John McDonagh speaks to Chris Fogarty via telephone about the launch of his new book about the Irish holocaust. (Mike Costello of the National Irish Freedom Committee is also in studio.) (begins time stamp ~ 06:41)
John: With us on the line is Chris Fogarty. Chris, if you could tell us quickly – people might want to come hear you speak, you’re out of Chicago, and if anybody knows about FBI surveillance it is definitely you but we won’t be talking about that today. But what is your book about and people can come see you tomorrow at Rory Dolan’s.
Chris: Alright, the title of the book speaks for itself: Ireland 1845-1850: The Perfect Holocaust and Who Kept It ‘Perfect’. And the holocaust dates from 1847 itself when writers,including people like Michael Davitt in his published works in the Cork Examiner newspaper and others, wrote about it as ‘holocaust’ so we’re not treading on anyone’s toes – that’s what it was called in public at the time. But it describes how something over five million people were murdered by the British government when it sent in sixty-seven regiments of its Army into Ireland to remove Ireland’s abundant food crops at gunpoint. And those sixty-seven regiments were more than half of the British Empire Army at the time. This has been the greatest covered-up genocide in the history of man. We call it An t-Ár Mór as well for those who speak Irish and we should actually promote that. So we’re very grateful, by the way, to the National Graves Association of Ireland and to The 1916 Societies and to the Irish Republican Brotherhood all of whom have been constructively putting out the word about this book.
John: Well Chris,thanks andif that doesn’t whet your appetite you can get up and hear Chris speak longer about the book and he’ll be signing books up at Rory Dolan’s. And Mike, just quickly once again, and then in Irish.
Mike: (makes announcements)
Chris: See you this evening – see you this afternoon – or tomorrow afternoon!
John: Alright, Chris, we’ll see you then. (ends time stamp ~ 8:59)
Martin Galvin speaks to award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, via telephone who provides analysis on Freddie Scappaticci in the wake of the BBC airing the Panorama special entitled ‘The Spy in the IRA‘. (begins time stamp ~ 38:44)
Martin: And welcome back.Ed, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. We’re talking to Ed Moloney. He is an author and award-winning journalist with the Irish Times and the Sunday Tribune and also – Ed, you’re an author of a couple of books, A Secret History of the IRA, and after watching the documentary from Panorama it seems that the history, or the secrets, were only secret from people like me who were supporters or people who were members or people who were sympathisers – it didn’t seem like there were any secrets from the British Army.
Ed: Well, yes. Sure, they would have known an awful lot about what was going on inside the IRA thanks to Freddie Scappaticci but there would still be a limit to what they would know. I mean they wouldn’t necessarily know what the deliberations of the Army Council were and what the policies were going to be unless, somehow, Freddie Scappaticci had been made privy to that. My own view about the value of Scappaticci rests on the powers that the internal security department were given when it was set up the late 1970’s which was basically to investigate every IRA operation that went wrong to see if there was a traitor in the ranks and that meant that – so they had a brief which extended and expanded right across the entire organisation in terms of the Active Service Units (ASU) and would know who was who in the IRA and with that information the British Army and the intelligence services would have full knowledge of the IRA’s battle order and would have a very good idea of what the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of individuals were perhaps, thanks to Scappaticci, and would therefore be able to really infiltrate and recruit informers on a much wider basis and from that, maybe, they would then learn about plans like, for example, the Eksund shipment of arms, which was betrayed by a traitor somewhere in the ranks. So that was the value, I think, of Scappaticci – is that he opened a door to the British which they clearly were eager to facilitate and that way they, I think, got in deep into the IRA.
Martin: Okay. How did this man from The Markets, somebody whose father was an Italian immigrant, that’s the name ‘Scappaticci’, get into this position where – again he was called, there might be some hyperbole in the trailer for the programme, but he was said to be the most important British spy since World War II. How did he rise up and get into that position?
Ed: Well we’re not entirely sure because there are conflicting accounts of how he became an informer in the first place.
