Martin Tracey RFÉ 26 November 2016

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Martin Galvin (Galvin) speaks to Martin Tracey (Tracey) via telephone from Co. Tyrone about residents’ campaigns protesting a gold mining company operating in The Sperrins.  (begins time stamp ~39:50)

Galvin:   With us on the from from Sperrins in Co. Tyrone we have Martin Tracey and we were playing a song that goes to the Molly Maguires; we’ll get to that in a moment. Martin, welcome to Radio Free Éireann!

Tracey:   Thank you, Martin, thank you.

Galvin:   Alright. Just recently, there’s been a number of campaigns that were raised first in the United States on this radio station – the Shell to Sea, about oil exploitation in The South, was one of those campaigns. Right now, the fight against exploitation is going on in your area of Sperrins. Now I just know it when I drive down from Doire towards Monaghan or Dublin or towards where my relatives live I always see a sign’ Sperrins Scenic Route’ that I could cut off and go through that and I never have – I never had the time. I’m always in a hurry. What is it about that area, that historic area, that strongly Nationalist and Republican area, that area – one of the last in The North of Ireland that was Gaelic speaking – what is it that is under threat from this gold mining company right now? What is this campaign all about?

Tracey:   Well, first off, Martin, I’d just like to say you don’t know what you’re missing when you miss The Sperrins. The Sperrins is one of the most beautiful areas in West Tyrone on this green island. Currently, the community in this area are fighting against a Canadian mining company that are proposing to open a processing plant within eight hundred metres of the local community. And the thing that we found very hard to deal with is that they’re actually going to in the process use cyanide and other toxic chemicals and the destruction, I believe, is what’s in the future for this area. I don’t think realistically the thought what this area means to a lot of people including some of the Irish-Americans who are probably listening today. There’s a lot of families who come from this area that through hardship or work or whatever had to emigrate and their roots is really, really deeply embedded here. And it’s just, as I said, it’s a beautiful country. It’s a really, really strong Irish Republican area and the culture, the history and the Irish language, history in all of this area is second to none to be honest with you, Martin.

penal-times-writs
Penal Times Writs History Ireland Magazine

Galvin:   Alright. Now one of the things that has made the newspapers and made publicity: There are what are called ‘Mass rocks’. Now what happened is that during the period of time under the Penal Laws it was illegal for a priest to be in Ireland or to celebrate Mass – to give a religious service. It was part of the way that the British wanted to impose their rule in Ireland, all over Ireland. And there are actually places, rocks, where people would gather to say Mass illegally under threat of the person saying it or other people attending being imprisoned or killed and this company had apparently cut off – there were protests about the Mass rocks in that area. Could you tell us about what happened?

Tracey:    Well in relation to that, Martin, there’s a local area here where there was numerous community members were told down the generations of the placement of a Mass rock.

Ardoyne Road, Belfast Post-Ceasefire Cultural Mural Listed by Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK

As you can understand, in Penal Times, the placement of Mass rocks has to be kept very, very secretive. It was actually punishable by death for a priest to hold a Mass in Penal Times and this company has more or less, whenever the local priest had actually asked to hold a Mass in relation to the Mass rock and it’s placement and their new proposed site they actually more or less told the clergy and the local community it was lies because it wasn’t written down that it wasn’t factual. And it’s disappointing to see that a company from Canada has actually more information in relation to the history of this community than the locals. And as you said, the way that they’re coming into the whole thing it’s more or less like Penal Times again. You know, they’re dictating where we can hold Mass – where we can’t hold Mass. And in relation to that I just have to say we’ve recently actually opened a new division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the local community because it stands strong for the ideology of this in relation to people actually able to show their beliefs – celebrate Mass and actually have the support of the community which this company seems to be, I don’t know, this company seems to think it’s null and void as long as they get their go-aheads for their plans.

Galvin:   And we had actually, while we were waiting to get you on the line, played part of the song, The Ghosts of the Molly Maguires. What is the division of the AOH or the new organisation that you formed?

Tracey:   Well we actually formed it last week in relation and in conjunction with Tyrone AOH and it is the Molly Maguire Division based in Greencastle. And as I said, we can’t speak highly enough of Tyrone AOH and the support that they’ve given the people in this community. They’ve been with us from the start. We’ve been talking to them now for a number of months in relation to what’s happened here and there was a local Rosary walk here facilitated by a local lady and her husband and it was absolutely unbelievable to see the support that Tyrone AOH gave. And as I said, the ideology of the AOH is something that really, really stands strong in relation to this because it’s a celebration of your culture – your Irish history, your Irish language and your right to celebrate Mass, your right to be who you are. In Penal Times we were put into the mountains as you probably well know, you know? And for many generations people went from there to the lowlands and spread out to America and Australia and all over the world but their hearts and their souls and the whole embodiment of what they are and who they are – it stands tall here in relation to the fight that is currently going on and this is what we’re saying – we don’t want it to go back to the way it was. People should be proud of who they are – where they’re from – and no matter what pressures is put on you people should say: We are who we are and take us as we are – and as I said in relation to that the Tyrone AOH has been very supportive along with a number of groups but in recent times that’s why we actually opened the branch of the Molly Maguires in Greencastle actually last week, Martin, you know?

Galvin:   Alright. Now one of the things that the foreign company which owns this development they had originally not told you about a processing plant – but they now want to use a processing plant and they’re going to introduce cyanide, which is a poison. What effect would that have on your drinking water, on the area in terms of the children growing up there – what effect do you believe or fear that this would have?

Tracey:   Well all we can say, Martin, is in relation to that: This area is pristine. This area is unbelievably beautiful and the people here respect – like personally I’m a farmer and I believe here, all I am, is a caretaker for future generations. This company’s coming in – in relation to cyanide like we can give numerous, numerous, numerous different places around the world where there have been environmental disasters where cyanide has been used. You know, they intend to use this withing eight hundred metres of our local primary school. Within eight hundred metres! A kilometre from the centre of the main population area which is Greencastle Village. And we did not know about this. They came in January and all along they’d been talking about the Curraghinalt project – Gortin and gold.

You know, Greencastle was never mentioned. Then all of a sudden we get this big, bright light who said: Oh, look! How lucky youse are! We’ve decided to place this just besides youse. This is the first we’ve heard of it. You know, and this is the only plant of its type in western Europe so it’s not as if we can go down the road and talk to the people who are currently living beside one to allay the fears of the community to see how exactly they’re dealing with it. You know, most of these plants – there’s one, I think, in Finland, and it’s up in the tundra where you’re probably hundreds of kilometres from centres of population. The main belt, settlements and towns around the plant to facilitate workers and that, but you know this is something that they’re bring and the sad thing is they kept telling us how lucky we are to have it.

Galvin:   Well one of the things our audience should know: People in the United States, they think: Oh! If they find gold or they find something precious – you know it’s like, it was explained like the show, The Beverly Hillbillies – you know the person finds oil on his land – and he’s rich, they have to pay him. What exactly you do you or the general community in that area, in Sperrins, get from any gold that’s found there or any precious metals that’s found in the area?

Tracey:   Well, the unfortunate thing about Northern Ireland, the way that it currently is, is that if there’s a mineral reserve, should it be oil, gold, whatever – it’s actually the Crown Estate, the Queen, that gets four percent because she owns what’s under our feet, you know. The last company that owned the actual mine, that was an exploratory mine at that stage, gets two percent. And currently in this area there’s no tax on gold or silver bearing ore. So realistically the people of this land are getting nothing. The people of Ireland are getting nothing. They keep telling us about the jobs, the jobs. This area is not economically deprived. You know, we don’t have large unemployment. A lot of guys get up in the morning and they travel – they go to work. They do the real Irish thing – you go where the work is. You do whatever has to be done to provide for your family and all the rest. And the disappointing thing is, as I said, this will be going back – whatever does not go to England, to the Queen and the Crown Estate and all the rest – this will be going to Canada and in a round about way sort of way it’s going back to the Queen in the end because it’s all part of The Commonwealth. This is what the people are seeing.

You know it’s funny to say, in The Proclamation you know the message is: We declare the right of the people of Ireland to own the land of Ireland. And this is what it is: Not only are they trying to poison us where we’re living, not only are they trying to tell us how good it is for us but then they’re taken whatever away from this country, from its people and just giving it away. It’s so disheartening in relations to the whole thing that this is the way big business works and as you said the people are more or less secondary to whatever is good for the Crown Estate and for the previous owners of this mine.

Galvin:   Martin, what are you doing, you and the other groups that you’re involved with, what are you doing to fight against this area being poisoned and exploited by this Canadian company. What are you doing to stop this?

Tracey:   Well two things I guess, Martin, in relation to this and I have to appreciate you giving me airtime: We’re trying to educate the people that this isn’t what this community wants. This is not something that this community or these people are crying out for – there’s nobody here in the bread line. Like there’s a number of groups, there’s SOS, there’s GRG (Greencastle Area Residents Group) and like to be honest with you, I’m just a local farmer, a local community member, but we feel that strongly – like our roots are very deep in this land, you know? It’s not money that matters to us. This is one of the last Irish-speaking areas of Tyrone. You know, all through The Troubles like this place – you know it stood strong, it stood really, really strong and that’s what we find so hard to deal with. They’re telling how beneficial this is. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. And I know gold and everybody’s eyes lights up whenever they hear tell of gold but take into consideration, Martin, sometimes the things that you just can’t hold in your hands – your history, your past, your culture, your language – is a lot more valuable than the wee things that you slip over your finger or the wee thing that you put into your pocket. It sounds maybe strange to people listening in that we feel that way but you know – we’re on this land for generations. Money’s not worth anything to us – well, money, in relation to that, is not worth anything to us because it’s not deeply embedded in us. It’s never going to come out of us and that’s why we believe that this is not for the benefit of us – The Sperrins, Tyrone or Ireland.

Galvin:  Particularly when you’re not the ones getting the money – when it goes to the British Crown, when it goes to a foreign company, when it goes elsewhere. It’s like during the …

Tracey:  …I think, sorry to interrupt, Martin, you know the monetary value has been over-exaggerated by this company. You have to realise that some of the last Irish speakers in Tyrone were from this area. You know, whenever Hugh O’Neill was traveling between Inishowen and Tullyhogue and Cookstown he went through this area. You know, money? It sounds silly but the generations of people that have emigrated and all the rest of it it sounds strange. I had a cousin come home from Australia last year and she had her daughter and her husband with her. And she wanted to walk where her father walked to school. And he always promised her that this thing was going to be someday – and she was supposed to do that because she knew that – she’s seeing the same views, she’s hearing the same sounds – and you’re never going to – money will never – money will never change that, you know. And the amount of people, even second, third, fourth generations in The States – you know, that’s why they come to this area to see what their what their grandparents, or their great-grandparents, their great-great-great-grandparents – you’re looking through their eyes and there’s not many places in the world where you can go that you can actually say that you’re doing that.

Galvin:   Alright, Martin, we want to thank you. We’re going to follow this issue with you. WBAI, Radio Free Éireann has been one outlet that has followed campaigns like this and we want to follow Save Our Sperrins campaign, what you’re doing with the Molly Maguire Division – all of that to save your area of Sperrins. And I promise – next time I’m driving down from Doire towards Monaghan I’m going to take the scenic route through your area.

Tracey:   Do, Martin, and we’ll get you a pint of Guinness.

Galvin:   There you go. Listen, I want to thank you for being on and I especially want to thank Gerry McGeough for putting me in touch with you so we could air this important story for the first time on WBAI at Radio Free Éireann – we’ll have it on in future and we’ll follow events and try to help your fight.

Tracey:   Right. And Tyrone AOH, we have to appreciate them for all the hard and sterling work they’ve done.

Galvin:   Okay. Alright, thank you, Martin Tracey. (ends time stamp ~55:52)

Eamonn McCann RFÉ 26 November 2016

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Martin Galvin (MG) speaks to People Before Profit MP Eamonn McCann (EM) via telephone from Doire about the relationship between Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin, the recent controversy about a grant from the Social Investment Fund and about legacy issues in The North of Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 9:47)

MG:   Eamonn McCann, welcome back Radio Free Éireann!

EM:   Hello! Yes.

MG:   Yes, Eamonn, can you hear me? Welcome back Radio Free Éireann!

EM:   Yes, I can indeed. I can indeed. Hello. Yep, yep, I’m here.

MG :  Eamonn, this is Martin Galvin and I want to ask you: We were talking about how different it must be instead of working as a journalist and an activist and a civil rights campaigner to be on the inside. But I want to begin: I’m reading from I believe it’s last Monday’s Irish News – there’s what we would call an Op-Ed or and opinion editorial – it’s called there a ‘platform’ piece. And it says: This is what delivery looks like – no gimmicks, no grandstanding – and you have the smiling faces of Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster and some of the members of their respective parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, and just some of the things they talked about – the significant achievement – they’ve put in place five hundred million welfare reform mitigation package to protect vulnerable people. They said that no effort is being spared to grow our economy and create new and better jobs. They said they have radial reforms to transform health and social care designed to make it truly world-class, a ten-year vision to straighten out the health services and the waiting lists and they are going to China soon to negotiate with the Chinese to bring even more employment and more progress to The North of Ireland. And I’m trying to figure if– they say that anybody else, people like you, who are not part of that coalition, you’re just interested in endless squabbles and causing problems and division and in bringing the Conservatives to rule without a mandate and after reading this I’m sure you wanted to leave People Before Profit and join either the DUP or Sinn Féin, is that… I’m being facetious. What was your response?

EM:   I think that would be a wee bit wide of the mark.

MG:   I’m being facetious, obviously.

EM:   Well one of the striking things about being in Stormont, in fact the most striking thing, is just how close Sinn Féin and the DUP are. Of course in general terms and political terms we’ve all witnessed this convergence over recent years. But on an ordinary person-to-person level, sort of in terms of the tone of conversation, the extent to which the two parties stand up and defend one another, not just agree with one another but defend one another, is truly remarkable. There was an incident just last week where Alex Atwood of the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) was speaking – I actually forget about what and it doesn’t matter – but he was speaking and he was then followed by a member of Sinn Féin, I think Mr. McPhillips from Fermanagh – I’m not sure but a Sinn Féin MLA. And wonders of wonders: One of the DUP members of the Assembly got up and shouted, interruption sort of, and said to the member of Sinn Féin: Will the member give way? And of course the member of Sinn Féin said: Yes, certainly. And the question from the DUP is: Would you, (that is the Sinn Féin MLA), would you agree with me that Alex Atwood was talking a load of nonsense? Or words to that effect. And of course the Sinn Féin man said to the DUP man: Yes, indeed! I agree with you. The SDLP are talking a load of nonsense.

Now here you have the situation where the DUP and Sinn Féin were combining, in public, in formal terms in the Assembly, ganging up on the SDLP. Now whatever you think about the SDLP, certainly they’re not part of this coalition government, and for that they are regarded as fair game by Sinn Féin and the DUP. I think the time has come when we have to refer to this as a coalition government. Increasingly, Sinn Féin and the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party, are not only talking in parallel terms they are speaking in unison – saying the same things. It’s a quite remarkable transformation.

MG:   Well Eamonn, just one of the issues where this comes up is in terms of legacy issues; there’s a number of legacy issues. And I know you commented recently on the new British Minister, James Brokenshire, and you said that he was a despicable individual – and you were told you couldn’t do that – so you said: Well I’ll just think it. I won’t say it. But how does Sinn Féin, which supposedly or should be supporting justice on a whole range of people killed by British forces, killed or victims of collusion, killed by well either by directly by British Crown Forces or by people who may have worked with and been aided by and paid by members of Crown Forces, how do they and Arlene Foster, who denies that such things ever happened, how did they get together on issues like legacy issues?

