?

Will Britain finish us or can we unite and find a new political strategy to see that they don’t?

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey 30 Sept 2016 The Seamus Deane Honorary Field Day Lecture

The Seamus Deane Honorary Field Day Lecture
A Terrible State of Chassis
30 September 2016

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey delivered the annual lecture, entitled ‘A Terrible State of Chassis’, at The Playhouse Theatre in Doire on 30 September 2016.

(Ed Note: On 24 October 2016 Field Day uploaded a video of the lecture that has a better sound quality. The transcript was revised this date.)

Bernadette: Thank you very much. I am unable to see past the first five rows. Thank you very much all of you for coming. I understand that this room is packed so it’s probably just just as well I can’t see all of it. And there’s an interesting dynamic speaking here because somehow I feel that a standard of public performance may be required that I’m unaccustomed to giving seeing you all paid in! (all laugh) It’s something that I’m not actually used to.

But when Stephen asked me if I would in fact give the Seamus Deane Lecture tonight I have to admit two things: 1) I owed a debt of duty and gratitude to Stephen for his support for the election here in Doire and I owed a much longer-standing debt to the late Brian Friel for his help many, many years ago. And I have to say being asked to in fact be part of the Seamus Deane Lecture was so flattering I couldn’t really say no. So that’s my excuse for being here and then having done it I thought: That’s maybe not the best thing you’ve thought of, Bernadette’ because I am, as Michael very eloquently put it, I am indeed much more accustomed to saying something because I think it has to be said and it has to be said now because something needs to be done now and everybody else has the wit to keep their mouth shut for a bit and so I find myself making the noise. That’s kind of been the history so I tend to speak on very immediate issues in a campaigning sense so it’s a bit of a challenge for me to say: What am I going to tell these people that I haven’t already burnt the ears of Kitty Holland with in almost trying to – in what was an excellent interview and if she’s here tonight – thank you, Kitty, for her kindness and patience and listening you know to a veteran of the struggle rambling on and then extracting from it a very coherent and kind interview. The problem of course is that once I said it to Kitty Holland now it’s all gone out of my mind same as if I wrote notes so I’m probably going to talk about something entirely different.

But as I was sort of driving here earlier in the day two things that struck me: I was listening to an item just on the news and it was quite immediate but very interesting – that sixty percent of the population, according to recent research, sixty percent of the population of Northern Ireland do not have more than a hundred pounds in savings – sixty percent of the Northern Ireland population don’t have what my mother used to call ‘irroughness’ of one hundred pounds. Now a number of years ago I remember being aware that just over fifty percent of the population of Northern Ireland didn’t have access to three hundred pounds savings. And I was really shocked just to hear that on – just hear that short item on the news just about debt that as we have progressed in the millennium – that’s how far we’ve progressed – that whatever number of years that was – maybe ten, maybe twenty – that people are now in increased poverty. And many people in this room will know what a hundred pounds is. A hundred pounds would scarcely today buy an average family a week’s groceries. A hundred pounds actually is twenty pounds short of the rent on a three bedroom house in Dungannon for a week. So you don’t have fall very far, you don’t have to get into any great depth of hardship. You know, if your washing machine and your cooker broke at the same time your savings would be gone in getting both of them functioning again. And that’s the Northern Ireland we live in. That’s the model of conflict resolution and peace and prosperity and progress that we’re hawking round the world for everybody else to follow. And sometimes I think there has to be an international trading standard somewhere that we’re in breach of. There has to be somebody buying these packages who has recourse to some kind of trading standards agency that says: ‘I’ve been conned!’ Because the other thing that I heard on the news, and I’m sure most of you have heard it as well, is about the company NI-CO. Somebody probably got a lot of money in coming up with the title. It probably cost about ten thousand pounds, it probably went out to tender and probably twenty different groups applied and then somebody got ten thousand pounds of public money to think of a name for a Northern Ireland peace selling company. And they said: Hmm…Hmm.. and they (gestures) and then they came up with ‘NI-CO’ – Northern Ireland Company. (all laugh) That’s where you taxes goes. But NI-CO is actually a subsidiary company of Invest NI. Invest NI is an arms-length company of the Department of Trade and Industry. So the Department of Trade and Industry gives the money to Invest NI and Invest NI they give the money to NI-CO and NI-CO are helping to sell the peace to…I think it might be Saudi Arabia – I think it’s Saudi Arabia – I think it might also maybe include help for the Sultan of Oman I’m not sure. But NI-CO are actually training Prison and Police Officers in these countries as to how to be like the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) – well, I presume – what else would they know? How to manage their prisons the way we manage Maghaberry. You can see why we need a trades description act to protect these torturous, anti-democratic, human rights violating states from the con men of the peace process of Northern Ireland. But there’s no end to it. The Northern Ireland peace process takes the credit for ending years and years of conflict in Colombia – the Colombian state and FARC.

And sometimes you know, I’m sorry but I do have a certain degree of sympathy with Jim Allister’s ‘Marlene‘ concept. I remember myself – me, myself and I, the three of us – used to go to America and it occurred to me that I was actually making more socialists in the United States than I was making back here because I was making more progress in radicalising people in The States than here and that may well be the case – that the peace looks better the further from here you get. Because certainly it doesn’t look great from here if the reality of life in Northern Ireland is that sixty percent of the people – that’s the majority of the population – have less than a week’s wages, less than a week’s family benefit between them and penury – that to me is absolutely incredible! So I think the question we have to ask is: 1) How did we get here as far as Northern Ireland is concerned. How did we and then I should say: ‘Not how did we’ – how did the rest of you – not me! How did the rest of you ever believe that the secret process of unelected people behind closed doors would lead to a solution that would be in the interest of the majority of the population?

There’s a certain logic there. If I had an idea that I thought you would all love I would tell you all about it. No point in me having an idea that I think you would all love and keeping it a secret in case you didn’t like it.  So the only purpose of having secret talks around conflict is if the people having the talks don’t actually believe that they can easily sell the concept to the people they have to sell it to. It’s a very age-old ploy. It’s not something that just happens here – it happens everywhere – that people are drawn into private and secret conversations and they kind of work on the basis – not unlike why I’m standing here tonight – people get flattered.

So I don’t know if any of you remember but there was a time when, for example, the IRA were ‘terrorists’ and then over a period of time, somewhere around the period of the mid-’80’s after the Anglo-Irish Agreement and heading into the ’90’s, people started using phrases like ‘sophisticated’ – the IRA might be terrorists but they were amongst the most ‘sophisticated’ terrorists in the world.  You would see a couple of Doire backs straightening there – (all laugh) ‘sophisticated’ terrorists – that’s what we are!  Strategic thinker – Tom Hartley. I knew we were not going well when Tom Hartley was described as a strategic thinker.  (all laugh)  And the poor man from the Irish press who so described him I began to think there’s something wrong there. Tim Pat Coogan has lost the run of himself. (all laugh) Because Tim Pat Coogan was no mean thinker but he described my good friend, former friend, Tom, as a ‘strategic thinker’.  When I challenged Tom on this possible description he said: Bernadette, the problem with you is that you don’t know how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (all laugh) Tom was nothing if he wasn’t humourous and witty. And then he went on to say: You’re missing a necessity: You can’t follow the fancy footwork. Oh, I said. That’s alright, Tom, okay. You dance. Over there. (all laugh)

But you could see how the flattery began to work. We now had strategic thinking. Gerry Adams was almost of statesmanlike stature. He was still an outsider. I remember people who indicated that they could do with a little help maybe from a strategic thinker like me – and I can be flattered by my friends. I have been blessed with an inability to be flattered by mine enemies – so when I found strange people saying maybe I wasn’t as bad as they had thought I was I knew there was a problem. (all laugh) So I just usually said: Look, I’ll talk to you about that next week.

But bit by bit what actually happened to people in the Republican Movement, used to demonisation and alienation, found themselves flattered by new descriptions and a belief that they were winning. These new delusions set in. This realisation on the part of the British government and the British military and the United States government and the Irish government that Sinn Féin and the IRA were maybe right – that was proof-positive that the campaign was working, that the military campaign was working – they had shown the British who wasn’t afraid of them! They could take the fight to the British government and this had brought the government to the realisation that there was a stalemate. That the British Army, Her Majesty’s armed forces, Her Royal Britannic Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second that in 2016 still has managed, personally, to hold onto six thousand six hundred million acres of the entire world – had been fought to a standstill by a couple of hundred people on the island of Ireland and forced to the negotiating table.

What possessed you to believe that? What possessed people to believe that story was true? It’s not that people were stupid. It was that people would not own up to the truth. People were war weary of a war of attrition that was beginning to take the second generation of their children before the first generation of their children had left the prisons. And out of loyalty to the IRA wouldn’t dare say that out loud. Enough people said it quietly to them, including myself, including Des Wilson, including Oliver Kearney, including almost everybody holding the line in communities and holding them together. But out of loyalty nobody said it out loud. Nobody would be the big person to publicly say: This military campaign needs to be unilaterally ended to give the rest of us room to move. In fact I think that maybe Michael Farrell very bravely set that conversation out within the broad family of resistance. And if there is one thing – I know there are plenty of things that plenty of people will not forgive Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams – the list just gets longer. But there’s one thing that I will not excuse them, because I don’t know what forgiveness is, one thing that I do not excuse them is that at the point when a number of people, including myself, were saying: It is in the interest of the population, it is in your interest, it is in our interest, that you consider a unilateral ceasefire – and  nobody puts it on you – that you say in all of this conversation – that you believe it’s in the interest of the people, particularly after the period of the hunger strike and then the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and a realisation. And I remember the words that I used to them was: The present generation of people that you are drawing into the IRA are little more than children who are confessing their guilt on the kerb before the police put them in the jeep. Not being tortured in prison – they’re confessing on the kerb at the point of arrest. And that was clear. So why are you doing that?  And the answer that I got was: Go home! That’s what they said: Go home, Bernadette!

