Thanks to Mick Fealty, founder of Slugger O’Toole, for uploading the recent airings of the BBC Spotlight NI programme onto YouTube.
This is a two part report filed by Jennifer O’Leary about the power-sharing government in The North of Ireland and its future entitled The Future of Stormont.
In Part One O’Leary traveled to Kosovo to observe its power-sharing government. Mick ‘kept the politics local’ and edited that section out. The video below, titled ‘Spotlight on the problem of ‘undemocracy’ in St. Andrews‘, is the continuation of Part One after the edit.
John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to Kate Nash of the Bloody Sunday March for Justice via telephone from Doire about the Justice for Veterans UK march that was planned to be held near The Bogside and about the status of the prosecutions of Bloody Sunday soldiers. (begins time stamp ~ 31:03)
Martin: I believe we have on the line Kate Nash. Kate, are you with us?
Kate: Yes, indeed I am, Martin. Hello.
Martin: Yes, Kate, hi. Kate, I’m just reading something from BBC – Bloody Sunday, of course, where your brother was killed, January 30th 1972 – your father was wounded. There were thousands of people on the streets marching in a civil rights march against internment – shot down by British troopers. And there was almost another march, it was originally scheduled for March 4th but it’s been called off, and I’m just reading from the BBC about a group, Northern Ireland branch of the Veterans for Justice and how they’re upset by ‘false prosecutions’ of British soldiers. And the leader of that group said:
if soldiers break the law they face the rigours of the law and rightly so and it’s the same as it should be for any other member of the community. But where’s the investigation into my colleagues and friends who were murdered? It seems to be forgotten about.
Now Kate we thought we’d call you. You’re still marching for prosecutions of any British soldiers as the result of the murder of your brother and – actually a total of fourteen people, the wounding of so many others – in plain site, plain view, openly, observed by thousands of people in Doire. Exactly where are we in terms of getting prosecutions of British soldiers for that?
Kate: Well, several months later we’re still waiting for the Public Prosecution Service to send us word that either these soldiers will be going into court or it’s not in the public interest to prosecute them. That’s exactly where we’re at. We haven’t heard anything from them. Actually, we have a letter here that I’m sure all families got and there’s a number on it for a care worker who we can liaise with at the Public Prosecution Service and Liam Wray actually tried that number and it’s dead. It’s a non-existent number. So that’s how much they care.
Martin: Alright. Now,this march – it’s just fascinating to me, they are now claiming they were going to march, it’s been called off. I know you were involved – there are quite a number of people in Doire – the Saoradh political party, others – but I just – they say that no one, no Republicans, have ever been prosecuted for killing British troopers. About how many people, between internment, between charges, between sent to Maghaberry, between Long Kesh, between Crumlin Road – all the other prisons – how many people were inside, Republicans or Loyalists, were inside British prisons because of attacks on British soldiers?
Kate: Well I’ll tell you: There’s been twenty-five thousand Republicans have gone through the courts and prosecuted. And there’s been twenty thousand Loyalists. So when they say to you that there are only – and in fact only a handful, I mean four maybe five soldiers, have gone through the courts in all that time. They got small sentences, even for murder. They got small sentences and in fact, came out, got back into the British Army and indeed some of them were decorated. As you know the Bloody Sunday soldiers were actually decorated for what they did on Bloody Sunday. But these soldiers went back into the Army and rose up the ranks.
Martin: And one wonders, when they say they went to prison, like for the murder of Kidso Reilly and others, whether it just was that they were put into a different barracks or a different type of duty serving with the British Army. I just want to – you’ve used the term, or it has been used, that the British troopers have impunity’ – they had an undeclared amnesty – that they weren’t being prosecuted. And now, as it looks, you and the other Bloody Sunday families, the people in The North of Ireland who fought behind your campaign are at the point where prosecutions or acts – well files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, sort of like a District Attorney there, Barra McGrory, a decision will be made – it hasn’t been made yet – whether to prosecute or not. That seems to have gotten all this action: threats of marches, calls for amnesty, call for a statute of limitations which would whitewash everybody, calls in Westminster for there to be new laws that they shouldn’t be prosecuted. I just want to go through what your family and the others who support you have gotten, how much it has taken, even to get to this stage – after Bloody Sunday what happened? What was said about your brother, about the others who were killed that day? What sort of claims were made about them by the British?
Kate: Yes. Yes. My brother – in the newspapers – they claimed he was a gunman. He was completely demonised. The whole family were, in fact. The British newspapers said that we were a pro-Republican, violent family – actually nothing was further from the truth. Although I did have brothers involved in boxing even at professional level – not then but later on. (One of them actually went to the Olympic Games in Munch that same year.) However, that was the sort of thing they said about us. As you know, we got hate mail. We got hate mail from everywhere and saying that he deserved to die. In fact, what we had to do was, because my mother wasn’t very well – she’d had a heart attack – we had to actually watch for the postman so that we could actually get the mail and keep it away from her – she was just so upset – some of the ugly, terrible things that were being written you know? So…
Martin: …So I just want to explain to our audience: It’s a civil rights march, it was publicly called, it was well-known, there were thousands of people who attended. People had been interned without charge or trial in Doire and across The North that previous August.
Kate: That’s right.
Martin: Your brother and a number of other people, fourteen died – thirteen that day, a fourteenth later on – others were wounded, severely wounded, including your father.
Kate: That’s right.
Martin: They’re obviously marching. This is seen. It’s witnessed. And the British government says your brother was a gunman, others were nail bombers or assisted nail bombers or other excuses. You get hate mail. You get demonised. So you not only have to live with close family members being killed or wounded but you have to live with that type of demonisation – with hate mail, with being having him branded as a gunman, somebody who deserved to die – that sort of thing. Alright. It took months but because of the outcry, because of the campaign, you got a tribunal – it was lead by a famous Lord Justice who was going to bring justice to The North named Lord Widgery. And what happened at the end result of that tribunal?
Kate: Well what happened was they basically blamed the victims and although they did admit that soldiers might have been a little bit hasty basically the victims were to blame for themselves. And that’s what happened. In fact, my father, at one stage, was actually told that he didn’t really know his son. You know, I can tell you… (crosstalk)
Martin: …Well I remember the Widgery Report, it actually became famous because I remember being in Ireland just a few months later and somebody would tell a crazy tale or something like that and people would shout out: Oh! Widgery wouldn’t even accept that one or You couldn’t Widgery your way out of something (If you wanted to tell a lie.) It was a complete whitewash. So your brother stayed branded as a gunman. Others stayed branded as nail bombers or assisted nail, bombers. How much longer did you have to campaign, march, struggle to get something changed?
Kate: Well the families marched I mean for years and then some fell away obviously because they didn’t want – because the Provisional IRA took over that march the families didn’t want the association with the you know – innocents victims really and the IRA – because they would have given them a whip, really, to beat us with, you know? But then again the campaign started again then in I believe in ’92 – well when the Good Friday Agreement happened and …(crosstalk)
Martin: …Alright. Now that was in 1998. And because of Doire and Bloody Sunday being so important – I mean it’s unfortunate but there have been many, many families who lost people – innocent victims of either British troops or the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) or people that they hired, their hirelings – Loyalist killers, etc. For example, the Ballymurphy Families, that I know you’re close to, they still are branded as criminals, as gunmen – that sort of thing. Those killings occurred in August of 1971. But because Doire and Bloody Sunday was witnessed by so many people it was made part of the Good Friday Agreement that we’re now going to get justice, that we’re now going to – a new day has dawned, new justice will happen. How long did it take before there was a finding clearing your brother and the others who were victims of Bloody Sunday from that inquiry that was announced as part of this Good Friday Agreement in 1998?
Kate: Well the inquiry took six years and then we waited a further six years to get the conclusions. And we got the conclusions in 2010, June of 2010. We’re now into almost the seventh, it’ll be seven years. And you would have thought with those conclusions, because they said the victims were killed without fear or panic, and the soldiers knowingly lied about this so you would have expected prosecutions to follow but that didn’t happen. We’re now seven years, almost seven years later, in June, and so – we wait.
Martin: Alright. Now you’re on the verge of a decision being made on whether there’ll be prosecutions and all of sudden you hear about this march being announced by the Veterans for Justice group about who feel they are being mistreated. There are announcements in England, in Westminster – one person whose a Member of Parliament said he used to torture people in The North of Ireland. What was planned for March 4th in Doire?
