Ed Moloney RFÉ 25 March 2017

Radio Free Éireann
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Martin Galvin speaks to award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, via telephone about Martin McGuinness’ career and the immediate future of the Stormont government. (begins time stamp ~ 42:37)

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

Martin:  And welcome back. We have with us on the line the author, commentator, columnist, journalist Ed Moloney. Ed, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Ed:  Hi, Martin. Hi.

Martin:    Ed, I have in front of me something that you wrote for The Guardian and you said that: ‘The Martin McGuinness of 2016 could not have delivered the IRA of 1994 into a ceasefire’. Just wondering if we could start there. What did you mean by that?

Ed:   Well, well because sufficient time has passed since 1994 to change Martin McGuinness. I mean you know, in 1994 and round that period, I mean he was able to reassure the IRA that, for example, there would never be a ceasefire without a special Army Convention being called and people believed him. But we know what happened. There was a ceasefire without a convention and there was a decommissioning without an IRA Convention. And the sort of the hard line image that enabled Martin McGuinness – you know, the guy who wouldn’t let the IRA down, who wouldn’t settle for a quote ‘sellout’ end quote of the early 1990’s – you know had changed so much, and events had changed him as well, that it be impossible for him to have given the same reassurances in 2015-2016 and be believed by the IRA grassroots. In 1994 the image of the tough IRA leader who would not compromise on basics, even for example a ceasefire without getting the approval of the grassroots much less accepting issues like consent, the Principle of Consent for Irish unity or IRA decommissioning, that image you know has gone and gone by this stage and I don’t think he would have the same sway at all with the IRA grassroots.

Martin:   Alright. What was is that brought Martin McGuinness into the IRA to believe that somebody from a very religious background, a Catholic background, somebody whose family was believed to be Nationalist as opposed to Republican – what was it that led him first to be the person who would take up arms and rise to a leadership p0sition in the IRA?

Ed:   Well you know in some ways Martin McGuinness is a prototype of the post-1970 IRA in the sense that if this was – and we’ve had this discussion before and I think we disagree on this, but my view is, and it has been for some time now, that the Provisional IRA grew out of the civil rights movement and civil rights protests largely because of Unionist intransigence which created the circumstances of August 1969 and then put the Nationalist community on a collision course with the British government. Martin McGuinness was motivated to join the IRA and to become politically active almost entirely by those events – by the civil rights movement and then by the collision of the Nationalist community with the British Army. And he said himself more than once that it was you know, it was the deaths of Beattie and Cusack in Doire in 1970-1971 (I forget the exact date) but very early on in The Troubles at a point when there was really no Provisional IRA to talk of in Doire.

The largest, the Republican group that held the greatest sway in Doire at that time was the Officials, the Official IRA, and the Provisional IRA was almost non-existent. There were a few members and I think they were almost entirely wiped out in an accidental explosion. It was only after the deaths of Beattie and Cusack that the Provisional IRA grew at all in Doire and Martin McGuinness was one of the very, very first recruits. So he came from a very, very different Republican background from someone like Gerry Adams or indeed traditional Republicans in Doire, like the Keenan Family. You know, the Adams Family can trace their Republican lineage way back to you know – way back in time. I mean Gerry Adams’ own father, also called Gerry, was an active IRA member in the 1930’s and 1940’s and his uncle was involved in the 1940’s IRA campaign in Britain. Martin McGuinness didn’t have any of that history in his family’s lineage at all. His family were good Catholic, Doire folk who voted for the Nationalist party and believed everything that the local bishop told them. And he came from that and it was the events, the civil rights events and the collision course that the civil rights put the Nationalist community on with the British government, that produced Martin McGuinness, the IRA leader. So you could actually say he’s a much more authentic representative of the modern Provisional IRA than was Gerry Adams and people of his ilk.

Martin:  Well just a question I always have is the, the analysis that was always given, is that you would always have injustice, you’d always have discrimination, whether it’s legacy, whether it was the result of various things like that until British rule was ended – it’s not just not getting equality it’s ending the British government, British rule, which has inherent inequality in it. But I just want to get beyond that: He joins the IRA, he becomes a leading figure. And one of the things people sometimes ask is – he did two stints in The South of Ireland in Portlaoise. He gets out of the second one around 1974. There are actually people who believe that what he said to the Saville Inquiry that he left the IRA at that time. How long was Martin McGuinness a leading member of the IRA?

Ed:  Well, you know the irony of that – he has to say that he was in the – you know people say Gerry Adams lies when he says he was never in the IRA. The issue is not like to try and get an admission from these people that they were in the IRA but to point out that they come from, that their attitude towards that question is so very different from the traditional Republican response that it raises all sorts of other questions. I mean the traditional Republican response to that question always was, until the Adams-McGuinness leadership: Was that you never admitted IRA membership. That would be a very, very foolish thing to do because you’d talk yourself into a jail sentence – at the same time you’d never deny it. And so you know, the Republicans of the Ó Brádaigh years when presented with that question by someone like myself or any other journalist would essentially, either politely or impolitely, tell me to mind my own business. But McGuinness and Adams chose not to.

And McGuinness had to admit membership of the IRA, that he had been in the IRA at least until 1974 because of two events: 1) When he was imprisoned by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin he made a statement to the effect that he was a proud member of the Irish Republican Army. And also there’s a famous television interview in which he’s walking down the street with an interviewer who asks him: Well, Martin McGuinness, as the leader of the IRA Provisionals in Belfast (Doire) can you tell us when are you going to stop the bombing campaign? And he takes no issue with that and gives an answer about: Well we will consult with our Army leadership and we will then make an informed, you know etc etc – makes a response. So he quite clearly accepts that he’s the leader of the Provos. So he couldn’t deny it. Adams never had that similar sort of, had not that similar type of experience therefore he was able to say that he was never, ever in the IRA. The irony about him saying that he left in 1974 was that his IRA was only beginning to take off in the mid-1970’s. I mean he was, first of all, he was a major figure in the first Northern Command that was created as the result of these reforms and changes that people like Adams and Ivor Bell and Brendan Hughes had discussed and debated along with fellow-minded colleagues in Long Kesh.

And then in 1978 Gerry Adams was Chief of Staff of the IRA. The IRA commits a horrible atrocity in Co. Down at a hotel called La Mon – fire bombs the place, screws up the warnings and there are lots of people killed in the most horrible circumstances imaginable and Adams, in the outrage that greets all of this, is arrested by the police and charged with IRA membership. He immediately loses, as is the custom, his rank as IRA Chief of Staff and McGuinness takes over, and that’s in February 1978. And he stays as Chief of Staff, and as Kathryn Johnston was describing, makes a very spectacular mark as IRA Chief of Staff by the Warrenpoint and Mountbatten ambushes which sort of like copper-fastened his reputation with the grassroots as a sort of military genius of some sort. But it’s not just that. He actually revives the fortunes of the IRA during those three or four years that he was Chief of Staff to the extent that they’re back in the game, as it were, you know? And he stays there and then in 1982 he quits because of the elections, he stands for the election but then he’s re-appointed Northern Commander, in about 1985-1986, and he stays as Northern Commander right through until 1996.

Martin:  Ed, I just want to – I know he had other ranks – I just want to ask you, just very briefly, we’ve just got about a minute left: Monday they’re back in negotiations. There’s a deadline for Stormont coming together. What does this mean for Gerry Adams leading these negotiations without, no longer having Martin McGuinness there? Or Gerry Adams and Michelle O’Neill leading the negotiations?

Ed:   Well the thing is you know, like Lennon and McCartney, they were never quite the same when John Lennon died and Adams and McGuinness – the two names that go together – it’s now just Gerry Adams and he’s got this problem in The North: He needs to – he needs to reconstruct the Assembly and the Stormont government otherwise what does he have to show for the peace process? And then he’s got the problem of not having achieved power in The South. And he’s knocking the door at the age seventy now – he’ll be sixty-nine in October – and you know, Martin McGuinness’ death is a reminder of his own mortality. He doesn’t have much time left to achieve, I think, his main ambition, which is to get into government in The South so that you have a Sinn Féin presence at the cabinet tables in both parts of Ireland and that will be his claim for a special place in the history books.

Martin:  Okay.

Ed:  But he’s running out of time. He’s in the ‘Last Chance Saloon’.

Martin:   Alright. Ed, we want to thank you for that. We’re running out of time ourselves in the Last Chance Saloon. We’re going to play one song, Back Home in Derry, just and then go out – exit on that basis. Thank you, Ed.

Ed:   Okay. Bye-bye now. (ends time stamp ~ 56:11)

Anthony McIntyre RFÉ 25 March 2017

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Martin Galvin speaks to Anthony McIntyre, former IRA prisoner now author, historian and political commentator, via telephone from Ireland about Martin McGuinness’ legacy. (begins time stamp ~ 27:08)

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

Martin:  Alright. With us on the line from Ireland we have Dr. Anthony McIntyre; he’s a former IRA Volunteer, somebody who is an author of a blog, The Pensive Quill. He’s an author of the book, Good Friday, a great analysis of the Good Friday Agreement and Anthony, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Anthony:   Good Afternoon, Martin. I’m pleased to be on.

Martin:   We’re trying to push everybody, this is a very big subject, we’ve got a number of people on, so we’re not giving anybody as much time as we would like to – what do you think, as somebody who, like Martin McGuinness, would have felt at one time that the only way there could be justice would be to end British rule and that the only way to achieve that would be to take up armed struggle – you served time in that, a number of years in that in The North – he served two separate times of imprisonment within The Twenty-Six Counties. What do you think Martin McGuinness’ legacy will be to the Republican struggle?

Anthony:  Well I think it will have, in many ways, it will have failed on two fronts: the military and the non-military. I mean Martin McGuinness was a key IRA figure – former Chief of Staff, former Northern Commander, former president of the IRA Army Council, sat on the Army Council for years. And the IRA campaign was aimed at coercing the British out of Ireland regardless of the wishes of the people in The North. The British objective was to insure that the IRA did not succeed in that campaign and that the IRA would be brought to embrace the Principle of Consent which meant that the British would only leave The North if a majority of people in The North consented to the British leaving. That means that the IRA campaign, in respect of getting the British out of Ireland, was an unmitigated failure. So Martin McGuinness failed there. Secondly, in terms of political institutions, he became the Deputy First Minister and ended up, at the end, being compelled by the force of logic and passion at the grassroots, which even surprised me, to bring to an end the institutions by coming out of his sickbed – in a very admirable manner it has to be said because it took some strength even to get from Belfast to Doire and to put on the performance that he did but that’s by-the-by – he brought down the institutions and what he brought to an end there was a period of Sinn Féin failure in government which they concede and for which they’ve been called ‘roll-over Republicans’ or ‘Martin and his Muppets’ because it’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous looking team ever on the benches of Parliament than the Sinn Féin team at Stormont and for ten years they took abuse, arrogance yet never told the grassroots about it, the voter, until such time as they decided to bring it down. And I often wonder, well I don’t often wonder but I’ve taken to wondering recently, if was Martin McGuinness was compelled to signing the closure order on essentially his own project in the manner that Jimmy Drumm was forced to signing the closure order on his ceasefire, which he was party to in 1976 when the new emerging leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness forced Jimmy Drumm, against his wishes, to read out the Bodenstown commemoration speech in 1977, June 1977, and during that speech Jimmy Drumm stated that the ceasefire had been a mistake. I think there’s a possibility the same has happened in Martin McGuinness’ case. So in my view, Martin McGuinness’ leadership has been called into question on two serious fronts.