And of course you know, nobody ever got to talk to the IRA. You talked to people who had ‘an insight’ – I have to get this phrase right – you forget it. The people who had ‘an insight’ into the thinking of the IRA. I remember having a conversation once with Seamus Costello during my short but very educational membership of the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) and there was a similar kind of conversation where, in absolute frustration, I said to Seamus: Seamus, please do me a favour. Would you go to that men’s toilet there and while you’re in there and the door closed behind you would you have a conversation with the Chief of Staff of the INLA? (Irish National Liberation Army) (all laugh) And when you come out would you tell me what he said so that I can understand where I stand in this organisation? (all laugh) And he just looked at me, as he often did and said things like: Close the door behind you, Bernadette, on the way out.

So I think the point that I’m making here is that nobody sets out, nobody really sort of sets out to end up where they end up. I don’t believe that Sinn Féin and the Republican Movement, when they set out actually set out to be where they are now. I don’t believe that. I believe you can put a very simple analysis of it: If you lifted a frog and threw it in a pot of boiling water the instinct of the frog is to immediately jump out and it’s virtually unscathed. If you put it in cold water and turn the heat up slowly you get boiled frog. It gets comfortable. (quips) Mmmm – Mediterranean style water. And by the time the water’s too hot for it to survive it no longer knows how to get out. And I think that in a way that’s where we are in the politics in The North. Not only do we have Sinn Féin in government – and my problem is not that Nationalist Sinn Féin or Irish Nationalist Sinn Féin is in government with British Nationalist DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). It’s not the coalition, it’s not the ability of these people to work together that upsets me it’s the things on which they agree that upset me – it’s the things that they can do together – the fundamental things that bring them together that are more important to them than the different aspects of their various Nationalist outlooks – that’s what worries me about the future.

But not only have they got themselves there in this bizarre belief – and they both have this bizarre belief – that Martin is in there, and the party, as part of ‘the project’ – there’s a whole new language here you have to learn. The party says it’s part of ‘the project’ and ‘the project’ is the same as ‘the project’ always was. So when you’re remembering the 1916 Rising, if you’re making a funding application, it was ‘a project’. It may have been a field project – I don’t know whether they had to give any money back or not – but in this language the 1916 Rebellion was ‘a project’ – a project to unite Ireland. And that project is ongoing and carried forward by Sinn Féin and that project is on track. And the logic is very simple: How do we know it’s on track? Well Sinn Féin are in government in The North albeit with the DUP and albeit, in order to stay in government with the DUP, moving further and further and further to the social and economic right. That’s the price they’re paying and the price they are willing to pay. But they’re in government – so the project’s alright. And they’re in opposition so they’re in the Dáil – they’re in the opposition and on their way to government in The South. And Sinn Féin are the people, say the Republican Party, and this is a Republican project so Sinn Féin are the people. And so if Sinn Féin are in government in The North and on their way to government in The South then Ireland’s as good as free! Because when Sinn Féin is in the government on the both sides the people will be in the government on the both sides – so it’ll be the same thing as having a united Ireland because the same people will be running the two sides of it.

Now you begin to open up the mental health debate at this point (all laugh) because politically what you have to do to get to a point that that is a coherent argument. And it’s a bit like, if you go back and remember the time of the Birmingham Six, when the judge said: To believe that the police had behaved as they had, to believe that there had been a conspiracy to convict people who were innocent was such an appalling vista it couldn’t be true. And the appalling vista has a great hold on all of us. It was too appalling a vista, and it remains for many people too appalling vista to think, to even begin to think, that after half a century almost now of struggle – this whole thing’s screwed up. The price paid for it: The people dead, the people killed, the generations traumatised, the population whose mental health is in serious question, the hunger strikes and all the hidden bits – all the other bits that come through secrecy, all the internalised bits – the abuse of authority within the communities be that the IRA, the UDA, the police, the parish priest – all the people who suffered underneath that conflict it hardly bears thinking about that it might have been for nothing. That’s an appalling vista. That’s enough to paralyse your thinking for about ten years. That’s enough to fill you with such despair and such anger, such despondency that when people say: ‘It’s not working – we should try something else’ you either refuse to believe it’s not working (because you can’t go there) or you do believe it and so you give up entirely. And I think that that’s where people have been for a period of time and I think some people are still there.

Because where we’re looking at now is we have a political party formed called Saoradh – good luck to those boys, because if you couldn’t see it the first time – and I’ve seen them all – no harm to you – see all these heroes that have formed Saoradh, which is a change from Saor Uladh which was a change from Saor Éire. You see this group of people – they all bought into the peace process at the beginning and at the next bit and at the next bit and at the next bit – and the bit they fell out, to my memory, was over the police. And now they’re all going back to say: No. Sinn Féin sold us out so what’ll we do? We’re going to form a party that looks very like Sinn Féin – but ten years ago and we’re going to repeat the same thing again. And I have to ask a question. Einstein asked it and he was marginally more clever than me.  Sorry, but I was only thinking out loud there. (all laugh)  Einstein asked – put a proposition: That insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So at what time and in what place in our history, from 1798 onwards, are we going to step back and look and say: The model of political organising doesn’t work. That that concept of saying that we have basically a Republican philosophy that, in it’s context here – and I’m not talking about the wider concept of Republicanism as a democratic ideal but Republicanism as it has grown and generated here, was in a kind of mish-mash of populism, radicalism, Nationalism that is tied around freeing the nation first and then looking at the social policies second – that is tied around a belief that in order to progress the democratic project, the independence project, you must simultaneously have an open, democratic party and then a secret army up your sleeve – that’s the way it works.

It doesn’t work.   It didn’t work.   It never worked.  And it never will.  It doesn’t work.

And part of the reason it doesn’t work is secrecy doesn’t work. You cannot build a democratic movement through secrecy. You cannot win a democratic argument without open debate and discussion. You cannot actually hold and sustain progress without the support of the people. You can’t do it for them. You can’t win freedom for people and hope they’ll pat you on the back and take it and look after it for you. And at some point that has to be faced in this country.

And you can see the limitations of where it works. In my place of work I have met people who come in to complain. They have to see ‘Bern’dette’. I want to see Bern-dette. There’s about thirty people that work in our place but everybody has to see Bern-dette. And when people say: ‘I have to see Bern’dette’ everybody else in the place says: ‘Yeah’ because they know – there’s be no good coming off this meeting. These people are in to find out what Bern-dette’s going to do about the foreigners because it’s Bern’dette’s fault. She brought them here. People ring me up and say: Are you responsible for the Portuguese? Nope, absolutely not. You’re responsible for them foreigners. And the kind of conversation sometimes you get from people who fought for their own rights is: We didn’t fight for equality here for them to come over here and benefit. (applause)  We didn’t fight for equality for ‘them’ to come over and get the benefit of it. This is our, this is our equality. Rights. Rights. We didn’t fight for our rights for them to come over here and take our jobs. And I have a very simple philosophy and I always say: Well, tell me, which job did somebody – because this has been my life’s work – tell me which job you were entitled to that somebody stole from you and you and I will go and get it back right now! (huge applause) And then you discover; I didn’t apply for the job. I’m only making the point. (all laugh) Well why didn’t you because if that’s your problem we can help you apply for jobs. I’ve got a job! That’s not – you’re only twisting my arguments again! And so we’ve got this very narrow vision and part of me is fed up hearing about this place. Part of me is bored beyond sanity about hearing about Gerry Adams and the badness of him and Martin McGuinness and the badness of him and the petty squabbles for petty, parochial power in petty, little fiefdoms while the world is burning round us.

Part of me is so frustrated with this place’s obsession with its own navel because I go back to say that there are people in Northern Ireland – and I know exactly what that is and that’s crucial for me – who live precarious lives just on the edge of poverty. But there are millions of people in the world who don’t know where the next dollar is – not the next fifty dollars. People fleeing war and that chaos and I kind of think, because when I looked at this debate or this discussion, and I said to Stephen what about: ‘A Terrible State of Chassis’? because I had been in a conversation round the John Hewitt School stood of how O’Casey must have felt, how the people must have felt after the 1916 Rising, after the War of Independence, when it was all falling apart, when it all looked like chaos to them and how did they make it a century later when they’re looking to see how little real – and I’m not saying that we haven’t made progress – but the chaos that is the world.