Kate: Well these guys had decided, these veterans, had decided they were going to march. As you know here, Martin, when you march here you have to apply to what we call the Parades Commission for permission to march – I think it’s usually thirty days notice – something like that. So these guys, the Parades Commission obviously gave these guys permission to march and it was announced in the press. And I can tell you all hell broke loose in Doire. The Parades Commission were inundated with phone calls and emails totally against – people, people telling them that they didn’t want these guys to march. There was just such a rage. And it was like you know – it could almost take you back forty-five years. This had the potential to turn into something extremely violent because the people of Doire, even though it’s been forty-five years, the people of Doire are still very raw at what happened and that was palpable. You could feel it in the city, you know? Everybody. There was rage everywhere.
Martin: Alright. And there were also counter-demonstrations called – groups like Saoradh and others were going to march against…
Kate: …Saoradh, a group here, Saoradh were planning to march from Free Derry Wall but you have to understand though, that this, these veterans, these old soldiers would have been marching to The Diamond which is literally a five minute stroll from The Bogside where all these victims died. So this is where these guys were going to come to.
And Saoradh was going to march from Free Derry Wall up to The Diamond and I believe the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party), we call them the Irps, they were going to march and of course, we would have had to definitely arrange a counter-demonstration through the families and supporters of course and that would have brought, I know that would have brought thousands and thousands of people onto the street. I was very afraid, to be honest – very, very afraid – because I knew something would – there would have been a tremendous amount of trouble and you don’t want people hurt. I just wouldn’t want anybody hurt. So I was really, really glad when it was called off. But thank God, through the auspices of the pressure that the people here in Doire – and Belfast – other people were contacting us as well – were putting on the Parades Commission the pressure to stop that march and obviously they realised then that would have been the sensible thing to do.
John: Alright now Kate, this was definitely a political decision – where to march. They could have marched Ballymena or some Loyalist area…
Kate: Of course. Of course.
John: …and they probably would have gotten a great reception as they marched through. But they deliberately said we’re going to march through Doire. And then how did it move…
Martin: …It was like the Ku Klux Klan when they wanted to march in Skokie or somewhere like that – they have to march in an area – worst type of area…
John: …And what’s the official reason they’re not marching now?
Kate: Well according to the Parades Commission they actually withdrew, they actually withdrew their – what they asked for they withdrew the – to ask for the march. They just withdrew that application. But I don’t believe that. I believe actually what happened was the pressure, I know the pressure was great. I had called all the MLAs in the city and strangely, the only one that didn’t get back to me was the Unionist, I’ll not name him, the Unionist MLA at Stormont – he didn’t get back to me though I really wasn’t surprised at that. But I called my solicitor. I was going to mount a legal challenge to have it stopped because I knew there was potential for great violence. And the people – just so raw – what happened here Bloody Sunday – it’s just so raw with the people and I knew it had the potential for (inaudible). We didn’t want that.
Martin: Alright, Kate, there are – we’re at the stage, Barra McGrory is going to make a decision one way or another on whether there’ll be prosecutions or not. It seems all of a sudden the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) has said there should be a statute of limitations, a cut-off, so that none of those troops – it would cover all of them – give them that undeclared amnesty or impunity. It seems like there’s discussions in Westminster to put pressure on Barra McGrory or talk about new legislation. What – How do you react when you see the – I can’t tell you how many times I was on interviews with BBC and they always say: Well, if British soldiers did anything wrong they should face the courts. Everyone should face the courts. Yet now, at this point, you’ve fought for so many years since 1972 to get British troopers into the courts for the crime of Bloody Sunday which was seen by and witnessed by so many and which even a British Prime Minister has said it was ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’, how do you feel when you see all of these moves up there just to get that undeclared amnesty put into effect and continue?
Kate: It’s appalling. It’s appalling but then that’s what the British have done here for as far back as I can remember. They’ve always bent the law, manipulated the law and broke the law so that actually they could just get their own way. They, I mean, the Bloody Sunday case could have been seen to very, very – could have been finished a very long time ago had the police, had the police here been allowed to do – or had the police done their job – this should have been through the courts very many great number of years ago. But because of government pressure and because of the, well British government pressure, that hasn’t been allowed to happen. The law of the land has not been allowed to take its course. Look, we just had dinner there just recently with a guy who was here on Bloody Sunday – an Italian photographer.
His name was Fulvio Grimaldi. And he wrote a book about it. And he told us, even at eighty-three years of age, he said he’s been to Syria, Afghanistan – he’s been all sorts of places where wars were taking place and he said he never got over what happened at Bloody Sunday. He’s never witnessed anything more brutal. He says the innocence of people and he said these soldiers just shooting at them. They shot at him, too, by the way – he had to get film out you know by way of – apparently Martin McGuinness, he was saying, helped him – get film out of the city and out of the country, you know – to save it because the British were looking for it, you know? But he said he’d never seen anything more brutal in all the wars that he’s seen than what happened here that day on Bloody Sunday. So I mean that’s says it all really.
Martin: Alright, Kate. We’re talking to Kate Nash of the Bloody Sunday March committee…
Kate: …Martin, can I say one more thing more, please?
Kate: I heard you saying about keeping your station on the air. I didn’t know it was in any danger of not being on the air. I think it’s so important to keep that station on the air because I feel, and I know lots of other people here, we feel that that’s our voice. People in America, I urge America and others: Hear what’s happening, the real truth, about what’s happening here in Ireland and please, please get behind that station and support it. Keep it on the air.
Martin: Alright. And we’ve been talking to Kate Nash. Kate, I want to thank you. I know you listen every week. You’ve helped us get guests on the programme to help to keep it going. (Martin makes a fund raising appeal/testimonial.) Alright thank you, Kate. We’ll be following and we’re hoping to have you on when prosecutions are announced and we’re hoping, finally, that you know – although it won’t be the top people – the people who gave the orders, the people who gave the commands – at least it’s a start that someone will face justice for murder in front of so many thousands of people in Doire in January of 1972. Alright, thank you, Kate.
Kate: Please God. Thank you very much, Martin. Thank you. (ends time stamp ~ 50:40)
Seán O’Rourke has Eugene Reavey, Stephen Travers and the Reverend Chris Hudson in studio to discuss their backgrounds prior to the three day Truth and Reconciliation Platform to be held at The Knock Hotel in Mayo beginning on 3 February 2017. (begins time stamp ~ 0:50)
Seán: More than two decades on from the breakthrough paramilitary ceasefires in Northern Ireland, the long road of truth and reconciliation still stretches some way into the distance. It’ll be the subject this weekend of a special three day event at the Knock House Hotel in Co. Mayo, bringing together a range of different people with stories of murder, of tragedy, of negotiation and forgiveness. I’m joined now in studio by three men who sadly have direct experience of this. Eugene Reavey is with me. His three brothers were murdered in January of 1976 and his father became the first victim of The Troubles publicly to ask for no retaliation. Also here – Reverend Chris Hudson, who sat down with the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) to negotiate a ceasefire and act as go-between between the UVF and the Irish government. And also here – Stephen Travers, a survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre of 1975, and Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Platform.
Eugene Reavey, as I mentioned, your parents, for your parents, quite remarkably, forgiveness was their response to the murders of your three brothers. How well do you remember your three brothers? We’re going back now over forty years and the events of that horrible Sunday night.
Eugene: Well, it’s just like yesterday. I mean youth sparks eternity you know and my brothers never grew old in my mind. And they were lovely lads – they were just mad about football – played football. Brian represented our county at the same time as Joe Kernan. John Martin was a bricklayer and Anthony was a plasterer-cum-electrician – he was going on to be an electrician but he was plastering at that time. They were just ordinary young lads. They had no interest in politics whatsoever.
Seán: John Martin, twenty-four. Brian, twenty-two and Anthony, just seventeen. Was he the youngest of the family?
Eugene: No, not at all. No, no, no, no. There was a whole lot more after that.
Seán: Yeah, I mean – there were what? Ten children?
Seán: Twelve children.
Eugene: Twelve children.
Seán: And is it true that there were eight lads – did you all shared the same bedroom?
Eugene: Two beds. Two beds in the one room – well three beds all together. One for my mother and father, one for the four girls and one for the eight boys. Two at the top and two at the bottom. Twice!
Seán: That’s extraordinary!
Eugene: It’s wasn’t extraordinary at all. It was the norm.
Seán: Yeah. And what happened on that Sunday night in January 1976?
Eugene: Well, my mother and father had just gone over to visit Mammy’s sister in Camlough about six o’clock and they took four of the younger children with them. And Oliver went and he drove them over because my mother and my father couldn’t drive.