Martin:  Anthony, I should note that when I got involved working with Irish Northern Aid I was asked to train over in the Belfast Press Centre and we never even talked about consent – that was a term you would never use. You would refer to it as ‘the Unionist veto in The North’ because the majority of people – you know as the 1916 Societies and other groups proclaim now, majority of people throughout all of Ireland favoured an end to British rule and you’re not talking about getting their consent to partition you’re talking about a veto within The Six Counties. And it just shows you how that language has changed. What is your reaction to the funeral? There was a Tricolour there, there was a number of noted political figures attended the funeral, how does that funeral play into the legacy, as you’ve described it, of Martin McGuinness?

Anthony:  Well I think what happened there is that the, like much else about Martin McGuinness’ life, the IRA has been pushed to the background and the IRA was, in effect, hidden from that funeral. There may have been key IRA figures putting on the Tricolour standing at the coffin as it was leaving his home but in order to allow the dignitaries, as they are called, and the luminaries to come to bury Mr. McGuinness but not to mourn him they had to hide the IRA. And therefore there was no chance of Arlene Foster and Bill Clinton and that whole parade of politicians marching behind a coffin with the beret on it and the black gloves, the sort of standard funerary symbols of the IRA dead. Now in my view, we may well have a whispering campaign of some sort, or at least a whispering to the grassroots, that the beret and gloves were inside the coffin – basically still hiding the IRA away – and that the whispering that the IRA went up and put the Tricoulor on the coffin – this is all for people who are prepared to believe anything as long as it’s whispered to them. In terms of political reality, the people who came to bury Martin McGuinness but not mourn him were from the political class. They were those people who were authenticating the rule, the victory, the triumph of consent over Martin’s earlier life where he advocated, and was a strong advocate and a forceful advocate of the politics of coercion, the war to coerce the British out of Ireland. And I think this is what this funeral was about from their point of view and ensuring that that was the dominant political message that went out: Unity only by consent. And the sort of subtext of it was: The IRA campaign failed. The British Principle of Consent won. The British did not ever accept the IRA’s terms for disengagement from Ireland. The IRA accepted the British terms for British disengagement from Ireland and that, in my view, sums it up.

Martin:  Alright. I should note just on the BBC website there was a Martin McGuinness section on his obituary and I hit that up and it was actually – he and I carrying a coffin in 1985 at the funeral of an IRA Volunteer. And you can see people with berets, you can see a masked party of IRA Volunteers – and this was done at a time – I was banned, that’s why I was invited specifically to carry the coffin along side him in Doire under the watchful eyes of British troops – that’s a difference between the type of funeral that that might have been some time ago and the funeral that Martin McGuinness had and his legacy. Anthony, why was it, what was it about Martin McGuinness that made IRA Volunteers trust him so much to the degree that they did, that they made him so influential that they would follow him into this resolution of the conflict – this cessation that you’ve described?

Anthony:  Probably his longevity at the leadership level. I mean as far back as most people’s living memory can recall Martin McGuinness was there.  He was the alpha and the omega of the IRA in many respects. In 1972 he was already pretty famous by the time he went to London for negotiations with the British. After that he became a key figure in the minds of the Republican support base and a hate figure for the British. So people always identified Martin as ‘the IRA figure’. Someone who would be hard, someone who would be tough, someone who would have the Volunteers’ interests at heart and in that way I feel that because he had been around so long, because he had directed so many operations, because he was Chief of Staff at the time of the killings of the British paratroopers, the killing of Mountbatten, the killing of Robert Bradford – these are all things that took place on his watch – key IRA killings and I think that he was viewed very much as the man that could be trusted in a way that people came to feel Gerry Adams couldn’t be trusted because Gerry Adams began to be viewed as a politician and there was always a hostility towards politicians. But it wouldn’t have mattered had Martin went first rather than Gerry in terms of making the call for politics – he would have been mistrusted because bear in mind: Gerry Adams had the same military record that Martin McGuinness has. The two could be separated by a cigarette paper that we used to write out from Long Kesh on – two key military figures but is was the perception of Martin as, what the media would call the ‘hawk’, the guy who would never let us down.

Martin:   Okay. And just what did you think: Gerry Adams was the person who gave the oration at Martin McGuinness’ funeral. What’s your reaction to that oration?

Anthony:   Well I mean the fact that Gerry Adams gave the oration, in my view, was that he was really saying: We are burying Martin here today but what I want you to remember is me. This is all about me. And again, as is his tendency to impose himself on proceedings, I mean, on this day and at this time Gerry Adams should be letting Michelle O’Neill come to the fore. But he isn’t. He’s trying to overshadow her on everything. And there is some suspicions now being aired by people that Martin McGuinness didn’t bring down the Executive, that he in fact was ousted and was compelled by Adams and the Adams’ lobby to bring down the Executive. And now since the passing-on of Martin McGuinness, or the illness of Martin McGuinness, we’ve seen Adams come more and more to the fore. And I mean Adams does have this effect, even though he’s not personally sectarian, attitudinally he has this impact of alienating the Unionists in a way that one could say that Martin McGuinness didn’t have. So it certainly leads to an interesting time ahead and lots of things to play for. And I think the insertion of Gerry Adams back into it tends to create even more sectarian tension and inflame sectarian passions. And you cannot simply blame Adams for that – the Unionists have to take an awful lot of blame for this because their attitude has been woeful. And I know that they have decided to start to behave civilly – turning up at the funeral and so on – but the manner in which they treated that crowd of Sinn Féin people in Stormont that you had one SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) MLA saying he was shocked as he watched all the ranks of former IRA men and women being humiliated by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) and not a word out of them. I mean the DUP have done this and their complete arrogance has inflamed the situation in The North so I don’t know, I mean, what way it’ll go but what we can say is that high-profile funeral, the presence of people like Bill Clinton and everybody else at it, makes it very, very hard for people entering these negotiations, who are now in these negotiations, to face the blame for them going wrong. So we can see the whole thing pushed to the deadline – pushed to the point of brinkmanship. But it has to look now, one would argue, that the – I mean a possibility for a deal anyway does increase. And Sinn Féin have a get-out clause because Arlene Foster turned up at the funeral was clapped and they can say that: Well, now what we should do is – maybe we can go into government with her. She’s not so bad after all. She has come to her senses. The best situation, the best outcome for them is for Sinn Féin not to call for her to resign or stand aside and then for her to voluntarily stand aside for a period of weeks and that gets them all off the hook. And I think something like that is likely to happen.

Martin:  And that was exactly the offer that she was given by Martin McGuinness some time ago – just to stand aside for a few weeks – and just like Peter Robinson did. Had she taken that she wouldn’t have had the election, she’d still have a ten seat majority and people wouldn’t be talking about maybe replacing her in future within the DUP. Alright, Anthony, we want to thank you for that and we’ll just play one more clip and then we will be going to Ed Moloney.

Anthony:    Thank you very much.

Martin:   Thank you, Anthony. (ends time stamp ~ 42:36)

Kathryn Johnston RFÉ 25 March 2017

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John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to Kathryn Johnston, co-author of Martin McGuinness’ biography, via telephone from Co. Antrim, about Martin McGuinness’ role in the IRA’s cessation of violence that ended The Troubles. (begins time stamp ~ 18:11)

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

Martin:   Alright. With us on the line we have Kathryn Johnston. She is the co-author of Martin McGuinness’ biography, Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government. Welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Kathryn:   Thanks very much, John. Nice to talk to you.

Martin:    This is Martin. John is actually in Boston. But he’ll be asking you a question in a moment.

Kathryn:   Okay. (inaudible)

Martin:   We only have a few minutes for you and we have a number of guests on. But I was intrigued. I was reading a piece that you did for Slugger O’Toole, the website, and you asked the question: Could anyone else have brought the IRA to a cessation of violence without an admission of defeat? What was there about Martin McGuinness? The young man from Doire, a religious man, family were Nationalists more than Republicans, who got involved in the Irish Republican Army, who took senior positions and put him in that position where you would say that he is the only person – it was unlikely that anybody else could have brought the IRA to a cessation of violence without an admission of defeat in your article?

Kathryn:    Well if you look at the early days of Martin McGuinness’ involvement in the IRA, specifically after Bloody Sunday when he became the Commander in Doire, Seán Mac Stíofáin was up at a couple of meetings in Doire and he very, very quickly picked out the young Martin McGuinness as somebody that was basically someone to watch – somebody who could go places. Now Seán Mac Stíofáin wasn’t alone in coming to that assessment. Seán Mac Stíofáin – Martin McGuinness’ real big elevation in the ranks was when he was flown to Cheyne Walk in London as part of a delegation of IRA men going to talks with William Whitelaw. The talks themselves never actually produced anything concrete but what they did produce – there was an MI6 officer there, Frank Steele, and he gave his assessment very quickly, that Seán Mac Stíofain had done: This boy’s the one to watch. This boy’s articulate – he could go places. And as soon as McGuinness returned to Doire after the Cheyne Walk talks it wasn’t very long before Frank Steele had arranged to meet him in Donegal and the relationship then continued with Michael Oatley in 1974 until he returned in 1991. So I mean, Martin McGuinness was marked by the British state and by his comrades in the IRA as a boy that was going places.

Martin:   Alright. Well, what positions did he hold with the IRA and how was it that he was so influential he could make that speech that we are playing clips from in 1986 and that that would be credited and trusted more so than somebody else might have been?

Kathryn:   Well I think if you look at the – Martin McGuinness attained the very highest rank within the IRA and that was in 1978. He was first appointed Chief of Staff after Gerry Adams was arrested for questioning after the La Mon Massacre. And straightaway Martin McGuinness sought to make his mark. He had this goal: He was going to make a ‘liberated zone’ along the border. Of course, very, very close to the front of his mind as well was this idea there had to be some kind of revenge on the Parachute Regiment for what happened on Bloody Sunday.