I mean I count three different versions and not all of them can necessarily be correct. One is that he was what they call a ‘walk-in’ – that he decided to volunteer his services to the British because he had been badly beaten up by a member of the IRA, senior member of the IRA, and this was his way of getting revenge – that was the account which, or the version of his recruitment, which was current for many, many years. Then we had another account which came, more authoritative I think, came from a former GOC (General Officer Commanding), British Army commander of British troops in Northern Ireland, in the early 1990’s – a character called Sir John Wilsey, who wrote about, in a very heavily disguised way, wrote about Scappaticci in a book of reminiscences of his time in Northern Ireland as a serving soldier and he devoted an entire chapter to the handler who he says recruited and ran Scappaticci for many years – a guy called Peter Jones who, you know, is traceable – you can find him on the internet, etc – and according to Wilsey this was the man who was responsible for getting Scappaticci to work for the British. And then you have this latest version, which I think is really – I have difficulty with it – it’s from John Ware on Panorama in which he says that the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) Fraud Squad initially had Scappaticci on their books and they handed him over to the British Army – that is not plausible because there was a huge rivalry between the RUC Special Branch and British Intelligence (and it was a major obstacle to the functioning of intelligence down the years) and the idea that the RUC would hand over an agent like that to the British Army rather than give it to the Special Branch – who would know all about him, incidentally, because everything that happens in the RUC would have been known by the Special Branch – I don’t find that terribly plausible. Maybe I’m wrong – we’ll wait and see what the evidence is – so how he became a spy like that is really a matter of at least three different versions, three different theories – so which one is correct we don’t know yet.
Martin: Okay. And how did this Internal Security Unit (ISU) come about and how did Freddie Scappaticci come to head it – to get at this key area where he could be the crown jewel of British intelligence during the struggle?
Ed: Well you know, the function of hunting spies and traitors in the ranks was really not something thatthe IRA prioritised in the early days of The Troubles. And my own theory for that is that they sort of half-believed that The Troubles wouldn’t last long enough – that they’d overwhelm the British – and we’re talking about the early ’70’s when that was a plausible thing so they really left that to individual intelligence officers, at company level mostly, to see if there was anything going on and if they discovered something suspicious follow it up but they didn’t have a systemic or systematic way of tracking possible informers and infiltrators. When it became clear to the IRA that this was now going to be a long war then the notion of protecting themselves against infiltration became very important and the Internal Security Unit evolved out of the various discussions that took place inside Long Kesh during the mid-’70’s, during that ceasefire, during which the same leadership – the Adams, Brendan Hughes, Ivor Bell leadership, you know – also charted the re-oraganisation of the IRA and the Long War was born out of that and also one product of it was this Internal Security Unit, which came into being in the late 1970’s; the date I’ve heard is 1979. Now how Scappaticci became head, or became first a senior member of it and then eventually the head, is again one of these mysteries that we really don’t know much about. Obviously one question is that: If John Wilsey’s, the GOC’s, account of his recruitment is correct then he was working for the British Army two or three years before the Internal Security Unit was set up. Was he then steered towards it by his handler – which is the sort of thing of course you would do – you would want to place an agent, a valuable agent like that, in the most important place and, as Anthony McIntyre described there, the Internal Security Unit was a junction box in the sense that everything that happened in the IRA had to be investigated for potential informers would be known by the Internal Security therefore their knowledge would be huge so you would try to put him in there. But whether that happened or whether he was talent-spotted by the leadership – we just don’t know. That is one of the unknowns.
Martin: Alright. Now Ed, one of the things that you wrote about onyour blog, Ed Moloney, The Broken Elbow, is how far up Scappaticci’s activities had to be approved by the British government. And again, John talked about there are people now who, it appears, were totally innocent who were killed as informers just to cover Scappaticci’s tracks, there are ways in which he was involved with people that he knew, friends – or would laugh about it – there just seems to be some kind of psychological difficulties that he had – he was able to use torture to get some people and then say ‘they confessed’, how high – and he’s now under investigation for something between minimum of eighteen might be as many as fifty murders – how high up within the British government would he have to have been approved?