EM:   Well, they stay silent about it is one of the new things that the do or at least they stay silent about any difference that the two parties might have sort of on the so-called legacy issues. After all, it’s the DUP is holding up – for example, for example: There’s a number of, quite a number, of inquests, some from forty years ago and more than forty years ago, which haven’t been held yet. And they haven’t been held yet because the British government refuses to release information relevant to these inquests about the investigations – over whatever death was concerned, sort of what internal memos and documents sort of refer to this death in terms of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Home Office and so forth – other departments of the British government. The British government has been holding all this up. And the DUP, of course, are quite happy with that. The DUP are quite happy that nothing should be done and their immediate reason, there’s historical reasons, of course, and ideological reasons why the DUP would take that view, but the immediate reason which they use is that if the inquest were allowed to go ahead, if the inquiries which have been called for into Ballymurphy, for example, the Ballymurphy Massacre of August 1971, this would amount to giving equal status to people killed by British forces on the grounds, on the entirely spurious grounds, that they were terrorists, it would give them equal status with members of the British security forces so the DUP would hold it off.

Now the remarkable thing is that they’re able to do this and Sinn Féin isn’t creating the type of fuss about this which would have been the case just a few years ago and which some people might think would be appropriate now because if Sinn Féin were to say what many, many members of Sinn Féin and certainly supporters of Sinn Féin think and feel – if they were to denounce the DUP in forthright terms – say that they, the DUP, are actually supporting murder and colluding in the denial of truth to the families of victims – if they were to say that then, if Sinn Féin were to say that about the DUP – the coalition might fall apart! And maybe it wouldn’t but it might fall apart but risk the coalition falling apart – so they don’t say anything about a whole series of issues on which the Executive, Sinn Féin and the DUP, are more or less silent, or at least one or the other of them is silent, because to face the issue would reveal that they have contradictory approaches, or at least their supporters do, and it could have the effect of destabilising and even bringing down the Executive. So keeping the show on the road at Stormont, keeping the coalition going takes precedent over anything else in Northern politics at the moment. That’s the explanation of the DUP and Sinn Féin sticking together in circumstances where their own supporters are confused and dismayed at what they see before them.

MG:   Well one of the issues that has come about is a grant of one point seven million pounds to Charter NI through the Social Investment Fund and it turns out that one of the leading figures there, Dee Stitt, is alleged to be a member of an illegal, still illegal, organisation, the UDA, (Ulster Defence Association) – it’s been reported that that allegation has been made – and that is an organisation, of course, which was directly involved in collusion murders of Nationalists, of innocent people. How do they stand together on that issue?

EM:   Well, they all just accept it, of course. You know, I’m not sure how much the listeners know about this but as you said that under the last agreement, the Stormont House Agreement, in The North this Social Investment Fund (SIF) was set up as an eighty million pounds fund to help disadvantaged areas. Now, everybody in the area knew that what that really meant was subsidise and promote members of paramilitary organisations in order to bring them in from the cold; to involve them in the political process. And one of the ways that that’s being done is exemplified in the Charter NI organisation where Mr. Dee Stitt, as you say is the Chief Executive. Dee Stitt – let’s be blunt about it: Dee Stitt – it’s not that he has a history of paramilitarism – he is right now one of the main leaders of the Ulster Defence Association, a sectarian murder gang. Dee Stitt is one of the leaders of this gang, the UDA, and of course so he’s a prime candidate to receive some of this money because he and his associates, the theory is, have to be bribed and bought off and lured into constitutional politics with the offer of preferment, and in Dee Stitt’s case, the offer of a job – it’s thirty-five pounds a year which is not a fortune by capitalist standards but it’s a very, very good wage indeed in a working class area of The North of Ireland.

So I made the point in the Assembly that while a number of commentators were saying that this money had been paid to Charter NI and to Dee Stitt, the Chief Executive of Charter NI, that this money was being paid despite the fact that Dee Stitt was a member of a paramilitary organisation. And I pointed out that this was wrong. He’s being paid the money not despite the fact that he was a paramilitary godfather but because he was a paramilitary godfather. In other words it was a requirement for the job! It was one of the things that you needed to be able to put on your CV when you’re applying for the job because if you weren’t a member of a paramilitary organisation why give you money which is intended to lure paramilitary leaders to the path of peace and constitutional politics and so forth?

So the DUP did that. They wanted to do some (inaudible) with the people who support the UDA, sort of to bring the UDA in from the cold. So they’re not open about it but Arlene Foster, for example, happened to be photographed alongside Dee Stitt. The Speaker of the Stormont Assembly, Robin Newton, is an adviser to Charter NI, the outfit where Dee Stitt is the CEO. And the DUP is relatively open about this and Sinn Féin goes along with because if Sinn Féin were denounce the DUP for that issue – the Loyalist paramilitaries, for sectarian killers, for Dee Stitt – if Sinn Féin were to denounce the DUP for this that again would risk destabilising the DUP/Sinn Féin coalition. Once again, keeping the show on the road at Stormont takes precedence over everything even to the moral objections that many people might have about giving large amounts of public money to people who are leaders of a sectarian, paramilitary organisation. So all morality has gone out of the window here.

MG:   Alright. Eamonn, we want to ask you about where we stand in terms of Bloody Sunday. It seems every sort of delay – the last thing was a long investigation, a new investigation, had to be conducted by the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). That concluded. Files were sent to the Public Prosecution Service. You’ve had a British Prime Minister stand up and say that these killings were ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’. Now to me, as a lawyer in New York, you have justified killings, like self-defence or you’re protecting the life of someone else, and then if you have an unjustified killing that is, by definition, murder or manslaughter or it falls into one of the crimes under murder. Why is it that nothing seems to have been announced even though the Public Prosecution Service has had these files, after so many other delays, they now have these files and we don’t know when, if ever, they’ll announce any kind of prosecutions of British soldiers?

EM:   Well that’s true – we don’t know when, if ever. My guess would be: Never! The huge numbers of people in the British Establishment, very powerful people in the British Establishment, including military officers and retired, very senior officers from the British Army, have made it clear that they are totally opposed to any of the soldiers who murdered civil rights demonstrators in Doire – they are against any of these soldiers being charged. So there’s no British government that I can imagine, now or in the future, is going to risk a confrontation sort of with it’s senior military commanders and people within the civil service and the rest of it who don’t want soldiers charged for anything they did in Northern Ireland. I can’t see a British government actually standing up to that particularly, particularly when the British government well understands, as do the senior military officers, that any proper investigation of Bloody Sunday, if they brought the soldiers to trial -let’s imagine: Say you are one of the paratroopers, a private way back sort of in 1972, who fired some of the fatal shots in the Bogside back then – if they now come along, haul you into court, put you in the dock – what are you going to do? You’re going to spill the beans – aren’t you?! You know, it would take some sort of super-patriot, British patriot of some sort, to take the rap for murder in Doire while the people ordered you to go and murder people in Doire got off the hook and got away scot-free. So they are afraid. The British government, the British authorities, are really afraid of a Bloody Sunday trial of the soldiers and for that reason I don’t believe it’s ever going to happen. That doesn’t mean we don’t campaign for it. At the very least we should demand that what’s right ought to be done – and that the people killed on Bloody Sunday are entitled to be regarded as human beings and citizens, same as anybody else, and if you kill an innocent citizen – that’s murder. That’s murder. You deliberately point a gun at an innocent person, pull the trigger, there might be strange circumstances where it’s merely manslaughter, but almost always it will be murder and certainly it’s unlawful killing.

And of course those are not the only unlawful killings carried out by British security forces over the course of the conflict here but they’re the most high-profile, the Bloody Sunday killings, and therefore they’ve become iconic, emblematic sort of of the British role in The North here so I don’t see any resolution coming up in this but that’s all the more reason, as far as I’m concerned, to keep on demanding it in order to expose them, not to allow them to bury the Bloody Sunday issue quietly as they’ve been trying to do for many years.

MG:   Alright, Eamonn. I’m going to ask you one final question and then let you go: On legacy issues – I believe I’ve read some of the reports of statements that you’ve made in Stormont and one of the things that you said was James Brokenshire, who is the new British Secretary appointed by Westminster to preside over The North of Ireland, took over for Theresa Villiers, you said that he was despicable and that the British government, the government he represents, doesn’t care about any of the Irish victims who were killed by collusion or by British Crown Forces. Why do you believe that to be true?

EM: Yeah. Well I not only believe that to be true I went on to say that I don’t believe the British government cares about it’s own people. It doesn’t care about people, for example, the people killed in the Birmingham bomb, 1974 – more than twenty innocent people in two pubs, the Talk of the Town and the Mulberry Bush, in the centre of Birmingham – people out for a night, on a Friday night – they’re blown to bits by two IRA bombs. Now, that’s bad enough but then as it turns out, and people listening might remember the Birmingham Six, who were convicted of this horrendous crime. And they served sixteen years in prison before they were released after having shown not only that they didn’t do but that they couldn’t have done it on the basis of the evidence which was actually in the possession of the authorities in Britain at the time, it was clear that the Birmingham Six, Paddy Hill and the rest of them, couldn’t have been the people who planted the bombs. Nevertheless, they went on and framed them. Why would they have done that? – you have to ask. Well the reason why they did that is that at least one British agent was involved in planting the Birmingham bombs and presumably because, and this is speculation to some extent, but because the calculation was that this would discredit the IRA, sort of in the eyes of people who regarded them a noble organisation, so they covered up the killings of the victims of the IRA – of their own citizens! Now, having done that what chance does anybody think that there is of them coming clean about killings they conducted in The North?

And might I say some of the relatives of those killed in the Birmingham bombs are now campaigning very strongly for inquests, for the truth to be told at last and they now realise, and I’ve talked to a number of them, and they now realise, clearly – one of them said to me, Julie Hambleton – sister Maxine, seventeen years old, was one of the people killed in the Birmingham bombs and Julie said to me:

We were lied to by the police. We were lied to by the courts. We were lied to by the politicians. We were lied to by judges. We were lied to by the Home Office. All of these people, the highest authorities in Britain, lied to us about the way and the reasons why our loved ones died.

That’s what the British government is up to in relation to Birmingham. You can imagine what they’re up to when it comes to considering killings by British agents or through collusion with British agents in Belfast. So that’s where that issue generally lies. There isn’t going to be a resolution of it, it seems to me, and therefore, and I’ve talked to some of the Birmingham people about this – this means we’ve got to just keep on keeping on – just every day just push and push and push and push. And if we can’t get the truth out of them at least we will get the truth out to the world that these people are liars – they are themselves – James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he is colluding in covering up the murder of citizens here in The North. Theresa May is colluding in the cover-up of murder in Northern Ireland. They all are. So why, in light of that, only a fool would expect the British to come clean about any of these things.

MG:   Alright, Eamonn, we want to welcome you back again. Thank you for being with us again on Radio Free Éireann and we look forward to having you again – back with us again in future. And a special shout out and thanks to Kate Nash who was able to get in contact with you and insure that you’d be with us today to provide this information.

EM:   Okay. Well you know yourself: If Kate Nash phones you up and says: I want you to do such and such you just have to do it.

MG:   I know that first hand – you’re talking to somebody’s who’s gone through it. Thank you, Eamonn.

EM:   Yeah. Okay. Bye. Bye. (ends time stamp ~ 30:59)

Martin Galvin RFÉ 26 November 2016

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

Martin Galvin gives us a wee lesson in American History today and hopes that one day Ireland will celebrate the same history and the same holiday.  (begins time stamp ~2:00)

Martin: We want to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving, a Happy Black Friday, if you do that, and also a Happy Evacuation Day! What this means is: evacuation-day-plazaYesterday, November 25th , was a holiday that should not be forgotten. In 1783 at the end of the American Revolution – that was the day that British troops finally left New York, left America, at the end of the American Revolution.

And before going they hung a flag up on a pole and they greased it so evacuation-day-flagpolethat people had to climb up and cut it down before George Washington could enter and they fired a shot at the crowd who were no doubt singing things like:
Go home, British soldiers, go home!
Do you have no bloody homes of yer own?

But that was a holiday for a long period of time in New York, a street is named for that event, a flag was put up every year and, of course, it was superseded by when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day during the American Civil War.

But anything to do with getting the British out is something we don’t want to forget on this programme and the Irish community shouldn’t forget and we still hope that we will have that Evacuation Day in Ireland. (ends time stamp ~ 3:20)

Radio Free Éireann Announcement

Radio Free Éireann will air this Saturday November 26th from Noon-1PM New York time, 5-6 PM Irish time, on WBAI 99.5 FM or on the internet at wbai.org. Anytime after the program concludes you can hear the podcast on wbai.org/archives

This week’s guests: Eamonn McCann, veteran civil rights campaigner, journalist and author will talk about fighting against British austerity and injustice from inside Stormont in his new role as an MLA.

With questions growing about what a Trump administration might mean for undocumented Irish immigrants, the Irish Political Deportees and Malachy McAllister, leading Irish immigration advocate and AOH National Director Dan Dennehy will discuss immigration issues.

Sperrins Mountains campaigner Martin Treacy will talk about the fight to preserve the beauty, Irish culture and history of this region from being exploited and poisoned by a foreign gold-mining company.

Go to Radio Free Eireann’s web site, rfe123.org, where you can read transcripts of last week’s headline-making interviews about the film, Bobby Sands: 66 Days, with Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott, former blanketman and cellmate of Bobby Sands who inspired the song, Back Home in Derry, and John McDonagh’s review of the film.

Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott RFÉ 19 November 2016

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

John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to former Irish Republican political prisoner and blanketman Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott (DE) via telephone from Doire about his background, his time in Long Kesh prison during the 1981 hunger strike and his thoughts about the film, Bobby Sands: 66 Days. (begins time stamp ~23:38)

JM:  But we have on the line – and you maybe could give some of his background but we should get Dixie to explain how did he end up in Long Kesh with Bobby Sands?

MG:  Dixie, are you with us? Dixie, are you with us?

DE:  Yeah, I’m with you. Is that Martin or John?

MG:  That is Martin but we’re going to go to John in a second. Dixie, we want to start out – we’re talking to Dixie Elliott from Doire who I found out because he was able to quote the programme from four weeks earlier when I gave the Brendan Hughes Lecture, but Dixie, tell us a little bit about how you came to be in Long Kesh, how you came to be a cellmate of Bobby Sands and another hunger striker, Tom McElwee – and well, just start out with that – your background and how you came to be a Republican prisoner in Long Kesh on the blanket.

DE:  Well I joined the Republican Movement when I was about sixteen and that would have been about the average age of people when we were joining up. We were young lads running around the streets throwing stones at the Army and everything else would have been a regular occurrence – there was not much work to do and everything else and I then became involved with the IRA. And I gradually, I was originally in Na Fianna and then got into the IRA and then of course we were, I was eventually arrested, taken to Strand Road barracks where I was tortured and I admitted to firing shots at the British Army on the Racecourse Road and IRA membership and hijacking a van and in September 1976 I went into the Crumlin Road Jail. And I was sentenced on June 1977 and I went straight onto the blanket protest.

MG:  Alright, and we should tell our readers, if you had been arrested on February – sorry, our listeners – February 28th of 1976 you would have gotten special category status, you would have been in a separate wing, you would have been allowed to wear your own clothes, have association, all of the things that the blanket protest was about. But on March 1st of 1976 the British, Margaret Thatcher’s government, said that anybody who’s arrested after that date is a criminal. Now why was that issue, wearing a criminal uniform, so important to you, to Brendan Hughes, to others who were on the blanket protest?