And then I thought: Actually, chaos is only a point of view. We think and we understand and we perceive the system to be broken. People aren’t sure how to fix it but they know that it’s broken because it’s not working for them. But if you took a different point of view the system’s working perfectly. The system never was working better. The system was never intended to work for you. You exist to work for the system. That’s all – you exist to work for the system. (applause) And the system needs some of you to be unemployed and some of you to be homeless and some of you to be working and some of you to be fighting over who is employed and who isn’t and some of you to be confused and believe that the reason you’re working and he’s not or she’s not or they’re better off than you is because your religion or your colour or your gender or your sexual orientation is different from theirs and so we battle around and demand for an equality of injustice. An equality of poverty. An equality of misconception. When in reality slightly more – I think this room holds somebody said about two hundred and fifty people? Imagine if it held fifty people more; this whole room held three hundred people. There are three hundred people in the world, they all have names, they’re real people and between the three hundred of them they own as much of the world’s wealth as three hundred million of the poorest people in the world. So if you kind of filled this bit of this floor with another fifty people we have a world in which a roomful of people own as much of the world’s wealth as the entire population of North America, China and Brazil put together. And we never look at that inequality. We never look at a world where we think we have democracy but as I say, that woman that my mother, because she was a good person, said was a noble and gracious lady – the things I insist on repeating at every meeting – my mother said: The Queen of England was a noble and gracious lady – and my father said: That might be so. She is also the inheritor of the Butcher’s Apron and a receiver of stolen goods. And with a good education as a child. (all laugh)  And the other is never to leave a meeting without mentioning Leon Trotsky and working towards his rehabilitation in the revolution – at which point I’d like to own up that I voted for Jeremy Corbyn (huge applause) and he never managed to out me as a Trot or a former member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party and therefore not allowed to vote. (all laugh)  So the Trots got voting for Jeremy.

But the point I think that I want to make about the system and the new conversations we need to have is that we are still fighting an old argument on old lines and old ways that have shown not to work while increasingly and inevitably the world as a single place in that whole global question is coming down to the basic question. And the survival of this planet is caught up in that question: Socialism or Barbarism? And we’re watching barbarism. What kind of world looks at people drowning in the Mediterranean and says: ‘Not my fault.’? What kind of world looks at people backed up in Calais and the best we can do is organise rucksacks so that when they have to leave the camp they can take their belongings with them? And I’m not knocking that because I’m part of doing it but is that the only solution we’ve got?

Her Majesty the Queen, that noble and gracious lady, owns six thousand, six hundred million acres of the world. The Pope, one of the last remaining monarchs along with Her Majesty the Queen, he owns a hundred and seventy-seven million acres in the world. In fact the King of Saudi Arabia, he’s the next on the list, he apparently owns about two hundred and fifty three thousand million acres – five people between them own more than half the world. So maybe the questions that we need to start looking and the conversations we need to have should no longer be about the project of Nationalism but  should be about the project of land. As a rural person I keep telling you land is important – who owns the land owns what is built on it, owns what is dug out of it and increasingly fewer and fewer people own the land that is this planet. Fewer and fewer people own the water that is this planet. And when we have human rights conversations we talk about the right to vote. Soon you can vote whatever way you like because it will have no bearing on the politics of the world. No bearing at all.  You vote for governments that are powerless. If governments weren’t becoming powerless they wouldn’t let reprobates like Sinn Féin in and they wouldn’t let women be leading governments. The system is working. It is simply not working for us.

So we need new conversations. Human rights should not simply be about our political rights, our civil rights, and I’m not quite sure if we have national rights or community rights in the way that we think we have, but we have got to fight for human rights as an economic concept. If we have a right to live and if we have a right to life then we must have a right to the resources by which we can survive. And to have a right to those resources we must have ownership of land, ownership of water and ownership of the means to the production of wealth. Now there are ways we can get that. We can go toe-to-toe and fight for it. We have nothing to fight with. You cannot take the Michael Collins’ model of guerrilla action against people who can eradicate cities from the sky. You cannot win the battle of Aleppo with a Thompson sub-machine gun and a military, secret organisation any more than you could win this one.

So we have to start where we are and build new conversations. New conversations about who is stealing our resources not about whether Martin McGuinness is a good Nationalist or a good Republican. The man is in government and he needs to be held to account. And as a man in government held to account he has to answer to us. If there are insufficient resources in the North of Ireland such as it is so that the people only have a hundred pounds spare cash between them and starvation, that the housing crisis is worse than it was in the 1960’s, that people might have work but the work doesn’t pay so the working population are eating out of food banks – why is this man reducing corporation tax from twenty-eight percent, in his mind, to ten or twelve? These are the issues that we have to take up and these are the issues we have to fight.

There’s a new conversation and it has to be about extending human rights to economic rights. It has to be about building communities that are sustainable culturally, health-wise, socially, economically. It has to be about a participative democracy. And when I say that there’s always a contradiction and I’m going to end on it: I refuse to leg it with the Brits. Sorry about that. I have been rendered, not for the first time, as a not-very-serious-socialist and possibly not worthy of the name because I voted to remain in the European Union. The last time I transgressed so seriously it was because in the early 1970’s, when I should have been proselytising for the revolution, I went to watch Muhammad Ali fight in Madison Square Garden. I am as unrepentant about voting ‘remain’ as I am about going to see Muhammad Ali. But what did happen there, and I argued this at the start, our position should always have been that it wasn’t about staying in or getting out it was about understanding that we were between a rock and a hard place. I disagreed with the vote because I think the people took a very uninformed vote and I think the majority of the people who did vote to get out voted for not very progressive reasons but it was an exercise in participative democracy. It was a bit like release unto us Barabbas – not the smartest move you might have made. Think what we could have been spared if they had actually not voted to get Barabbas out and taken the other guy. Just think what the world would have been spared!

But in closing what I do want to say is that we have got to let go of an old conversation. And I don’t mean when I say that that we’ve to let go of the fight for justice, of the right to hold to account those who have to be held to account within the state for Bloody Sunday, for Ballymurphy. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about an endless argument about what Sinn Féin might have done and could have done and didn’t have done and somebody else might do around a methodology of organising that no longer works. About a narrow conversation that in today’s world hardly even matters because nation states are merely the puppets of corporate organisations and we are in the process of seeing, both North and South, of seeing this nation sold into the hands of those corporate powers without so much as a whisper. Meetings like this start this conversation and people like People Before Profit start this conversation so maybe that’s where we need to start organising – putting the people first, challenging the corporate profiteers and starting a new conversation because this is the last conversation in which I ever intend to mention Gerry Adams again. Thank you. (thunderous applause) (ends)

Brendan Hughes Commemoration Committee

Press Release




23rd OCTOBER 2016

The Brendan Hughes Commemoration Committee is pleased to announce that Martin Galvin will deliver the 2016 Brendan Hughes Lecture in Derry (The Playhouse, 7pm on Sunday the 23rd of October).

Previous Brendan Hughes Lecture speakers include Republican Ex-Pows Anthony McIntyre, Tommy McKearney, and Gerard Hodgins as well as International Human Rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, Clare Daly TD and the former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke.

Introducing the 2016 Brendan Hughes Commemoration Lecturer, Martin Galvin:

Martin Galvin is a New York Lawyer and former National Publicity Director for Irish Northern Aid (Noraid) and editor of the IRISH PEOPLE newspaper. Today he co-hosts Radio Free Éireann (available via Martin is a well-known and well-respected speaker at Republican events across Ireland and the US. For many years, the British government banned him from entering the north of Ireland and the Irish government banned him from being interviewed by the media. In 1984 Belfast man, John Downes, was murdered in cold blood, in front of TV cameras, and score more were injured, when the RUC opened fire as Martin addressed a peaceful rally. In 1989, in Derry City, Martin was seized by British troops and taken to England and placed on a military plane to the United States.

In New York, Martin’s work has been widely recognized, for example,by conferral of the prestigious post of Aide to the Grand Marshal of the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade. This appointment forced the PSNI to withdraw from the parade.

Is mise,

Joe Bell
Brendan Hughes Commemoration Committee

Seán Bresnahan RFÉ 8 October 2016

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
listen on the internet: Saturdays Noon EST

Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Seán Bresnahan (SB), the National Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the 1916 Societies via telephone from Co. Tyrone about The Societies’ recent hunger strike commemoration in Galbally, Co. Tyrone and about the effects of Brexit on Ireland and Irish unity.
(begins time stamp ~ 28:56)

MG:   We now have Seán Bresnahan on the airwaves from Co. Tyrone. Seán, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

SB:    Hello, Martin. How’s it going?

MG:   Doing the best. Seán, I was reading today’s Irish News, I don’t know if you’ve seen the article, but there was – one of the columnists, Patrick Murphy, was writing about what you did last week in Galbally. It’s a column – Stormont needs to deliver – not look good – and what he wrote, he said:

For many Nationalists, Stormont symbolises a failure to deliver on Irish unity. While Unionists are happy at having won the battle over partition, many on the nationalist side are increasingly disillusioned. For example, speaking in Tyrone’s traditional republican heartland of Galbally last week, former hunger striker, Tommy McKearney, described Stormont as ‘venial, futile, powerless’.

And Patrick Murphy had talked about the new British Press Secretary and he said, Patrick Murphy said:

It will take more than a press secretary to change that sentiment or to offset the reaction of some to Sinn Féin’s attendance at the Ulster (Six County?) Fry at the Conservative Party Conference. (last week)

Alright Seán, could you tell us what happened at that demonstration in Galbally, the hunger strike demonstration and why that was deemed so important that Patrick Murphy, the columnist, would take up the meaning of the demonstration in his column this week, almost a week later?