Now, very quickly in 1978 he became aware of a local IRA plan to assassinate Earl Mountbatten. He’d (Mountbatten) spent every August since 1969 in Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore in Sligo. So they dummy-runned this plan and in August, the 27th August 1979, two plain-clothes officers of Mountbatten’s security detail were lying on the cliffs overlooking the boat, Shadow, as it sailed out when suddenly there was a massive explosion and we know what happened after that – Earl Mountbatten died as did Lady Brabourne, Paul Maxwell, a young boatman from Enniskillen and one of Mountbatten’s nephews, a great-nephew, was killed in that. But that was already quite a coup for the IRA to carry out in those days – just along the border there. And of course, the British Army and all security force personnel were immediately put on the very, very highest alert. But McGuinness hadn’t stop there. There was a convoy of four Land Rovers coming to Ballykinler camp to Narrow Water on the shores of Narrow Water Lough there which marks the Irish border. And as they drove in an eight hundred pound bomb was detonated blowing up their Land Rovers and instantaneously IRA men on the other side of the lough opened fire on the British troops who returned fire and one English holiday-maker, Michael Hudson, was tragically killed. But you know I’m really beginning to feel like Jiminy Cricket here – But there’s more! But there’s more! – because after that when two Wessex helicopters had come to airlift the wounded soldiers, the survivors, to hospital, as their aircraft were taking off another couple of Land Rovers, laden with injured soldiers, was coming along – another twelve soldiers were killed with another eight hundred pound bomb – added to the six that were killed in the first explosion that was eighteen soldiers from the Paratroop Regiment – their highest single loss since Arnhem, not even in peacetime, since Arnhem in World War II. That was quite some coup for a boy from the Bogside in his first year as Chief of Staff of the IRA and I think that shows the kind of chilling, strategic and tactical genius that he had that he devoted to both his political life and his life within the IRA. He was a (inaudible) man. And I think, I think if you look at Martin McGuinness and the tours that he did after the ceasefire was announced – the tours that he did and Gerry Kelly did and Gerry Adams did – I think that Martin McGuinness was picked out to go to the areas where they might be less ready to settle than others.

Martin:   Okay. Alright. Thank you. That’s Kathryn Johnston. She is the co-author of the book, Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government. We’re trying to get to a number of different people. We’re going to go to another clip. I think – John, are you back on the line?

John:   Yeah, no – I’m back on the line but just one final question for Kathryn that it seems – we did an interview with an MI5 agent, Ian Hurst, and he was talking about how the British government wanted to arrest Martin McGuinness but they were told not to, over the Frank Hegarty killing of an informer. And then after his funeral it came out about the Claudy bombing that the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) wanted to arrest him and they were told not to arrest him and he was known within the security forces there as a ‘protected species’.

Kathryn:   Yeah. At one stage Martin Ingram (aka Ian Hurst) revealed that he was known as ‘the fisherman’ and that wasn’t unusual for Martin McGuinness. Don’t forget, John, he had been in secret talks with the British since what was it – ’72 – since that first meeting at Cheyne Walk. And when he was in the meetings with ‘Mountain Climber’, Brendan Duddy, and so on, in those very early days when the background dialogue had been established McGuinness was given several code names – one of them, strangely enough, was ‘Walter’. So I mean that was the start of a situation which saw Martin McGuinness and that’s being perhaps uniquely – perhaps being uniquely in the position of being as useful to the British as he was to the IRA.

Martin:   Alright. On that note we’re going to go to – we’ve got – this is something where everybody we’re going to have on today we could do the whole programme with but we want to thank you, Kathryn Johnston. Her book…

Kathryn:   …And thank you very much…

Martin:   …co-author of Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government . We’re going to go to another clip and when we come out we’re going to have Anthony McIntyre, former IRA Volunteer, author and analyst and commentator on with us. (ends time stamp ~ 27:08)

RFÉ Discusses Today’s Show & the Passing of Jimmy Breslin 25 March 2017

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John McDonagh and Martin Galvin discuss today’s show, Martin McGuinness’ life and legacy and the passing of Jimmy Breslin. (May he rest in peace.) (begins time stamp 00:00)

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

Martin:  And welcome to Radio Free Éireann. I’m Martin Galvin, I’m in-studio and will be joined in a few moments by John McDonagh by telephone – he’s in Boston. The voice you heard was that of Martin McGuinness. Martin McGuinness certainly somebody who had a major impact on events in Ireland, particularly in The Six Counties, died during the past week. His funeral was attended by the president of Ireland, was attended by Bill Clinton, former United States President, many Irish political figures, from Unionists as well as Nationalists and Republicans, and it is certainly was a life that did have a major impact on events. Today what we’re going to do, and that speech you heard – and we’re going to play clips from that speech, it was one of the most important speeches that he would give. We’re going to hear in a few minutes from Kathryn Johnston, author of Martin McGuinness’ biography, or co-author, From Guns to Government, and that’s going to be a theme – how he went from somebody, a young man from the streets of Doire, from the Bogside who would come from a very religious family, who would come from a Nationalist family, became a Republican, became the leading figure within the Irish Republican Army and how he would ultimately come to be a Deputy First Minister within Stormont and would preside over the Republican Movement coming into that position. We’re going to hear clips from that – that speech in 1986 was indeed a turning point. At that time there was a discussion, or a debate, on whether Sinn Féin should recognise Leinster House, should go into The Twenty-Six County Parliament. There were some who said that that would lead just to a winding down of the IRA – some who said that it would not. Martin McGuinness obviously said it would not. Ironically, at the time that speech was being made, people that I know, like Liam Ryan from East Tyrone, was telling me that there were going to be major developments in Ireland, that there were major new weapons shipments coming into Ireland, that the war would be escalating and not to break from Sinn Féin, not to break from Republicans. And at that time even my mentor, somebody that I looked up to, I had admired – he would have been opposed to that motion with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill and others – and I ended up siding with Martin McGuinness’ and Gerry Adams’ side at that time. But you’ll be hearing clips, we’ll be talking to Kathryn Johnston – she is as I said, the co-author of the book, Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government.

We’re going to go to Anthony McIntyre. He’s going to talking about the legacy – a former IRA Volunteer, a writer, author – who writes about the Good Friday Agreement, who has the blog, The Pensive Quill – he’s going to talk about Martin McGuinness’ legacy. And then we’re going to finish up with Ed Moloney, another historian and author who’s had more articles published this week, and Ed is going to talk about what it will mean today as we go back to negotiations – negotiations reach a climactic point on Monday, the absence of Martin McGuinness by Gerry Adams’ side – what that will mean.

Alright John, we have John on the line. John, during the week, after Jimmy Breslin, the legendary New York Irish-American writer, passed away I said to you we’re going to have to cover Jimmy Breslin, that’ll be a major segment of the show and we should line up people like Pete Hamill and others and you told me to wait until Thursday and Friday because you never know – events may take over and change all that and how right you were with the passing of Martin McGuinness.  John, are you there up in Boston?

John:  Yeah, yeah, no – we would have done more of a tribute.

Jimmy Breslin walks the drab Queens Boulevard strip in 1986. (Nancy Kaye for The Washington Post)

But if you really want to hear a great tribute to Jimmy Breslin: Last Wednesday on a show I host on WBAI called Talk Back We and Thee, with Malachy McCourt and Corey Kilgannon from the New York Times,  we did an hour and a half on the life of Jimmy Breslin with Stephen Murphy, who’s a infamous lawyer there at Queen’s Boulevard, Malachy McCourt, also with Chickie Donohue, from the Sandhogs and Johnny Sexton, one of the Cuba Boys, talking about a story about Jimmy Breslin in Sunnyside. So instead of repeating all of that you can just go to the archives on WBAI.

And it is significant that we opened up with that speech from 1986. I remember I was over in Bundoran at that time, speaking with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and saying: Listen, don’t walk out. Fight from with inside the movement and he had told me at that stage: It’s all over. McGuinness and Adams were going to go into Leinster House then they were going to Stormont and Westminster. And how true he was when he made the statement and his speech. I also want to thank the New York Times, (they) actually used this video in the obituary of Martin McGuinness how he went – you talk about a rigged election – there was noting more rigged than that 1986 Ard Fheis in Dublin where Martin McGuinness was spewing lie after lie at that time saying that the struggle was going continue. Meanwhile, he was negotiating for the surrender of the IRA which Anthony McIntyre will be talking about in a little while. And just a few observation on the funeral that happened with Martin McGuinness: The Loyalist politicians had stated to Sinn Féin if there was any military trappings for the funeral of Martin McGuinness that they would not show up. So the funeral was devoid of any military trappings because they wanted desperately for the Loyalist politicians to show up at the funeral. And then I talked to many people in Doire who said the height of hypocrisy on Thursday was the turning up of certain groups in Doire to the funeral who would be considered dissidents. And they said one of the groups that turned up was the 1916 Societies who turned up for the funeral in Doire. So it’s very hard to reconcile that you’re year-after-year criticising Martin McGuinness and criticising Sinn Féin and then turning up for the funeral and that didn’t go unnoticed over there in Doire.

Martin:  John, just let me reply. You told me you were going to mention that. I did speak to somebody from the 1916 Societies. What they said is first of all, there’s nothing on their Facebook – they made no statement about Martin McGuinness, did not encourage anybody to go. They were concerned about who had said it but beyond that – there are people, I know people in Doire, like one person who we would be very friendly with, runs commemorations – his son, Martin McGuinness was his godfather and they had family connections back and forth. So people, some people went to the funeral. They said – for example, I’m somebody who has very strong political differences with Martin McGuinness – he went back and forth even just the last few times I was in Ireland and you would still – there are some people who, because of family connections, who because they know his wife, his sons, because of that would go and just show respect for the family connections, while maintaining very strong political differences. I was just asked to say that. People can draw whatever conclusions they want and again, I’m talking as somebody that Martin McGuinness – I mean the last time I was in Ireland there was a documentary that I appeared in and he said: Oh, they brought over ‘someone from America’. I knew him from the 1970’s. I actually got arrested because he had encouraged me to do so and thought it would make a point and that’s how much respect I had for him at one time. And anybody who listens to the show knows there’s strong political differences but again, some people would go to a funeral because of family connections, because of respect for his family and I’ll just put that out that it didn’t necessarily mean that they were taking any kind of political stance.

John:  Well, I know that but Martin, the reason a lot of people showed up there, like you could say President Clinton and various British politicians is because that Martin McGuinness went over to their point of view. It wasn’t as if President Clinton and Tony Blair and all the British politicians that all of a sudden they went over to a Republican point of view. They were honouring Martin McGuinness for having the IRA surrender and for him to meet with the Queen and have tea and for him to administer British rule in Ireland. And that’s what they were honouring on Thursday.

Martin:  And that’s what I think Kathryn Johnston and Anthony McIntyre are both going to talk about: Who actually won the struggle, where Martin McGuinness’ legacy was in terms of that and the fact that they will make the point or make the argument that it couldn’t have ended in that fashion without Martin McGuinness. So we are going to talk about that. I understand that. I just want to say you can go to a funeral sometimes and respect, just remember somebody or out of respect for their family without an endorsement of their political views. Certainly the British and Arlene Foster, when they came, they were not trying to talk or endorse anything to do with Martin McGuinness’ political views. So just I was asked to make that point…

John:  …Well, no. They were there because of his political views…

Martin:  …people can draw their own conclusion and I just wanted, in fairness, to say that.

John:  But, Martin, they were there because of his political views. Because they went there because he administered British rule in Ireland. So they were definitely there because of his political views.