DE:  Well is was actually the British Labour Party that brought criminalisation in; it wasn’t actually the Tories at the time. It was Thatcher, when they had came into power before, about ’79 before the hunger strikes, but it was originally the Labour Party that brought it in. And they had effectively made the decision that they were going to criminalise the struggle, they were going to try and make it look as if the police was operating as a normal police force and that we were effectively criminals engaged in a criminal conspiracy, shall we say? Whereas like you know we weren’t criminals at all. We were Republicans. We wanted to free our country. We were soldiers and we weren’t enlisted soldiers like their soldiers. We were a little different. We were fighting for our country. It was occupied by the British and we wanted to remove the occupation. So we weren’t criminals. But if it hadn’t been for the struggle and the British occupation we wouldn’t have been in jail at all.

MG:  Alright, and what were some of the things that were done to you and to the other prisoners in order to make you wear that criminal uniform and dress up in that criminal uniform?

DE:  Well it wasn’t actually what they done to us it was actually the thing that they were forcing us to wear the criminal uniform. We were not criminals. It wasn’t that they had actually beat us or tortured us or anything like before that it’s when we were sentenced and went up to the H-Blocks they had said to us: Right. There’s the uniform – let’s put it on. We said: We’re now criminals. We’re not wearing the uniform. And that’s effectively that because that makes us criminals. So we wouldn’t wear the uniform – it was us that refused to wear the uniform. And then from then on out things drastically got worse and worse, you know?

MG:  Well that’s what I mean – what did the British do to you when they saw you weren’t wearing a criminal uniform, when they saw you were on the blanket – what did they do to make you wear one?

DE:  Well they beat us, of course, like they would have beat us and they would have said: Wear that and we wouldn’t have worn it. They would have beat us to try to force it onto us. And when it was obvious that we weren’t going to do it they threw us into a cell with just wearing a towel, a blue towel, wrapped around us and there would have been nothing…

MG:  …And then…

DE:  …Go ahead.

MG:  Well just get to the point: You were beaten, all those other things, you’re on protest – how did it come about that you got to know Bobby Sands?

DE:   Well I was in the cell originally with Tom McElwee in H-4 and in February 1979 the authorities decided that they might be able to break the protest by removing the leadership in the camp or the blocks to a separate wing isolating them from the rest of the protest. Now me and Tom McElwee was moved – now we weren’t on the leadership – but I believe that they moved us because we were constantly – if they hit us we hit them back – me and Tom – well, it was mostly Tom was doing that like and I was in the cell with him and they moved us – so it was then that I got to be on a wing with Bobby, February 1979, as I said and The Dark and Bik and others like that – we were all on the one wing. And then they moved us back to H-3 in about August 1979 and when they moved us back I was put in a cell with Bobby – then I was actually in the cell with Bobby. I was in the cell with Bobby for a couple of months in 1979 and I was moved out of the cell but I remained on the same wing as him until, effectively, well – after he died I was effectively with that wing until the end of the protest.

MG:  Alright. And the song, Back Home in Derry

JM:  …No, no, go ahead. Dixie, unfortunately we only have about I would say twenty-five minutes left and being what’s now that you were involved in – you said the Republican struggle as being now classified as a thirty year crime wave. But things about the hunger strike – there’s been Some Mother’s Son, there’s been Hunger, there’s been plays and now this. Explain to our audience what you thought of the documentary and how did you feel it betrayed what you were personally involved in?

DE:  66 Days?

JM:  Yes.

DE:  Yeah, well I think 66 Days, the way it came across to me as trying to make out that Bobby Sands’ death bought about the peace process and what we have today. Whereas Bobby Sands definitely wouldn’t have died for peace – that’s absurd. You don’t go into jail for peace, you don’t fire guns or plant bombs for peace, you don’t die on hunger strike for peace – that’s absurd. And I doubt that Bobby Sands knowing that some day down the line that Martin McGuinness would be toasting the Queen and Gerry Adams would be shaking hands with Prince Charles that he would have died on hunger strike – I clearly wouldn’t have fired stones for that. You know so for the film to be trying to make that out, as it was especially towards the end, was absurd to say the least, it was totally absurd. And the thing about it which annoyed me more so was Laurney McKeown’s venomous attack on Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes, someone who’s no longer around to defend himself, when he had said that Bobby said that The Dark had ‘effed up’

And when I heard that I said to myself: That’s the first I heard that. I never heard that. As I explained, I was on the wing with Bobby. I was on the wing with all of them. I never heard that used by Bobby at all. In fact at that time, around coming up to the end of December, I remember Bobby leaving the wing and we were all hyped up. We thought this was it. It was coming up to Christmas, they weren’t going to let men die and it was over. And Bobby left the wing and I remember hearing the van coming back. My cell looked out onto the courtyard of the box and I looked out and I seen the van coming in, I seen Bobby getting out and his head was down and his shoulders were slumped and I knew – that wasn’t Bobby Sands. No matter what Bobby always walked with a spring in his step and when I seen him I slipped down the wall and my cellmate says: What’s wrong? And I used a lot of expletives which more or less said: We’re bit.

And Bobby came up the wing and his words was: ‘Ní fhuaireomar faic’ – ‘We got nothing.’ And I never heard him say anything about The Dark or anything but what we later learned – and now this is the thing – if Laurney McKeown is going to come off with stuff like this and everything else – what we later learned, especially those of us who was in that wing, was that the hunger strike fell apart because there was men told The Dark they were coming off it – men that was on the hunger strike. There was those of us who knew it wasn’t just that we had learned at the time – it was literally that Tom McFeely told people, told everybody, how it ended it. In fact, so much so, that a guy I know who was in jail in later years – we were talking about it and he said to me: That’s right. Tom McFeely told me that such and such and such and such was putting pressure on The Dark. It wasn’t all the men on the hunger strike it was ‘certain people’ and these ‘certain people’ keeps coming along with this narrative that they made an offer and they reneged on it. As a matter of fact, Laurence McKeown’s claim that Bobby said The Dark ‘effed up’ actually undermines the Adams/Sinn Féin position where they say the Brits had made an offer which they later reneged on. If that was so how had The Dark screwed up if the Brits had made an offer? So he’s undermining the narrative of Adams, and Patsy – him and Raymond McCartney and all of those who are saying they made an offer in this. As I say, we knew what happened. We knew that the men, that that hunger strike was falling apart and that’s what it was.

MG:  …but Dixie, let me…

DE:  …and what Laurence McKeown was effectively doing was he was doing it for his leader.

MG:  Dixie, let me just bring our audience up: There was a first hunger strike that began in October 1980 and what happened at that was everybody, or a number of people, went on hunger strike at the same time and Brendan Hughes, who was the leader of the prisoners, was one of the people on hunger strike. So as it came to late December, Seán McKenna was very ill. There were some hope of movement, there were some suggestion of movement but then a number of prisoners, as you say I’m not going to specify which ones, said that they would not, did not want to die – that it had to be called off.

Brendan Hughes, in that position on hunger strike himself, knowing that he was stronger than some of the prisoners, would not be the first to die, called off the hunger strike. But I’ll tell you on the outside I got a call from Joe Austin of the Belfast Press Centre and I was told that Bobby was jubilant – they read this statement to me a number of times – that Bobby was jubilant – that there had been an offer, that this was accepted and that now their own clothes were going to come in. And it wasn’t until much later, years later, that I was informed of what happened and it seemed strange to me. I kept going back and saying: Look, are you telling me the truth? I’ve never lied to people, I’ve never lied to the American public but they were saying that that is what was happening, that there was a statement that was prepared and read at that time to put that out and Brendan Hughes, in that terrible position, had to agree to save the life of Seán McKenna and the others and hope if the British would have said if we have an opportunity – we’ll move, we’ll make all the concessions and instead they came in, they became hardline again and that’s what would lead to the next hunger strike. Is that a fair…?

DE:  …Well effectively the British never – the British had sent a document which was delivered by a Father Meagher to Gerry Adams. Gerry Adams had received this document by the time the hunger strike had ended – the hunger strike had ended when he’d got it. Now what this document contained – this document contained nothing – it actually says that we, the prisoners, could wear civilian-type clothing during the working week. Now civilian-type clothing – they didn’t renege on that, they tried to give us the civilian-type clothing which was a garish form of clothing – it was even worse looking than the denim gear which was the prison – it was all bright colours and stuff that. It was thrown back out at them. They didn’t renege on it. They weren’t giving us nothing or anything else. But this wasn’t known. Now when Bobby got this document down and he looked at it and we heard him discussing it on the wing and he said: We can use this against them. We can say they made an offer and they reneged on it and we can use that to start the second hunger strike. As Jim Gibney said himself, and he messed up by saying it, he said Bobby Sands, the next day that they got a letter from Bobby Sands, saying the second hunger strike was starting. Now, ask yourself – if the Brits had made an offer why would Bobby Sands have come – now men that was on the brink, men that was totally depressed and everything else and tell them straightaway: We got nothing. He could have said: Oh, there’s something in the pipeline where we don’t know yet what’s happening. He told us straight out as soon as he got back: We got nothing. He sent word straight out that another hunger strike would be starting and that he would be leading it.

JM:  …Dixie…

DE:  …Not only that, not only that – the second hunger strike he changed the tactics. He said because the way the first hunger strike fell, collapsed, because men decided they were coming off it that it wasn’t going to happen in the second hunger strike that’s why he staggered it – he went first then Frank Hughes and so on at different periods – this is why, he changed tactics. And he was using that document – it was him actually came up and said they had made an offer and they reneged on it. They didn’t make an offer. There was nothing there. Do you understand?

JM:  And Dixie, while you’re doing the battle and you see what’s going on – you have no radio, no television. Had you any idea of what was going on on the outside anywhere in the world, never mind say The States or Australia, but in Belfast or in Doire? How were you getting your information? Because now here you are, at the coalface, fighting the state within the prison with whatever you had left – which was literally at that stage your body. Did you know about anything that was happening on the outside?

DE:  Oh, yes. First of all on a lot of the blocks, we had at least one on a lot of blocks was a small, miniature – it was an ingenious device like whoever created it – it was small, miniature radios and we were getting the likes of the news and stuff like that off it. The guy would be listening, the boy who was in charge of it, he would listen and get news and stuff like that. But we were also getting the likes of An Phoblacht – and it was shrunk right down, you know, miniaturised? And articles out of papers which would have been cut out of papers and smuggled in wrapped around the tobacco and the other – pens and stuff like that there – in what we called the barges. And of course people would have passed on information through the visits. You know you would have got a lot of lies through the visits in order to keep your morale up – there was ten thousand people was marching here and there you know – and there wasn’t. But in a lot of cases we got articles on. They were read at the doors and stuff like that you know so this is how we were getting. We were getting comms in which was getting read out about strikes on the docks in New York and those strikes in Liverpool maybe or stuff like that and protests and all – we were getting that in through comms from the outside and they were telling us, you know, what was going on in the outside world.

MG:  Alright Dixie, we’re moving along – I know that one thing that you’ve been very involved with is Richard O’Rawe’s claim that – a book and now it seems to be a well-documented claim – that there was an offer. I know you were very close to another of the hunger strikers who died, Tom McElwee…

DE: that’s right

MG:  …Richard O’Rawe had claimed, said and stood up to any criticism or question that there was an offer which both he, as an officer, the PRO (Public Relations Officer), and one of the leading officers of the prisoners in Long Kesh and Bik McFarlane at that time wanted to accept, recommended acceptance and should have satisfied the essential demands and beaten criminalisation. What’s your position on that?

DE:  Well I remember at the time we heard the rumour that the Brits was moving and that Joe McDonnell wouldn’t have to die. We heard that rumour. It came from those in the cells up around the side back – I was down at the other, by this time, at the other side of the wing but those who were closest – some of them has come forward and probably one of them has publicly stated that he heard it. He heard them taking at the window. (It was the only way you could converse. You had to talk out the windows in Irish.) They overheard them saying, talking about it and they passed it on. The thing is, you have to understand, Richard O’Rawe was the shoulder that Bik leaned on. We all knew that. Richard O’Rawe was then, as now, a highly intelligent person. Bik did nothing without passing it to Richard O’Rawe first, asking his opinion and everything else, taking his advice. Richard was the man, above all else, in probably the whole camp. And then you have the likes of Danny Morrison saying: Richard O’Rawe wasn’t in the hospital and Richard O’Rawe wasn’t here and Richard… – of course he wasn’t. But when Bik was coming back from the hospital they told Richard O’Rawe everything that was going on. He brought this to Richard, this offer from the British, and he sent it up the pipes to him and Richard got it and looked at it and said: There’s enough there to end it. Because ‘enough there to end it’ was the clothes. It was always – as I was saying before – the clothes. If we had have gotten the clothes before the hunger strikes nobody would have died. And that offer contained our own clothes. Now, the thing about Richard as I said, that no one on that wing other than Bik – now listen to this: No one on that wing, other than Bik, has said that Richard O’Rawe was telling lies. People have come forward and backed him, both one publicly and me and others, privately. But no one, and I’ve challenged them to find anyone, no one has come forward and said Richard O’Rawe is telling lies other than Bik. So I think that tells it all on its own. If he had have been telling lies you would have had people coming forward. People who is with Sinn Féin today, there’s one particular person and he was also an adviser to Bik, and I asked Richard, I said to him: Why did he never come forward and say you were lying? He said: Because he knows I’m telling the truth and he knows the cat’s going to get out of the bag one day and he doesn’t want to be involved.

JM:  (station identification) And we’re discussing a film that will be shown at The Film Forum from November 30th to December 13th at 209 West Houston Street called Bobby Sands: 66 Days.

I want to play a little video clip of someone that’s near and dear to Dixie Elliott’s heart in Doire and that is of Martin McGuinness. And when you talk about rigged elections there was no more of a rigged election than in 1986 when there was a debate at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis down in Dublin. I want to play just a couple of minutes – if you just type into YouTube ‘Martin McGuinness speech’ you can hear the full of it. We’re only going to play two minutes. And I wanted to get Dixie’s reaction to Mr. Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA, Councilman – he’s got more titles after him than the Queen at the moment. Go ahead…

Audio:  Portion of Martin McGuinness’ speech at the Sinn Féin 1986 Ard Fheis is played.

JM:  And that there is Doire tour guide at Westminster, Martin McGuinness, who has a lot of initials after his name at the moment. Dixie, you know, just speaking to you we know when you were in Long Kesh you were not fighting to administer British rule in Ireland but the lies really were being told at that ’86 Ard Fheis about how everything was going to continue on ’til the British left. I mean, how do you feel how the struggle has ended after thirty or forty years now?

DE:  Well Martin McGuinness has went from that speech to allow actually making the Queen and her family acceptable to Nationalists. Let’s not varnish what this is all about – all this praising the Queen, a friend of the peace process and everything else – it’s making the royal family, the most repugnant aspect of British imperialism, acceptable to Nationalists. This is what Martin is doing now and Gerry shaking Prince Charles’ hands and everything else and you must not question us here – they were saying not too longer ago about standing up fighting Tory cuts and everything else and here we have the Queen was given three hundred and seventy million pound to upgrade Buckingham Palace. The so-called socialists of the Republican Movement, Martin McGuinness, hasn’t said a word – not one word! They say: Stand up to Tory cuts and then they’re not now out saying: Hold on. You’re cutting all these peoples’ benefits – you’re taking from health and you’re doing this and everything else – nothing about all this money being given from the public purse to the Queen, a multi-millionaire who owns Jersey Island, nothing -not a word at all. Not a word at all. Not a word about how much money is getting spent on Trident missiles and everything else while the cuts – but they’re sloganising, they say: Oooh, we need to stand up to Tory cuts. Oooh, we need to do this.

Raymond McCartney is actually saying at the minute now this thing – we need to stand up for the A6 and the A5, these roads leading from Doire to Dublin and the other to Belfast. This has been going on since the 1960’s – they’re fighting for this road from Doire to Belfast – they’re still fighting for it. When twenty miles up the road in Coleraine there’s a duel carriageway almost completed which will link Coleraine, a provincial Unionist town with the other Unionist town, Ballymena, and Ballymena is linked in by the M2, it’s already linked by the M2 motorway, to Belfast…

JM:  …and Dixie…

DE:  …And they’re still – Martin McGuinness, as Deputy First Minister, and this is nearly completed while the road to Doire, after all these years, is still not even started.