And he was back again inside maybe twenty-five minutes and when he come home he found John Martin, the eldest, lying on the floor and he was riddled with bullets – I gauged forty-two bullets in him all together. And he went up into the room then and he found Brian lying in the fireplace. He had a single shot to the heart. And Anthony, the youngest fella, he had managed to dive under the bed, you know up in the room, and they got up on the bed and they sprayed the whole bed with gunfire. And whilst he was badly injured all round the groin area but he didn’t have any damage done – didn’t have any lasting damage done – so he was able to manage to crawl out from under the bed and he come down and he found Brian. Now, the light had been shot out and he found Brian in the fireplace and he felt his pulse and he was dead. And he crawled then up into the kitchen and he found John Martin. And then he got out through the door and the neighbour’s house, it was a couple hundred yards up the road, and he crawled up there on his hands and knees and he banged on the door. And when Mrs. O’Hanlon come out he said, he just fell into her arms, he said: ‘I’m shot. We’re all shot.’ And it was just a very very, very, very sad time you know? And like of all the houses around us like there was none of our boys had any interest in politics or paramilitaries or anything like that, you know? It was a soft target, really. But if anybody had have told me on that night that it was the police and the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) that shot my brothers I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have found it incomprehensible.
Seán: Tell me about your parents’ reaction.
Eugene: Well, I suppose it was one of shock, you know? My father, the next day, he was on the radio and he appealed for no retaliation in the Reavey name – that he didn’t want anybody else shot just because his sons were shot. And he said: If my sons’ deaths would stop the killings in Northern Ireland then they would not have died in vain. And my mother went on then, over the next say forty years nearly, every morning she lit a candle for those killers and she prayed for them every day of her life. And she never blamed the people that shot her boys. She blamed the people that sent them out.
Seán: And your Dad did an extraordinary thing with the rest of you who had survived just to make sure that you took what he said publicly seriously within the family.
Eugene: Yeah, I mean he made us all – he brought us all and he just asked us all not to get involved for this – to stay away from the paramilitaries. And thanks be to God! Nobody in the house ever turned to those paramilitaries.
Seán: And did he make you do that in a kind of a formal way?
Eugene: Not in a formal way but you know like I mean…
Seán: …Did he make you use the Bible?
Eugene: No, no. No. No. That’s not true. Like I mean, somebody’s has taken liberty somewhere and said that but that wasn’t right. No it was just – I mean it was in a very – when he spoke and he asked you to do something he was telling you to do something. He wasn’t asking you.
Seán: Yeah and you discovered close to his death that he found out very quickly who was responsible – you talked about earlier that you wouldn’t have believed the people who were involved were.
Eugene: My father found out about three or four days after the shooting, or sorry after the funerals, there was a man come up out of Markethill. He was a publican, he had been very friendly with my mother and went to school with him. And he told my father the names of the people that shot his sons. And he, five years later he died after fourteen heart attacks. And a couple of nights before he died I was in visiting him with the rest of my family and he called me back and he said to me: ‘Do you know, Eugene, who shot our boys?’ And I said ‘no’ I don’t. Now I had heard rumours but I didn’t give it much credence and he told me the five names of the people and he told me never to give those names out to any paramilitaries around because he didn’t want any more shootings. So I carried that with me from 1981 until 2006 until I met Dave Cox from the Historical Enquiries Team. (HET) And I asked Dave Cox at the very first meeting did he know who shot my brothers and he said: ‘Yes, I do.’ And I said well, would you tell me? I said it’ll help build a wee bit of confidence before we start and he said, No, it’s too soon in the investigation. So I said to him: Well I’ll write down my names and you write down yours and this young lady here and she can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And she said: The names are exactly the same.
Seán: And there’s a lot more that you want and can tell me as well but I just want to bring in Stephen Travers, a survivor as I said, of the Miami Showband Massacre of 1975, again, another horrific event that’s seared into the public memory.
Stephen: It did. And the story is well known. I suppose new generations come along and they don’t know it so the importance of telling the story, listening to Eugene there and our own story, is to make sure that, because there’s so much division happening in the world today – even in the last ten days or the last six months – that I think it’s very important that if we tell our stories and the consequences of our stories that – you see division can cause frustration, people can become angry – but if that anger turns to violence then these are these are the consequences. And that’s what we do with truth and reconciliation.
Seán: And I know you’re primarily responsible for the event that’s happening in Co. Mayo at the weekend. But just for people who may not have heard you speak before, Stephen, if you can just recount briefly what happened on that fateful night.
Stephen: Well I was the last to join the band. I was joined..
Seán: …You were very young at the time weren’t you?
Stephen: I was twenty-four going on seven, you know one of these deals? And really excited. You know, from South Tipperary, Carrick-on-Suir – I mean it was a big deal, not just for me but for everybody, so it was a big adventure for me and every night.
So on the way back from the gig in Banbridge we were looking forward to the following night off because we had played two nights at the Galway Races and then we were heading up to Banbridge and we were going to have Thursday off. And on the way home (Ray Millar went home to his own family in Antrim) and we were stopped by a group of soldiers and we were asked to get out. And there was joking and it was a bit of fun, really. We had our hands on our heads looking – the van, they were searching the van and we thought: Well, this is usual enough. And while they were searching – there was a couple of people we saw searching the van – a British officer came along – without a shadow of a doubt he was and people tried to tell me I was mistaken but he took charge. All the joking and the banter stopped. And what we didn’t realise that there was two men placing a bomb underneath the driver’s seat, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, and for some reason the bomb went off prematurely and killed the two of them. I mean, their injuries were horrific and I was about three or four feet from the van, the minibus, and it blew me into the air and down into the field – about a ten foot drop into the field and the lads fell on top of me and when they got to their feet – I had been shot in the right hip with a dum-dum bullet which exploded inside me, went up through my lung and out under my left arm so there was a lot of damage done inside. But instead of just running off they tried to drag me and they dragged me a few feet into the field to get away from it but they thought I was dead because I had been shot. And it’s ironic that, as far as I remember now, it would have been Brian McCoy, who was the son of the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in Tyrone, who probably died trying to save my life.
Seán: He was the driver and he played the trumpet and then there was yourself – there was Tony Geraghty, Des Lee and Fran O’Toole, the lead singer. They all died.
Stephen: Yes. They all died. And I spent about forty-five minutes crawling around reassuring them that everything would be alright. Des had got up onto the road to get back and get – and these memories just came back to me over the last five or six years – but I remember whispering into Fran’s ear but the crazy thing is, at that stage, Fran didn’t have any head. But you don’t accept that type of – it’s the horror – and it’s hard for us to regurgitate that every time but I think it’s necessary.
Seán: Chris Hudson, you came to prominence, Reverend Hudson, as somebody who was liaising with Loyalist paramilitaries but, as it happens, or happened, you had worked in a band and you had played with Fran O’Toole.
Chris: Well, I wish I had, Seán, but in actual fact Fran was a friend of mine. I never – I’m a useless musician while Fran was…
Seán: …Maybe I exaggerated…
Chris: But no, Fran O’Toole was a close friend of mine. And more by accident than design in early ’93, through David Ervine I ended up meeting with the leaders of the UVF and having a dialogue with them. And of course, what was partially motivating me was my friendship with Fran O’Toole. I mean Fran was always at the back of my mind. But out of that, out of that meeting, it ended up that I acted as a conduit between the UVF, informally, back into the Dublin government and did that through a number of various governments. I worked with them up until their ceasefire on the thirteenth of October ’94, a few weeks after the IRA ceasefire. And I’m now – at that time, Seán, I was a trade union official down here in Dublin.
I’m now a Unitarian minister in Belfast and I still work into those communities particularly I still meet with people who – well let’s take it – they have close association still with paramilitary organisations, with particularly with the UVF, and I’m helping them to some extent to deal with what happened but also to try and work towards the legacy issues, inform people on the legacy issues. If I can put it this way, Seán, and I know people get a little bit tired thinking: Here we are twenty-three years after the two ceasefires and why have we still got paramilitary organisations? Because we’ve never been here before, Seán. We’ve never been here doing this before and we don’t have a template for ending a conflict. But I actually think we’re doing extremely well. If you look at other conflicts around the world, the Oslo Agreement, Sri Lanka – they all collapsed. And the Irish peace process has survived and survived well and I think that’s a good thing.