Ed: At Prime Ministerial level. There’s a part of the British bureaucracy known asthe Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which brings together all the intelligence services, MI5, MI6 GCHQ, Military Intelligence, etc and they sit and they have a vast bureaucracy of their own of committees and sub-committees and what have you and they basically run British intelligence. And what the Joint Intelligence Committee essentially does is to develop policy options for the intelligence agencies which are then submitted to the British Prime Minister and whatever relevant cabinet minister would be involved – let’s say you know, Foreign Minister or the Home Affairs Minister or whatever – and based upon the policy options put forward by the Joint Intelligence Committee a decision would then be taken about particular intelligence operations and that is – I mean there’s absolutely no way that that did not happen with Scappaticci – he was such as an important agent that it would go as high as the Joint Intelligence Committee. They would devise policy on how to use him and implicitly, either by default or – and I don’t think, and given the caution that these bureaucracies are imbued with, I think it’s unlikely that they said: Yeah, were going to authorise him to murder – because you can’t do that. They would just not take a decision I think is the most likely option and allow that to happen but don’t talk about it – but that’s the same thing as approving, of course. And…
Martin: …Ed, one very important thing I want to get to that’s featured in the documentary, it’s also involved with people who’ve been interviewed on this programme: When Steak Knife came to light, and you document this 0n your blog, we had also, Radio Free Éireann, had interviewed Ian Hurst, who’s one of the people on the documentary who’s involved – his reaction was to go in, conduct a press conference, there was an agreement made that he could go in and that’s shown on the documentary – he gives a press conference and just says: Oh, I had nothing to do with the Republican Movement for fourteen/thirteen years and I have nothing to do with this and that was put through, that version, it was hosted at the Sinn Féin offices and that version was actually put forward to protect, to cover in some way, or consistent with defending Freddie Scappaticci from the idea that he was an agent and a spy, which is very different than many of the – anyone else would have happened. How did that happen? How as able to remain? And why was he protected at that time?
Ed: Well one could only guess about this but first of all: There was no press conference as such. A press conference is something where you invite all the media to come to a particular location and something will be announced and questions and answers will follow. That did not happen at this event which was I think actually hosted in Andersonstown News‘ offices rather than Sinn Féin’s offices. Only two journalists were invited; both of them – one of them was Brian Rowan of the BBC who was a sceptic about Steak Knife and Scappaticci so he was essentially someone who was almost ready to believe there was no such thing and the other one was Anne Cadwallader who you know is pretty friendly towards Sinn Féin as well but no other journalists were allowed there. And then when they start to ask questions, I think after two or three questions the thing ended, and the impression I get – and I wasn’t there at the time when this happened so I’m going very much by second-hand, is that this was something that was set up between Scappaticci and Sinn Féin – the idea of minimising the damage. Scappaticci had been sacked from the IRA in about ’92 or ’93 when he attempted to interrogate members of the Army Council and he was sacked by the then Chief of Staff and he returned to Belfast and resumed a quieter life. I mean, there is this idea that he was discovered as a spy way back then. He wasn’t. It was when, thanks to Ian Hurst and everything that followed from Ian Hurst, that Sinn Féin, like the rest of us, discovered that there was this spy – Scappaticci was at his work or had been at his work for such a long period of time – that’s when Sinn Féin discovered him. When then his name was published, in I think it was a Scottish Sunday paper, it hit the proverbial fan and Sinn Féin reacted – I think there are reports that there was a meeting between Scappaticci and people from Sinn Féin and one of the outcomes of it was that there would be this press conference and then Scappaticci would slowly fade from the scene and…
Martin: … Alright Ed, I’m sorry, we’re – this is a story we could go with for a long period of time…
Ed: …I know, forever.
Martin: We are out of time. (ends time stamp ~ 55:16)
Martin Galvin speaks to Joe Barr, the National Organiser for the Irish Republican political party, Saoradh, via telephone from Doire about the British veterans’ march in Belfast City Centre yesterday, Good Friday, 14 April 2017. (begins time stamp ~ 19:32)
Martin: And well I’ll say welcome for the first time to Joe Barr from Saoradh. He’s the National Organiser. He’s based in Doire. Welcome to Radio Free Éireann, Joe.