SB:   Well I haven’t actually seen the article you’re referring to but obviously I would agree with Tommy’s assertions at the parade and I think he called that right where he criticised Stormont but he also criticised the Free State government as well. And the basic argument that Tommy would be making and which we would support as well is that both of those states they basically feel empathy – they don’t serve the people of Ireland. They’re serving private interests. They’re serving British interests in The North and in The South they’re serving the interests of the Germans and the French, you know, anybody but the Irish people and what we’re calling for and what Tommy’s calling for is the establishment of a democratic republic you know that will stay and work for the people of Ireland.

The commemoration itself was a huge success. There were thousands there – very, very honoured to be there – to be part of it – and as I said there was thousands of people at it and, those numbers, that’s a testament that this project that Sinn Féin have been on for the last twenty years – whatever it may be – twenty-thirty years – has not got the support of the Republican people, so it hasn’t. And what I would say is that they have been making up for the shortfall in Republican support because they’ve been attracting votes from what traditionally would have been the constitutional Nationalist constituency, the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), those type of votes. So they’ve eclipsed that party; they’ve took that party’s votes and all of that has served to disguise that Republican people of Tyrone and in other areas- the likes of South Doire, the likes of Ardoyne, the likes of Lurgan, these places – though they’re not (inaudible) they’re not with this project and the proof of that is here to be seen when you look at the thousands of people on the streets at these commemorations.

MG:   Alright now Seán, the commemoration last week was a hunger strike commemoration and it was near the area there where Martin Hurson, the hunger striker from Tyrone, where he grew up – where his family was a bedrock of the Republican struggle in that area – and it was a hunger strike commemoration and one of the things about the hunger strike: These prisoners could have certainly worn a British uniform, gotten better conditions, they would have had parody of esteem with anybody else, the other prisoners who were held in Long Kesh. They could have ended the brutal treatment, or a lot of the brutal treatment that they had, because a lot of the brutality that was inflicted upon them, a lot of the beatings that they took, was to make them conform, wear a criminal uniform, simply dress up as criminals so that they could say that the whole struggle for Irish freedom – that that was a criminal enterprise – that those who fought against British rule in 1916 or 1981 – or at any time – that they were criminals because British rule was normal, British rule is legitimate, British rule was the proper entity to support and that those who were fighting against it were, in fact, criminals.

Now it seems as if in Stormont today – Gerry McGeough was sent to prison for something that happened in 1981 by a regime which Sinn Féin was a part of in which they had endorsed the RUC, sorry the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), the re-named RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), and the forces of British law and order. There were others. Seamus Kearney was sent to a British prison for the same thing. Ivor Bell is facing political proceeding for that same, opposing that same regime, in 1972. And it seems to me that what Stormont is doing is criminalising that struggle, criminalising Martin Hurson, criminalising the hunger strikers – if they’re sending them to prison for things that happened as part of that struggle in 1981 or 1980, like Seamus Kearney, or 1972, which the charges they have against Ivor Bell – if that’s criminal then surely Bobby Sands was a criminal under the terms of that regime and the people who showed up and supported Martin Hurson, who supported the hunger strikers, who support Bobby Sands and all of the hunger strikers, knew that these prisoners were not criminals, they were political prisoners, and it seems as if Stormont is working against everything that those prisoners resisted and died for.

SB:   Yeah well, there wouldn’t be much in that that I would disagree with, you know? But the thing about it is, as it was at the time and it remains the same, is that the only criminal in Ireland is the British government and the British presence in our country and that’s where the criminality lies.

MG:   Alright now Seán, your main proposal with the 1916 Societies: To revive feelings of patriotism and nationalism within the Twenty-Six Counties, to get a fair chance with the national unit of Ireland voting as a whole is a proposal – One Ireland One Vote – which not only would be one vote where people in Donegal, where people in Dublin could vote along side people in Doire and Down and have their votes count but it’s based on not only on petitions but referendum, debates – all those efforts to revive feelings that people in The South, people in the Twenty-Six Counties, they should be standing with people in The North in one vote that will lead to an end of British presence. How is that working out?

SB:   Ah well our campaign is ongoing, so it is. You know I suppose if you look at the wider picture – you were talking earlier there about Brexit – and I suppose that is a big change in what’s going on over here – it’s introduced a new dynamic and our hope would be that that dynamic could lead to our initiative maybe more people would get in behind it. And the way that we would see things is that at the moment what’s required is a national dialogue – it probably needs to be inclusive of all sections of the society here – but we also believe that the like of yourselves and Irish-America, people in the overseas diaspora – they have a role to play in this as well, it’s a very important role, perhaps to an extent that, because of your distance from the thing, you’ve probably got a more independent look at the thing, you know. But basically what we would like to see anyway is some kind of initiative that brings forward an all-Ireland Republic and for us the way to do that is to ask the Irish people in a national referendum.

MG:   (Pledge drive announcement ) A few months ago at the national Ancient Order of Hibernians’ Convention in New Jersey there was a resolution which commended One Ireland One Vote – that said that that’s something Hibernians should use to try and support freedom for all Ireland. You’ve seen the resolution, a copy was sent to you and I think it was delivered by Jim Sullivan, or should have been delivered by him when he was over in Ireland, but you’ve now read the resolution. How important was that resolution and similar resolutions by other groups in the United States? How much encouragement does that give you and weight does that give you in your campaign in Ireland?

SB:   Absolutely and as I said to you before previously it was a brilliant initiative by those who took it on board – great work and we’re very thankful for it to the Ancient Order of Hibernians for passing the resolution in the first place. And what we would hope is that it will open the door now for other like-minded groups in Irish-America to follow that course. So great work by all concerned you know and we welcome that one hundred percent.

MG:   Alright and hopefully that can be emulated not just by the Ancient Order of Hibernians but by other groups, county societies…

SB:   …Absolutely, yeah….

MG:   … legal societies, even the GAA, other groups like that that think about the idea that there was a One Ireland One Vote in 1918 – that’s what lead to the First Dáil – that led to an overwhelming majority or ended in an overwhelming majority for Thirty-Two Counties’ independence and that was met with British partition, it was met with the War of Independence. And ironically the best argument for your proposal came from Arlene Foster. When they had the vote on Brexit she said that a region within a country should not be able to exercise a veto on the will of the entire country. So if we apply that to Ireland, if we apply that to Ireland’s Thirty-Two Counties, then surely One Ireland One Vote should be adopted.

SB:   Yeah, well the thing about it is, Martin, we already know what the will of the people of Ireland is and even in the Good Friday Agreement it even alludes to this because it acknowledges that the will of the Irish people is to live in Ireland, to live in a sovereign republic. So for me, what really needs to happen here is Britain should leave Ireland and allow our people to freely exercise our right to national freedom and independence. You know I spoke about the Good Friday Agreement there – for me, regardless of that agreement, which is really a surrender treaty foisted upon our people by duplicity and deceit, you know the right of our people to self-determination remains intact, regardless, so it does – and that has to be our right to proceed.

MG:   Okay. Now Seán, you were recently in a debate for the Seán Heuston Society on Brexit. During the recent days Theresa May, the British Secretary (Prime Minister), she has said that they’re going to trigger, take the first step, Article 50, they’re going to do that in the beginning of next year – which should be some time before March of 2017 – and that is going to be the process which starts to get Britain out of the European Community. The Twenty-Six Counties is still in the European Community. It will divide Ireland and could lead to a hard border. It will lead to controls on immigration between the Six Counties and the Twenty-Six Counties. It will lead to tariffs. It will lead to other economic controls between the Twenty-Six Counties in Ireland and the Six Counties in The North. What are some of the things that you’re doing, your group is doing, to oppose this, to take this back to the point where Ireland’s economy and national border should be united?

SB:   Ah well the day after the referendum, the day the result came out I suppose, we got together and we discussed the whole implications of the thing and what we saw to go forward from there and we took the decision to write to all the elected parties in Ireland here putting forward our proposals as to what should happen. And as I mentioned earlier those proposals were that there needs to be a national dialogue, there’s needs to be an inclusive dialogue, inclusive of all sections of the society here in Ireland and including, as I said as well, yourselves and the diaspora. And what we think should happen is that – you know, Enda Kenny and these people are talking about a forum and that but what they really want to discuss is managing the impact of Brexit within just an order. But what we would be saying is that order needs to go and if there’s going to be some kind of a national dialogue or a national forum what the discussion needs to centre on is on proposals for an all-Ireland republic because that, as far as we’re concerned, and realistically you know, that’s the only thing that can resolve the situation as it stands. The way the thing is: Brexit has unleashed a new dynamic – nobody knows how to control it – people living here in The North are probably going to be the worst affected – as you were talking about earlier on it’s going to have an adverse effect on people living in The South of Ireland, too. We don’t like to divide the thing up between the people of The North and South – we see the whole thing as the people of Ireland – but it’s going to affect all the people of Ireland obviously negatively. But for us the simple a solution is: Let’s see a united Ireland. Let’s see an independent sovereign republic from there the matter should be be able to be resolved – that’s where we’re at anyway, Martin, you know?

MG:   The last time I was in Ireland we met just inside Co. Monaghan, I was staying there, and you came down just if – you live in Tyrone – if there was a hard border between Tyrone and Monaghan just what are some of the ways that that would that effect you and other people on either side of that border?