Seán: You say: Why do we still have paramilitary organisations, if I heard you correctly, but I mean we were told the IRA, for instance, has been disbanded. So I mean what’s your sense of what paramilitary organisations are still there?
Chris: Well Seán, I’m probably a unique person in that, and the Loyalists know this, that my family background was a Republican background. My father was in Na Fianna na hÉireann in the War of Independence and in the Civil War and my Uncle Joe Hudson was killed on active service in Dún Laoghaire by the Free State Army during the Civil War. I always take the view, the philosophical view, that none of them even left the IRA and yet my father went on to be a founding member of Fianna Fáil but he never actually resigned from the IRA so I don’t think people resign from paramilitary organisations. I think that we have to be real and understand that continuously asking people are they a member of a paramilitary organisation actually goes no where. We’re talking about transformation and when you – sorry, Seán…
Seán: No, go on ahead.
Chris: I was going to say – what I was going to say, Seán, is we’re talking about transformation of paramilitary organisations. In the recent Fresh Start Agreement I was asked to make a couple of proposals to the unit that was set up under Lord Alderdice to look at the disbanding of paramilitary organisations. And I said maybe we should look at the stage, come to the position, where we decide that we decriminalise paramilitary organisations, particularly those, well in particular, those who have been on longtime ceasefire. You know, we did end up with the old IRA becoming the old IRA and becoming respectable so we do need to look outside the box as to how we’re going to resolve this.
Seán: Eugene, you wanted to come back in there and you were nodding when Chris was talking about they’re still there in a kind of a loose way or at least you have to accept that there are old IRA men or whatever.
Eugene: Well, there are old IRA men and there always will be old IRA men but as along as they have put their guns to one side I think that we should give them a little bit more respect and that goes for all paramilitaries you know? Because they’re never going to say like that I’m not in the IRA or I wasn’t in it.
Eugene: And it’s a futile question.
Seán: The extraordinary thing, and again it just added to the grief in your own community, was I think when you were dealing with the morgue in relation to the three brothers of yours who had been shot there were other families coming in…
Eugene: …Oh, yeah…
Seán: …that was in relation to what’s known as the Kingsmill Massacre.
Eugene: Well Daddy was on the UTV news that evening at five-forty and he made that speech which he was very famous for, God help him. But we left home at about five fifty and there was a convoy of about thirty cars, footballers and whatnot, and we drove over the road scarcely a mile and we got up to the top of the hill and there was a guy coming, waving his hands, you know, for them to stop.
And I was in the first car with my wife – and I just don’t know who else was with me. And I got out of the car and I walked up that hill, from about here to the end of that studio, and I could see – the lights of the minibus were still on and I could see all this steam rising, rising out of the road and all these bodies lying on the road and for, just for one second I had thought it was neighbours’ cows that had been killed and then, as I got closer, I realised it was bodies. Now Alan Black had been there at the time. The ambulance hadn’t got there. There was no police. There was no Army. There was nothing. But I didn’t see Alan. And I told someone that it bugged me that I didn’t take time to but – with the horror and shock of my own family’s – the night before – and for to see all this – and the smell of that blood and the smell of death…
Seán: …and the extraordinary thing is that members of your family had been with, in the company of, some of those victims.
Eugene: Yeah. On the Saturday night now, which was only forty-eight hours ago, Brian and John Martin had been playing pool in Camlough with the Chapman brothers. And Brian had played football for the Chapman brothers over in Bessbrook even though there was a ban in the GAA at that time. And when they were in the pub that night there was a bomb scare. They all had to run outside. And they all run and had a smoke and waited and then went back in again and finished their game.
Seán: And that was a sectarian massacre. Was it ten people died in that mini-bus literally days after?
Eugene: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Seán: Stephen, I’m looking at a piece in the Mayo News about the Truth and Reconciliation Weekend as I said at The Knock House Hotel – you’re there as indeed are Eugene and Chris and you have Michael Gallagher, who has lost people in the Omagh bombing, you have Joe Campbell, son of an RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) sergeant who was shot dead – Seamus Mallon is going to be there and others. What do you hope this weekend achieves?
Stephen: Well as I said – it’s a warning. If I could just say something about, with regard to, the paramilitaries, you know – the transformation. When I met the UVF leadership, and Chris facilitated that in 2007 when we wrote the book first – I have to say that I asked the man that’s referred to in the book as ‘The Craftsman’, he’s a senior member of the UFV and I asked him if there would ever be a return to violence and he said: ‘Hopefully not.’ I said under what circumstances would there be a return to violence? And he said: Well, we always maintain a praetorian guard in the event that our Britishness is threatened. Now, one of the reasons that we’re, well the main reason, that we have the Truth and Reconciliation Platform is that, as I said earlier, the division, whether it’s caused by the American president or whether his policies or whether it’s caused by Brexit or wherever they’re going to put the border. I mean if there’s a border, if the main border’s going to be at airports and in Britain itself then Northern Ireland Unionists/Loyalists are going to feel disenfranchised. If that turns to anger then we’re looking at violence again. Will they blame Brussels? Will they start to bomb Brussels? Who will take the brunt of it if there’s say, for instance, a Garda post put up there – will they shoot them so?
Seán: Would share those concerns, Chris?
Chris: I would to some extent, Seán. As Stephen has rightly pointed out, the meeting we had with the senior member of the UVF. But, Seán, I sometimes sit in rooms up on the Shankill Road and I’m probably the only person in the room who never killed somebody. And I’m sitting with people who have all done long prison sentences for murder and their involvement in paramilitary organisations. I am convinced those people are fully committed to maintaining the peace we have in Northern Ireland. And I think it’s important to say as well, Seán, that most people in Northern Ireland, most young people because as we’re nearly a generation on, they are not as caught up in these discussions as say our generation and Northern Ireland has moved on. But, there is always within the structures in Northern Ireland, within the ethnic divide in Northern Ireland, there’s always a slight tension that’s there where the two communities look at each other with a suspicious eye but, for pragmatic reasons, make the place work.
Seán: We have to leave it there. Thank you all, the three of you for coming in. My thanks to you, Chris Hudson, Reverend Chris Hudson. Also my thanks to you, Gene Reavey, whose three brothers were murdered and also Stephen Travers, who’s Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Platform and, of course, who was there on that awful night…
Stephen: …Seán, if I could just say…
Seán: Yes, Stephen.
Stephen: …quickly that with a view to helping the reconciliation process that I intend to run at the first opportunity for a seat in the Seanad.
Seán: Okay. Well look, God knows when that will be. (all laugh)
Stephen: It’s got to be soon.
Seán: Thank you very much indeed. (ends time stamp ~ 24:08)
This is the full transcript of the statement then Prime Minister, David Cameron, made to MPs in the House of Commons on 15 June 2010, the day the Bloody Sunday report (Saville report) was published. This transcript was taken from a BBC news report and is faithfully reproduced here.
Today, 8 February 2017, the Derry Journal reported that a British veterans’ group has successfully applied to the Parades Commission to stage a protest march in Doire on 4 March 2017. They are protesting what they have described as the ongoing ‘vindictive’ criminal investigations involving former soldiers.
(Ed. Note: Today, 9 February 2017, the Derry Journal reported the veterans’ group withdrew its application to the Parade Commission late yesterday afternoon.)
(begins) David Cameron: The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is publishing the report of the Saville inquiry – the tribunal set up by the previous government to investigate the tragic events of 30 January 1972, a day more commonly known as Bloody Sunday. We have acted in good faith by publishing the tribunal’s findings as soon as possible after the general election.
(Ed. Note: A video of the following portion of David Cameron’s statement is available on YouTube. To listen as you read click here. )
Mr Speaker, I am deeply patriotic. I never want to believe anything bad about our country. I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who, I believe to be the finest in the world. And I’ve seen for myself the very difficult and dangerous circumstances in which we ask our soldiers to serve.
But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt. There is nothing equivocal. There are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.
Lord Saville concludes that:
The soldiers of the support company who went into the Bogside did so as a result of an order which should not have been given by their commander.
He finds that, on balance, the first shot in the vicinity of the march was fired by the British Army.
He finds that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers of support company was armed with a firearm.
He finds that there was some firing by Republican paramilitaries but none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties.
And he finds that in no case was any warning given by soldiers before opening fire.
He also finds that the support company reacted by losing their self-control, forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training and with a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline.
He finds that despite the contrary evidence given by some of the soldiers, none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers.
And he finds that many of the soldiers, and I quote, ‘knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing’.