Martin:  John, one of the things I want to ask Kathryn Johnston – she made the point: Could anyone else have brought the IRA to a cessation of violence without an admission of defeat? She made that point in one of her articles. That’s the question I want to ask her. That’s the very point that you’re saying so we’re in, you know… You and I in a debate a long time ago, that’s how I got blacklisted for a long time, and we both made that point: That if you agree that The Six Counties having a say – that they have to agree with ending British rule before there’d be a united Ireland – you’re giving up the Unionist veto, you’re surrendering or acknowledging or giving away or allowing them to have that veto. You’re establishing – they call it the consent principle, we would call it a Unionist veto – and that’s how the struggle ended up – with the Unionist veto in place – call it a consent principle but you’re right. We don’t have a united Ireland. Martin McGuinness a couple of times – I was giving speeches in Ireland talking about how we were not getting to a united Ireland. And I know I was in Doire and the next day he said: Oh, we’re going to have a united Ireland within five years and that was in 2009. Obviously we didn’t get to that point. Much like Joe Cahill had said the same thing in 1998 – that we’d have a united Ireland by 2003. So we’re in agreement on that. But let’s just get into the legacy – what has happened and why is it that we ended up here? What was it about Martin McGuinness that he got involved in armed struggle, that he took up the gun, fought or played a leading role with the IRA and ended up, as you say, sitting in Stormont as a Deputy First Minister of a British administration?

John: Alright. I guess we’ll just get on with the show because we have so many guests that are lined up.

Martin:  Okay. I just want to say one thing about Jimmy Breslin: If you look at our website, rfe123.org, there were two articles, one in June 9th 1979 (page 3) – two issues – and one in October 18th 1980 (page 7) – it’s perfect. It goes through Jimmy talking about the Irish situation. In one of them he talks about people with relatives in South Armagh who were told by the American government: You shouldn’t contribute money to send weapons over to South Armagh to be used against British forces but how the American government was allowing guns to be sold to the people who were shooting their families – just a typical Jimmy Breslin perspective. And another one about Fra McCann, a former blanketman, and Dessie Mackin, who was out here to help with coordinating the blanket protests at the start of 1980 about Jimmy Breslin writing that. So go to those articles. You’ll see exactly the type of thing that Jimmy Breslin used to write. (ends time stamp ~ 14:28)

Anthony McIntyre The Michael Reade Show 23 March 2017

The Michael Reade Show
LMFM Radio

Michael Reade is joined in the studio by Anthony McIntyre, former IRA Volunteer now author, historian and political commentator, to discuss the life and times of Martin McGuinness. (begins time stamp ~45:45)

Michael:  As you know, Martin McGuinness is going to be laid to rest today and a man who is seen by many different people in many different ways. I think we’re going to hear a different perspective on the life and times of Martin McGuinness now. Anthony McIntyre is himself a former IRA Volunteer, a former IRA prisoner. He spent eighteen years in Long Kesh, four years of that on the blanket involved in what would have been known as the ‘dirty protest’ as such and the protest that led, indeed, to the hunger strikes. You can also read Anthony McIntyre’s thoughts on his blog, The Pensive Quill. And he’s living in Drogheda these days. He’s come in to us in the studio this morning. And you won’t be going north of the border to attend the funeral of Martin McGuinness, possibly for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons being that you might be arrested yourself because of the Boston Tapes, which are now notorious.

Anthony:   Well that’s – I think that’s pretty accurate you know and I also tend to joke at times: I don’t go to funerals because they won’t be going to mine and so I…but no, I’m not traveling north to the funeral and I mean I hope it passes off peacefully and that there’s no sort of ridiculous protests against it or people putting up slogans because they didn’t like him or expressions that they hope people burn in Hell which is, I think, the result of a peculiar infection from religious hatred and that we’ve seen a lot of. It’s only religious people that believe in ‘burn in Hell’. I’ve seen people saying on Facebook that they’re rejoicing in his death and I’m not religious. I don’t rejoice in human suffering. I think if I were to welcome his death at all it’s only for the relief that he got at the end of a long process of suffering.

Michael:   Anthony, yourself and Martin McGuinness had ideological differences but you’re from pretty much the same origins are you not in that, at one time, both of you would have been described as men of violence, men responsible for killings. You were sent to Long Kesh for an IRA killing yourself. When did you first get to meet Martin McGuinness?

Anthony:   Well I got to meet Martin face-to-face during – I interviewed him in 1995 when I was doing a PhD and he agreed to meet me. And then I met him after that in Dublin and we discussed the interview that he had given to me. And then – I mean I found him very likable – very, very pleasant. And in later years he was very critical of me as I was of him and…

Michael:   …He called you a ‘dissident’. You called him a traitor.

Anthony:   Well I didn’t call him a traitor as such. I tend to avoid that sort of language. I find it very emotive. But he certainly abandoned Republicanism. And he called me a ‘dissident’. But he called me much worse. He put out falsehoods about me in relation to the McCartney Sisters and stuff and they were demonstrable falsehoods. So there was a serious ideological gulf, or at least a gulf in terms of opinion, between myself and Martin McGuinness. But yes, we did come from the same stable. We were people who believed in the use of violent Republicanism. But I would also say that Edmund Burke, the conservative philosopher, once said that people sleep easily in their beds or peacefully in their beds because rough men stand by ready to do violence on their behalf and Martin McGuinness was a person ready to do violence. But he wasn’t a moral monster. He took up arms against British state terrorism – against a very repressive British state. As he said himself he wasn’t a Republican because the Christian Brothers made him one. Four key events made him a Republican according to his earlier testimony and that was: The RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) murder of Samuel Devenney, the Duke Street beatings of people on protest, the British Army slaying of Seamus Cusack and the British Army slaying of Desmond Beattie in Doire in 1971. So these events made – they were monstrous moral acts that made Martin McGuinness into the person that was prepared to stand up against the British and use arms against them.

Michael:   And he made the point himself that people like Nelson Mandela would have taken up arms opposed to oppression and that it was commonplace and a legitimate form of opposing an occupation as he’d have seen it as indeed you did yourself.

Anthony:   Very much so.

Michael:   What role did he have in the IRA?

Anthony:   Well I mean he started out – he was an early Commander in Doire. He later went on to lead the Doire IRA. In 1976 he became the, after his release from prison and around the autumn of 1976 when the IRA formed the Northern Command, he became its Operations Officer responsible for operations throughout The North, The Six Counties. When Gerry Adams was arrested in 1978, February 1978, Martin McGuinness was appointed Chief of Staff. And I notice in the Irish Times today Liam Clarke’s wife has said that he replaced Adams in that position as Chief of Staff of the IRA. He was Chief of Staff of the IRA from that point until October-November 1982 so he had a tenure as Chief of Staff of five years. He was our Chief of Staff at the time of the hunger strikes when Mickey Devine and Bobby Sands and the other boys died.

Michael:  Because he had always said that he had left the IRA in 1974.

Anthony:   He did which wasn’t true; it was a falsehood. But he did say he was in it. There’s others that deny they were ever in it. I think that – and I’ve always thought why Martin picked in 1974 – and I have a belief that he knows that, given the outcome that he signed up to, it’s very, very hard to justify the IRA campaign from 1974 given that the outcome was so similar to a peace. He settled for something that he rejected in 1974 – the Unionists also rejected it also – very much so – I think that’s why he picked that year because he sort of knows – very, very hard to justify an IRA campaign post ’74.

Michael:   I was talking to Dermot Ahern yesterday who was reminding us of the meetings that he had secretly with the IRA back as far as 1988 and how there continued to be contacts through the years but that the path to peace, as he saw it, was only a prospect in 1994 when Martin McGuinness came to the table.

Anthony:   No, I don’t believe that to be the case. I think Gerry Adams had been sending – even the night that they were burying Jim Lynagh and Gerry Adams was speaking at Jim Lynagh’s funeral and threatening all sort of repercussions for powerful people in the British state and Ireland – that very night he was dispatching Alex Reid off to Charlie Haughey outlining the terms under which the IRA would consider a ceasefire. No, in terms of delivering the peace process I think Gerry would have been the more influential of the two and certainly in terms of the intellectual development of the peace process. I think Martin’s role in it was that as the key IRA person there was a belief that he would not let the IRA down – that he would not abandon the IRA. And he had been very, very forceful in his discourse. He had condemned earlier peace efforts. He described the efforts of Dáithí Ó Conaill and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as shameful and accused them of selling out and that was in 1986 only eight years before the IRA ceasefire.

Michael:   And that was the split.

Anthony:   Yeah, well there was a split at that time, a manageable split from the point of view of Sinn Féin and the IRA…

Michael:   …Yes, to Republican Sinn Féin…

Anthony:   …and the formation later of the Continuity IRA, yes. But I think that Martin’s role was that he was seen as the IRA leader. There were lots of people, and this happens in Republican politics – that if you start to float political ideas people will suspect you of selling out. I think when people were suspicious of Adams, or lots of people were suspicious of Gerry Adams, that Gerry was more political despite Gerry’s own military past and Martin was the guy that, you know, the rock that we could rely upon and then as Martin moves on others will come in and they’ll be the rock. And eventually you know the whole thing was whittled away. I mean Martin’s role was more of chief negotiator but he didn’t negotiate too well. And if you look at what he negotiated, and this’ll probably be what he’s remembered for, he negotiated the very thing, he negotiated into existence the very thing he spent his life fighting against: He negotiated an internal solution to the problems in The North under British sovereignty. And I mean that’s one of the reasons that I’m very critical of the political line that he and the others took because I do not see how this settlement, as much as I’m glad that the war ended, I do not see how this settlement can justify the awful violence…

Michael:   …Now why do you think he did that, Anthony? I mean you said you didn’t describe him as a traitor but you clearly believe that he betrayed the beliefs and principles that led to the campaign. And that it was because Martin McGuinness was seen as a rock that he was able to take people with him which is why you see him as such a significant player in that peace process as it’s called. But if you didn’t call him a traitor you certainly insinuated that he betrayed those beliefs and ideals and that he was subordinate to the Unionists and the British occupiers.

Anthony:   Well, I’m not shying away from things that I’ve called him. Probably when I’ve a drink or two in me I’ve called him worse…

Michael:   …(laughs) Okay…

Anthony:   …than a traitor – which even he’d probably forgive me for. But you know I’ve been very harsh in my criticisms of him but I tend, and I’m sure there’s exceptions, but I tend not to use the term ‘traitor’ because I find it very, very emotive and I think that Martin McGuinness – you see, in many ways Martin McGuinness started out life not as an ideological Republican. He says very early that he did not blame the Brit – sorry – he didn’t understand the role of Downing Street at the start of the conflict. Many Republicans would see him – you’ll find this in early discourses of Gerry Kelly and people like that whereas Adams, in a sense, was a pre-1969 Republican with some sense of Republican ideology and I think Martin came in to a conflict, was brought into it. He latched onto the IRA and the IRA’s discourse, he became a senior member of it, he articulated the struggle and the actions and justified those actions in terms of IRA ideology but ultimately he came to the position, through force of circumstance – I don’t think he ever converted to the ethics or the ethos of peace – I think he converted to the politics of the peace process which is a different thing.

I think the IRA campaign failed. It failed to coerce the British state out of Ireland. The British succeeded in bringing the IRA and Sinn Féin to the principle where they now insisted there could only be unity by consent which sort of rubbishes the IRA campaign. And I think Martin, as a key IRA leader along with others who were central to that sort of IRA life, would have knew the limitations. And the IRA were heavily penetrated and I mean the campaign – I remember being at a debate in London and John Chilcot, who had done the inquiry into the war in Iraq, a pretty substantial figure, and he had been at the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) at one time and he had said that really, by the end of the 90’s, the British were not that concerned about the IRA. That they knew they had the measure of the IRA and probably knew it less from the IRA’s operational capacity, which still existed, but from the messages that were being sent by McGuinness and Adams to them. So I think Martin did abandoned all his Republican beliefs and went for the constitutional nationalist position but I don’t think he – I mean he managed the IRA defeat and he managed it quite well and he turned it into a Sinn Féin success.