SB:   Well I suppose that all remains to be seen what way that’s going to end up. I would imagine when they talk about a hard border it’s probably relating more to the moving of goods and services than it is to actual ‘people’ – I don’t know. There’s a lot of talk about this Common Travel Area. A lot of people, like Jim Allister, and these people say the hard border won’t come into effect. Other people who were on the side of ‘remain’ they’re arguing that it will. It remains to be seen. But what I would stress anyway is that the reality is whether it’s a hard border, whatever – there’s a border. There’s a border in our country. And that border in our country has been put there by someone who has no right to put a border in our country and they should leave. That to me is the bottom line. It seems very simplistic, I know, but that’s where it’s at.

MG:   Alright. Now one of the things that is asked very frequently here is: Well, we have a border poll, it’s six counties and maybe we should go with that – that’s preferable. Why is the 1916 Societies they are – they’re demand is for One Ireland One Vote. They don’t think a border poll, a Six County vote, will ever lead to a united Ireland. Could you explain the difference and why you’re so convinced that a One Ireland One Vote is the only way to achieve a united Ireland?

SB:   Well see the thing about it is we believe in the inalienable right to self-determination. We believe the Irish people have that right and a border poll infringes on that right. What it does is it empowers what you’d call an artificial gerrymander – the Six County state – that’s what it is – it’s an artificial gerrymander. There’s a part of our country carved out of our country that passes as another state for reasons of political expediency on the part of Britain. So there’s no democratic legitimacy. There’s no right on it’s own to self-determination and we say the people of Ireland have the right to self-determination and we say that right should go forward. We see our initiative as one of the ways in which that can go forward and what we would hope is that an all-Ireland referendum or one to take place can bring forward an independent and free Ireland and we don’t think a border poll can do that because – I don’t know if you read some of the stuff I wrote on it lately and I know John Crawley has been on your show in recent times and spoke about the same thing is that we’re hearing now this talk about an ‘agreed Ireland’ and we’re also hearing now noises coming from the Establishment in the Free State and they’re talking about ‘weighted majorities’ and they don’t think that a majority decision would be fair. So we’re already seeing it shaping that they won’t allow a united Ireland to go forward even from a border poll but I don’t even think there’ll ever be a border poll to begin with, you know?

MG:   And one of the things about a border poll: It’s said that there is a provision about the border polls under the Good Friday deal, the Stormont deal, that you can have a second one – if you have a border poll and it fails you will not have another one for at least seven years. People somehow are making the argument that that means automatically every seven years it happens and then sooner or later…

SB:   …No, it does not…

MG:   …if we’re lucky… That’s absolutely untrue.

SB:   It doesn’t actually mean that. That’s not in the terms of the Northern Ireland Act which is what all this stuff goes on. It doesn’t go on the Good Friday Agreement it goes on the British legislation passed at Westminster in 1998 or subsequent to that and there’s no such provision that if there’s a border poll there has to be one every seven years. It just means that there can’t be another one inside that period but there might not be another one for twenty years. But as I said a minute ago there there won’t be a border poll. I know it’s plain to be seen. You can see it from the reaction the day of the Brexit. You can see it in the attitude of the Unionists, you can see it in the attitude of the British Secretary of State that said: Why would there be a border poll because there’s no appetite for constitutional change. So the reality of it is here – all they have to do to say: ‘We’re not holding a border poll’ is for the British Secretary to say I don’t think there’s any appetite for constitutional change so we’re not going to hold this exercise. So really what you’re talking about there is a British government veto. You know people talk about the Unionist veto but there’s also that British government veto – you know, the British government has a veto on Irish unity.

MG:   Well the Unionist veto is there whenever the British give it to them and they would take it back if it didn’t suit them to give them that veto. But I want to talk about something: I noticed on your website – I just usually hit up ‘Tyrone 1916 Societies’ and it comes up – you put in the articles every week – there’s was a great article about the hunger strike march in Galbally last week, your debate about Brexit is featured, there are other materials but in the Twenty-Six Counties in many areas there is not as much movement, activity, support shown for around the issue of a united Ireland as there is in many areas in The North. But one area, which I was very pleasantly surprised, I have relatives in Offaly and in Westmeath, you have a Spirit of Freedom Society which works in that area. They have organised quite a number of activities. They seem to be very active in that area – in Westmeath, in Meath, in Offaly – throughout that area, the Midlands, in organising debates, in organising commemorations, in keeping that whole issue of One Ireland One Vote alive. What’s your reaction to them?

SB:   Ah! The group you’re talking about is the Spirit of Irish Freedom Society, is actually from Westmeath but it’s in that same area you’re talking about and I have to say they have great people for it. They’ve recently come on board with ourselves in the last couple of years and in many ways they’re leading the way forward, you know? So as you say they’re holding plenty of debates, they’re holding music sessions and they’re rallying away for the One Ireland One Vote – they’re standing in the streets with the petitions every Saturday afternoon in Mullingar so yeah, definitely doing a mountain of work – and great to see it happen.

I just want to pick up on one wee thing that you said there which was about that there isn’t the same appetite as there is in The North – we don’t necessarily know that that’s true. A lot of that there I would contend would be propaganda, you know? And really the reason for that is because what the Establishment needs to do is maintain this narrative that the people of Ireland don’t want Irish unity. That the people of Ireland don’t want to live in a united Ireland or they’re afraid of a united Ireland – they’re afraid of the consequences. I don’t believe that for a second and for me personally I would trust the Irish people one hundred percent that if it comes to it – if they’re asked what they want – that’s what they’ll support.

MG:   Alright Seán, I think what the problem is they’re told all the time by the government that they can’t do anything until this border poll comes up and there’s a Nationalist majority and so they have no say until that happens. And in fact, they could vote unanimously for a united Ireland – the Twenty-Six Counties could vote unanimously for a united Ireland – and if there’s a small majority in The North against it, under the agreement, if that’s what’s followed, you don’t get it. That’s one of the problems.

SB:   Well this is the problem. And that is a real problem and that’s why just knowing that there’s people listening in, Irish-America, I would like to draw their attention to some of the stuff that’s coming out from other parties where they’re talking about a national referendum and they’re talking about a referendum on Irish unity but what they are really looking for is not an all-Ireland referendum. What they’re talking about is two referendums but they want them to be on the same day but as you were just explaining that is the case: That no matter if one hundred percent of the people in the Twenty-Six County state voted for Irish unity and one percent was bearing on in The North – it doesn’t happen. So it’s the Unionist veto – that’s exactly what it is.

MG:   Alright, Seán, we are coming up to the end. I did want to ask you: John and I have said over and over again that this station – it’s not just important to people in the United States but the fact that, for example, you can be heard, that Kevin Martin was in these studios, that other groups can be heard on these airwaves airing issues like Tony Taylor – that that’s very important to you in Tyrone – it’s very important to people in The North – those people who support a united Ireland. I’ll just ask you just what your reaction is to that?

SB:   Well, I’ve been listening to this show this afternoon and I suppose like the previous speakers I’d just echoed that sentiment asking people to support today’s fund raising venture. And you know definitely Radio Free Éireann is a great asset for ourselves here in Ireland you know, keeping us in touch with what’s going on on your side of the water and long may it continue!

MG:   Alright, thank you. That was Seán Bresnahan from the 1916 Societies. I know on his website he’s put up quite a number of events – John Crawley’s interview, other interviews about the show and supported it as has Anthony McIntyre on The Pensive Quill as have other websites because people in Ireland look forward to this radio station, for these interviews, for these voices to be heard. And the fact that they’re heard from America in America they know the British pay attention to that, they know the British government listens to our show, they know (and monitors the show) they know that it has twice the impact as if they could be heard at all – which they’re not in many cases in Ireland – within Ireland, North or South. (ends time stamp ~ 53:35)

Michael Doherty RFÉ 8 October 2016

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
listen on the internet: Saturdays Noon EST

Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Michael Doherty (MD) of the Free Tony Taylor committee via telephone from Doire about how the British government is again perverting democracy and the rule of law by using internment-by-licence, this time in the case of this Doire Republican.  (begins time stamp ~ 46:41)

MG:   Michael Doherty.  Michael, welcome to Radio Free Éireann.

MD:   Thanks, Martin. Thank you very much.

MG:   Michael, you’re on the committee, we just introduced the story of Tony Taylor, why you think it’s internment-by-licence. I just want to read something from today’s Irish News . The headline of the story: ‘Priest Joins Call for Release of Derry Republican Prisoner’ and it’s a priest, Father Patrick O’Kane, called for Tony Taylor’s release; the latest. And he says:

The case simply boils down to this – they should either charge him or release him. The fact is however they are in no rush to do so and seem quite happy to simply sit on their hands and keep Tony locked up. That is where the injustice lies.

Michael, could you tell us about Tony Taylor, about why he’s in prison, why he doesn’t get a hearing that his own lawyer can attend and defend him and then try and show his innocence?

MD:   Yeah, well Tony was released from prison in 2014 and they released him under a system called ‘licence’ which means that if you pose a risk to the public or re-offend you can be brought back to prison to then stay out the remainder of your sentence, okay? Now what happened with Tony was he was released, he abided by the terms of his licence. He continued to peacefully agitate on issues regarding prisoners’ rights, the welfare of the cuts that were happening to the poor in society and he became an important member of the community for those issues while remaining Republican and opposed to the political regime here. And what happened was that in March of this year while Tony was out shopping with his wife and three kids he was surrounded by armed police, arrested and returned to prison. Now what they said then was that Tony was returned to prison and his licence was revoked because he posed a risk to public safety. And that’s all they said.