JM:  And Dixie, Martin McGuinness has had a pretty charmed life. I mean we just had the death of an informer over in England who every Republican in Doire was named by him except Martin McGuinness. And he was never named and picked up in the supergrass trials with Raymond Gilmour. He’s lived a very charmed life. We’ve had other people on from MI5, Ian Hurst, saying that he was a ‘protected species’ as he called him – that he was not to be touched or arrested.

DE:  Yes, you’re correct. Martin was not only at the time around Raymond Gilmour but Martin was going around and attending the court cases – walked in and attending them from the street. Here was a man, the whole IRA in Doire was in jail and Martin was walking in without any fear that Raymond Gilmour was going to be pointing him out saying: He’s the man that was the leader. He was the OC in Doire. He’s the man that was the leader. Doesn’t have to worry about that. But the fact is, too, in February, just before the criminalisation policy started, the only time Martin spent in jail in The North was a couple of weeks on remand. He was charged with IRA membership. I have a newspaper clipping here – and after about two weeks he was taken to court and the Crown prosecutor stated (Dixie reads from newspaper) :

I have been instructed not to proceed with the prosecution due to insufficient evidence therefore I have been instructed not to proceed.

Now, Martin says in the article his release came about as some surprise but the article also tells us there was a car waiting outside to whisk him off the Falls Road. So how was his release ‘as some surprise’ when there was a car waiting? The thing is: Who instructed the Crown prosecutor in those days? That’s the question I’m asking. Also, it’s says ‘due to insufficient evidence’. There’s two videos that are still out there on the internet and one was when the Official IRA called a ceasefire and Martin was interviewed and he spoke on behalf of the IRA and the other was the famous Tom Mangold interview where he’s walking down Stanleys Walk and Tom Mangold introduces him as the Officer Commanding of the Doire part of the IRA…

JM:  …Alright, Dixie…

DE:  …there was all the evidence that they wanted and this was during the height of internment – sorry – this was during the height of internment 1972.

JM:  (station identification) And we’re really talking about, there’s a documentary that’s coming out called Bobby Sands: 66 Days. It’ll be two weeks here in New York City – November 30th to December 13th at 209 West Houston Street just west of 6th Avenue. Dixie, should people go see it?

DE:   Yes. Of course they should. Of course they should, yes. You can’t say no. You can’t censor. Although at the same time, I’m not sure – I couldn’t be a hundred percent, I’ve asked Brendan Byrne by email – he hasn’t answered me…

JM:  ….and that’s the director…

DE:  … but there’s a quote in the film (inaudible) and I was waiting on it because me and Richard O’Rawe went to see it in Belfast and there was a lot of members of Sinn Féin there and I knew the quote was coming up – and it’s a famous quote of Bobby’s:

They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised and institutionised decent, law abiding robots. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal.

Now what took my eye away from the screen was looking towards the likes of Gerry Kelly to see how they would take the ‘churn us out as systemise and institutionised decent, law abiding robots’ and I didn’t hear it.

JM:  Well Dixie…

DE:  ….Things happened that quickly that I said to Richard: Did you hear it? Did they cut that part out? You know and I asked Brendan and Brendan didn’t answer me. I sent him an email and he didn’t answer me. I asked him was it him who censored him, censored Bobby’s words, or was it done before? Though I haven’t seen – I would ask people to look, if they go to the film and look. If I’m wrong I’ll apologise. I will apologise publicly. But I did not hear it – those words.

JM:  Alright, Dixie, we’re going to cover another story when we get you back on: The history of Back Home in Derry which is covered by every Irish Republican band throughout the world, written by Bobby Sands but influenced by someone from Doire – who might be on the phone right now – but we’re going to play The Druids singing that. And Dixie, thanks for coming on and thanks for listening over there in Doire on wbai.org. (ends time stamp ~55:28)

John McDonagh, RFÉ Co-Host, Reviews the Film, Bobby Sands: 66 Days 19 November 2016

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

John McDonagh (JM) gives us a review of the film, Bobby Sands: 66 Days and discusses the film with Co-Host Martin Galvin (MG). (begins time stamp ~ 7:09)

JM:   And now the rest of the show is going to be about this documentary that’s out. It’s called Bobby Sands: 66 Days. It has a two week engagement from November 30th to December 13th at The Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, just west of 6th Avenue, and the screenings are at 12:30, 2:45, 5:10, 7:30 and 9:45.

I went to see it at a press screening on Thursday and here at Radio Free Éireann we covered the 1981 hunger strike starting in 1981 and really, based on the 1981 hunger strike, that’s how the radio show started here at WBAI. I went with David Rothenberg and when we came out of there, David had said to me – and it was good to talk to someone who wasn’t involved with the Republican struggle – he said that he only thought that Bobby Sands had died; he didn’t realise that nine other people died and he didn’t realise the role that Maggie Thatcher played in the hunger strike. And one of the things that came out in the documentary, because they have some people that worked in her Cabinet, is that Margaret Thatcher was in a tough place. It was the Labour government in 1976, there was what was known as ‘special category status’, which was political status for anyone that was in the IRA caught in the Six Counties they were arrested by the British Army, they went through a Diplock court, a special court, and then they went into special prisons where they actually ran the prisons.

At midnight on a certain date in 1976 doing the exact same, whatever you say, ‘activity’, you were now an ‘ODC’, an ordinary decent criminal as they called it, and Maggie Thatcher had no room to manoeuvre because she would have looked weak on terrorism had she tried to backtrack on what the Labour government brought in – it wasn’t her government that brought it in – she just kept it going so that was a very good historical point of view that they brought up. Also during that time, to show how sectarian the vote was: My aunt and uncle live in Co. Fermanagh. Bobby Sands ran for the office in Fermanagh/South Tyrone. My Uncle Peter and Aunt Julia – I called them up about the vote because then I went shortly over and I ended up living in Donegal with my uncle and I went to at least four of the funerals and wakes of the hunger strikers. My Uncle Peter, who’s more of a Nationalist and a Republican voted for Bobby Sands and I asked Julia: Who did you vote for? She said: I hate the IRA. I hate what Bobby Sands stands for. Well I said: Who’d you vote for? Well, I had to vote for him. I couldn’t vote for the other crowd – which was the Protestant crowd and it just showed how sectarian it was. Also when I was going to see the documentary, I went to the BBC Ulster website and the lead story was part of Long Kesh is now being turned into a heliport for medical reasons. So instead of turning into what Dublin did, Kilmainham, it is now being turned into anything than what Long Kesh was so I thought that was a bit of an irony about what was going on.

And I kept an eye out for artwork during it. And sure enough towards the end they showed a piece of Boston Irish Northern Aid and they went to a table where there was tee shirts and bumper stickers and there it was –

Irish Northern Aid-Irish Prisoners of War Committee, April 1981 Brian Mór Ó Baoigill, artist AIA Dig ID 0010PL02 © 2001 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Irish Northern Aid-Irish Prisoners of War Committee, April 1981
Brian Mór Ó Baoigill, artist
AIA Dig ID 0010PL02
© 2001 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Brian Mór Ó Baoighill’s artwork on the table. And I always think: You cannot do anything about the 1981 hunger strike and not have some of his artwork in it.

What also struck me was everyone carrying the black flags – I remember when I was over there there was black flags literally from Dublin to Donegal on every telephone post – all the way up and it was very ominous when you were over there during the hunger strike on that.

One of the wishes – I wish it could have incorporated, although it’s an hour and fifteen minutes, is what happened outside of the prison – the diaspora of, in America – there’s a little piece on that – in London, in Scotland – but, I understand, you can only get so much in it. They had an interview with the prison guard and it was great to have his point of view because how he hated the men that were in there who were on the hunger strike and dirty protest because now he had to live through it and it was great to see his point of view. Now you can argue about a movie and an interpretation but here it was – a prison guard who actually was there – and his hatred of the IRA in the prison because, at that stage, they had killed ten prison guards and he goes into that – that that was his friends being killed.

Now Fintan O’Toole, who’s a writer for the Irish Times and used to hang out at Rocky Sullivan’s on Lexington Avenue, I met him a couple of times down there, he does the narration and puts it into an historical point of view. That is the one thing you could quibble about because it’s not actual facts – it’s his interpretation – how culturally Bobby Sands is looked at throughout the Irish culture and world culture. There was two people from the United States in there: It was Father Seán McManus, who runs a one-man show down in Washington DC called the Irish National Caucus (or something like that), he was in it and he had a good point of view and he stuck to it: That the people to blame for not getting the word out in the United States was the Irish government, particularly Seán Donlon, and what he kept saying is that anytime that he wanted to bring up something on Capitol Hill it was the Irish, Twenty-six County government blocking him. And then you go to Seán Donlon – and there’s a special place in Hell for him during this time period – he was talking about Irish Northern Aid and what was going on in the United States and he said that their slogan was very simple: Brits Out. And he said from our point of view, and he meant from the Twenty-Six County point of view, that was very difficult to counteract because the problem was ‘more complex than that’ – so that there was good to have. And then an other ‘Irish-American’ was an Italian guy from the Bronx and it was so good to see Mario Biaggi, Congressman Mario Biaggi, during the hunger strike talking about it at a podium in Congress. And if anyone should have been in that documentary, in Congress – and not Tip O’Neill and not Ronald Reagan and not Kennedy but it was our own Mario Biaggi from the Bronx.

The other thing is they put Bobby Sands in a world context of Che Guevara and Mahatma Gandhi and Terence MacSwiney and the effect that the hunger strikes had worldwide and I thought that was very good.

That’s it, basically. On a documentary, I’m going to tell you, it’s very hard to argue with that person who says: ‘I was there’. This is not a movie. And I would recommend it because any time you can get out and have a debate on what happened in 1981 it’s a good day and to have people that were involved actually have the debate – particularly that we’re going to have on later, Dixie Elliott from Doire, about his impressions of the film itself. And I know Martin and Dixie were both filmed for it but, as I say, you didn’t make the final cut.

MG:   John, one of the things that I was disappointed – I haven’t seen the film but just from what you’ve told me and what I’ve heard from others – is that the American dimension and all the work that was done in the United States – all of the people, the thousands who came out day after day was not fully taken into account because at the beginning of the first hunger strike – Brendan Hughes in 1980 – he had actually issued a special appeal to Irish Northern Aid saying that America was England’s weak point – that is something that Richard O’Rawe, who was the PRO (Public Relations Officer) for the hunger strike in 1981, the point that that made and everybody seems to indicate that that’s what the British were concerned about. They didn’t care how many Nationalists in The North of Ireland…

JM:   …And the Irish government. Never mind the British government. And they didn’t even get into what the British were doing because they were saying: That’s an internal problem. It was the Twenty-Six County government.

MG:   They were all concerned – we’ve lost our credibility – we can’t represent them – people are following them – Michael Flannery is going to be elected Grand Marshal in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade – it’s hard to imagine now but from every day of that hunger strike you would have, literally, thousands of people in New York, in Albany, in Boston, in Philadelphia, in San Francisco, in Detroit, in other cities around the country every single day – they would be out there. The news coverage would start with what was happening in the Irish hunger strike. The Northern Aid office – I would be up there at five or six o’clock in the morning to do press releases. We’d be there for the day. We’d do the newspaper. Brian did everything at night to try and get out/create posters. Mike Costello would deliver the newspapers – I’ll never forget. I thought he lived like a few feet away just over the bridge and it was hours away. Everybody, thousands upon thousands of people – if somebody died there would be people in front of the (British) Consulate hour upon hour until the burial.

JM:   But Martin, that is a separate documentary. It wasn’t about America. It was about Bobby Sands – his sixty-six days. I mean what you’re talking about – that’s a documentary on its own.

MG:   But that was the crucial thing through all that period of time that would have had an impact on the British, that would have had an impact on the government.

JM:   The crucial thing was him being elected into Westminster – now come on. You’re giving what was going on in America – the fight was going on – there’s no fight going on there – if he doesn’t get elected into Parliament, and they get into the strategy – if he lost by one vote Maggie Thatcher would have been on TV saying: See, they have no support. And they get into the strategy that it was very risky because, as we know, you don’t know how elections go. I mean America played a role but the documentary is not about America. It’s about Bobby Sands and Long Kesh.

MG:   I think if you look at this in reality America had a much stronger role than it did and, unfortunately, people like Tip O’Neill, like Ted Kennedy, the Four Horsemen. I remember writing an editorial (on page 4 -Ed.) – it’s in the Irish People – at the end of the first hunger strike – that if they had simply done anything it might have been enough so that there never would have been a hunger strike that Bobby Sands would have been on. It just brings back so many memories – you’re talking about Kieran Nugent as a young man being the first blanketman after being arrested after March 1st 1976. The reason that there was a publicity department I was asked to run, there was a re-organisation within Irish Northern Aid, was because of the appeal by Brendan Hughes and others who were on the blanket protest. So so much would have been different, so much was changed, so much in term of Irish-America in terms of the public reaction to British rule and our slogan at that time was not Brits Out – it was supporting the five demands. They wanted to end the hunger strike to get some kind of recognition or new conditions to stop the beatings, to stop the brutality because what Thatcher was doing, and what people should understand, she was trying to make people who were in jail for political offences, who saw themselves as a continuation of 1916 of the old struggle to be independent and free, she was trying to dress them up in a criminal uniform to say that they were now criminals, that the whole struggle was criminals, that everything was a criminal struggle, that anybody who was against British rule was a criminal. And that’s why Kieran Nugent went on protest. That’s why Bobby Sands and Tom McElwee and Joe McDonnell and the others died – that’s what sustained them throughout the beatings, throughout the protests, throughout everything that was inflicted upon them.

JM:   Yeah so as you can see there was a lot of passion – it was a passionate time. What we want to do now is to go to the trailer to the movie, 66 Days, and when we come out of that we’re going to head over to Doire and speak to someone who was in the prison during the hunger strike and knew Bobby Sands and – oh, one of the other things: The most iconic photo of Bobby Sands is the one with his arms around Denis Donaldson. And they featured that in that and they said that was the photo of his image, although it’s cropped to just show his face, but when they show the actual photograph Bobby Sands went in one direction with the hunger strike and Denis Donaldson ended up being an MI5 agent working here in New York City. And that’s, Martin, when you see it you’re going to be picking out – Oh, look at that photo – Oh, I remember what happened that time – I remember the phone call you got at the office at that time – and that’s where it will bring back all the memories. But to get into what was actually going on in the prison we’re going to speak to Dixie Elliott in about two minutes.

Audio:   Trailer for the film, Bobby Sands: 66 Days, is played. (ends time stamp ~ 22:33)

Radio Free Éireann Announcement

Radio Free Éireann will air this Saturday November 19th from Noon-1PM New York time, 5-6 PM Irish time, on WBAI 99.5 FM or on the internet at wbai.org. Anytime after the program concludes you can hear the podcast on wbai.org/archives

As the film about Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, 66 Days, premieres in New York Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliott, a former blanketman and cellmate of Bobby Sands who inspired the song, Back Home in Derry, will discuss the film, the hunger strike and his unique political perspective on events today.

Members of the Parkhead Republican Band in Glasgow will be in studio to discuss what it is like for Irish Republican bands in Scotland.

Go to Radio Free Éireann’s new web site, rfe123.org, where you can read transcripts of last week’s headline making interviews with Derry journalist Eamon Sweeney and Dublin lawyer, author and former Irish Republican Army officer Kieran Conway and get the latest information on our upcoming show.