What’s more, Lord Saville says that some of those killed or injured were clearly fleeing or going to the assistance of others who were dying. The report refers to one person who was shot while crawling away from the soldiers. Another was shot, in all probability, when he was lying mortally wounded on the ground. Now the report refers to the father who was hit and injured by army gunfire after he had gone to tend to his son.
For those looking for statements of innocence, Saville says that the immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of support company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries.
And crucially that, and I quote, ‘none of the casualties was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury or indeed was doing anything else that could, on any view, justified their shooting’.
For those people who are looking for the report to use terms like ‘murder’ and ‘unlawful killing’ I remind the House that these judgments are not matters for a tribunal or for us as politicians to determine.
Mr. Speaker, these are shocking conclusions to read and shocking words to have to say. But Mr. Speaker, you do not defend the British Army by defending the indefensible. We do not honour all those who’ve served with such distinction in keeping the peace and upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland by hiding from the truth.
So there’s no point in trying to soften or equivocate what is in this report. It is clear from the tribunal’s authoritative conclusions that the events of Bloody Sunday were in no way justified.
I know that some people wonder whether, nearly forty years on from an event, [if] a prime minister needs to issue an apology. For someone of my generation, Bloody Sunday and the early 1970s are something we feel we have learnt about rather than lived through.
But what happened should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and the hurt of that day and with a lifetime of loss.
Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces and for that, on behalf of the government, indeed, on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry. (Video ends.)
Mr Speaker, just as this report is clear that the actions of that day were unjustifiable so, too, is it clear in some of its other findings. Those looking for premeditation, a plan, those even looking for a conspiracy involving senior politicians or senior members of the armed forces, they will not find it in this report.
Indeed, Lord Saville finds no evidence that the events of Bloody Sunday were premeditated. He concludes that the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland governments and the Army neither tolerated nor encouraged the use of unjustified lethal force. He makes no suggestion of a government cover up.
Mr Speaker, the report also specifically deals with the actions of key individuals in the Army, in politics and beyond, including Major-General Ford, Brigadier McLellan, and Lieutenant Colonel Wilford.
In each case, the findings are clear. It does the same for Martin McGuinness. It specifically finds he was present and probably armed with a sub-machine gun but it concludes, and I quote, ‘we’re sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire’.
Mr Speaker, while in no way justifying the events of January 30th, 1972, we should acknowledge the background to the events of Bloody Sunday. Since 1969, the security situation in Northern Ireland had been declining significantly. Three days before Bloody Sunday, two RUC officers, one a Catholic, were shot by the IRA in Londonderry, the first police officers killed in the city during the Troubles. A third of the City of Derry had become a no-go area for the RUC and the Army. And in the end 1972 was to prove Northern Ireland’s bloodiest year by far, with nearly five hundred people killed. And let us also remember, Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service the British Army gave in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007.
This was known as Operation Banner, the longest continuous operation in British military history, spanning thirty-eight years and in which over two hundred and fifty thousand people served. Our armed forces displayed enormous courage and professionalism in upholding democracy and the rule of law in Northern Ireland. Acting in support of the police, they played a major part in setting the conditions that have made peaceful politics possible.
And over one thousand members – a thousand members – of the security forces lost their lives to that cause. Without their work, the peace process would not have happened. Of course, some mistakes were undoubtedly made, but lessons were also learned. And once again, I put on record the immense debt of gratitude we all owe to those who served in Northern Ireland.
Mr Speaker, may I also thank the tribunal for its work and all those who displayed great courage in giving evidence. I would also like to acknowledge the grief of the families of those killed.
They have pursued their long campaign over thirty-eight years with great patience. Nothing can bring back those who were killed but I hope, as one relative has put it, the truth coming out can help set people free.
John Major said he was open to a new inquiry, Tony Blair then set it up. This was accepted by the leader of the opposition. Of course, none of us anticipated that the Saville inquiry would take twelve years or cost almost two hundred million pounds. Our views on that are well-documented.
It is right to pursue the truth with vigour and thoroughness but let me reassure the House there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past. Today is not about the controversies surrounding the process, it is about the substance, about what this report tells us. Everyone should have the chance to examine its complete findings and that is why it is being published in full.
Running to more than five thousand pages, it is being published in 10 volumes. Naturally, it will take all of us some time to digest the report’s full findings and understand its implications. The House will have an opportunity for a full day’s debate this autumn, and in the meantime the Secretaries of State in Northern Ireland for Defence will report back to me on all the issues which arise from it.
Mr Speaker, this report and the inquiry itself demonstrate how a state should hold itself to account and how we should be determined at all times, no matter how difficult, to judge ourselves against the highest standards. Openness and frankness about the past, however painful, they do not make us weaker, they make us stronger.
That is one of the things that differentiates us from the terrorists. We should never forget that over thirty-five hundred people from every community lost their lives in Northern Ireland, the overwhelming majority killed by terrorists.
There were many terrible atrocities. Politically-motivated violence was never justified, whichever side it came from. And it can never be justified by those criminal gangs that today want to draw Northern Ireland back to its bitter and bloody past.
No government I lead will ever put those who fight to defend democracy on an equal footing with those who continue to seek to destroy it. But neither will we hide from the truth that confronts us today.
In the words of Lord Saville, what happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.
Those are words we cannot and must not ignore. But I hope what this report can also do it is mark the moment where we come together in this House and in the communities we represent to acknowledge our shared history, even where it divides us, and come together to close this painful chapter on Northern Ireland’s troubled past. That is not to say we should ever forget or dismiss the past, but we must also move on. Northern Ireland has been transformed over the last twenty years and all of us in Westminster and Stormont must continue that work of change, coming together with all the people of Northern Ireland to build a stable, peaceful, prosperous and shared future. And it is with that determination that I commend this statement to the house. (ends)
Martin Galvin speaks to former Irish Republican political prisoner, Packy Carty, via telephone from Co. Tyrone about the new Irish Republican party, Saoradh. (begins time stamp ~ 36:11)
Martin: And with us on the line we have Packy Carty in Tyrone. Welcome to – well I should say welcome back – I believe you did an interview a number of years ago with John McDonagh – welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. And I believe it was September that your new political party, a new Irish Republican political party, the word that – it was formed – it’s liberation. Could you tell us how you pronounce it first of all?
Packy: A chairde, Martin, thanks for having us on. ‘Sear róo’ is our pronunciation but it does vary a bit regarding provincial Gaelic so it may sound a bit different in Leinster or Munster.
Martin: Alright. And that, of course, is spelled s-a-o-r-a-d-h…
Martin: …So if you’re looking for information about it that’s where to go. Okay. I want to – just tell us first a little bit about your own background and involvement in Irish Republican politics. I spoke to you briefly on the phone about this interview and you said you were born in it – you had an uncle killed, father was in jail, you’ve been in prison – just tell us briefly about yourself and your family connections to Irish Republicanism.
Packy: Yeah, well I was born in Dungannon in East Tyrone which is you know, it’s a Republican heartland – it was the area where the East Tyrone Brigade was active. My Uncle Paddy was killed in Omagh in 1973 and my father was incarcerated as a Republican prisoner in the 1970’s. I’ve been active in Republican politics myself from about the mid to late 1990’s and was held by remand in Maghaberry jail in 2012. I spent that period on protest with the prisoners in Roe House.
Martin: Alright. And we call that internment-by-remand where they just deny you bail, they hold you – How long were you in? And then when it was time for trial they said there was no evidence against you and the case was dismissed.
Packy: Yeah well they made a number of assertions and they charged me and held me for nine months. At that time, that was about February 2012 I think, I was lifted. I was in the car with my wife and my children and was just lifted off the side of the road, held overnight in Antrim Interrogation Barracks, taken to Enniskillen I think the following morning and then quickly from thereon to Enniskillen court and quickly thereon to Maghaberry.
Martin: Alright, just let’s get right to it. Tell us: What is Saoradh and why is it that you and others, other Republicans, have formed another Republican party – some people would say other than Sinn Féin?
Packy: Well Saoradh’s an Irish Republican socialist party, a revolutionary party – unashamedly so. In regards to forming a new party you know the movement has more formalisation. The movement has existed for five years or more now. It has coalesced more or less around prisoners’ issues initially and particularly the Irish Prisoners’ Welfare Association but going back to when I got out of jail in 2012 discussions and talks were on-going to build what has now become the Saoradh party. Those consultations were perfected and drawn out in the interests of Republican unity and there was consultations and dialogue with a number of Republican groupings and independents in regards to building what earlier, in the latter part of last year, became the Saoradh party.