Michael:    Do you find it hard to believe the event that’s about to unfold today? I mean it’s one thing to imagine President Higgins attending this funeral today or Bill Clinton for that matter but it’s another thing to think of Enda Kenny or Arlene Foster or Tony Blair attending.

Anthony:   Well I think that what’s happening here is that the political class, in some sense – and this is a very choreographed funeral – the political class is endorsing or authenticating really the hegemony of its position in the fact that Martin McGuinness, here we bury the man who has really authenticated everything we ever said, that there was only the – a united Ireland could never come about by coercion it could only come about by consent. And I think in that sense there’s a lot of political grandstanding going on on today at Martin’s funeral. As for Arlene Foster well – Arlene has to attend. I mean if she doesn’t attend she will confirm the perspective that many Nationalists hold of her as Bigot-in-Chief and I mean somebody has said that she’s back on her meds so she’s alright again. I mean they’re saying it facetiously but…

Michael:   …(laughs) I’m sure they are. I’m sure there’s no truth in that…

Anthony:   No, no. There’s no truth in it. But it’s just a facetious comment.

Michael:   I apologise for laughing. I just found it funny but we distance ourselves from that comment obviously in a legal sense – just our time has kind of run out – before we leave: A lot of people are saying that Martin McGuinness will take a lot of secrets to his grave. You’ve spoken privately to Martin McGuinness. You’ve spoken to many others about Martin McGuinness and spoken about his role in the IRA and what he may or may not have been responsible for. Are those secrets on those tapes?

Anthony:   I’m not discussing what’s on the tapes. I mean there’s court actions and stuff but I just hope that Martin McGuinness has left many of his secrets somewhere on tapes which the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) can’t get their hands on. I know that it’s very fashionable to condemn Martin McGuinness for a lot of activities but I – and particularly I’ve seen him being condemned for Franko Hegarty’s death – and Martin McGuinness probably, in all probability, did have a hand in the death of Franko Hegarty but who killed Franko Hegarty? It was the British state with their agent at the centre of the IRA Security Department. The British state have an awful lot to answer for. They were the moral monsters that produced people like Martin McGuinness.

Michael:   Okay. Anthony McIntyre, thanks for coming into us today and for the time that you have given to us. People can read more of your thoughts on The Pensive Quill blog site and thanks as I said. Good to see you.

Anthony:   Thanks very much. (ends time stamp ~ 1:00:37)

Kathleen Gillespie BBC Good Morning Ulster 22 March 2017

Good Morning Ulster
BBC Radio Foyle

Programme presenter Joel Taggart introduces reporter Mark Carruthers who is in Doire covering the death of Martin McGuinness. Mark presents Teresa Craig’s interview with Kathleen Gillespie, the widow of Patsy Gillespie. (begins time stamp ~1:37:24)

Note:  Where’s the audio? At the time of posting it is not available for download from the BBC.  Please use the hyperlinked title ‘Good Morning Ulster’ to listen along as you read.  Thank you.

Joel:   Now this morning we’re continuing to look at the life and legacy of Martin McGuinness who died yesterday. Our colleague, Mark Carruthers, is in Doire for us. Good Morning! to you again, Mark.

Mark:   Morning, Joel. Welcome back to Doire where, from the ancient walls, I’m looking across at the Bogside where Martin McGuinness’ body currently lies at his home ahead of tomorrow’s funeral which will take place at two o’clock at St. Columba’s Church, Long Tower, just beside me at the walls here. People, of course, in the past twenty-four hours have been reflecting on Mr. McGuinness’ journey from IRA Commander to Deputy First Minister but many can’t forgive or forget his violent past. One of those is Doirewoman Kathleen Gillespie whose husband, Patsy, was murdered by the IRA back in 1990. The father of three worked as a cook at Fort George Army base marking him as a British collaborator in the eyes of the IRA. They took him from his home, left an armed gang with his wife and children, tied Mr. Gillespie into the seat of a lorry packed with a thousand pounds of explosives and ordered him to drive it to Coshquin border post where they then detonated the bomb killing Mr. Gillespie and five soldiers. Kathleen Gillespie’s been talking about that night to our reporter, Teresa Craig.

Kathleen:   Patsy was taken away at midnight. Four hours later my phone rang and the man who I thought was in charge of the men in the house because he was the only one who would speak to me – they were with us for four hours when the phone rang. And the boy I thought was in charge answered the phone and he pulled the phone, the wire out of the phone, and he said: That’s us away. Now give us half an hour before you do anything and your husband will be back. A few minutes later I heard the explosion.

Teresa:   When you heard the explosion did you have a sense that Patsy – something had happened to him – did you realise then or…?

Kathleen:   …No. No. And I said to the wans that’s the car going. Your daddy’ll be home soon. That wasn’t to be.

Teresa:   When you realised that he was dead, he’d been killed so violently he wasn’t coming home again – you were left without a husband – your children without a father.

Kathleen:   How can you put into words how it feels?

From the Derry Journal

I spent the whole next day waiting for confirmation that Patsy was dead. They eventually found a piece of clothing that I could say was Patsy’s. Do you know that Patsy was murdered on our eldest son’s eighteenth birthday? So his birthday every year’s not a great day.

Teresa:   Do you blame Martin McGuinness in any way…

Kathleen:   …Yeah…

Teresa:   …for the death of Patsy?

Kathleen:    Yeah. Of course I do. He was asked specifically: Why was Patsy Gillespie murdered? His words were: ‘Patsy Gillespie was a legitimate target of war’. I wanted to know why Patsy was considered a legitimate target of war.

Teresa:   Did you ever get to ask Mr. McGuinness why he’d said that? What he meant by it?

Kathleen:   No, I didn’t. I never once came face-to-face with Martin McGuinness.

Teresa:    And with his passing do you feel that opportunities have been lost in that sense?

Kathleen:   Yeah, I feel as if I’ve lost out. I feel robbed of the opportunity of a conversation with Martin McGuinness. I would have liked a conversation with him just to put that one question to him. Now I didn’t want to berate him or fight with him. I had gone past that stage of all the hatred and anger that I felt. I just wanted the opportunity to ask him the question – just to explain to me – but that’s a part of my life that’s gone now. So I just have to learn to live with the fact that I didn’t get my opportunity to speak to Martin.

Teresa:  He made that transition from the IRA to peacemaker and had a key role in the peace process. Can you accept that – whatever his past is?

Kathleen:  No, no. I can’t because I just feel that – I don’t know how he can, he could have, come to terms with the things that he did.

Teresa:   Some will say that he brought the IRA to the table, that he took the guns out of paramilitaries, the Republican paramilitaries.

Kathleen:   But did he ever show any remorse for what he did?

Teresa:   Do you forgive him? Can you ever forgive him?

Kathleen:   No. There’s no forgiveness in my heart. I had to learn to find a way to look after my family. And it all turned out rather well and I’ve got five grandchildren and it’s great and all the rest of it but it’s five grandchildren that Patsy should have been here to be with because he would have just – he would have just idolised them. I don’t feel any better because Martin McGuinness is dead. I feel sad for his wife. If she loved him as much as I loved Patsy then I give her my condolences because I know what’s missing.

Teresa:   When you look back at twenty-six years, what have you lost?

Kathleen:   Patsy was a great family man now but I loved him – he was my husband, he was the father of our children and they missed out. And the day that my daughter was getting married and her daddy should have been there to walk her down the aisle – he wasn’t there. But her daddy should have been there and he wasn’t.

Teresa:   Do you miss him to this day?

Kathleen:   Oh, God! I miss him every day. And I talk about him all the time. I met Patsy when I was sixteen. And because of the way, because of the way he died I didn’t even get to say good-bye to him. You know – he was gone. One minute he was there – they took him out – and that’s the last I saw of him. And the last words he said to me was: Don’t worry, girl, I’ll be alright.

Joel:   The thoughts there of Kathleen Gillespie whose husband, Patsy, was killed by the IRA twenty-six years ago. (ends time stamp ~1:43:30)

Anthony McIntyre BBC World Update 21 March 2017

World Update
BBC World Service

Dan Damon speaks to former IRA member now author and political commentator, Anthony McIntyre, about the death of Martin McGuinness. (begins time stamp ~33:54)

Note:  Where’s the audio? At the time of posting it is not available for download from the BBC.  Please use the hyperlinked title ‘World Update’ to listen along as you read.  Thank you.

Dan:   Not everyone sees Martin McGuinness as a force for positive change. I’ve been speaking to the former IRA operative, Anthony McIntyre. He spent eighteen years in prison for the killing of a British soldier. I asked him how does he think Martin McGuinness will be remembered?

Anthony:   I think he managed the defeat of the IRA campaign. The IRA campaign was designed towards getting the British out of Ireland and coercing the British out of Ireland and the British had insisted on, if there was to be any constitutional change, it would be through consent. The IRA campaign failed to remove the rock of consent and smashed itself to smithereens on that rock and Martin McGuinness and others, like Gerry Adams, managed the defeat. So I think the IRA had been defeated anyway but Martin McGuinness helped manage it and, in that sense, he built the peace process and established political institutions in The North which many people will think is certainly much better than his previous activity which was war-making.

Dan:   But as you say, there is still a British presence, okay – much less militarised than before – but the overall point of the campaign didn’t get what it set out to achieve.

Anthony:   That’s very true. The IRA campaign failed. There’s been a revisionist history coming into play very much sort of to suggest that the IRA campaign was aimed at equality within The North. Many years ago there used to be slogans, IRA slogans, on the walls of Belfast and Doire that ‘God made the Catholics but the Armalite had made them equal’ so there was a view that it was through the IRA’s campaign that the IRA had been made equal. This myth that the IRA fought for some sort of equality within a British state within The North of Ireland is simply that – it’s mythologising.

Dan:  Why did you, if you disapproved and you disagreed with the way that that was achieved, that power-sharing agreement, why didn’t you join the dissident IRA groups – Real IRA, Continuity IRA?

Anthony:   Well I mean I don’t think that there’s any Republican military answer to the question of partition. In fact, I don’t think there’s any Republican answer to the question of partition. I cannot see how military activity will achieve anything whatsoever and I’d seen that the IRA campaign had failed to move the British state away from the consent principle in the slightest therefore why would anybody want to associate themselves, any thinking person, want to associate themselves with campaigns of much lesser potential, much lesser ability, to achieve something that a much bigger campaign had failed to achieve? These groups, the armed groups, often talk about ‘the right of the Irish people to be free from British rule’ but they never ask the obvious question that would follow is: Do the same Irish people not have a right to be free from the violent methods that some groups use to achieve the end of British rule?

Dan:  How does his passing change the potential for Northern Ireland and its future – possible links with the Republic?