MG:   Alright. And then when – how does he contest that? How would he and his lawyer, Aiden Carlin, be prepared to contest that? And I understand there is some kind of hearing but neither Tony Taylor or his solicitor can attend that hearing and be told exactly what the accusations are against him. Is that correct?

MD:   Yeah, well before that we need to go a little bit further back in that October of last year Tony was arrested and taken to a police station in Belfast. He was questioned for two days over alleged Republican activity. The police unconditionally released him but they sent a file to the legal authority here, the Public Prosecution Service, to see whether charges should be brought, okay? So Tony was released; he was quite happy. And then he was again taken back into prison. But why he’s been in prison since the Public Prosecution Service has stated that on this evidence, or the lack of it that was produced, Tony has no case to answer. So the next part of the process now is that the British Attorney General will appoint an advocate who will take up Tony’s case. Tony isn’t allowed to appoint his advocate nor is his solicitor – it is done by the British system. This advocate then will meet Tony and his solicitor and discuss Tony’s concerns with him and Tony’s incarceration with him. Then this advocate goes to a private meeting with the Parole Commissioners at which the evidence, or so-called evidence, will be produced but this is all in private and secret so…

MG:   …And the advocate, Michael – correct me if I’m wrong – the advocate is not allowed to tell Tony or his solicitor exactly what the specific charges are. So for example, let’s say I’m going to go to Doire in a couple of weeks – suppose I was charged with something that happened today if I had a licence – that happened today at this particular time – whatever it is – six o’clock in Doire. If I knew about the accusation I could say: Wait a second! I was on the radio. John McDonagh was with me at all times. Michael Doherty was on the radio on the other end. There is a tape. There will be a transcript on I have an absolute alibi. But if you don’t tell me what it is precisely, what the time frame is, what actions I’m doing I have no way to tell an advocate – an advocate has no way to present that. The advocate’s not allowed to tell me what the precise charge is because that, somehow, would endanger the safety and security of the British government. Isn’t that how it works?

MD:   That’s exactly the case! I mean how can you defend yourself against charges when you don’t know what they are, when they’re supposed to have taken place – as you say – automatically if you have an alibi for any accusation then you don’t know that you actually even have it because you don’t know when it’s supposed to have taken place.

MG:   And Michael, another thing I want to bring out: Tony Taylor is supported by all of the Nationalist politicians – he’s been supported by Eamonn McCann, who is now an MLA with People Before Profit. He’s supported by Anne McCloskey, who was an unsuccessful candidate. He’s been supported even – as well as priests, as I mentioned – by the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) and even by Martin McGuinness but that doesn’t seem to matter at all – Tony Taylor is still in! They keep saying they need agreements from everybody, from the whole community, to investigate legacy cases or to release funding for inquests but they don’t seem to need one when a British Secretary wants to imprison Tony Taylor.

MD:   Well you see this is the problem with the whole system in itself in that, I can’t remember how many years ago, Policing and Justice were supposedly devolved to the administration in Belfast which included the SDLP, Sinn Féin and (inaudible) in Stormont as well.  But in this matter they have claimed it’s what called a ‘reserved matter’ regarding national security so therefore the decision was made by the Secretary of State. Her initial decision to imprison Tony was found three weeks later to be illegal because they hadn’t even followed their own flawed process. The Secretary of State was supposed to talk to the Probation Service to find out if Tony had broken any of the conditions of his probation and they didn’t even do that. So the first three weeks of Tony’s incarceration they have now admitted were completely illegal. But of course in the meantime they have now retrogradedly come back and sorted that out but for the meantime Tony is still inside and Stormont is effectively powerless in it – this is coming from London.

MG:   Alright were have one, Theresa Villiers, that I usually refer to as Lady Macbeth because she starts to – just like Lady Macbeth – rubbing her hands to wash away the blood stains – Theresa Villiers used to do that with speeches. She’s the original Secretary who imprisoned him. That’s been taken up and adopted by James Brokenshire, the person who the Ballymurphy Massacre families walked out on last week, and who was recently telling American politicians how open he is, that a new day has dawned and there is justice but still he continues and maintains the internment-by-licence of Tony Taylor. And Michael, could you tell…

MD:    Yeah well the difficulty with James Brokenshire, sorry for interrupting there, is that if you look back at his own political history the people who are making the accusations against Tony Taylor are these secretive MI5 security services. And if you look back in James Brokenshire’s history he is from them. He was a member of MI5 or at least an associate of them for many years so he has that background. So it’s a continuation of Villiers’ regime. I can’t see how he can speak about openness and resolving issues of the past when there’s a current issue which he could resolve immediately at the stroke of a pen or at least, if he’s not willing to do that and release the man immediately, at least bring him to court and get the evidence out there whereas supposedly a western democracy they would believe in natural justice.

MG:   Alright. It seems that Tony Taylor is being used as a pawn, as a Sword of Damocles over the head of anybody else – there are many people who are former Republican prisoners who may have licence or time who were released under either the Good Friday deal or other sentences and have to know that they could be the next Tony Taylor if they become too active in the community, if they start to be of concern to the British government they can simply be put in and that would be it. And Tony Taylor – he owes a total of four years, if they want to keep him there that long. He’s a man with a family, a wife, I know one of his children is handicapped and this is a situation that continues to go on despite the fact that so many Nationalist politicians, clergy, have supported him. Alright Michael, we want to thank you for bringing that to our attention, we’ve got to close off just in a minute, is there any final word you want to say?

MD:   Well I’d just like to say that exactly that point: That it is the fear that if they can do this to Tony Taylor, do this to anyone on licence, then it’s the next step to do this to anybody. So it’s a natural justice issue for everybody not just one small group.

MG:   Alright. We want to thank you, Michael Doherty, for coming on talking about Tony Taylor and I hope to see you in a couple weeks when I’m in Doire at The Playhouse at the Brendan Hughes Lecture.

MD:   We will be there as well. We will have a stall there and we’ll look forward to seeing you there.

MG:   Great.

JM:   And Martin, you’re seeing now the value of Radio Free Éireann because the British government have learned a lot over the last thirty years with people that are out on bail we’ve experienced that they’ve told us they can’t do interviews anymore. They can’t even live in the area where they’re from – they have to stay away. So and then anybody that we would like to interview, say like a Tony Taylor, they’re now being interned so they are making it far more difficult for radio stations here in New York City, particularly WBAI and Radio Free Éireann, to get voices out there and to get voices on because they’re clamping down on it by making the bail conditions – or if they don’t make bail conditions – we’ll just lock you up! (ends time stamp ~ 58:36)

Radio Free Éireann Announcement

Radio Free Éireann will have a 2 hour special broadcast this Saturday October 8th from Noon to 2PM New York time or 5PM to 7PM Irish time on WBAI 99.5 FM or or anytime after the program concludes on

Famed actor Malachy McCourt, the recipient of this year’s Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, will talk about this prestigious award and give his unique perspective on current events.

A representative of the Tony Taylor campaign will discuss the latest case of internment-by-licence of this well-known Derry Republican.

Author Eamon Loinsigh will speak about his new novel, Exile on Bridge Street, about a young Irish emigrant sent to Brooklyn as his family lives the struggle of the 1916 Easter Rising and its aftermath.

Sean Bresnahan of the 1916 Societies will report on last week’s massive Hunger Strike Commemoration in Tyrone and the latest British moves on Brexit.

The two hour special is Radio Free Éireann’s segment of WBAI’s fall fund raising drive where listeners can support the station and show support for Radio Free Éireann.

Go to Radio Free Éireann’s new web site,, where you can read transcripts of recent headline making interviews including last week’s interview with John Teggart of the Ballymurphy Massacre Families about their fight for justice and why they walked out of a meeting with recently appointed British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire.

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Exile on Bridge Street details teenage Irish immigrant Liam Garrity’s struggle to adulthood in pre-Prohibition Brooklyn. Back home, Ireland’s fight for its own independence erupts with the 1916 Easter Rising. The fate of Garrity’s father, an Irish rebel, is unknown which leaves his mother and two sisters vulnerable on the family farm as British troops swarm seeking reprisals. Garrity must organize their departure to New York immediately. In Brooklyn, Garrity is adopted by Dinny Meehan, leader of a longshoremen gang based in an ‘Irishtown’ saloon under the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Meehan vows to help Garrity and his family. But just as Ireland struggles for independence Garrity faces great obstacles in his own coming of age on the violent Brooklyn waterfront. World War I, the Spanish Influenza, the temperance movement, the rise of Italian organized crime, police, unions and shipping and dock companies all target the Brooklyn Irish gang and threaten Garrity’s chances of bringing his family to New York. When ‘Wild Bill’ Lovett, one of the gang’s dock bosses, vies to take over both Meehan and Garrity face a fight for survival in New York City’s brawling streets mirroring Ireland’s own fledgling independence movement.

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BBC Radio GMU Fr. Gary Donegan 3 October 2016

BBC Radio Ulster
Good Morning Ulster
3 October 2016

Chris Buckler (CB) interviews Father Gary Donegan (GD) in the studio about being confronted by members of the Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective after the contentious Orange Order parade past the Ardoyne shops this past Saturday. (begins time stamp ~ 1:37:32)

CB:   Many hope that this weekend marked the end of one of the most contentious parading disputes here in recent years. On Saturday morning, more than three years after restrictions stopped their parade from passing the Ardoyne shops, the three Ligoniel Orange Order lodges marched up the Crumlin Road. That was the result of a deal between Orangemen and the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents’ Association (CARA). But everyone wasn’t happy with the arrangement. During the parade supporters of the Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective, that’s GARC, held a protest and they also angrily confronted Father Gary Donegan who was involved in the negotiations.