John McDonagh and Martin Galvin will co-host. ‘See’ you on Saturday!

Kieran Conway RFÉ 12 November 2016

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

John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to former IRA Director of Intelligence Kieran Conway (KC) via telephone from Dublin about his memoir and his recent interviews with the BBC. (begins time stamp ~ 39:30)

MG:   With us on the line we have Kieran Conway. Kieran, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. Now Kieran, your book…

JM:   … Who is Kieran Conway?

MG:   Kieran Conway is the author of a book, Southside Provisional, and what it does – it details very well – is he’s a young man who grew up in south Dublin who is well educated, who had the middle class suburbs of south Dublin and saw what was happening. Lived through the fiftieth anniversary of 1916. Saw what was happening in The North of Ireland, civil rights movement being attacked, Nationalists’ homes being attacked, riots – and decided to join and become a soldier with the Irish Republican Movement. And the reason why we’ve invited Kieran back – John, you’ve talked about The Stephen Nolan Show and some of the other shows – recently they invited Kieran to be interviewed and asked questions like: ‘Are you a psychopath?’ and ‘Are you a sensitive bomber?’ – things of that nature. So he survived those questions and we thought we’d bring him back to Radio Free Éireann to answer a different type of question. Kieran, are you with us?

KC:   I am, yeah. Glad to be here.

MG:   And where can we get Southside Provisional Where can people get that book that details so much – what happened, what led to the struggle – it wasn’t something that people thought they had an idea of joining – that it was something that seemed to be forced on them as a way in which to end British rule, to end the injustices, to end the brutal way in which civil rights – the injustice with which the British treated the civil rights movement. Where can we get that book? southside-provisional

KC:  I’m not sure if hard copies are available in book shops in The States, I suspect not. It’s available on amazon both in hard copy and in the Kindle version and it’s also available on iBooks.

MG:   Well I’ve got it in paperback so it’s available someplace in paperback but check amazon.com. Okay. Kieran, just briefly, you said during those interviews with Stephen Nolan, you were called back, that you decided, you made a decision to join the Irish Republican Army in response to what was happening in the late ’60’s – early ’70’s, that you still regard yourself as a soldier who was a combatant in what was at the time when it started – I’m not talking about post-1998 – we don’t want anybody to call you and try to prosecute you – but you joined what you believed at the time was a legitimate war to end British rule, to bring freedom to The North of Ireland. What are some of the things that led you to that decision?

KC:   Well absolutely I believed it was a just war and I have never deviated from that. I’m quite certain of it. I suffer no guilt and no – well, a general remorse given that the struggle turned out to be for nothing but yeah, if I had my time again I would do it all over again. I joined – I went to the university first in 1968 against the backdrop of revolts throughout Europe and in the US as well and also, to a lesser extent, in the UK. I became, as was common at the time, I became a communist and so firstly as a socialist and then in 1969 The North blew up. Catholic areas were attacked by the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) and Loyalists. People were killed, hundreds of houses were burned out. The was a refugee problem – the biggest in Europe since the Second World War and I joined the Republican Club when I went back to college. Within a few months I became Secretary of the club and shortly afterwards, around Christmastime, I decided that I should follow the logic of my convictions and join the IRA.

MG:   Alright. And you rose through the ranks. You became an intelligence officer.

KC:   Yeah well, at first it was very difficult to join the IRA. Given my background there were no Provisionals in UCD, University College Dublin, where I was studying law. I was a member of the Official Republican Movement. I tried to join their army – they told me not to be so childish, that they had plenty of working class lads to fight and they wanted me to get my degree and they would assist me into a job in trade unionism or the media where I would be of more value to their revolution. I wasn’t happy with that. I started to look at the Provisionals, I liked what I saw and it still took me nine months to join and I had to go to England to do so.

MG:   Okay. One of the things that you’re questioned about – and I know, John and I have friends, The Butlers – Kathy and Helen Butler and Will Butler – who are related to Eddie Butler, but one of the things they say: How did you leave, how did the IRA leave people in jail unjustly who they knew were innocent in Birmingham, in Guildford, etc?

KC:   Well it’s not true that they did. Eddie Butler, for instance, is one of those who loudly proclaimed that it was them that did the bombings that the Guildford people had been convicted of. The British knew perfectly well in that case and in the case of the Birmingham Six that the people they’d slammed up were innocent. They didn’t care. They wanted scapegoats. The people they convicted fitted the bill. It was a disgraceful episode in the British judicial history – one they should be thoroughly ashamed of – but anyway it all came right in the end in that the people were vindicated and released. And the IRA from Day One in relation to both Birmingham and Guildford and various other matters like Judith Ward said that the people who had been arrested were not members of the IRA, had not participated in those operations and that they were IRA operations. There’s misconceptions about that, for instance, various journalists have said that I’m the first to admit that the IRA had bombed Birmingham – that is simply not true. It was admitted from Day One.

JM:   Kieran, John McDonagh here. Here’s one of the problems now: Sinn Féin negotiated the Good Friday Agreement and this was supposed to put an end to everything and as we’ve had Brendan Hughes on saying it wasn’t worth the struggle – or as he said ‘getting out of bed’ – you stated this was a waste of time and lives, what went on because of the end result with now Sinn Féin, who will be taking their seats in Westminster. But what’s going on now is even with these historical committees they’ve set up in The North they’re looking to even extradite you because they claim that you have some knowledge about what happened in Birmingham. Now, whatever you want to say about the partition of Ireland, 1921, the government that was set up in Dublin would not have been extraditing anyone that would have been accused of anything, a bombing campaign say earlier in the struggle in England or being involved with the struggle – they were honoured – those men and women were honoured. Unlike in The North – they’re not honoured. They cannot get funding for statues up there or for plaques or anything like that, that what’s going on now shows that Sinn Féin lost, that the British government still wants to extradite people all these years later – they won’t prosecute their own soldiers – but there’s talk about trying to have you extradited over to England and to face charges for the Birmingham bombings.

KC:   Ah, well, there’s no possible charge they could bring against me in relation to Birmingham except withholding information. The names of the bombers are well-known. I’m not going to repeat them. I’d never finger an IRA man. But the names of the bombers have been, do you know what I mean, they’ve been mentioned on British TV, they’re in various publications, books, loads of journalists have named them, they’re in Wikipedia as to they are, short of them taking a trip to England and making confessions there’s no evidence to convict them because all the forensics is gone and cannot now be examined. So there’s not a shred of evidence against them the men except their potential own confessions which ain’t gonna happen. The only information that I’m withholding is the name of the second man who conducted the debrief of the English Commander back in Dublin in the immediately aftermath of the bombs. And I won’t name him. He’s still alive. And as I say I would never name a living IRA man.

JM:  Now would you ever travel outside of now the Twenty-Six Counties?

KC:   I travel regularly. I go to Spain. I go to various other countries. I avoid the UK for obvious reasons; I think I’d be arrested. I avoid The North also although I have been back – you know what I mean, quietly, furtively but yeah, that’s it – I travel widely otherwise. Although unfortunately I was very much hoping Hillary Clinton would win – that may or may not be popular with your listeners simply because I would have written a personal letter to her and asked her would she allow me to visit The States which I’d very much like to do before I die.

MG:   Kieran, you’re not the only one who had ideas of letters – we’ve talked about some of the ex-prisoners here who are in similar situations. Kieran, I do want to ask you, in you book – and again, this is a great book – it details first-hand knowledge of people like Billy McKee, people like Martin McGuinness, others – serving with them or your interaction with them through the early years of the struggle. But in the book…

KC:   …Well McKee – just before you go on – I’d just like to pay tribute to McKee. He’s now in his nineties and he is the IRA man that I most admire and heard most from. I really have huge, huge regard for him.

MG:   As would I. He is somebody who still stands up, makes speeches – well he will give statements occasionally just about what he thinks is wrong. But what I want to ask you about is: In your book, well I’m not sure if it was in the book or on this radio show, you had detailed leaving the Republican Movement on the day of the Downing Street Declaration and how you thought that this meant there would never be a united Ireland, that everything that you had fought for, that everything so many Irish men and women had fought for was never going to happen in your lifetime. Could you explain that?

KC:   I could. What happened was that I went into the Sinn Féin offices that day and I went down to the An Phoblacht offices close by to watch the much-anticipated Downing Street Declaration. We expected something to be said to indicate that the British had no interest in remaining in Ireland. In fact what was said was simply a re-statement of then British policy about upholding the Unionist veto and so on and so forth. The mood in the room amongst the people who were watching the television was one of was deep despondency and the next thing, anyway, there was a call from Belfast. Gerry Adams was the caller. He spoke to a senior member of Sinn Féin and that Sinn Féin member then turned to the rest in the room and said: Listen. Gerry says everybody should settle down. That there’s more to this than meets the eye and we can live with it.

I knew that that was not true. I knew that the British re-statement of policy was exactly that. And I knew that the struggle was over for me and I just left. I mean, as far as that’s concerned the people in the room were fools and idiots if they believed what was being said to them.

MG:   Well Kieran, you look at what’s happened since then, through the Stormont Agreement…

KC:   …Well what happened is exactly what I thought would happen.

MG:   Okay so why do people – there are still people who think that within any amount of time there’ll be a border poll, there’ll be a majority for a united Ireland, that by shaking hands with the royal family and standing along side Arlene Foster no matter what she does or says and making way for Orange marches down Ardoyne, that segments of Unionist or Loyalist opinion are going to convert – they’re going to suddenly vote for a united Ireland. What are your feelings about that?

KC:   The Loyalists will never change. Why should they? The entire basis of Loyalism is to maintain the link with Britain. They won’t change and there will be no change in their position and there will never be a united Ireland, certainly not in my lifetime.

MG:   Okay. Well what about all this that Sinn Féin says we won all these seats in Leinster House and this is going to make moves or it’s how it’s advancing a united Ireland. Do you see any advances coming from that – towards a united Ireland?

KC:   No, no. No, I don’t and furthermore the presence of Sinn Féin in the various parliaments, and it looks like Westminster will be next, has made absolutely no difference to the living conditions of the people who will vote for them. You know, all that’s happened is that there are Sinn Féin arses sitting in government in The North rather than SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) arses but that makes no difference.

MG:   Alright. We want to thank you. We’re out of time. We could go a lot longer. Kieran, I want to thank you and just if you want to see what it was like – why somebody from Dublin – why people would join and believe that there was a legitimate struggle against British rule, enlist in the IRA, some of the leading figures in that struggle, especially in the early ’70’s and why they would be disillusioned, leave and feel that that struggle had just given up and was never going to achieve what it set out or been started to achieve and what would have justified it. I recommend Southside Provisional. I recommend Kieran Conway’s book – somebody who speaks with knowledge. Kieran, I want to thank you for being with us and also for surviving and standing up to Stephen Nolan in some of those interviews on the BBC.

KC:  (laughs) It was easy. I mean it’s the first time that I’ve been accused of being a psychopath and had no trouble dealing with the rest of it. It’s simply common abuse. It wasn’t a question. It was idiotic abuse.

MG:   Kieran, it seems to me – and I’m about the same age as you – I think we met in Parnell Square – but I believed the same thing – that that struggle was legitimate – I believed for a long period of time it was going to end British rule in Ireland and that would make it legitimate and again, we’re now at the same point where it seems like we’re starting all over and unless something changes very dramatically we’re never going to get to it.

KC:   No. It ended in total defeat of the Republican Movement which came to accept the British position on Irish unity that it will never occur without the consent of the Unionists which is never going to be forthcoming and that was complete reversal of everything they had fought against for twenty-five years – so total defeat.

MG:   Alright. Kieran, we want to thank you for being with us and we’re looking forward to having you again in future and again, the book is Southside Provisonal From Freedom Fighter to the Four Courts – all those lawyers are always very eloquent, that’s…

KC:   Thanks very much for having me on.

JM:   If you want to hear the interview again go to wbai.org to the archives. If you want to read the transcript of that interview you go to rfe123.org or dot com is it?

MG:   It’s dot org. And we actually have the Stephen Nolan interview transcribed. So Kieran, if you want to re-live all those rude questions you can see it there and we’ll have your interview today up on our website very soon and it’ll be around, I know The Pensive Quill and some of the other sites as well.  (ends time stamp ~ 55:35)

Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 12 November 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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listen on the internet: wbai.org Saturdays Noon EST

John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) via telephone from Doire who brings us up to speed on news and events from Doire. (begins time stamp ~ 22:49)

MG:   Our first guest – now we had a number of stories and we keep changing because we thought we were going to be on a few weeks ago. We had on the great journalist from Doire, Eamon Sweeney, to cover a couple of stories and as week after week went by more stories – and we were preempted for fund raising – more stories would come on so we are going to recap a number of those crucial stories with Eamon Sweeney. Eamon, are you with us from Doire?

ES:  I am indeed, Martin.

MG:  Alright, that’s great. Eamon, I had a number of stories lined up but you tell me that there has been another event that you went to I think last night or the night before to deal with Bloody Sunday. We’ve been waiting to hear. We had had people on to talk about how the investigation had been completed, it’s now been referred to the Public Prosecution Service, that there would be a decision made on charges and we wouldn’t need any more demonstrations – The Nashes and the others, Eamonn McCann and the others who lead those marches for justice to put British soldiers who are guilty of manslaughter or unjustified killings before a court. What event was it that you were on within the last couple of days and what announcement, if any, has been made by the Public Prosecution Service in The North?

ES:  Well the event took place on Thursday evening in a bar in the city centre in Doire  and it was simply an anti-war evening on the eve of the annual armistice events which happen in the United Kingdom. But the format that took place was several performers, including Eamonn McCann reading out anti-war poetry, but ostensibly the purpose behind that was to raise funds to organise a march which will take place this year, well sorry, early next year, as close as possible to the actual date of Bloody Sunday on January 30th 1972. It was a well-attended event and it was a very enjoyable one you know, performers giving their time for free to highlight the injustices of the world wars which, of course, America took part in, the injustices that were foisted upon the mainly working class people of the world, at that stage, by colonial powers. The other aspect of it is, of course, as you said, the investigation into Bloody Sunday. All the soldiers that were pinpointed by the PSNI, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to be interviewed in relation to their actions on that day forty-five years ago almost has been completed now for some months – at least two and a half three months – but as yet no word has been received by any of the family members about the progress in that movement towards putting soldiers in the dock to question them about their actions where fourteen people were shot dead and twice that number injured on that day. So again, there seems to be a slowness in making these final decisions. This is all against the backdrop, of course, of the wider victims’ issue in Northern Ireland at the moment which is gathering great pace.

The refusal by the British government, basically, to release a hundred and fifty million pounds that was promised as part the new deal or the latest re-working, if you will, of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 to fund legacy investigations and legacy inquests into fifty-six different cases involving ninety-five, ninety-six deaths throughout the course of The Troubles which involves state killings, it also involves paramilitary killings and it seems to be the last piece of the jigsaw in terms of reaching a final Fresh Start Agreement in Northern Ireland with regard to victims has again reached an hiatus and is stalling.

One interesting aspect of it has been the personage of the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, who has very vocally put it out there in recent weeks that one of his main priorities is to get a mechanism in place to adequately deal with the past. However, in saying that, just this week the Irish newspaper, the Irish News newspaper in Belfast, ran a story saying that files belonging to the British Army with relation to the bombing in Belfast of a bar called McGurk’s in 1971 will remain closed until 2056 which is another forty years down the line. That doesn’t auger very well, I suppose, for British claims that they’re willing to deal, as a priority, when looking into the past.