Anthony:  I think his star was on the wane. I mean he has been replaced by a woman with no military past that anybody’s aware of. I’m uncertain but I don’t think that the Sinn Féin narrative will be totally kind to Martin McGuinness. In the immediate future we will see all sorts of eulogies, as we’d seen for Ian Paisley, describing him as a ‘statesman’ when he more was more accurately described, could be more accurately described, as a ‘hatesman’. But that’s not the type of language that makes its way into the official discourse.

Dan:  That’s Anthony McIntyre who was a former IRA operative. (ends time stamp ~ 37:44)

Eliza Butler RFÉ St. Patrick’s Weekend 2017 Music Broadcast

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

Eliza Butler’s St. Patrick’s Weekend music broadcast. Eliza outdid herself today – this is music you’ll want to download for sure.  Enjoy!

(To download: Click on the hyperlinked title ‘Radio Free Éireann’ on this post. A WBAI page will open that will begin to play today’s show. Right click on the player. Select ‘Save Audio As’ and hit ‘Enter’.)

Al Smith St. Patrick’s Day 1920


Al Smith, Governor of New York
From His Address to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick
At Their Annual Banquet
New York City
17 March 1920

Not only am I honored by the invitation to attend this dinner, but I had the honor and distinction, as the Governor of this State, to witness the parade. I have looked at parades during my term as Governor and before I was Governor, and it was a great sight to see 250,000 determined-looking men and women marching up the principal avenue in the greatest city in the world for a principle that will never die and never can be adjusted by compromise.

We have heard in the last few years a great deal of talk about self-determination for the small nations. What man is there in this country, or in any other country, with an open mind, with a free mind open to reason, open to common sense, ready to listen to justice, ready to pay attention to that which is right, who can say that any nation in this world more deserves, after a long history and an honorable record, the right of self-determination than does Ireland?

Happy Saint Patrick’s Weekend !

The public papers of Governor Al Smith are free. Click here.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Talk Back (WBAI) 15 March 2017

Talk Back – We and Thee Edition
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
listen on the internet: wbai.org Wednesdays 10AM – Noon EST

John McDonagh speaks to Irish Labour Party Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin via telephone in New York about Irish Stand, a benefit for the ACLU being held in New York City on Saint Patrick’s Day evening. (Brian Fleming is in the studio with John.) (begins time stamp ~ 42:35)

John:  We’re going to play a clip off YouTube that went viral. It’s one of your senators over there in Ireland. Now, how do you pronounce his first name? – it’s in Irish.

Brian:  I think you’ve got two options: You can go AY-gon Ó Ríordáin or A-yon Ó Ríordáin.

John:  Yes, and he’s in town organising something called Irish Stand at the Riverside Church, uptown, to show resistance to Trump’s new policies that are coming in. So we’re going to play the clip and we’re going to make a phone call and have him on – he’s in town.

Audio:  Clip of a YouTube video of an address Labour Party Senator Aodhán O’Riordáin made in The Seanad in November 2016 is played.

John:  And you’re listening to a clip from YouTube that went viral and that’s of an Irish Senator, Aodhán Ó Ríorhdáin, and he’s in New York and I have a feeling if his name was ‘Mohammed Ó Ríordáin’ we would be calling him in Ireland and we wouldn’t be calling him from uptown by Columbia University. Aodhán, welcome to the United States!

Senator:  Thank you very much.

John:  We’re glad you made it in. And what is the project that you have working because you’ve been definitely making the rounds – I was watching you on MSNBC during the week and you’re putting together something on March 17th at the Riverside Church.

Senator:  I am and thanks for having me on. Yeah, on Saint Patrick’s Day as you know yourself the Taoiseach, our Prime Minister, comes to America every Saint Patrick’s Day. In fact, he’ll be in Washington DC on Friday, sorry – tomorrow, the sixteenth and he’ll be handing your president, Donald Trump, a bowl of shamrocks as happens every year and that coincides with the new travel ban coming into force. So considering that and considering the fact that there’s a huge number of Irish-American names surrounding Donald Trump – Bannon, Conway, Pence is an Irish-American, Ryan – we felt it was important to take a stand and to show I suppose Muslim-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans that the Irish are an immigrant people as well and that we stand with them at this time of fear and uncertainty. So in the Riverside Church on Friday, Saint Patrick’s Day, at seven thirty in the evening we’re having an event in aid of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) celebrating the Irish immigrant experience but making the point that the Irish immigrant experience is exactly the same as other immigrant experiences and that we stand together at this great time of uncertainty.

John:  What was the reaction from the viral video that you had? Were you worried about getting into The States? And what was the reaction in The Twenty-Six Counties to you standing up and making that statement because, as you know yourself, a lot of people were reluctant to come forward because you could jeopardise business relationships or it could jeopardise even just getting your visa to get into the country?

Senator:  I think I said what I said because in Ireland obviously we just have had Brexit as well and Brexit had had the previous summer and there was a huge amount of anti-immigrant feeling in that debate, too, and nobody expected Brexit to happen and it did. I think it’s probably accurate to say that nobody really expected Trump to get elected until it happened and so when I said my words I didn’t really think it was going to go very far and then as soon as I sat down and as soon as the video went up on Facebook we got a huge amount of response from Americans to our office – people very emotional on the phone, crying, people sending emails – and then a lot of the American websites picked up the video. So it wasn’t until somebody told me over Christmas that I really needed to do something about it that we decided to have an event. I have to say I was a little bit worried as to whether I’d get in or not but what also convinced us that we should do this event was in talking to Irish-Americans here about potentially being involved at the event I got the sense, and we got the sense, that some people are literally afraid of standing up in case their own immigrant status could be questioned or their own visa could be re-checked and I found that quite interesting and also scary. And also, what I’m learning now is that there’s a number of undocumented Irish in New York who feel that they could actually be made an example of in case the administration is accused of only targeting certain nationalities that they may try to make an example of a few Irish people as well. So it’s a very fearful time but sometimes when you’re most afraid is the time to actually stand and say something.

John:  So what exactly is happening this Friday night – Where is it? How can people get involved? And who is going to be involved?

Senator:  Well we’ve a great amount of support from people who can’t be there, Rosie O’Donnell for example and Liam Neeson, but Martina Navratilova has come on board and is supporting us and Hozier and all these various Irish celebrities but you can go online to Irish Stand dot org and book your ticket. It’s fifteen dollars. Everything goes to the ACLU. There may be space on the night but the tickets are selling out very fast so I think if you want to turn up on the night and pay your fifteen dollars and on the way in that would be fine, too. And we have a lot of speakers that Irish people would be familiar with – Colum McCann, Maeve Higgins – and speakers that people based in New York would be familiar with. And we’re placing a big emphasis on Muslim-America and young Muslim speakers who are going to speak about their own experiences and finding common cause with them because this is a travel ban that’s going into effect tomorrow and we’ve a number of people from Yemen and from a Muslim background who are going to talk about xenophobia. Because remember you know when Al Smith, a good New York man, ran for office – for the highest office in the land in 1928 – he effectively lost the election because of anti-Catholic sentiment so I think the Irish have to remember that they have to overcome religious bigotry in this country and there’s parallels between what the Irish went through and what other religions are going through now in America at this time so I think we need to remember that.

John:  Well Aoghán, the American government has its tentacles all around the world and one of the years, I was over there as a veteran and I brought over statements from Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, we blocked the road in Shannon because of all the military, US military, aircraft going into Shannon refueling and heading to bomb the Middle East and also a lot of people might not know but our government actually has the customs post in Shannon and in Dublin where they can stop an Irish citizen (and a Muslim) from anywhere in the world from leaving Ireland and getting on a flight to the United States so I mean there’s a lot of moving parts with the American government and the things that they’re doing, particularly with the military aircraft that refuels in Shannon, but the policy that we have now is being implemented in Ireland.

Senator:  Well yeah, and there’s a number of various, different things happening that absolutely is something people should be very, very uncomfortable with – that the pre-clearance at Shannon and Dublin will be forced to do that. But we’re also making the point, by the way, that while Irish politicians are over in Washington trying to advocate for the fifty thousand undocumented Irish-Americans, which is something they should do, but as Marty Walsh (Mayor of Boston, MA) said in Boston he won’t support anything that just focuses on the Irish. But there’s also twenty-five thousand undocumented workers in Ireland from other countries. So while the Minister of State and the Department of Justice – I didn’t get I suppose, I wasn’t successful enough in trying to get them regularised and hopefully will be in the position to do it soon but I don’t think it’s right or just for the Taoiseach to be in Washington talking about the fifty thousand undocumented Irish when we’re not doing the same for you know Filipino or whatever nationalities who are in Ireland undocumented as well. I think we need to be – we need to be consistent in what we’re trying to achieve. So I think on Friday night we can bring an awful lot of these things together. We’ll be reading out a message from the Migrant Rights Centre in Ireland on Friday night talking about the plight of undocumented workers in Dublin and in Ireland. Obviously, we want undocumented Irish here to be regularised but we also want to make sure that we don’t just do this for the Irish – we do this for everybody. But I got the sense though that finally there’s a level of understanding breaking out between different groups who possibly were suspicious of each other – we’ll have a rabbi and an imam speaking together on Friday night, we’ll have people of an Irish background, and African-American backgrounds – I think that at the end of the day you know we’re all human beings and maybe in the past we’ve forgotten that but maybe when people feel that fearful about their future they actually begin to overcome those differences and realise there’s something bigger at stake.

John:  Alright, Aodhán, before we go off – it’s five to eleven here in New York City – how can people get involved, get tickets? And what time and where is it?

Senator:  Irish Stand dot org. The Twitter handle is @Irish Stand. It’s the Riverside Church, 7:30, Patrick’s night – so go to the parade, have fun, but remember that the Irish are immigrants and we have to stand with all immigrants at this time so the Riverside Church – it’s where Martin Luther King made his famous speech Vietnam War speech in 1967. It’s almost exactly fifty years since he made that speech in that location. Seven-thirty, Riverside Church – we’d be delighted to see everybody of any background there but of course, especially the Irish.

John:  Alright, thank you. And that’s Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, just over from Ireland, organising an event on Saint Patrick’s night and thank you for coming on.

Senator:  Thanks a lot! (ends time stamp ~ 55:35)

Ed Moloney RFÉ 11 March 2017

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

John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to award winning journalist, author and historian Ed Moloney via telephone about the reaction of the Nationalist community to the results of the recent snap election in The North of Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 35:02 )

John:   And leaving Belfast for The Bronx, not that big a jump, and we’re going to head up there and speak with Ed Moloney, author of many books particularly one, A Secret History of the IRA. Ed, reading some of the analyses about the election, and it surely was a political earthquake that happened over in The Six Counties, but they said what really stirred the Sinn Féin vote was something called ‘cultural Nationalists’ – that they were quite content within The Six Counties as long as they had the Irish language, as long as they could play GAA that they were quite content. But when Arlene Foster came out and said there’ll be no funding and you ‘feed a crocodile’ – for the Irish language and some of the stuff the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) were getting involved with – but that is what stirred up a lot of the Nationalist people.