Audio: Confrontation of Father Donegan.

CB:   Well listening to that in studio is Father Gary Donegan. First of all just give me your reaction to being confronted like that because for years you’ve been involved in trying to, I suppose, keep the peace, in simple terms, in Ardoyne.

GD:   Yeah, I’m not somebody who’s easily shocked you know like but I suppose the nature of it and the strength behind some of the language and it took me back to 2001 during the Holy Cross blockade and you could kind of almost expect that because there was a sectarian element to this but this was from within my own community so I was kind of taken back by it to some extent. But I’ve never cowered from anything in my life and I certainly wasn’t going to be from them and the irony was that quite a few of the protagonists, you know I’ve been involved directly in pastoral situations in their lives and been involved in some very serious situations in their lives so it just seemed strange that– and certainly I suppose my experience is that a cleric, whether they come from the Muslim, Jewish or Christian background, and the sense is that I’ve always advocated the right to protest but it’s always been with a sense of dignity and decorum. And what I witnessed was actually the opposite to that and in fact whatever their point was they actually lost it because you know if they really believed that they needed something to say then I mean, I’ve given them a platform to do that time and time again and the door’s always been open to them. In this case they were actually shouting me down like in a sense is because I was just one person you know and I had an opinion so my opinion is as valid as theirs – it mightn’t have been the same, it mightn’t have been – but again the irony was that I’ve always kind of stressed, from whatever side, people do have the right to protest.

CB:   We did try to get in touch with GARC, this resident’s group in Ardoyne, they didn’t get back to us. However, I suppose we should set out that they feel that this deal doesn’t represent the best interests of the residents there and they feel that the majority of residents, in their view, are against this whole agreement that allowed the parade to go up the road.

GD:   Yeah, and I’ve been at pains to stress that this was never going to be something that everybody was going to accept. I mean you can’t have the history of that area, you can’t have all that has happened there, the most contentious piece of space that we know, without people of both sides having difficulty with this. But the sense was that this is what the majority of people – and we even had public meetings for people like you said and some people were quite vociferous in actually shouting down this agreement and they had their opportunity to actually say that. I mean, we’ve been caught in a deadlock. I personally walked that road for two and a half years and the irony was that some of these people that were in my face the other day – I never seen them up next or near that when I was actually trying to protect young people from getting involved in probably anti-social behaviour which would leave them with criminal records and destroy their lives. So I mean, it’s easy to get up when the cameras are there, when the microphones are there but the reality was they weren’t there for two and a half years like I was.

CB:   Do you understand the rancor? And what did you think of the Orange Order’s parade itself that took place on Saturday?

GD:   Well I mean the majority of people in that area find marches in general objectionable, right? And then people who are marching they feel it’s their right to actually march so you’ve got two polarised kind of views in that kind of section. And I mean I fully understand the frustration that is behind all of that. I know the history of the place. I’ve been in the homes. You know, like I mean the largest loss of life of the modern day Troubles, as we euphemistically call them, was lost in that area. I mean I spoke in the UN a couple of years ago and to put it in context it’s an equivalent of fifty thousand people dying in LA or four point two million people dying in America. I mean when you consider what happened on 9/11 and how that’s changed the world even for us to travel nowadays is a chore rather than actually a joy and so you can imagine how disaffected that square mile. Yes, of course I understand that. I mean that’s why, like in a sense, I empathise so much. I mean again, I find it strange that I walked during and received some horrific insults and hurt during 2001 and I wasn’t found wanting for the people then and I don’t feel I have been since. But the reality is that: Here was my view, it was different to theirs. They could have come to me and said to me, in whatever language they wanted to do – I mean it’s not like as if I’m shrinking violet – I mean they know that – but I just think they crossed the line and the reaction, so far, has been incredible. I mean, I’ve had people from abroad contacting and actually saying – but the story should be about the attempt to build a platform for the future there not about individuals and the reality is that this is just a beginning. I mean it isn’t a resolution. It isn’t a solution. It’s a beginning – it’s a platform. We need to build on that. We need to build community relations.

CB:   And on that point, I mean you’re here and you’re criticising people of your own community I suppose and actually there’s been no criticism of the way the Orange Order conducted their parade. It took place, it took a few minutes to go up that stretch of road and it was relatively dignified actually in the way it took place. Do you think this can mark a turning point, therefore, in relationships because you do at least now have these negotiations between that other residents’ group, CARA, and Orangemen?

GD:   Yes, because you see a residents’ association shouldn’t just be about parading. It shouldn’t be. Think about it, I mean in that area, combined in both areas, there’s issues around alcohol, drug abuse, there’s issues around suicide, there’s issues around housing, issues around education – that these collectively – these residents’ groups should be actually using their voice to actually champion those particular causes. I mean every time we go to talk about something in Ardoyne or in North Belfast parading clouds the agenda and the horizon. Here’s an opportunity just to break in the horizon to actually to begin to build.

CB:   And just finally: There will be people, I suspect, who support GARC listening to this this morning. What would you say to them particularly given the words that were used. And I mean we haven’t talked about the specific insults against you. I mean we’ve heard a little bit of the heckling but I mean some of them were quite strong words used against you.

GD:   Yes. And I looked into people’s eyes and I’ve seen you know some of the footage and I think of the likes of my family watching that. They know that I’ve served that area for fifteen years. I’ve put my life on the line. I’ve received death threats from both sides of the community. I mean and I would continue and I would have given my life to that place unfortunately the nature of our rules means that I have to move on at the moment. I’ll be in the area on a daily basis but I’ll living elsewhere in Crossgar. But I mean I love the people there and I mean if it took them venting their spleen at me rather than somebody else then it’s a price to pay but it wasn’t a very pleasant experience.

CB:   Father Gary Donegan thank you very much for coming in this morning and talking about that. As I mentioned earlier we did try to contact members of GARC however they didn’t respond to our calls. (ends time stamp ~ 1:46:00)

John Teggart RFÉ 1 October 2016

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
listen on the internet: Saturdays Noon EST

Martin Galvin (MG) interviews John Teggart (JT) via telephone from Belfast about the Ballymurphy Massacre families’ search for justice. (begins time stamp ~ 20:46)

MG:   With us on the line we have John Teggart of the, well I’ll call it the Ballymurphy Massacre Group.  John, welcome to Radio Free Éireann. I believe this is your first time on the programme.

JT:   It is, Martin. Thanks for the invite.

MG:   Alright John, we want to cover – we’ve talked and covered the story of Bloody Sunday. We’ve been fortunate to have people like Kate Nash and Eamonn McCann and others who brought us up-to-date on what happened. Now the Paratroop Regiment was involved in Bloody Sunday in January of 1972. But a few months earlier than that Paratroops were stationed in Ballymurphy, one of the – well I’ll call it a Nationalist/Republican heartland off the Falls Road in Belfast, they were stationed there at the time of internment in August 9th of 1971 and over a period of a few days they conducted themselves in such a way as to – the phrase has been coined the ‘Ballymurphy Massacre‘. I know you could talk about it for a long time but just give us a nutshell – what happened during those few days in your home area of Ballymurphy?

JT:   Well in August, 1971 – the 9th of August, 1971 that was the start of internment without trial. The internment sweep happened at 3:40AM that morning and the massacre – we need to decouple from the massacre – the massacre didn’t happen on the internment sweep; the internment sweep was over sixteen hours earlier.

What happened was the British Paratroopers, the same soldiers on the ground on Bloody Sunday, started firing at civilians in their own area and resulted in eleven people being murdered over three days including my father, Danny Teggart, who was shot fourteen times. A Catholic priest – and you have to remember when we talk about Bloody Sunday you’ll remember the iconic figure of the priest with the white hankie – well the priest with the white hankie happened in Ballymurphy first but the hand that he was holding it with he was shot through that arm and he subsequently died from them injuries.

MG:   That was Father Mullan holding up a white handkerchief – you’re talking about Bishop Edward Daly, who recently passed away, holding up a white handkerchief in Doire as they carried the body of one of the people who was shot down in Doire on Bloody Sunday – they didn’t open fire. But one of the things we’ve talked about is how Father Hugh Mullan in Ballymurphy was doing the same thing – holding up a white handkerchief as a gesture of truce, don’t shoot, neutrality – and was shot down. Just tell us, we can’t go through everybody – but just – it would take too much time, but just tell us – you said your father was shot a number of times. What was he doing when he was shot? How many times was shot during the Ballymurphy Massacre?

JT:   He was shot fourteen times. My father and his brother, both residents of the area, were there for the first shots which occurred. Father Mullan was only fifty yards from the first man who was shot and he could see what was going on that’s why he left his home – at fifty yards away. For the initial shots my father got separated from his brother where he could have been safe was the barrack – two hundred and fifty yards down the street. In the barrack there was eighty-five paratroopers and by the time he got there he had time to relax – talk to people – and then all of a sudden the paratroopers from the barrack, where there were eighty-five paratroopers, started firing indiscriminately into the crowd. My father had stopped momentarily because he heard a young lad getting shot behind him – and subsequently he was shot in the leg. My father lay out in the open on a bright Summer night fifty yards away from the barrack where he was shot repeatedly as he lay defenceless on the ground with a total fourteen shots passed through his body. They were high velocity shots so there was no bullets in the body because they were so close to him.