MG:  Eamon, it seems that they’ll withhold funds and put Sinn Féin in a position where they have to have some kind of deal and then call it a victory or else get nothing and they’ll stall it as long as possible. I want to move it just very quickly – there’s a couple of other stories. Just before we started our break on fund raising Michael Doherty had talked about the case of Tony Taylor, somebody who was interned-by-remand, doesn’t get a hearing, finished his sentence, was then suddenly was re-arrested, put back in on his old sentence, doesn’t know why, doesn’t know the charges. His solicitor can’t find out why but there’s been a sinister, even more sinister, development with that involving his wife and visits from his handicapped child. What happened to Tony Taylor?

ES:  Well in this instance the local press reported some two weeks ago now during the conclusion of a visit by his wife and his son to Maghaberry Prison that there is an allegation of assault, both physically and verbally, against Mrs. Taylor by a female prison officer and the police said that they are investigating that. We’re not sure of the exactitude of the details of the nature of the assault but it seems to be centred around the fact that Mr. Taylor’s son is a disabled child and his only means of communication depends very heavily on physical contact. And it seems to have arisen around some form of physical contact at that point where allegedly a female prison officer then committed verbal and physical assault upon the personage of Mrs. Taylor. That’s ongoing.

In terms of the actual campaign for the release of Tony Taylor I had explained, both myself and you have explained the exactitude of the sort of nonsensical manner in which this is dealt with by the British state that there was a protest held in Doire just over a week ago at Free Derry Corner and despite the fact that it was a very cold, dark, rainy night it was attended by around, in my estimation, around three hundred people again calling for the release of Tony Taylor. You know and it was attended widely by many groupings, political groupings, and ordinary members of the public so it’s not something that’s going to go away. The bottom line, as we’ve said on this programme on a few occasions already is this: If the British state perceives Tony Taylor to be a threat to them then put him into court and present their evidence and give him the trial which he would be entitled to. Otherwise his incarceration or continued incarceration – he’s a prisoner, he’s not a convicted prisoner however – is a total nonsense. An absolute shocking case of taking somebody from their home and incarcerating them on the say-so of somebody within the British security services. And the point, again, is simple: Get him into court and let’s see what evidence you have against the guy. Give him the due process that the British seem to be very proud of.

MG:  John, you have a question.

JM:   Eamon, John McDonagh here. We had our own Brexit here but you had it first over there in the Six Counties and now it’s going maybe go to a vote in Westminster and there’s now talk of Sinn Féin maybe taking their seats there. They’ve taken their seats in Dublin, they’ve taken their seats in Stormont and now they’re talking about taking their seats in Westminster. Now I follow Dixie Elliott and one of the main reasons they say they can’t take their seats there because they’d have to swear an allegiance to the Queen of England. Now Martin McGuinness is now giving tours of Westminster, Sinn Féin has offices there in Westminster, they get paid by the Queen – what is the feeling over there about if the vote comes down, very crucially, to a couple of votes – Sinn Féin has four British MPs in Westminster – do the people there want them to go in, take their seats and vote to remain within the European Union?

ES:  That’s a very interesting question. I mean at this point it’s total speculation. Martin McGuinness said that he would not rule anything out as a possibility in terms of using those four votes at Westminster to offset any hurtling towards Brexit. Brexit is going to happen. It’s just the manner in which it’s going to happen that has to be discussed. There’s no doubt about that. The political ramifications of that are going to be huge for this particular part of The North of Ireland but in terms of Sinn Féin taking their seats – that is a possibility. I mean they do actually use the offices at Westminster and have done since they’ve contested the elections although they do not enter the chamber on the basis they abstain because of the oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Their policy on abstentionism, as we know, has weaken from what? say thirty-five years ago when it changed so they were allowed to enter Leinster House. Then of course came the Good Friday Agreement and now they sit in Stormont.

On their particular political journey I don’t see any reason why, in the end, they wouldn’t take their seats in Westminster given they have moved quite away from the left-hand side of the political spectrum into the centre in terms of administering rule. They are a bona fide elected body in both sections of the island of Ireland. It’s a decision which will, I suppose, cause some ripples within their own party at certain levels. It’s certainly a decision that would not be widely popular, in my estimation, within Nationalism in The North. This is the last bulwark of Sinn Féin’s Republican ideology. Sinn Féin, as we all know, stands for ‘ourselves alone’ – ourselves alone meaning: We will stand ourselves alone outside the structures of the British government and create our own parliament which, of course, happened in 1919. And it’s a very tricky one. If they are going to use the caveat that we have to enter Westminster in order to help offset the effects of Brexit in Ireland then that’s a decision that’s going to be taken by them and them alone. But it’s not one, that I personally would see, would be a highly popular one among certain sections of their own voters as well.

MG:  Alright Eamon, we just have a little over a minute left. I wanted to ask you about one more character: We’ve talked a lot about a guy named Denis Donaldson who was killed. There was somebody who passed…

JM:  ….well, who was an informer – worked for MI5.

MG:  There was another informer who worked for MI5 in Doire – a character named Raymond Gilmour. He passed away recently. They say don’t say anything but good about the dead – there was an exception made for those two. Raymond Gilmour’s son had actually said he was ashamed of his name, the family had left him, the guy may be buried in a pauper’s grave and another informer, Martin McGartland, is trying to raise money to keep him from that fate. Could you just tell us, I know it’s very briefly, why there is some much animosity towards Raymond Gilmour and his memory in Doire?

ES:  Well Raymond Gilmour was a character who was firstly jettisoned from the Official side of the Republican Movement then the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) under the suspicion of being an informer. He then ended up within the ranks of Provisional IRA and then very briefly was spirited out one night from his home in Creggan around 1982 when it became clear that he had become a dedicated sort of agent for the British state within the ranks of the Republican Movement in Doire. He then became what was known as the first ‘supergrass’ in Northern Ireland and he implicated many hundreds of people – thirty-odd people were eventually taken to court. The court case collapsed after two years, around 1984, when the Lord Chief Justice at the time, Lord Chief Justice Lowry, said this was a man who, of whom, a lie would trip more easily from his lips than the truth. He was totally discredited and all those involved were exonerated. The fact is that you’ll not find anybody with any sympathy in the Nationalist person of the day who has any sympathy for either Raymond Gilmour’s actions at the time nor his memory now. His name became synonymous with that of an informer ie if somebody accused you of being an informer you were called ‘a Gilmour’ – that’s how entrenched this character’s memory became in the city.

Martin McGartland, obviously his co-equivalent who operated in other parts of The North including Belfast, has tried to start a gofundme campaign on Facebook and other sort of social media outlets to raise money for Gilmour in order to bury him. My last check, although it’s been up and running for a couple of weeks now, I think it’s maybe around close to a thousand pounds when five thousand pounds were needed to get this man buried. The next thing that you would say about Raymond Gilmour is that he became a very tragic character. He sunk deep into drinking and we understand that that was the eventual cause of his death. He was found alone after a week in a flat near Ramsgate in Kent in England and there’s no great outpouring of sympathy in Doire for Raymond Gilmour and there never will be and that’s how sort of despised his name, unfortunately for his own…(crosstalk) (inaudible)

MG:  …Alright Eamon – we’ve been talking to Eamon Sweeney from Doire, a great reporter and journalist, who’s good enough to wrap up a couple of the major stories that happened in the last few weeks. Eamon, thank you very much and again – well, I won’t say anything about that – we’re certainly not asking people to contribute to that funeral arrangement. Let Raymond Gilmour go to the pauper’s grave that he so deeply and richly deserves. Alright thank you, Eamon, and we’re looking forward to having you again when we can deal with one story and give it the time it deserves instead of having to go through three or four as we did today. Thank you.

ES:  No problem, Martin. Thank you. Bye-bye.

JM:  And also, during that time when Raymond Gilmour was giving evidence so many people were picked up in Doire. But but one person wasn’t picked up: Martin McGuinness – who we had on, Ian Hurst, who worked for the British government, stated that Martin McGuinness was a ‘protected species’ and he was never picked up during those supergrass trials. But the wit and irony with the people in the Six Counties during those thirty years – there was a wall mural that was up in Doire and it said: ‘I know Raymond Gilmour thank ‘f’ he doesn’t know me’ and that was one of the more famous wall murals that went up. Because anybody who was connected with the Republican Movement was arrested at that time and brought up on charges.

MG:  They had thirty-five people in jail for I think it was up to three years before – and they don’t get the time back. (ends time stamp ~ 39:21)

Kieran Conway The Nolan Show 3 Nov 2016

The Nolan Show
BBC Radio Ulster
3 November 2016

Stephen Nolan (SN) interviews former IRA Intelligence Director Kieran Conway (KC) via telephone from Dublin and has Ulster Unionist Party justice spokesperson Doug Beattie (DB) on the line from Belfast.  (The Nolan Show advises: ‘Please note this programme has been edited since transmission.‘ – Ed.)

SN:   Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has said he’s disgusted at a BBC interview with a former IRA intelligence officer, Kieran Conway, has said he had participated in a number of armed robberies in England, half a dozen commercial bombings and shootings including a number where soldiers were killed. Mr. Beattie, who is his party’s justice spokesperson, has asked the Minister for Justice and the Chief Constable what action they intend to take following these revelations. I’ve been speaking to Doug Beattie and Kieran Conway and I started by asking Kieran Conway what he did in the IRA.

KC:  I participated in IRA operations as you’d expect an IRA man to do.

SN:  Can you give me a sense of what some of those operations were?

KC:  No, I described them in my book and in various interviews. I participated in gun battles with British soldiers. In a number of them soldiers had died though I can’t be sure if it was my bullet that caused the damage. I participated in a very small number of commercial bombings and I did armed robberies in England and I engaged in all sorts of other IRA activity.

SN:  And when you say you involved yourself in commercial bombings – did you plant bombs?

KC:  I planted a couple, yeah.

SN:  So you carried a bomb into a commercial area and set it down, did you?

KC:  I did, yeah. I’m not prepared to go into any more detail on that yet but I did a number of commercial bombings, a very small number.

SN:  And what was in your head when you’re leaving a bomb in the middle of an area where there are civilians?

KC:  Well your main concern would be that no civilians got hurt and after that you would be concerned about your own get away and it would be in that order.

SN:  How can you leave a bomb, Kieran, in a commercial area and pretend that you’re concerned about civilians?

KC:  Well no civilians were ever hurt or far less killed in any bombing that I participated in and I’m very grateful for that because I (crosstalk) (inaudible)

SN:  But they could have been, couldn’t they, if it’s a commercial…

KC:  …clearly they’re dangerous things…

SN:  …Yeah, if you mean a commercial area…

KC:  …actually no, they couldn’t…

SN:  ….if you mean a commercial area you mean…

KC : …(crosstalk) (inaudible)…

SN:  …you mean where people shop are, right?

KC:  …they couldn’t because of the precautions that were taken.

SN:  But you left the bomb where shops were – where people shop?

KC:  Yeah, well on occasions these were at night when the street were deserted and on maybe just one occasion it was in daylight – daytime – and there would be police and a warning was phoned in and the area was definitely cleared.

SN:  Well that was very good of you to give a warning.

KC:  Yeah well, that’s what the IRA always tried to do. There were mistakes – most notoriously Birmingham, Coleraine – a number of others which just don’t come to mind at the moment – incidents like Claudy where they couldn’t find a functioning phone box, the telephone exchange had been blown up the previous week – so yeah it was IRA policy to give a warning, very, very strict policy, and there were always investigations if bombs killed civilians and people were court-martialled, if necessary, for being careless.

SN:  I was being facetious when I said it was very good of you, of course, because to…

KC:  …No, no – I understand that.

SN:  Yeah. To take the risk of leaving – I just , I’m trying to understand how someone like you sleeps in your bed at night when you know you leave a bomb down and men, women, children might get blown to smithereens.

KC:  Well men, women and children did not…

SN:  …they might have though.

KC:  …as a matter of fact. No, they might not because, as I said, suitable precautions were taken and in the one incident where it was a daylight bombing and there was people in the street the area was cleared following a warning given to the authorities.

SN:  And you committed armed robbery with the IRA?

KC:  I did.

SN:  Robbing what type of institutions?

KC:  Banks, factories for wages – things of that sort.

SN:  So you pointed a gun at someone working a nine to five job?

KC:  Yeah. With some regret – not a very nice thing to do but the IRA needed money and those things happen during revolutions. Armed robberies have a long and perfectly respectable history within the revolutionary tradition as revolutionaries need money – they have to get it somewhere.

SN:  So to hell with the person that’s traumatised for the rest of their life.

KC:  Well look yeah, it’s unfortunate but yeah – that’s the way it is during war or revolution.

SN:  You call yourself a soldier?

KC:  I do. I do most definitely. We were engaged in a just war which ended badly for us – in total defeat. But yeah, that’s what we were engaged in as far as I’m concerned. I feel no guilt or remorse or anything except that I feel a general remorse because the outcome that has been achieved could have been achieved without the spilling of a single drop of anybody’s blood. So all of that were a waste, a waste of life, completely unnecessary and in that respect should not have happened.

SN:  So people like you call yourselves soldiers and yet you said, just a matter of moments ago, that you take a weapon, you take a gun – did you point it at women?

KC:  No…

SN:  …in some of these jobs?

KC:  No…I was in a couple of banks where there would have been women cashiers – none of them were directly affected though…

SN:  So you just pointed them at men then that might still to this day have the post-traumatic stress disorder because of people like you.

KC:  You just held the gun, you just pointed the gun and yelled in the direction of the person that you wanted to rob.

SN:  Yeah. I just try to understand how you then go home and live a life after you’ve done that to another human being. You know, that’s not war, is it? That’s not war.

KC:  Well look – I mean look at what the British did during World War II. Look at something like Dresden, you know, warring (inaudible) deliberately decide to slaughter civilians – three hundred thousand killed in massive fire bombs you know – that’s the real thing – at least we gave warnings.

SN:  Doug Beattie, what’s your reaction so far to what you’ve heard already?

DB:  You know, I understand the nature of conflict but when I use the word disgusted, and I don’t use that word lightly, I’ve actually been staggered. What we’re talking about here – is a man you’re talking to on the other end of the phone who knew about the Birmingham bombing – who planted the bombs, who planned it, who debriefed them – twenty-one people dead, a hundred and eighty-seven injured, six innocent men going to jail for life and he knew about it and said nothing. He’s already admitted himself that he knows about at least a dozen war crimes and he’s not willing to say who done that. Does he know who killed Jean McConville? Does he know anything about the Stakeknife incident?

He has openly said, himself, that he has attempted to murder and possibly even murdered British soldiers. Now how on earth is this man not behind bars for what he’s done and what he’s said about withholding information? I am staggered. I am staggered that the Republic justice system has not got hold of this guy by  the scruff of the neck. I am staggered that the British government hasn’t tried to extradite him and I would want to know: Does this man hold a comfort letter?  Does he have an OTR letter? What gives him such a brazen attitude that he can sit here and quite openly say he’s done what he’s done?

SN:  Well, did you have an on-the-run letter, Kieran?

KC:  No, I don’t. The only people that would have got those were people who sided with the leadership – I would not be such a person.

SN:  Why do you think you haven’t been extradited?

KC:  Well you can’t be extradited for questioning. I mean there’s no evidence against me other than what’s in my book. Now I could be charged with IRA membership, that is certainly possible but as for being charged with – that would be up for debate.

SN:  You’ve just said openly on this programme you’ve been engaged in armed robbery.

KC:  Yeah well look, I mean they would have to charge me with armed robbery at a place unknown, on a date unknown, of people unknown you know, I mean that’d be a stretch even for the British justice system. There’s no evidence….

SN:  You think you’re clever, don’t you?

KC:  …unless I chose to make a… No, not particularly. There’s no evidence unless I chose to make a confession and I certainly won’t be doing that.

SN:  Do you know who was involved in the Birmingham Pub bombings?