Ed:  Yeah, I think that’s really what the election was about at the end of the day. It was a throwback in terms of the folk memory to many Nationalists, for many Nationalists, to the bad old days of Unionist majority rule where they not only did they rule the roost but they ruled with considerable arrogance and disdain for the Nationalist population and Arlene Foster’s language, her body language, the antics of some of her colleagues in the DUP were all reminders of that and I think acted as a considerable spur rather than any notion that this was all about a united Ireland. I think it was more about civil rights if you like rather than the national question. And I think the evidence is also there in the way that the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) vote did very well as well as Sinn Féin’s vote and that combined, the pair of them, you know came so close to overtaking the combined Unionists votes that people have described it, as you said yourself, as a political earthquake. But I think that’s somewhat misleading. I think it’s really – it was about getting very angry and looking for a way to hit back at the DUP for the way that they had behaved.

John:  Yeah also, Ed, it seems elections like this bring out, as I say, the Orange and the Green and it consolidates the very sectarian vote. You know, now I get to listen, because of the internet, about the coverage in The North. There was no talks about you know we want to bring employment to The Six Counties, we want to stop fracking in Fermanagh. When these elections start it breaks down so sectarian it is unbelievable! And the people in The South, you listen to them, it’s sort of: Well, that’s The Six Counties. That’s the way elections are fought there – but it’s such an aberration when you hear the debates and everything. It has nothing to do with improving the economy. It’s ‘us’ against ‘them’ and it seems this election is really going to bring it out – or even the next election – that it is just going to be Orange and Green and that’s going to be the vote.

Ed:  Well you see this is, of course, this is the major critique of the Good Friday Agreement from, if you like, a sort of more left-wing perspective – is that it has institutionalised sectarianism and rewards sectarianism and not only that but solidifies power in the hands of two parties, essentially the DUP and Sinn Fein, who manage to climb to the top of their greasy, respective greasy poles over their rivals in their own camps – the DUP beating the Ulster Unionists and the Sinn Féin beating the SDLP – and each election is really about the same thing: You better vote for us because if you don’t ‘themmuns’ are going to get the First Minister’s job and that will be terrible’ and Sinn Féin saying: You know, here’s a chance to get one back at the Prods by voting strongly enough to get the First Minister’s seat – and it institutionalises this and it sets politics in concrete and makes it impossible for the sort of issues that you were just talking about, like job creation, etc, to be raised. I mean this election I suppose was slightly different in the sense that there was a controversy over the DUP’s – the smell of corruption over this pellet fire or ash for cash or whatever it’s called – cash for ash scandal that hit Arlene Foster. But you know look how Eamonn McCann’s vote and the vote for his people suffered as a result of that and that’s an example of just how the Good Friday Agreement has – I mean and I think it’s almost done quite cynically by the British and Irish governments because this was a way to sort of like side-line the thing and keep these people busy fighting their little sectarian conflict as long as they keep it to politics and don’t bring the guns out then that’s fine. Let them carry on like that ad infinitum. And of course we give them a nice big Assembly, wonderful big castle of mention of a place to work in with a fantastic cafeteria and great food and they have wonderful salaries and great expenses and there’s lots of them, and they’re allowed to employ their wives and their sons and their daughters and you know, that’ll keep it going and you know that’s why I suspect that they will probably get this deal back again in some way, shape or form, too – there’s a gravy train and they’re all filling their bellies from it and at the same time very confident, as long as no one reaches again for guns, power is going to be confined exclusively in the hands of these two parties for ad infinitum.

Martin:   Well Ed, this is Martin Galvin here. Ed, one of the elements of this deal is that the British government, as represented now by James Brokenshire, they don’t have to take responsibility for anything. You know they have a block grant. They can do what they like in terms of imprisoning Tony Taylor. They can say: Oh, we can’t give funding for legacy inquests – it might show that our hands are dirty in terms of the conflict or our hands are dirty in terms of the collusion because Arlene Foster won’t agree. So they get to stand behind Stormont, say we’re not responsible for anything and just rely on the two parties to exercise a veto against each other so that Arlene Foster, the DUP, don’t have to make moves and they can say: It’s not us – it’s just the DUP. Isn’t that sort of what we have instead of direct rule, instead of the British being responsible for injustices or what goes in in The North of Ireland?

Ed:   Well it’s not just that, they’re also in charge of the economy, really. I mean the Assembly and the Executive is allowed to spend money as it wishes within certain limits but it’s given a budget not by…

Martin:  …Right. Like a child with an allowance.

Ed:  Precisely! They’re given their pocket money every week and away you go and you spend it on what you like and have a good time, guys, and try not to really screw up here. But they’re not allowed to raise taxes and they’re not allowed to raise money in the way that a fully independent government would be able to do. And of course, that means that The North’s economy – and we see this with the decision on Europe as well is, essentially, the powers – the power over the most important things, including those issues you raised there about who killed whom, when and why and how – those issues are all under the control of the British still and one could argue that between that and the economy that’s really what Northern Ireland has been about for the last thirty-forty years.

John:  And another topic, I don’t know how much play it had in the elections, is Brexit – with the United Kingdom pulling out of the European Union. A couple months ago I had a conversation with Barbara Jones of the Irish Consulate and she was telling me that the border was in my head – that it didn’t really exist. And I was explaining to her my mother’s from a small town in Donegal called Pettigo – half of it is in Fermanagh – and I remember all the customs checkpoints and everything that’s going on and how this is just not a huge debate in The Six Counties but because of the Green and Orange but with this coming down the pike this is going to be re-setting up the custom posts from Dundalk all the way up to Doire and Letterkenny that the Brexit’s going to have a huge – and it’s having a huge effect there now where people are shopping in Enniskillen or you’re getting your petrol in The South and going back and forth and no one seems to have a plan on what’s going to happen when the borders are a hard border. And there will be a hard border.

Ed:  Well we’ll see. We’ll have to wait and see on that. But in relation to things like shopping on different sides of the border – that was going on long before the Brexit vote because currency variations – you know because the British kept the pound and wouldn’t go in with the euro – there was sometimes significant swings, one way or the other, that would encourage people either to shop in Newry or to shop in Dundalk or what have you that was happening Brexit or no Brexit. We have to wait and see what the sort of deal that this woman Theresa May gets out of the European nations for British exit from the EU. I suspect that, from the mood music that’s coming out, that they’re all sort of saying well we’ve got to avoid this hard border because it sort of evokes images of the 1950’s really because you know even when The Troubles were on the border, customs-wise, increasingly became less relevant. You know? And you didn’t have to stop. There were times, long, long ago, when you had to stop at the border and someone would peer into your car and then let you go if you were judged to be ‘okay’. That was gone long before, and during the Troubles that went and really stopping at the border only became necessary for hauliers and trucks and people who were shipping stuff across over to Europe or up to Britain or whatever and they would have to get their customs papers signed and so on and so forth and they would stop voluntarily and the customs posts went from the middle of the road to the side of the road and became increasingly less intrusive in peoples’ lives. Now whether it reverts back to the 1950’s or something like the 1980’s remains to be seen but I suspect they all want to get something that’s equivalent to the 1980’s. The British, of course, are all exercised about the idea of tens of thousands of people from Syria (just like Donald Trump) slipping over to Britain via the Irish the back door – but that’s not going to happen either, I don’t think – realistically it’s just not on. So I just find it hard to take this whole Brexit thing terribly seriously. A) because not everyone in Northern Ireland or indeed round the border areas is that much affected, even by a hard border. And what was – it depends on how you determine or judge or decide what The Troubles were really all about – I’ve increasingly come to the viewpoint that this was not a national liberation struggle really in its essence – that the Provos were never real Republicans in the sense that you know people like the IRA of 1916 or the IRA of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh etc. The Provos were defenders. They came from that different part of the Republican Movement which was really about defending Catholic interests. And because they come from that origin I think it’s so much easier for them to do a deal, like the Good Friday Agreement, which like an old-fashioned Republican could not have done because it accepted partition, accepted the Principle of Consent and so on and so forth. And if it was really about civil rights – and if it was a civil rights campaign or struggle that got out of control – then issues like the border really come secondary to issues like that we have seen being fought over in the recent election in The North which was about relationships between Catholics and Protestants within the Northern Ireland state and that’s not going to be affected that much by Brexit. But I may be wrong – we’ll see.

Martin:   Alright, Ed, well if we had time I’d go into all of those things – which I have a very different viewpoint but how and ever – and Brexit, of course, is going to be negotiated by all of the European Community with Theresa May and I don’t know who much of the interest of those who want a soft border in Ireland are going to have but the important question now is: What do you expect to happen? We have three weeks altogether between the time that the Assembly ended and there’s supposed to be nominations and accepted nominations of a First and Deputy First Minister. There are talks going on now. Arlene Foster had campaigned on the basis of stopping Gerry Adams and that Michelle O’Neill was just somebody that he had instructed and put up as a puppet or as a functionary. Arlene Foster’s leading negotiations. Gerry Adams is involved with negotiations. You have Fr. Gary Donegan, some of the people who brought the parade back to Ardoyne and resolved that issue, are getting involved. James Brokenshire’s getting involved. What do you expect to happen over the next few weeks? Are we going to have a Stormont government reconvened within the three weeks or slightly longer period? What do you expect to see?

Ed:  I actually think that really events south of the border are going to play a bigger role in this than maybe anything else. And there is a distinct possibility that this government in Dublin, which is a strange government – it’s a coalition government in everything but name – it’s sort of being propped up by Fianna Fáil but they’re not taking ministerial seats etc. But that’s a very shaky arrangement and it could collapse at any moment. And there are stresses and strains on it. Enda Kenny is due to retire or resign as Taoiseach quite soon. He’s more or less made that promise public and you could see an election happening in The South. Now, in the midst of all this business about the ‘cash for ash’ scandal Sinn Féin let it be known that they were going to drop their insistence that the only way in which they would become a member of a government in The South in Dublin would be as a majority party that they were now prepared to take seats on a minority basis – in other words as a minority partner in a coalition government – which opens up the possibility of a Fine Gael-Sinn Féin government, with Fine Gael in the majority or a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin government with Fianna Fáil in majority. Both things Sinn Féin had always said they would never accept. Now they’re prepared to accept that. And I suspect that what is happening here is that – being as you know, Martin, it has been my belief for a very long time that the real goal in all of this peace process has been to get to a situation where Sinn Féin is involved in the government on both sides of the border at the same time. In other words there are Sinn Féin bums on seats around cabinet tables in Dublin and Belfast and that will be Gerry Adams’ mark on Irish history – that is what he will be remembered for – for pulling off that particular trick. And he’s not getting any younger. I mean we’ve seen the condition that his former partner, Martin McGuinness, is in – he may not have much longer on this planet – and Gerry himself must be fully aware that you know his time is finite as well and that if it’s ever going to happen it has to happen fairly soon. And if there is an election and if there is a possibility of Sinn Féin going in as a minority partner in a coalition government – and there will always be coalition governments in The South – no one party has sufficient strength to have the majority by themselves – then what happens in The North then becomes quite important because it’s then in Gerry Adams’ interest to get stability back in The North and also to be seen as someone who is responsible and has negotiated a good arrangement for his people in The North and, therefore, is a fitting partner for one of the parties in The South to go into government with. But we shall see whether that happens or not but I suspect that may play a role in all of this.