Martin: Okay. And what is the political strategy that your party has to unite Ireland where you think that Sinn Féin and other political parties have failed?
Packy: Well starting off it’s getting back to brass tacks and rebuilding the Republican Movement, rebuilding Republicanism from the grassroots up. You know we’ve had this top-down, diktat approach by the likes of Sinn Féin and the destruction of Republicanism basically by them being completely subsumed into the British Establishment and subsumed into administering British rule via Stormont. So you know it’s a long, hard road back from that and we’re at the very start of it. So we’re focused at the moment on building the party up, laying down the structures, re-engaging the grassroots and engaging on things that relate to what they’re facing in their daily lives and their struggles and on how British rule is affecting them on the ground day and daily.
Martin: Alright. Now there are elections on March 2nd. I know that your party was just recently formed and you certainly didn’t expect that there would be an election so soon and I’m sure you’re not running candidates but what is it that your party will ask people to do in terms of that March 2nd election? Some people say if you put Sinn Féin in you’ll keep Arlene Foster out. What is it that your party wants to do? And just tell us the theory or feeling about why the action that you’re going to ask people to take is going to promote a united Ireland in a way that voting for somebody else will not.
Packy: Well from Saoradh’s perspective you know it doesn’t matter if you have direct British rule or indirect British rule. It’s still British rule nonetheless. And in reality Stormont has very little power and it has shown that – you know Sinn Féin can’t even deliver on an Irish language act. They’re completely, they’re devoid if they believe they make any change via the British institution that is Stormont. Stormont has been coming down recently with corruption and it has fell on the sword in a long line of corruption with the latest RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme but what our party will be asking people to do is we’re taking a revolutionary approach. We’re taking an approach from outside of the British institutions and we’re asking people not to vote. We’re asking people to vote with their feet and stay at home. You know it’s only a year since the last Stormont election and voter turnout was down to fifty-four percent. And now while we don’t recognise the gerrymandered statelet that is what is termed Northern Ireland, you know what we would call the Occupied Six Counties, while we don’t recognise it technically we realise the advantage of trying to push voter turnout below fifty percent to divest this popular myth that somehow British rule, or its beachhead in Ireland which is Stormont, has some sort of popular mandate. So that’s the campaign we’ve been engaging in – in a broad ranging campaign encouraging Irish citizens to stay at home and divest this perceived support for British rule in Ireland.
Martin: Alright. And seeing Sinn Féin at Stormont – it’s played up where it’s claimed to be that it gives power to Nationalists, to Republicans – you’ve said that it’s just part of the British administration. Does the fact that Sinn Féin is in Stormont, is on policing boards, is in other machinery of the state – does that help? Or is that just, in your view, something that gives credence, credibility, undeserved credibility, to British rule?
Packy: Well they’ve been completely subsumed into the system you know? I think Davy Jordan, our national chairperson, stated that at the inaugural Ard Fheis. You know they have been subsumed by the very system they set out to overthrown. At present there’s a hundred thousand children living in poverty under British rule in Ireland at this minute in time and those figures are by a British charity, the Joseph Roundtree Trust. You can’t hide from that, you know? Sinn Féin is pouring austerity and misery into the working class heartlands that produced it, from where it emerged. You know Sinn Féin puts great emphasis on the fact that it built its electoral prowess off the hunger strike and the deaths of people like Bobby Sands and of Patsy O’Hara. But if you go into the heartlands where Bobby Sands and Patsy O’Hara come from in Belfast and Doire respectively, you’re walking into some of the most deprived areas in western Europe. And that’s an economic war that Britain has continued to wage against the Irish people – you know, that has never ended. And now what you’re seeing is the complete submission by Sinn Féin and they’ve literally became the new constitutional nationalist party, the new SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), they’re in that middle ground. They’ve completely forsaken the people who bore the brunt of the struggle and who continue to bear the brunt of this new-found Tory neo-liberal austerity agenda. You know, who would ever have thought you’d see the day where Sinn Féin is imposing poverty on behalf of the Tory government that effectively murdered Bobby Sands and the other prisoners in the H-Blocks in 1981. That’s the contradiction you’re left with now and the hypocritical position that Sinn Féin now sits in.
Martin: Alright. Now you eventually will run candidates I believe – correct me if I’m wrong because I’m just going just on some of the articles I’ve read about the party in the paper – but my understanding is that your position is eventually, down the road when the party is ready, they will run candidates but they will run them on an abstentionist basis. What is the theory behind running candidates on an abstentionist basis meaning: We’ll try to win seats, show votes, quantify support for our position but not take seats in Stormont, in certainly in Westminster if it comes to that or I don’t know if you have that same policy on local councils?
Packy: Well at the minute there probably still will be a debate on the issue of local councils – that’ll be an internal, grassroots debate within the party about the viability of that but traditionally Republicans, you know going back to the time of the formation of Dáil Éireann, have utilised the councils – that is a debate that will be on-going. But in regards to the partitionist institutions of Leinster House and Stormont there’s absolutely no way Saoradh at any time, now or in the future, will we be running in elections to take seats in those institutions. Yes, we may utilise those elections in the future to run abstentionist candidates and the reason being is that we want to divest control from the existing British institutions. You know, the Twenty-Six County institution is not The Dáil. The Dáil Éireann was suppressed and was replaced by the Royal Oireachtas. It is as much a British parliament as the Stormont administration that exists in the Occupied Six Counties. And if we look at our recent history, anybody who has walked away from the revolutionary Republican position and taken their seats in Stormont or taken their seats in Leinster House has been subsumed and shaped by those institutions. You could take people like Gerry Kelly, people like Pat Sheehan – Pat Sheehan is an excellent example. You know you have a man who was an IRA combatant who was captured, incarcerated, went on the blanket, went on hunger strike, finished his incarceration, re-committed himself to the Republican Movement, was captured again and re-interned and he was taken out. He’s been fed into this machinery of the state and has come out the other side a robot that now sits up and tells people to join the Crown Forces, to inform on Irish citizens to the Crown Forces, who sits on these British policing boards and who is a rent-wrecking landlord and that is the end product of engaging in these processes and it would be a huge mistake for Saoradh or any other Republican organisation who thinks that at the beginning of this process you can go in with your ideas and come out with them still intact on the other side. Irish history is littered with the failures of constitutional, you know of these moves into constitutional nationalism.
Martin: Alright. Now your party is very much linked to prisoners and Republican prisoners’ issues. Could you tell us some of the things that you’ve done in terms of supporting Republican prisoners, trying to campaign for justice or help the families of those who are in prison?
Packy: Yes. Well there’s a lot of people that would have you believe that there is is no Republican prisoners anymore or that somehow if you’re a Republican prisoners before 1998 that that makes you some sort of hero and if you’re a Republican prisoner post-1998 then you’re some sort of public pariah but there’s a lot…
Martin: …Well the funny thing – if I can interrupt you – you get people like Gerry McGeough or Seamus Kearney and others who were actually in prisoned post-1998 for actions, IRA actions, that occurred in 1980 or 1981 and somehow they still were seemed to be in the pariah category instead of people that should be supported as part of the struggle. Sorry for interrupting but just go ahead – just tell us what you’re position is.
Packy: Yeah well you have people like Scotchy (Seamus) Kearney and Gerry McGeough who didn’t toe the Sinn Féin party line and therefore don’t get the comfortable letters from your British government to say: Oh, you can come back and live a normal life. You know, they’re still persecuted. And it must be pointed out that Britain is still persecuting its war, still persecuting its criminalisation policy and all those who engaged in the struggle for national liberation and they focus intently on anyone who isn’t toeing the Sinn Féin line – there’s no comfort letters for those people. And I think recently on one of the political debate shows on British television Gerry Kelly said that he would be quite comfortable for Britain’s continuing criminalisation of former combatants from that long war period before the so-called ’98 agreement.
Martin: Well one of the things – not only, first of all, if you took a position that Bobby Sands and others on the blanket that they were not criminals – that they were political prisoners – if you then criminalise or send to jail as a criminal people like Gerry McGeough and Seamus Kearney it seems to be that you’re betraying that principle. But more than that, isn’t it a fact that if you were in prisoned during that time it’s very, very difficult, other than a very few exceptions, you don’t get to come to the United States because you’re viewed as a ‘criminal’, you don’t get a visa, you don’t get a – because you’re branded as such by the British – you’re not eligible for certain positions – I don’t know about teaching, other positions – you still are criminalised in that sense and Sinn Féin was part and is part of the government that does that, that is involved in that process – isn’t that – would that be your party’s position as well?