KC:  I do. And so does everybody else. It’s public knowledge. It’s been published several times. It’s been on television – the names of the people. The only bit of information that I have, which would not be of any material use to the authorities, is the name of the second man who did the debrief. He is an IRA man that is still living and I won’t name him.

SN:  Why not?

KC:  Because I simply do not finger IRA men.

SN:  So you’ve written a book about all of this – I’m actually minded to think is any of this true? Are you just trying to sell a book? Do you like the attention to such an extent that maybe you didn’t do any of this?

KC:  No. The book, its contents, are all true. It hasn’t been challenged by anybody. As I said, it’s a truthful memoir.

SN:  Have you killed people?

KC:  I don’t know. I say that in the book and I’ve said it repeatedly in the dozens of interviews I’ve done since.

SN:  What do you mean you don’t know?

KC:  I don’t know. I was present when British soldiers died in gun battles but I can’t be sure that it was my bullet that caused the damage.

SN:  So you were complicit in it?

KC:  Yes. I was an IRA activist. That’s what IRA activists did.

SN:  How many people might you have you killed?

KC:  Very few.

SN:  Doug?

DB: Stephen, if I can jump in here – Now let’s put this into the narrative that Kieran is using – let’s put this as a narrative as a war. Okay so I’m a soldier and I go out on the ground, I have a rifle in my hand and I know that the likes of Kieran is going to try and kill me. Fine. I’m happy with that. And do you know what? Within the rules of engagement if I get Kieran with a weapon within my sights I’m going to kill him. That’s fine – I can live with that if that’s the narrative he wants to use. But he is saying he knows about war crimes. This is the abduction, the torturing, the murdering of civilians and he knows about it and he’s not going to tell us? Now there needs to be action purely on that if nothing else. So whatever narrative Kieran wants to use he can’t justify knowing about war crimes and not telling the authorities about those war crimes. There are families out there – and we just seen it yesterday – the families of the missing who are still waiting to get their loved ones bodies back. Does he know anything about that? If he does he needs to go to the authorities and he needs to tell them.

SN:  Do you know anything about that, Kieran?

KC:  I don’t know anything about the ‘disappeared’. ‘Disappearing’ people was quite definitely a war crime. Another war crime is Kingsmills and the shooting of uninvolved Protestants was always a war crime. They were killed in, supposedly, in retaliation for UDA (Ulster Defence Association)/UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) attacks on Catholics but retaliation of that sort on civilians is forbidden by all laws of war and should not have occurred and were war crimes so there were more than the half, many, many more, than the half-dozen that I suggested there were. Another war crimes that was, fortunately, a short-lived use of human bombs by the IRA where people were strapped into vehicles with a large amount of explosives, directed to drive to a barracks or whatever and were then blown up by remote trigger. That was a war crime. Yeah, those are crimes.

DB:  Absolutely, Kieran, and I lost a friend, Cyril Smith, by one of those human bombs that was (inaudible). As a soldier, if I know about a war crime I will report it. I will go out of my way to make sure that action is taken. If you call yourself a soldier, if you have any decency whatsoever, you should be going forward with any information you have of war crimes and passing it on. This nonsense of omerta within the IRA doesn’t really work.

KC:  Well, I don’t have specific information. I’d imagine that the authorities do. For instance in relation to Kingsmills, possibly the most notorious of them, I was not in the IRA at the time so I just don’t know. And I don’t know about the ‘disappeared’ and I don’t know about any of the other assassination of (inaudible) etc etc that I’ve mentioned.

DB:  But as a former intelligence officer, Kieran, you’ll know that every small piece of information can link to something bigger so therefore you should bring yourself up to Northern Ireland, hand yourself to the PSNI and let them question you about what you do know.

KC:  Yeah. All I can do is to repeat that I don’t know anything.

DB:  Could you not come up and let them question you? Let them ask you? Let them see if… (crosstalk) (inaudible)

KC:  …No, if I come to Belfast I would expect that I might well be arrested and charged for membership back in the ’70’s and ’80’s because I’ve admitted in my book, I’ve said it in various interviews so there’d be plenty of evidence there. I wouldn’t be answering police questions. I’ve been in custody many times and I’ve never answered police questions.

SN:  So why can’t – why can’t they…

KC:  …but that is the only evidence against me is the evidence of myself that I was an IRA man and I participated in IRA…

SN:  …So I’m trying to understand it. Maybe you could – you’re a lawyer now, Kieran, is that right?

KC:  I am, yes.

SN:  So educate me then – why can’t the authorities here in The North not extradite you based on the crime of IRA membership then?

KC:  They could. I don’t know whether the courts in The South would give me up. They quite possibly would and (crosstalk) (inaudible)

SN:  There hasn’t been an attempt to?

KC:  No, but I knew I was taking that risk when I wrote the book and I went ahead and wrote it anyway. So yes, that’s something that is conceivable.

SN:  I dare say there might be quite a few people listening to this today that would like to see a bomber like you in jail.

KC:  Oh yeah, I’m quite sure there would be, yeah.

SN:  So Doug…

KC:  My view in all that, just to finish this, is that a conflict of this sort should end with a general amnesty that should include, for instance – and this is why the Republicans won’t go for it – it should include an amnesty for the soldiers that were involved in murder on Bloody Sunday and on other occasions. There should be blanket amnesty for everybody.

SN:  Doug, why – have you asked the Minister for Justice why there’s no attempt to extradite this man?

DB:  I’ve written to both the Minister for Justice and I’ve written to the Chief Constable. I spoke to the Minister of Justice late last night. She was just coming back from an event – she couldn’t say much but she intends to raise the issue with the Chief Constable herself and I await to see what the outcome is of that. Because I mean, you know until somebody stands up and boastfully sort of starts talking about what they’ve done with no real compassion but then that’s where the issue really lies here – that people are able to do this. And I really am disgusted. And I can accept narratives of different shapes and folds and I can accept that some people see it as a just war you know. But what of these six innocent people who were jailed for life for Birmingham even though the likes of Kieran they were innocent and allowed them to go to jail, you know – how can that be justified?

KC:  It’s not true that I allowed them to go to jail or that the IRA allowed them to go to jail. The British justice system put them in jail. The British justice system knew that they were not guilty. They needed scapegoats and they chose them. The IRA said from the outset that they were innocent and they had nothing to do – they said it repeatedly.

DB:  And the IRA didn’t admit carrying out the Birmingham bombings ’til you did it yourself, I believe, in 2014?

KC:  No, no, that’s simply not the case. It was admitted many, many years ago.

SN:  Do you think then the ease with which you talk about being involved in armed robbery, the ease with which you talk about shooting at people and Ach, yeah – you don’t know if you killed people or not, the ease with which you left a bomb in a commercial area, shops in other words – there might have been a woman pushing a pram beside that – maybe she wouldn’t have got away after your warning, might have been blown up, do you think you’ve got psychopathic tendencies?

KC:  I don’t. Short answer.

SN:  So process that in your head. You don’t really care if you’ve killed people or not.

KC:  I’ve processed it. I’ve processed it. It’s not true. I was engaged in a war. Things happen in a war as I said… (crosstalk) (inaudible)

SN:  Well ISIS, who put people in cages and burn them alive, think they’re engaged in a war.

KC:  Yeah well – they’re engaged in – they’re most clearly engaged in a conflict but their means are ruthless and criminal.

SN:  Possibly psychopathic.

KC:  Yeah, I’m quite sure there are psychopaths in ISIS.

SN:  But of course, you’re not one.

KC:  No, I’m not. And if this interview is going to descend to that level of abuse we might simply call it a day.

SN:  Oh, really? You’re getting sensitive now – you’re getting sensitive Mr. Bomber?

KC:  No, no. But I’m sensitive to the charge of being a psychopath. I deny it.

SN:  So you don’t like the hard questions.

KC:  No, that’s not a hard question at all. That’s just common abuse.

SN:  Really? Common abuse?

KC:  Yeah.

SN:  From a man who planted bombs in commercial areas?

KC:  Yeah.

SN:  Are you for real?

KC:  Yeah.

SN:  What would you like me to say?

KC:  I am for real, yeah but it’s not…

SN:  …What would you like me to say?

KC:  Frankly, I don’t care what you say. Look, I’m here to answer your questions and I’m doing so in as civil a manner as possible and I will react badly if I’m called a psychopath.

SN:  Tough. The actions of a psychopath are those people that can inflict harm and injury and violence on another human being and they don’t feel the emotion associated with it. That’s why I feel it’s a legitimate question. Do you feel emotion? Does it weigh on your conscience? Do you find it difficult sleeping at night when you think about what you have done?

KC:  No, I have no difficulty sleeping at night.

SN:  Do you feel any sense of guilt?

KC:  But as I said, as I said I have no sense of guilt except I have a huge general remorse in relation to everybody that was killed – British soldiers, RUC men, everyone – because, as I said, this conflict was not worth a drop of anybody’s blood.

SN:  But in terms of you, personally – because I think we do need to individualise this – in terms of you personally, process for me why you think you don’t have any sense of guilt or remorse when you get those flashbacks of literally of leaving, the actual action of setting a bomb down and walking away. Tell me why that’s not ingrained in your mind?

KC:  Well look – it was all a long time ago. I seldom think about it. I don’t really think about it unless I’m reminded in interviews like this. As far as I’m concerned I was engaged in a just war. And millions of soldiers have gone to war over the centuries, I’d imagine that a few of them did feel of remorse, do you know what I mean, and guilt over things that they did, but I’m not one of those. The vast majority of soldiers just get on with their lives when the war is over.

SN:  Doug?

DB:  Well, I have a conscience. I feel remorse. I’ve held a dying six year old in my hands and it weights on my conscience heavily. I’ve had difficulty sleeping at night – they’re the natural feelings of a soldier who’s had to engage in something terrible, a terrible conflict, and suffers the scars afterwards. But what Kieran’s describing is somebody who just doesn’t seem to care. And in fact, in his interview he said he happily, as a lawyer, defends dissident Republicans and he’s happy for the work. Now I don’t know what you read into that when he says he’s ‘happy for the work’ you know but there’s something severely wrong here. And do you know, what I can see in the likes Kieran feel they’ve moved on – and fine –and I think people should be allowed to move on but if they have information, if he really has information, then he needs to make that information known. To me it’s simple. And if it was me, if I knew information, if I told anybody that I could get information about a particular crime then I would be the first one who was going to be in front of the police to answer questions. And I think that Kieran needs to do that. Now, if it’s not going to be in front of the PSNI then it needs to be in front of the Garda but he needs to answer these questions. I think it’s incredibly important that he does.

SN:  Okay. We’re going to have to leave it there. Kieran, thank you very much for talking to us today. Doug Beattie, thank you. (ends)

Radio Free Éireann Announcement

Radio Free Éireann will return this Saturday November 12th and air from Noon-1PM New York time, 5-6 PM Irish time, on WBAI 99.5 FM or on the internet at wbai.org. Anytime after the program concludes you can hear the podcast on wbai.org/archives

Derry based journalist Eamon Sweeney will review a number of important stories including:

 

  • Tony Taylor – the Republican political prisoner being disallowed visits from his wife and child
  • Reaction to the death of reviled informer Raymond Gilmour
  • Continuing political and legal fallout from Brexit and questions on a possible vote at Westminster
  • The Manus Deery legacy inquest
  • The poppy controversy and its impact on James McLean, the professional footballer, who refuses to wear a poppy because of what the symbol means in Derry.                                                           

    Co-hosts John McDonagh and Martin Galvin will have an in studio discussion on the election and how it might affect Irish issues, the recent Brendan Hughes Lecture and on new information in the British murder of American citizen, Liam Ryan.  We will also be previewing the upcoming Irish events in the New York area.

Go to Radio Free Éireann’s new web site, rfe123.org, where you can read transcripts of recent headline making interviews.

Kieran Conway BBC HARDtalk 27 Oct 2016

BBC HARDtalk
BBC News
27 October 2016
On YouTube here

Stephen Sackur (SS) visits Dublin and speaks to Kieran Conway (KC), the former Director of Intelligence for the IRA, about his time in the organisation and how he justifies his involvement. (begins time stamp ~ 1:37)

SS:   Kieran Conway, welcome to HARDtalk. We’re going to be talking a lot about your past and as you sit here in Dublin today I just wonder whether you feel very connected to your past or whether it feels like another land which you have left entirely?

KC:  Yeah. No, it’s another country – it really is. The war is over. I seldom think about it. I don’t have nightmares or any sort of guilt difficulties over the various activities I was involved in so no, it’s a different country and now I’m a defence lawyer in Dublin and my life is a million miles removed from what it was in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

SS:  And was that break really quite instant because you quit the IRA…

KC:  …Yeah, the break was instant. It occurred on the night of the Downing Street Declaration – that was an assembly of the British Prime Minister and the Irish Prime Minister, called the Taoiseach and …

SS:  …Which, in essence, was the signal that the leadership of the IRA had decided to go down the path of compromise insofar as they were saying that there would never be a united Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. It put off any prospect of a united Ireland.

KC:  It did, yeah. No, there will never be a united Ireland, certainly not in my lifetime, as a result of what the Provisionals did and accepted in late ’93, I guess it was.

SS:  So did you leave in the IRA with fury in your heart?

KC:  Not with fury but with, I don’t know – a sense of inevitability. I felt myself it was time for the war to stop. We were clearly being beaten by the British. We were heavily infiltrated and Volunteers being killed…

SS:  …It was a sense of defeat, really.

KC:   Oh, yes, but you weren’t allowed to say that – if you talked in any sort of defeatist manner you would have been in serious trouble.

SS:  Let’s rewind a long way now and go back to the young Kieran Conway. You were raised in a middle-class home here in….

KC:  …I was…

SS:  …suburban Dublin. A nice life, went to university – you know, seemed set for a comfortable, conventional Irish life. And yet you took an extraordinary decision. You were determined to join the IRA.

KC:  Yeah.

SS:  Why?

KC:  Well I went to university in 1968, the autumn of ’68, against the backdrop of student revolts all over the world, particularly Germany, France and to a lesser extent, the UK also the US, the Vietnam War, South Africa and so on. And although I didn’t join anything in the first year I took part in the many protests that took place. And then in 1969 The North blew up. The Catholic areas were attacked by a combination of RUC men, that’s the police force in The North, and Loyalists and many, many houses were burnt down. People were killed. People were injured. The IRA at the time was not in a good shape but they did defend some areas as best they could with very small numbers. That event led directly to the birth of the Provisionals who were people who were dissatisfied with the stance that the then-leadership of the IRA was taking. They broke away, formed the Provisionals, recruited and I eventually joined them.

SS:  I can see how, in that period of ’68-’69 of revolutionary fervour on campuses across the world frankly – I can see how you’d get swept up in that and I think you saw yourself as a very radical socialist.

KC:  Oh, yeah, yeah.

SS:   I get all of that. But what I don’t get is your determination which you pushed all the way to going to Belfast but then even going to England to actually join an underground secret military organisation where you knew, and actually you sought out, the opportunity to use guns, to consider planting bombs, to commit acts of violence. That is one heck of a step!

KC:  Well it was clear that a revolutionary situation had developed in Ireland and many people, everybody I knew, was either communist or anarchist, syndicalist in those days but…

SS:  …Weren’t all of them just talk? And you acted.

KC:  Yeah, I know that, yeah and I did act, yes. I’ve always been…

SS:  …I mean you must have been prepared, even as a young man of twenty, to consider killing people.

KC:  Oh, yeah, absolutely accepted that as part of the price, if you like, of joining the IRA – clearly people were going to be killed.

SS:  And you were going to do it.

KC:  Yes, I was quite prepared to do it, yeah.

SS:  You were sworn-in in England.

KC:  I was, yeah. I went to England the very next day and within a week I was an IRA member.

SS:  But I guess what I’m seeking to understand is how you reacted to your first operations because I know that in England you were asked, and indeed you were enthusiastically a part of armed robberies to raise funds for the IRA.