Martin:  Alright, Ed, we want to thank you for that. We’re going to have to leave it here. We could go on for a lot longer if we had a lot longer to go on but we’re almost out of time…

Ed:   …Indeed…

Martin:  …so I want to thank you for that analysis.

Ed:  Okay. Bye-bye. (ends time stamp ~ 53:12)

Suzanne Breen RFÉ 11 March 2017

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

John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to award winning journalist Suzanne Breen via telephone from Belfast about the reaction of the Unionist and Loyalist communities to the results of the recent snap election in The North of Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 18:45)

Martin:  With us on the line – we’re very fortunate we have two of the best known, prize winning journalists and commentators on the Irish situation. The first of them is Belfast-based Suzanne Breen. Suzanne, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Suzanne:   Thank you, Martin.

Martin:  Suzanne, the last time we talked to you we were talking about ‘roll-over Republicanism’, we were talking about a situation where Arlene Foster, who’s the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), seemed to be unassailable. She had a big majority in Stormont. It seemed like she was a new beginning to the Democratic Unionist Party – a departure – somebody more moderate, more liberal, more open to the views of Nationalists and Catholics than certainly than the founding member of the party had been in his early days, Ian Paisley, or Peter Robinson had been in the early founding of the DUP. We’re now in a completely different situation. I just want to read a quote from an MLA, Members of the Legislative Assembly, a Unionist who lost her seat – Jo-Anne Dobson, she said this:

Arlene Foster has done more, in my living memory, against unionism by not stepping aside. The cost has been sixteen unionist seats. One woman has been responsible for five hard-working, good women losing their seats. She weakened unionism and helped the Irish nationalist cause. She projected an atmosphere of fear during the election. The election was a hammer-blow for Unionists. Why couldn’t Arlene Foster have just stepped aside?

How representative is that view – that somebody from a different party, but it’s an official Unionist party, who lost her seat – how representative is that comment of the attitude now within Unionism as to the election and how did things change so fast and so dramatically?

Suzanne:   Well Arlene Foster has turned from being her party’s greatest asset to being its greatest liability. She was asked by Sinn Féin to stand aside for what would have been three weeks and she refused. I think her party and herself made a call that Sinn Féin was so addicted to holding power at Stormont and to the institutions that it would capitulate on this demand as it had given into the DUP before and been exceedingly tolerant and always climbed down and Sinn Féin didn’t do that. And Arlene Foster’s behaviour during the election campaign was so obnoxious to Nationalists that even the most moderate voters came out to oppose her. She talked about Republicans and Nationalists being ‘crocodiles’ that had an insatiable appetite and she used language that really belonged to the last century – language that wouldn’t have been expected to her and language that was interpreted as arrogant, patronising and sectarian. So while the DUP’s number of first preference votes in the election actually went up Sinn Féin’s votes rocketed and they came within just a thousand votes of being the main political party in Northern Ireland. The DUP won two hundred and twenty-five thousand four hundred and thirteen. Sinn Féin won two hundred and twenty-four thousand two hundred and forty-five. And also, very importantly, while the DUP won twenty-eight seats in the new Assembly Sinn Féin won twenty-seven and if you add in the left-wing People Before Profit, who believe in a united Ireland even though they don’t class themselves as Nationalists, the two parties are virtually tied. The DUP lost ten seats in this election. Sinn Féin lost only one which was quite an achievement given that the number of seats were decreasing from a hundred and eight to ninety.

So Sinn Fein is now neck-and-neck with the DUP and Nationalists, when you add in the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) are neck-and-neck with Unionists, which is the DUP and the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). So really Arlene Foster has brought her party and Unionism from a position of great strength, just ten months ago, to a position now of huge weakness. The election result has been a huge psychological blow for Unionists. There is talk now of Unionist pacts, Unionist coalitions and Unionism is really under pressure and feels much, much weaker than it has at any point in the past two decades. And what a lot of Unionists are saying is this all could have been avoided, this election needn’t have happened had Arlene Foster stood aside before Christmas for three short weeks – this really wouldn’t have happened and had she not angered the Nationalist community so much during the election campaign. Yes, her own party’s vote held up but she drove so many Nationalists into voting for Sinn Féin and she has been described as Gerry Adams’ and Sinn Féin’s greatest recruiting sergeant either. So her message of loathing against Sinn Féin brought out her own supporters but it brought out far, far more Nationalists. It was a double-edged sword.

Martin:  Suzanne, they are now in talks. I believe the first week is just about finished. They have three weeks to convene a new government wherein Sinn Féin would agree to nominate a Deputy First Minister, the DUP would nominate the First Minister and that must be done in order to convene a government. Sinn Féin has said so far that they will not go in and will not do that unless Arlene Foster stands aside while the RHI, the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, is dealt with. They’re in talks right now. How does Arlene Foster – during the campaign she portrayed Gerry Adams as some kind of bogeyman, she was there to stop his agenda. She said Michelle O’Neill, who would be the candidate or the leader of Sinn Féin in The North, was merely somebody that Gerry Adams had installed and would instruct and was not an independent person. How does Arlene Foster, having campaigned on the basis of: A vote for me is a vote to stop them and block them – how does she now go into negotiations and try to form a government with Sinn Féin within a couple of more weeks?

Suzanne:   Well there’s always this game that is played between the DUP and Sinn Féin and there’s a big amount of hypocrisy in it. It was played ten months ago when the DUP election campaign was run on the grounds of ‘vote for Arlene because you might get Martin McGuinness as First Minister’. And yet after the election the parties settled down very happily in government together. In some ways they really need each other because all the fear they instill – if you don’t vote for me you get ‘them’ – that’s the game that encourages their voters to come out in large numbers but they do settle down and do do business after the election. The key question is here is whether Sinn Féin will do a u-turn on its demand that Arlene Foster step aside? The party is saying that she still does have to step aside until an inquiry into RHI is over. Now that inquiry could take between six months and probably actually a year and Sinn Féin has said that this is a red line for it. Now many people have heard of Sinn Féin red lines before and they do shift but it would be very, very hard for the party to surrender on this one. It has just won an election; it has a huge vote and there is a lot of anger in Nationalist areas against Arlene Foster and it would seem to be a pretty poor strategy if the party threw that away and alienated the voters that it is so happy to have won back because until now the whole drift in recent elections had been for a decreasing vote for Sinn Féin. It was very much losing touch with its grassroots, its voters were disillusioned and they have now been energised back into supporting the party and it would seem quite strange for Sinn Fein to throw this away and to immediately go into government with Arlene Foster.

What Sinn Féin is saying as a possible compromise is that Arlene Foster could be a minister in the new government but not First Minister, not having the top job but that she would get that job if and when she was exonerated by the public inquiry that is taking place. Now on the other hand, some people think that Sinn Féin is so wedded again to power at Stormont and will so much want to get the institutions up and running again that this will, this demand that Arlene step aside, will be brushed side. I think that’s pretty unlikely. I think Sinn Féin will, so to speak, hold onto its guns on this one and Arlene will make some kind of announcement that if an overall, if a big deal with Sinn Féin can be done for the sake of Northern Ireland she will step out of the limelight, out of being First Minister, for a period of months until the whole RHI issue is resolved.

John:   (station identification) And with us on the line from Belfast is Suzanne Breen who writes for the Belfast Telegraph. Suzanne, this has been an earthquake within the Loyalist community and you read some of the reactions – can you tell us: Why is it that the Loyalist paramilitaries, say like the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), gets no support. And I read an article that there’s anger within the Loyalist paramilitaries, particularly the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), that they’re getting jittery and they’re thinking about going back to the guns and all this other stuff but there’s just sheer panic within the Loyalist community and that Gerry Adams might overplay his hand for a united Ireland but maybe describe for our audience: Why is there such a panic, and even in particularly with the Loyalist paramilitaries, about this vote?

Suzanne:  Well it just – Unionist have been used to having quite a numerical lead over Nationalists in elections and you know – they’re used to ruling the roost and this really has put fear in them. As I said before it is a major psychological issue. They now see this on the march and this on the rise – Nationalist community – its commentators widely said that Arlene wakened the sleeping giant of Nationalist voters so you know they have a lot to get used to. I don’t believe for one second that it is going to lead to Loyalist paramilitaries restarting their campaign again. I think they were ultimately controlled, at some type of central level, by elements of the British state and I don’t think that that British state wants to destabilise Northern Ireland which is ticking away quite nicely at the minute. In terms of Unionist voters they have never really supported the Loyalist paramilitary parties. Even people who would support the Loyalist paramilitaries they tend to vote DUP at elections. The Loyalist paramilitary parties, the Progressive Unionist Party, which would be seen as the political wing of the UVF, it manages to get a few councillors elected but even gone are the days where it would get someone elected to the Assembly. Even when it was getting people elected to the Assembly it was only one or two members. It really didn’t catch on within the Unionist community and it’s not going to do that now but I think certain people sense fear that Loyalists back on the streets with their guns. I think that’s wrong. Loyalist paramilitaries are still active but it’s mainly in terms of extorting money from within their own community and intimidation. They’re not really active in terms of targeting Catholics.

Martin:  Alright Suzanne, just we’re coming towards the end – I want to get off the sixty-four thousand dollar question: Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the official Ulster Unionist (Party), has resigned. How safe is Arlene Foster? Is there any movement within her party that she should stand aside permanently? And what happens next? We have a couple of weeks, if there is no deal there’s a possibility of a prospect of new elections or it could be an extension of time – what are your predictions as to Arlene Foster and what will happen next in terms of re-convening Stormont?

Suzanne:  Well the Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, was actually very gracious, very dignified. He fell on his sword, took responsibility for his poor election result. Arlene Foster isn’t going to do that and she will not be shifted as DUP leader but the key question is: Will she step aside as First Minister of Northern Ireland while remaining DUP leader? Personally, I think she will. There are certainly senior people in the party who are briefing against her, who think that she has seriously damaged the party but she maintains the support of people like deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, and if the DUP moves against her it won’t be in the face of a very aggressive Sinn Féin because it just wouldn’t do that. It will be in the months ahead that she may be sidelined. She may find it difficult to get back the First Minister position but the DUP is not going to dump Arlene Foster just because Gerry Adams is asking – so that would look disastrous. There are three weeks for Sinn Féin and the DUP to reach a deal. Most observers believe that that is probably a very, very difficult task. No one would think that Northern Ireland is going to go back to direct rule. Probably the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, will fiddle with the rules to allow devolution to somehow be suspended to give the parties maybe extra weeks or months to reach a deal. Another question is whether Sinn Féin actually does want a deal or does it think that, in reality, Stormont rule isn’t working for it and actually the fact that the DUP just won’t compromise enough means that Sinn Féin’s involvement in the Executive, which is very unpopular, or whether Sinn Féin – the Executive offers massive powers of patronage, it offers salaries for Sinn Féin MLAs, it’s money going into the party’s coffers – whether it’s actually prepared to jeopardise that for political and ideological goals? Those are the key questions.

Martin:   Alright, Suzanne, we want to thank you. We’re then going to try and get the Nationalist perspective in a moment from Ed Moloney. Thank you for a tremendous amount of information and condensing it in a very short period of time.

Suzanne:   Okay. Thanks. (ends time stamp ~ 35:02)