Packy: Yeah, that’s very true. You know Sinn Féin told everyone, told its supporters, told its base that it had negotiated an end to the Anglo-Irish conflict in 1998. That’s what was portrayed and, as you well know, they were in the US trying to put forward the same narrative. What this does is blows that out of the water and basically shows that the British negotiated a surrender from the Provisional Movement and that’s the basis of it and now you have people like Gerry Kelly and Martin McGuinness, who have these so-called criminal records as well for their part as being combatants in the Republican resistance, and it’s okay – they can go to places like Washington and engage in these civic events but you know for the ordinary guy on the ground, the guy who isn’t in the higher echelons of Sinn Féin, he can’t get a job at a shopping mall as a security guard because of this so-called criminal record and you know he can’t fly to certain countries, the US and Australia and places like that, because he’s on no-fly lists and is down on so-called ‘terror’ lists. And that’s the out-workings of this is that the Sinn Féin didn’t negotiate an end to anything. What they did was capitulate and immerse themselves in the very system that they had fought for how long? From the beginning. They’ve come full circle.
Martin: Could you tell us just briefly: I know your group participated in the Bloody Sunday demonstration last Sunday but what is some of the things – you’ve established office, you’ve organised a number of protests – what are some of the other things that your party has done since its creation just a few short months ago?
Packy: Yes, well there was a good turnout by the membership and the activists in Doire but Doire is a strong city for us. We have an office in Doire and are recently in the process of forming a youth wing. We formed craobh across the country. We have an office in the heart of Belfast with more planned hopefully places like Tyrone and other areas. Our Dublin comrades were among the activists that seized Apollo House in Dublin from the banks and opened it up to ease the homeless epidemic recently over Christmas. And in Tyrone we’ve engaged with concerned residents who face corporate poisoning and the theft of our natural resources at the hands of the Dalradian Gold company and things like that, who have been gifted our natural resources by the British Crown and while Sinn Féin sit subservient and don’t rock the boat. You know we’re also constantly active in highlighting ongoing issues affecting Republican prisoners and the fact that you have forced strip searching, that you have controlled movement and isolation and prisoners being held in solitary confinement. You know, I’ve a close friend at the moment in Maghaberry jail, Marty McGilloway, who grew up in the same housing estate as me, and Marty’s been held now for four and a half years in solitary confinement and UN legislation states that a person can’t be held for longer than fifteen days but this is on-going. You have other prisoners as well from Lurgan and other areas who are held in the same sort of conditions; we’re constantly working on that…
Packy: …We’re also working, too, to reintegrate ourselves into, back into, the working class areas and tackle issues, bread and butter every day issues where the out-workings of British rule is pouring suffering and misery on the working people.
Martin: Okay. We’re coming to the end. We’re talking to Packy Carty of Saoradh, the new political party in Ireland. Packy, just before you go could you tell us: If people want to get more information about your political party how would they do it?
Martin: …Okay – that’s (Martin spells out Saoradh) Is that correct?
Martin: Okay. Is there anywhere else to get information? You’re on Facebook as well. Is that correct?
Packy: Yeah. We’re on Facebook under Saoradh – The Unfinished Revolution and we’re on Twitter under Eire Saoradh. (Packy spells it)
Martin: Okay, the name of the party again – Saoradh – which is an Irish word, means liberation. (Martin spells Saoradh) Again you can get information at s-a-o-r-a-d-h dot ie. You can look it up on Facebook. Packy, we want to thank you for introducing your party to an American audience and hopefully we’ll have you back soon as other developments as the party continues to grow and prosper.
Packy: Go raibh míle maith agat. Thank you very much. (ends time stamp ~ 55:36)
Martin Galvin speaks to Cormac O’Malley via telephone about his father, Ernie O’Malley, and about his father’s books and legacy. (begins time stamp ~ 15:12)
Martin: With us on the line we have Cormac O’Malley and this is Martin Galvin in studio, Mr. O’Malley. And I just played that song, or the start of the song, Tipperary So Far Away, for somebody that I knew, was very close to, was a great mentor of mine, somebody who may be remembered as the John Devoy of this generation, Michael Flannery, who was – talked about your father very much. Now, I just want to start: You’ve written, or put together, a number of books: OnAnother Man’s Wound, The Singing Flame, Raids and Rallies – the latest book. Just tell us a little bit about your father, Ernie O’Malley, and just how these books were put together – why they’re important.
Cormac: Sure. Well, nice to chat with you and always interested to talk about Ernie O’Malley.
This happens to be the hundred and twentieth anniversary of his birth and the sixtieth anniversary of his death. And it’s really only in the last twenty years, given the issues that had gone in in Ireland during the forty years after his death, that Nationalists have been more acceptable than previously. There was a lull in the generation. Father was born in Mayo in 1897, got his education at University College Dublin, tried to become a doctor, got wrapped up in the cause of Irish freedom starting on Easter Monday 1916 when he read the Irish Proclamation which said Ireland should be for the Irish. You know for many people that was a shock. It. woke them up. They suddenly realised that there had been somebody in Ireland who shouldn’t be there. Father never hated the English as such he just thought they shouldn’t be in Ireland so that was sort of his philosophical position and when it came to a military position he sort of said: Let’s move them out. So he joined the Irish Volunteers, the IRA. He went up in the command to be very much involved in Tipperary and ultimately came back to Tipperary as a senior officer, Commandant General in charge of the Second Southern Division and would have known Mick Flannery there in those days. Subsequently he was not supportive of even the truce, he didn’t know why senior management in the IRA called for a truce and definitely against the treaty and he came on to be Number Two under Liam Lynch as the Assistant Chief of Staff of the IRA against the Free State. But all of those causes were failed in a certain sense and he was caught, imprisoned, not only by the Brits but by the Free State. He got out in 1924 in very poor health, came to America and started to write. And his big book was On Another Man’s Wound – it’s easy to sleep on another man’s wound.
Martin: That title, actually, has become a metaphor in a way for The North that’s often repeated. People in the Six Counties would talk about what they were suffering and going through and how there were people who, in the Twenty-Six Counties and that’s where my family’s from as well, but there were people in the Twenty-Six Counties who seemed too easy to sleep on the fact that a part of Ireland, another part of Ireland, was still under British rule.
Cormac: Definitely. And indeed that was the, you know – as he published that book he was somewhat, well it’s not written down what he meant by it but I interpret that that he’s the person who got wounded – and they were a lot of people who didn’t so – but who got the glory. So I found him sort of saying that it’s easy for them to sleep on his wounds and part of what was involved…
Martin: …One of the things you’ve just mentioned – your father was a leading figure in the IRA during the War of Independence. He was also involved – he was in prison, I believe he was on hunger strike, nearly shot during by – after being captured by people who he had fought along side, were involved in that struggle and when there was a civil war, and a lot of the people who were leading figures in the War of Independence had to come to America because they were harassed, they were suppressed, there was efforts to keep them from working, there were efforts to keep them from playing a regular part in the society in the aftermath of the War of Independence and you find that with your father as well – certainly Michael Flannery came to America – a lot of the people who were involved in that struggle came to America for that reason.
Cormac: Now, what is interesting: It’s an easy figure to pick which is: fourteen thousand Republicans were put into jails. The Free State had no idea that there were fourteen thousand people to round up but they finally did. They weren’t kept in very good conditions because there were far more people than they were capable of handling under normal prison conditions. When they started to demob, after Frank Aiken sort of called a truce and downed arms in May of 1923, the Republicans were kept in jail for another year. Now what happened during that year as the Free State became more established and they demobilised their army and it was those, their army then, got whatever jobs were going back down the country and when the Republicans got out in 1924, the fourteen thousand of them – and Ernie O’Malley got out in one of the last in July 1924 – there were really no jobs available – certainly no state jobs – and they had been looked down upon and most of those fourteen thousand – I don’t know what percentage the historians will give but maybe ten thousand came over to America and certainly Mick Flannery, Judge Comerford, many of the names I’ve mentioned in the New York environment while I lived here, came over at that time.
Martin: They didn’t realise when they were being pushed out or when they were pushing people of that political belief out that they’d be laying the groundwork for Clann na nGael, for Irish Northern Aid, for people like that to be here and be at the start – would keep pushing – you know I use the phrase John Devoy – keep pushing for there to be another struggle for Irish independence. Alright, John McDonagh wanted me to specially mention: One of the works that you did, your father, Ernie O’Malley, went around to various areas, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Corcaigh, and he interviewed other people who had participated in the struggle and how important that research was and you were able to get it published and he wanted me to draw the parallel between that and what is happening with the Boston Tapes and efforts to get the stories of Republicans in the struggle today. Just tell us about that work that you did.