KC:  Yeah well, my first IRA operations were all armed robberies and yeah, I was enthusiastic and though we were told we would be not claimed by the IRA in the event of our arrest…

SS:  You found it easy to march into banks, wave a gun around, tell people to get on the ground and take the money?

KC:  Yeah, I had no difficulty with it.  I was put after – after the first couple of raids I was actually put in charge of the Active Service Unit over there so I gained promotion pretty rapidly…

SS:  …You were good at this. And what about bomb making?

KC:   No, we didn’t do any bombing in England in those days. The bombing came later.

SS:  But you learned, whether it was in Northern Ireland or where ever, you learned the skills?

KC:  Oh yeah, no, no – I was trained both in a Midlands city and back in Ireland – I attended two training camps. And then my unit were caught after a particular armed robbery. They were all arrested. I knew Scotland Yard were after me. I was coincidentally back in Ireland at the time and it meant that the leadership then were kind of stuck with me. They stuck me in a house for a couple of weeks – nearly drove me mad – and then came along and gave me full time work with the IRA.

SS:   You have written extensively about your experiences in the IRA. You’ve never, it seems to me, been entirely straightforward about the violence you were involved in. Did you kill people?

KC:  Put it this way, I mean this is the truth: The only people I that ever fired on were British soldiers. British soldiers did die when I was present but I can’t be sure…

SS:  …And firing at them?

KC:  …and firing at them but I can’t be sure that it was my bullet that caused the damage.

SS:  But the likelihood is you killed British soldiers.

KC:  The possibility is there, yeah.

SS:  And bombs you planted?

KC:  And I planted bombs, yes.

SS:  And they exploded?

KC:  And they exploded.

SS:  How many did they kill?

KC:  No, no casualties ever. I only participated in commercial bombings – not very many, maybe a half dozen maximum. But I did a lot more shooting, an awful lot more, maybe about hundred times and British soldiers were killed on a number of occasions – not very many, maybe five or six.

SS:  You were imprisoned, eventually, for I think illegal possession of weapons and one of the notorious prisons that was full of IRA prisoners, Long Kesh – that’s where you ended up.

KC:  That’s right, yeah.

SS:  And at one time, and of course the IRA later became very famous for this, you were part of an IRA hunger strike.

KC:  I was, yeah.

SS:  At any point during this and when you are not taking on food and when you are getting weak and when you are reflecting on whether your life and death are worth it for this cause – did you ever have any doubts?

KC:  Not the slightest, no. I was utterly, totally committed in the way that only a twenty-one year old can be.

SS:  How close to death did you come?

KC:  Oh, no, I was a long way away from it although it was the first hunger strike in recent times and we didn’t know how our bodies would fare. Billy McKee, who was the OC in the Belfast prison at the time, put five, including himself, on hunger strike the first week and then another five the second week. I was in the third cohort so we did only twenty-three days. I lost a couple of stone but otherwise no damage.

SS:  Because it was a very disciplined organisation or certainly it tried to be and I guess you met the very top brass – the Chief of Staff…

KC:  …Yeah well, McKee would have been my sponsor, if you like. He thought highly of me and he persuaded the leadership outside that they should take a similar view of me so when I got out of jail you know within a month I’d been given a very senior job.

SS:  Yeah, you became Director of intelligence.

KC:  Yeah.

SS:  What was your responsibility?

KC:  My responsibility was – there was no intelligence department at the time – there hadn’t been, it hadn’t functioned since before the split so I had to build an intelligence department from scratch.

SS:  But you, from the get-go, were fighting an enemy that was much better resourced than you were.

KC:  Of course. Yeah.

SS:  And we now know the British authorities, the various different intelligence services and police units tasked with fighting the IRA, they penetrated holes in your organisation like a sieve.

KC:  They did. But in the mid-’70, I got out of jail in ’74 – became Director of Intelligence shortly afterwards and left the IRA for a number of years in late ’75. But during the year that I was in charge of intelligence there was far less infiltration than was subsequently…

SS:  …You think.

KC:  No, no. We’re pretty sure. There was infiltration and there were informers but not anything like the level that they penetrated the IRA in the ’80’s and ’90’s.

SS:  Well I’ll talk about that a bit later but let’s stick with ’74 because it’s a crucial year and it raises questions to this day…

KC:  …It does….

SS:  …about you and your ethics and your role. Because in essence we’re talking about one major attack the IRA launched in Birmingham in 1974: Bombs placed in two pubs at a time when they were packed with people drinking, having a good time – ordinary folk – not soldiers, not military personnel – just ordinary people in Birmingham. A lot of people were killed – innocent civilians. You were Director of Intelligence. Did you know what was going on?

KC:  No. I didn’t know anything about it until afterwards. When I heard of the bombs I was appalled, horrified.

SS:  Shouldn’t have the Director of Intelligence been involved?

KC:  No, not really, That’s not the way the IRA operate and the leadership hear of things post hoc, generally. So, no.

SS:  So what? You’re telling me it was an operation conducted out of control?

KC:  Absolutely it was outside the parameters of what was permitted. I don’t know why the people in charge weren’t court-martialled. I have absolutely no idea why not.

SS:  In your view they should have been?

KC:  Oh, they should have been for conducting an attack on two targets that were not, you know, within the parameters of what was allowed.

SS:  Well if you feel that then why have you not fully cooperated, in all the years since, including this year, when again you’ve been before the police to talk about what happened and what you knew and how it unfolded. You’ve never been fully cooperative. Why?

KC:  No. There’s only one bit of information I’ve withheld…

SS:  I know…

KC:  …the names of the bombers are well-known…

SS:  …Well, so you say…

KC:  …Oh, no. They are.

SS:  I’m not sure you’ve ever – I know that other people have – but you’ve never named them.

KC:  No. And I won’t. They’ve been…

SS:  Why?

KC:  They’ve been published by Chris Mullin – I’d only be repeating what he said. And I mean, I will never finger an IRA man.

SS:  You’ll never finger and IRA man even though you regard this as the most terrible, callous immoral act.

KC:  Well amongst them. It was amongst the half-dozen worst acts that the IRA…

SS:  …I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Do you regard it as callous and immoral?

KC:  I do, well yeah, but I blame the local leadership in Birmingham for it. I think the Volunteers that went out acted bona fide – they were just doing what they were told to do. There was supposed to be a warning. In that sense the operation might have fallen on the side of legitimacy if the warning had gone through.

SS:  Really? Well there’s a real contraction there because you’ve said in the past that there’s no way that a pub that was not actually known to be a haunt of military personnel should be a target…

KC:  …No, no. That’s correct…

SS:  …these pubs were not full of military personnel…

KC:  …No, no. I agree…

SS:  …so how can you tell me it could have been a legitimate target?

KC:  No, the people that did it could have argued: Well look, a warning was intended. The warning didn’t go through because of a broken phone box…

SS:  …but it still wasn’t full of military personnel – it was still full of civilians…

KC:  …No, I agree, I agree. No, It should not have happened. It should not have happened.

SS:  Well in that case, why – and you’ve said it in this interview – you are still withholding one piece of information.

KC:  Yeah, but the only piece of information that I’m withholding is the name of the second man that conducted the debrief of the …

SS:  …That’s right. Why? Why? The police want to question him.

KC:  …because he’s living and I won’t name him. Simple as that.

SS:  What right do you have given that not only are you living but the victims’ families are still living and they cannot rest until they feel that justice has been done.

KC:  Well this man will not talk to the police. All he was involved in was the debrief so there’s nothing…

SS:  Well he won’t talk to the police if the police don’t even know his name. I mean isn’t it at least your moral duty to lay out everything you know…

KC:  …No…

SS:  …particularly given what you say you feel about this whole thing?

KC:  No. I don’t accept any moral duty in relation to naming that man and won’t do so.

SS:  Ever?

KC:  Ever.

SS:  You’ll take it to your grave?

KC:  No, if he dies – if he dies before I die at that stage I certainly am prepared to reveal his name.

SS:  Do you think your entire trajectory and your attitudes and what you did for the IRA would have been different had you had kids? I’m just mindful – going back to Julie one more time.

KC:  Yeah, no no….

SS:  …she said: He doesn’t consider the bombers murderers but I wonder what he would say if one of his own kids was killed in this way – all of their skin stripped off their bodies, when he sees them with no legs, no arms – when they’ve been bombed so badly you can’t see their faces because of the injuries – that’s the feeling of a woman who has lost a sister in a bomb…

KC:  …No, I, I….

SS:  …and you didn’t even have children. Wouldn’t you think of being more humane if you had…

KC:  …Well I’m not sure that I wasn’t humane. As I said if we bombed civilian targets we at least gave warnings unlike the British so no, I wouldn’t accept that we weren’t humane or that we didn’t try to be humane although there are at least a half dozen cases occasions in which I think individual IRA men and their commanders can be prosecuted for war crimes even now.

SS:  Have you told what you know to the police on that basis?

KC:  No, I have not. No. No.

SS:  Hang on. Let me get my head around this. Now we’re not taking about Birmingham necessarily but you believe you know things which could be part of a prosecution for war crimes…

KC:  …Yes…

SS:  …of individuals that were in the IRA and you will not disclose that information.

KC:  No, that’s correct. I will never name a living IRA man under any circumstances.

SS:  Under any circumstances? However egregious in your view?

KC:  …No, I mean if I end up before the High Court in some sort of proceedings and cited for contempt I will go to prison rather than name any living IRA man.

SS:  Try to explain to me the morality of that because I don’t get it. If you believe they’re war crimes…

KC:  …well the morality of that – it’s very straightforward as far as…

SS:  …It sounds tribal. It sounds…

KC:  …As far as I’m – No, it’s not tribal at all. As far as I’m concerned I was engaged in a just war. I stand over everything I did. I was fortunate in that the things I did clearly legitimate – firing at British soldiers and the handful of commercial bombings that I engaged in.

SS:  Let’s talk about what you now feel about some of those men that you knew quite well – I mean Martin McGuinness you knew very well – of course now he’s one of the key politicians playing a role in the devolved government in Northern Ireland representing Sinn Féin. Gerry Adams – I imagine you knew him pretty well.

KC:  No, I knew McGuinness a lot better than I would know Adams. I would have considered him a personal friend particularly during the early days when I was in Doire and again in the mid-’70’s.

SS:  And yet, even at the beginning of this interview you pointed out that you felt the process that McGuinness and Adams and the rest of them at the top of the IRA engaged in in the early ’90’s which led ultimately to the Good Friday Agreement and to what we now see as power-sharing and everything else – you feel it was a betrayal.

KC:  It was a betrayal – there’s no doubt about that. What they did was they accepted the British position which was the position that the IRA fought against for twenty-five years and then it turns around and accepts it. So what could that be but a betrayal? Or you could also view it as a recognition of reality and I mean I call Gerry Adams – in my book I refer to him as a mendacious lying bastard – but at the same time it is a fact, and he deserves credit for it, that he single-handedly, admittedly he had collaborators – he managed to get McGuinness to agree with him, which surprised me – but you know, in broad terms he brought, single-handedly, brought peace to Ireland and that was some achievement.

SS:  A peace that you recognise and acknowledge to be the best thing for the island of Ireland?

KC:  No, I acknowledge it’s there. No, I still believe that – I still believe in Irish unity. I think Ireland would be better off…

SS:  …Do you still believe in revolution?

KC:  Ach, look – revolution has kind of had it’s time until the younger generation not interested and until…

SS:  …Well yeah, sorry to interrupt, that’s not entirely true because there are still remnants, splinter groups, of the old Provisional IRA. They call themselves everything from the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the New IRA and you, as a criminal lawyer in Dublin, sometimes represent these people or least represent men who are alleged to be members of these groups with arms and explosives and everything else that goes with it.

KC:  No, I’ve represented clients from all three IRAs. I’m very, very grateful for the work. It’s very interesting work…

SS:  …And you don’t ever – despite everything we’ve discussed and the past and the way you feel about the past – you don’t ever say to yourself: I want anything more to do with these people.

KC:  No, I don’t, no. I mean as a good criminal defence lawyer I’ll act on behalf of anybody. I’m not judgmental. I may have my own private view but the most important thing for a defence lawyer is not to discriminate between clients and be prepared to take on anybody no matter how horrendous the act that they’ve been accused of.

SS:  Some people in the intelligence and policing community say that: Yeah, they have an ideological position on continuing the fight for a united Ireland but actually they’re just criminals and thugs – they’re defending turf, they’re involved drugs, they’re involved in protection rackets and some would say that actually that’s what the Provisional IRA became, too.

KC:  No. The Provisonal IRA were never criminals although in the border areas they engaged in smuggling which is obviously criminal offence…

SS:  …well smuggling and you’re a self-acknowledged bank robber.

KC:  …yeah and so is armed robbery so I have no difficulty with that but they were certainly never involved in drugs and criminality of that sort. And I’m quite certain of that.

SS:  Are you?

KC:  Yeah.

SS:  You know what happened to all the money that you robbed from banks do you?

KC:  No, I don’t. I was never involved in the finance department (crosstalk)…

SS:  …On what basis could you possibly be confident that some of that money wasn’t going into people’s back pockets?

KC:  Well I can’t. I do remember that when I was at the Donegal border in 1971 we shot a Volunteer in the legs for stealing a tenner after an armed robbery so that was something that was completely unacceptable – any sort of personal gain and it is shocking – it shocks me – that a lot of people in Belfast in particular seem to have benefited materially and have become very, very rich on the back of the struggle however they did it and I think that’s an absolute disgrace.

SS:  It is interesting, we’ve got to end very soon, but it’s just interesting to come back – you make that point: You know you look from The South, you look from Dublin and what’s happened in Belfast and obviously in many ways you feel that what you see represents defeat and a corrosive sort of failure of the Republican militant movement. Do you ever wish: My God! I wish I’d never gotten involved with that whole mess!

KC:  Not really and that’s simply on the philosophical basis. I’m an existentialist – you accept responsibility for your decisions and you know and on one reading yeah, I wasted twenty-five years of my life but…

SS:  …Well, you wasted twenty-five years of your life. You were involved in a struggle which killed an awful lot of people – some of whom who wore a military uniform – but many of whom didn’t and were, quote/unquote ‘innocent civilians’ and you’ve acknowledged that. And in the end, as you talk about defeat for your movement, you talk about surrender, you talk about failure – what on earth was the point?

KC:  Well, it didn’t – you now when we started off it didn’t look like that was going to be the outcome that it just historically is.

SS:  But judged on outcomes – you should never have gone there. Never have engaged.

KC:  No. If I thought that that might be the outcome no, I wouldn’t have gone there. No, of course not.

SS:  And a final thought about the place you live in, Ireland, which of course for so long has been, in a sense, shaped by conflict between the Irish and the British, do you think, even in your lifetime or beyond your lifetime, it is conceivable that Ireland will be a united Ireland?

KC:  No, I don’t. As long as the Unionists are unwilling to have a united Ireland, and they will always be unwilling to have a united Ireland – that’s their basic position, there is no prospect for Irish unity.

SS:  Does it matter anymore? You know, we talk about the European Union, obviously there’s a lot of discussion about what Brexit means both for Britain and for Northern Ireland in particular and how it will relate to the border between The North and South of Ireland. Does any of this matter?

KC:  Probably not. I mean Nationalism is a nineteenth century construct and it’s fading, visibly fading everywhere except, curiously, in Britain itself which has voted to leave the EU.

SS:  But when it comes to where you are, as a person, with your history, you sleep easy at night?

KC:  I’ve never have any trouble sleeping. No guilt. No nightmares.

SS:  Kieran Conway – we have to end there but thank you for being on HARDtalk.

KC:  Okay. (ends time stamp ~ 23:08)