MG:   Alright, John. There were eleven people killed. It happens over a three day period. I had actually – I’ve written letters, said that they were shot during internment. You’ve corrected that mis-impression that I had – this was decoupled – it was hours later and over a period of days after the internment sweeps were over. The British government always says that they believe in law and order, that anybody who, if they wear a Crown uniform, they’ll meet justice, that they will be subject to the legal process. What legal process was these troopers who shot your father fourteen times, who killed a Catholic priest, who killed eleven people in those three days – what happened to them in terms of the legal system?

JT:   Well in terms of the legal system you heard of the Widgery trial at Bloody Sunday well we had something similar which was the Widgery Inquest, if you could call it that – inquest – or the inquest my mother and all the families, for all eleven families (inaudible) inquest was sitting where the paratroopers gave their names in a brown envelope and handed it over. There was none, families of civilians weren’t called to give eyewitness if only just to say that they identified the bodies in the morgue. There was no police investigation – even to today – so the police weren’t given evidence at all – so that, as far as the legal system went in 1972: No witnesses called, the Army was allowed to give their version without being challenged or put in the dock for to be questioned either by the (inaudible) or the police of the day.

MG:   Alright. what you’re talking about, the Widgery Report: Immediately after or a few months after Bloody Sunday a tribunal was established – the Widgery Report – British troops concocted, got together cover stories they just – these were routinely rubber-stamped by a special British judge, Lord Widgery. I remember at one time going to Ireland and you know if you told a nonsensical story, you’d make up something or you know you’d give an excuse they’d say: ‘Widgery wouldn’t believe that’ you know or you’re going to ‘Widgery that one’ – it just became a synonym for anything that was ridiculous, an outrageous lie, a cover-up. He was the one who said that everybody at Bloody Sunday had weapons or bombs or nail bombs or something like that and you’re saying essentially that that’s what happened – this was just a legal white-wash for the British paratroopers who were involved with the Ballymurphy Massacre and may have been the reason why they thought they could get away with it so easy on Bloody Sunday. Would that be fair to say?

JT:    That’d be a hundred percent. That’s exactly the way it was. It was a whitewash that the soldiers were allowed to shoot down civilians with impunity which gave them the opening for on Bloody Sunday. But the first was Ballymurphy was that it wasn’t a moment of madness. This happened over three days. It didn’t happen in twenty minutes. These guys were being attacked on the local community and it didn’t ease off in them three days. You have eighty-five paratroopers in the Army barrack in Ballymurphy on the 9th. By the time it come to the 11th there was six hundred paratroopers coming into Ballymurphy. There was 1 Para, 2 Para, 3 Para – never happened before and not since even and they came into Ballymurphy and if you ever see the chronology map that we have you can see that as they moved through the streets they murdered and shot and brutalised people from street to street.

MG:   Alright. The Paratroop Regiments goes into Ballymurphy, they shoot down eleven people. There’s some kind of legal whitewash – everybody’s accused of having a gun or something like that although no British troopers were injured. You have been trying for an independent inquiry, you and the other Ballymurphy families, have been trying for an independent inquiry to get some kind of justice, to have a real investigation, to have your first chance, really, for civilians, as you say, to speak about what they saw and heard what really happened. And you’ve been trying to have inquests as part of the legacy inquests that we’ve talked about to get to the point where you can have an independent inquiry. It’s been more than forty-five years. Why is it that the British government does not allow or hasn’t allowed yet these inquests, which have been promised to you, so that you could take those steps, air the issues and maybe get another step towards an independent inquiry?

JT:   We were granted the inquest in about 2010. We haven’t got an Attorney General in The North for over thirty years. So in 2011 when that post was filled again we were granted an inquest into the deaths of eleven civilians. From then on we would have had blockage after blockage trying to get disclosure off the British government and that had went on for the past forty-five years. It’s come to a stage where the Lord Chief Justice, who just come in the post last October, 2015, had said that the system wasn’t adequate and he had brought things around where he had refused until all the deaths were included in the legacy inquest, ninety-five in total, and he came to the conclusion that he needs to set to – to do his job – he needs to set up an independent unit in the Coroner’s Court for the work (inaudible) and he had said that he would be confident that he could do all this work, all the fifty-six inquests into ninety-five deaths, within five years but for that he needed proper funding. Proper funding was part of the Stormont House Agreement where the legacy inquest would be made Article 2 compliant. They weren’t and from then the MoD (Minister of Defence) and the British government was able to choke the system of resources which meant from September 2014 til now we have been in the courts since.

MG:   Alright now John, you and the other families – James Brokenshire, he’s the one who took over for Theresa Villiers. I used to call her Lady Macbeth Villiers – just she reminds someone playing Lady Macbeth – but Lady Macbeth is a famous Shakespeare character who used to wander the halls at night and she’d rub her hands trying to do away the bloodstains and it seems – Theresa Villiers would do that with speeches about ‘pernicious counter-narratives‘ in The North of Ireland that the British can do no wrong. But she’s been replaced. You have James Brokenshire. He’s been telling members of Congress and people in Washington that everything is going forward, the British government is going to look after victims and they have an open ear and they want to see everything settled. You and the other Ballymurphy families met with James Brokenshire recently. Could you tell us what happened during that meeting?

JT:    Well we had thought the way, like you said, that he had told other people that he wanted to work with the legacy of the past and he spoke in Washington and he spoke in Oxford and all these things were coming out of it. But he wasn’t asked the proper questions. He wasn’t asked: Is he going to deal with Ballymurphy and the legacy inquests? Is he going to deal with the outstanding case of Pat Finucane’s family and other families – he wasn’t asked these questions and he would have been put on the spot where he wouldn’t answer them – he had a (inaudible) like he did with ourselves. So we had met him. We thought it couldn’t get any worse than Mrs. Villiers and we sat down in front of him. The families told their story how their loved ones died, the aftermath of how it affected the family and everything else – and I’m sure many people listening that have met the families know what I’m talking about – and then we’ll get down to business. Let him speak. First he passed on condolences to the Murphy Family who, Mrs. Murphy, died on the same day as her husband forty-five years ago both of them buried together and also I had to remind him that there was also another death in recent weeks – that of Joseph Corr.

The first question was about the inquests: Is he going to fund them and when is the funding going to happen? He had said that he needs to get directions from the Executive and he hadn’t seen the support from the Executive for the funding of these inquests. I had reminded him that there was six parties from the Executive in the room supporting our campaign and supporting what that meeting was about – was funding for the legacy inquests – and he went dumb. He went dumb again when he was reminded that under that the Stormont House Agreement he had the commitment to make the legacy inquests Article 2 compliant and he was reminded that under European law that he had to (inaudible) the case, investigating it into the deaths by the British state.

MG:   Alright, and you ended up walking out of that agreement because he made it clear that they wouldn’t release any funding without saying he needed agreement from Arlene Foster and – which just seems to be a sham, an excuse. I actually happen to see, somebody I wouldn’t normally agree with, Newton Emerson, had a piece up on The Detail, he does these animated pieces and he says you know – the British have this thing : ‘Oh! Everything must be agreed before anything goes forward’ and that seems to really to be an excuse to do nothing – and essentially I think that’s what he told you during that meeting which led you and the other families to walk out.

JT:   Yeah, he put it back to the Executive. But before we had walked out we reminded him about his responsibilities from the British state he had said, after we had said that he said: I have to respect the views of other parties within the Executive and obviously he’s only talking about one party…

MG:  …Look John, I’ve just made the point before and I’ll make it again: When it comes to putting Tony Taylor in jail, who was brought in and interned-by-licence, James Brokenshire nor Theresa Villiers didn’t need anybody’s agreement. They didn’t ask Martin McGuinness, who is opposed to that, what he thought. They just did it. I think it’s fairly clear: If it suited the British government to have these inquests, if they thought that these inquests would support the justification of what the British paratroopers did in the Ballymurphy Massacre you would have had these inquests forty-five years ago and what this is is the British government simply holding back money, holding back documents and just refusing to give justice to the Irish for murder – they were doing it forty-five years ago and they’re doing it to the Ballymurphy Massacre families today. Would that be a fair statement?

JT:   That would be a hundred percent. And I had actually said to Brokenshire that he can’t make decisions. Theresa Villiers, his predecessor, could make decisions overnight. Other Secretaries of State could make new laws overnight and he could make a decision and make a decision in a speedy fashion. But before we walked out he had said about the ‘respect other parties’ and what we had said to him was: You have to respect the views of the eleven innocent civilian families who were murdered. You have to respect the views of the Lord Chief Justice, the most highest man in the legal system. You have to respect the Justice Minister and all the other people who support. You have to respect the Irish government, the Catholic Church, people in Washington who support the campaign – you have to respect that. And what we had said to him before we walked out was: What you have just said, you have to respect other people in the Executive – what you have just done and said and admitted to is you have personally give a veto to Arlene Foster and the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) over all the victims of the past. That the DUP have a veto over all that there – until they agree there’s no agreement and that’s why he had said….(crosstalk) (inaudible)

MG:   Alright John, we’re just going – we’re going to have to leave it there. We have one more guest to do on the programme. I want to thank you for being with us and we’re hoping to have you back again in future on this issue until the Ballymurphy Massacre families get some justice. Alright, thank you, John Teggart. (ends time stamp ~ 39:13)