Cormac: Well it was, you know, as you may have read John McGahern who, in Amongst Women, the old men, the veterans, would sit around in the pubs and talk and revive – they wouldn’t tell the wives, they wouldn’t tell their children – but a couple of the comrades, such as Father and Florrie O’Donoghue and others, developed a concept that this should be recorded in some way and that grew into sort of a political, well a quasi-political development, within the interregnum of party of 1946 to ’48. And they created a Bureau of Military History and the thought was to hire professors and you know independent people but also some from both sides to give a fair impression and to go around the countryside or have a bureau in Dublin where people could come to and that group of ten or twenty people, staffed by the government, interviewed seventeen hundred and seventy-six people over the course of ten years. Father disagreed with them on the principle they were going to stop their interview chronology at the time of the truce. And he said that look, the fight went on ’til 1924 and you know the Free Staters were still executing Republicans in ’23 and ’24 so I’m going to do my own study. So he went around all by himself without anyone paying him and he, having been the senior military commander on the Republican side, personally got four hundred and fifty statements from – and interviews with people – in probably twenty-four – twenty-five different counties. And when he died in 1957 and I found these notebooks I gave them to the University College Dublin where they have been sleeping ever since. But in the year 2000 what I tried to do was to go back and transcribe these handwritten documents, which were terrible to transcribe, and I found some people who helped me in the counties of – starting off in Kerry, Galway, Mayo – and we were able to recount – and my aim was to bring to the grandchildren of these people the stories of what their fathers and grandfathers had done because, just like our Vietnam vets here, people don’t talk about war and it just so happens that Ernie O’Malley did capture not only the deeds that they done – good and bad and indifferent – but also the accents in which they spoke. So these family documents are really very interesting in numerous ways. But…
Martin: …Well it’s a striking thing: You’re talking about 1916 through 1924, you’re talking about a crucial period in Irish history when at least twenty-six counties became independent and here it is in the – you’re talking about 1957 or 1960 – and people were still worried about telling the story of what had happened so many years before in the history of their country. It would be almost like in the American Revolution just somehow in 1812 being afraid to have veterans of the American Revolution talk about how they had fought against the British and won independence.
Cormac: Sure. But you know there is the syndrome, which we all know, which people suffer when they go through the hardships of struggles and hunger strikes and internment and you know, from certain points of view when they get ex-communicated by the Church, there’s the burden of shame comes upon some people, not all, and they shut up about it. They don’t tell their wives – the wives don’t understand what went on. And so that just become their history and, as McGahern tells in his stories, the men tell it to themselves but not to their children. And so what I wanted to do in doing this series of books – and Father had written, I found in one of his drawers a beautiful book, which I published, called Rising Out: Seán Connolly of Longford and Seán Connolly was a local organiser sent by Mick Collins from – he’d organised not only Longford but he went up to South Roscommon, North Roscommon and Leitrim and he was doing in those three counties what Father had done in seventeen different counties. And I think Father wanted to tell the story not of a big man like himself but of a small man who was doing exactly the same thing, encountering the same problems – we sort of glorify what the image of the Republicans were in those days – they hard hard times just as fellows in The North later had, convincing their fellow citizens to take a stand. These were basically conservative, Catholic, rural families – those were hard to shift even if they Fenian tradition and songs in the pub. Getting a man to, or a young man who’s a farmer, to go out and train for military operations is really a very difficult thing. And so this was a beautiful story that Father took based on the interviews that he did in Roscommon and Leitrim. He was able to pull an entire book together so he not only did On Another Man’s Wound and The Singing Flame and a book published in the Sunday Press called The Raids and Rallies but he’d done this third book, fourth book, Rising Out, which is also a great read.
Martin: Before you go, John McDonagh asked me to share a story with you about your father that Michael Flannery had told me and what had happened is after Bernadette Devlin was attacked and wounded in The North of Ireland there were a number of IRA Volunteers who wanted to do something in retaliation and they were told they couldn’t and they went out and they did it under another name and eventually it got adopted – everybody thought it was something that should have been done – but I’m sitting around and Mike Flannery says: Well, when I was in the IRA we had an operation where we supposed to attack a barracks (I forget which barracks it was) and everything was all planned and word came from GHQ (General Headquarters) not to do anything, and we found out later there was a good reason for it (but they were not aware of it). So they went and got your father because he was in the area and he was in GHQ and they told him he could be in charge of the operation. And the reason they did that is that if they got in any trouble with GHQ for having this unauthorised operation they would say: Well Ernie O’Malley was there. He authorised it. He was okay. And it just, the way he said it, it just showed the parallels between people of current or recent generations and the people that your father interviewed, talked about, was one of, played such a prominent part of – and I really have to commend you. I enjoyed the books, The Singing Flame, On Another Man’s Wound – the other books that you’ve been involved in and if you hadn’t put those books together and made them public that crucial, crucial part of Irish history would have been lost to us. So I want to just really commend – and very appreciative of everything that your father did but I certainly want to commend and appreciate everything that you did in making sure that that history would be preserved.
Cormac: Well thank you very much, indeed. There is a book I did on the Civil War called ‘No Surrender Here!’ The Civil War Papers of Ernie O’Malley, and that really tells – there had, ironically enough, had been no Irish academic ever to take the Republican side, or at least tell the Republican side. And what I tried to do was I found in the archive sixty or more letters between Ernie O’Malley and Liam Lynch, the Commander and the Assistant Commander, as to what their attitude was on all of the relevant issues going on in the Civil War. It’s a six hundred page book and it tells that story quite well.
Martin: Let me just ask you before we go: I’ve always found most of the people who became involved in the Civil War – now we know that partition was permanent but again, Michael Flannery, some of the other veterans at that time – told me that that was not the big issue. That they thought the Boundary Commission, they were all told the Boundary Commission – Tyrone, Fermanagh, Doire City, they’re all going to go to part of the Twenty-Six Counties and the British are going to get out because there’s going to be very little left – but the thing that they would not do was having pledged to the Irish Republic and said that the Irish Republic had national freedom, a right to national freedom – they weren’t going to take an oath, they weren’t going to have a Lord Lieutenant or some kind of Home Rule, Free State within British rule. Is that what you found as you did this research?
Cormac: Well definitely. I mean there are – I’m sort of writing about that right now – and one of the issues which the Republicans sort of rejected the treaty on the grounds first of all that the thirty-two counties were not included. That’s a little bit, one can actually think of that as an ostrich issue – the six counties had already been carved off. They were a existing government at the time that that the treaty existed and that there was a military police state up there with their own British armaments, etc. So there was no way that the British government in an empire which was not yet falling apart was going to give that six counties back to Ireland and indeed the time schedule will be shown by later scholars that the treaty discussions were delayed until that government was, in fact, opened so that they would say: Look it, that’s off the table. The second big issue was, indeed, the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath of Allegiance was the issue to the foreign king and you know, these were Catholic fights, whether they had been ex-communicated or not, and they felt that their republic had started in January 1919 and that they were fighting for something that already existed and they couldn’t possibly concede – that they would do whatever would be indifferent to that cause and compromise it. So the oath really did become the significant issue. Now, what historians need to look at is whether the Republican position in 1922, having had the treaty approved by the Cabinet – you know, four to three, approved by the Dáil, by sixty-four to fifty-seven, approved by the parliamentary election which gave, let’s say, a minority to anti-treaty and a majority to the pro-treaty and labour people – and then to take up arms against you know, ultimately against, the Free State. So they were righteous. They had a cause. But history still, historians have still looked at them in a dubious attitude.
Martin: Alright. We’re going to have to leave it there. We could go on for a much longer time. I want to thank Cormac O’Malley. Some of the books are: On Another Man’s Wound, The Singing Flame, Raids and Rallies. There are other books you’ve published and if you see them on amazon dot com – or is there any other way that people should get those books?
Cormac: They can go to mercier press dot ie or write me at cormac dot omalley at gmail dot com and I’ll put you in touch.
Martin: Alright, if you want to find out about the War of Independence, if you want to find out about the Civil War, if you want to learn what it was really like, what those Volunteers really had to go through, those are the places to do your research.Alright, thank you.
Cormac: Thank you very much indeed. (ends time stamp ~ 35:20)