Joe: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Martin: Okay.Joe, the reason we invited you on – we are going to talk about Easter and Easter commemorations – but yesterday there was a demonstration by former British troopers who are concerned – they support British rule, they support British courts, they support British justice – but they’re protesting that they might have to face British courts and British prosecutions over people who were killed during The Troubles, 1968 to 1998. Now Joe, we’re going to talk to you about that demonstration but just to introduce you to the audience: What is your position with Saoradh? And tell me, you’re a young man, why did you choose – you live in Doire – why did you choose to join them rather than say Sinn Féin or the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), established political parties which have a prominent role in Doire City and might have made it for a much easier career path for you?
Joe: Yeah, well I am – I’m twenty-eight years of age and I’m the National Organiser for Saoradh as you stated there. The reason that I joined Saoradh in the first place – Saoradh, they were essentially organised to repair the damage a decade of reformism and I want to advance the pursuit of a thirty-two county socialist republic that is free from any interference of England or any other foreign government. I was an active Irish Republican since my teens. I experienced and felt the frustrations that a lot of young people are feeling – you know with the symptoms associated with those frustrations and which have permeated through Republicanism for a decade and that’s been done now under the constant shadow of a rising, dominant and simply perverse form of nationalism that stands as solidly in support of British rule as it does against Republican principle. I was asked to take part in the earliest efforts by what would become Saoradh that aimed to address these major issues within the working class communities of Ireland. I felt, personally, that our people were under an illusion that nationalism was leading towards their freedom and I understood that a revolutionary alternative was required to confront that illusion and to liberate the people from its hold. To balance with the many, varying issues within Republicanism itself then it was easy to conclude that much work was needed in order to set people to work on an approach to their emancipation based on the ideals said by the likes of Tone, Connolly and Mellows. This for me is the only way forward and for me, personally, the only party with the means to achieve this preliminary goal in Saoradh. That’s not to critisise anybody else who’s involved in similar efforts but it’s merely to state my personal circumstances and motives for forging ahead with this party.
Martin: Okay. AndI should spell the party. (Martin spells Saoradh.)
Joe: That’s us.
Martin: I’m doing that so that if you want to check out their website or their Facebook page you have the correct spelling. Okay. Yesterday, the was a large – not a large – there was a demonstration by British veterans who are worried about being outside City Hall in Belfast in the City Centre, and they are concerned about possible prosecutions for Troubles killings like Bloody Sunday – a decision there has been imminent for some time in your city of Doire – like the Ballymurphy Massacre, if they ever have an inquest itt may lead in that direction, like even the killing of Manus Deery – a young man who finally admitted there was no justification for shooting him down many years ago and we congratulate his sister and his family on that. What did Saoradh do in relation to that protest by veterans?
Joe: Well now I want to take you back to February whenever a similar event was organised by these veterans in Doire. They announced at the start of February that they wanted to march through Doire to highlight this same issue. As soon as Saoradh in Doire were made aware of that, immediately we released a statement saying that we would bring thousands of people onto the street to oppose this march. We honestly couldn’t believe that in our city, where fourteen unarmed civilians were shot dead on Bloody Sunday, that they would have the gall to march against what they felt was persecution against themselves. Within twenty-four hours of us making that statement – and obviously I know Bloody Sunday families and others done their bit as well – that march was canceled. They instead moved from Doire and they marched to Coleraine.
Saoradh again took the lead in Belfast over the last couple of weeks you know to oppose this march and yesterday we held a demonstration with up to two hundred Saoradh members and other Republicans also attended just to highlight as I say the war crimes that these people inflicted on Ireland.
Martin: Alright. Joe, it was interesting to me – a few weeks ago I appeared on Talkback and the person who came on was Doug Beattie of the Ulster Unionist Party and again we have the entire transcript of that programme on our website, rfe123 dot org – that’s rfe123 dot org. And during that programme, I asked Mr. Beattie – it was about an interview that Gerry McGeough had done on this programme – and I asked Mr. Beattie, I said: During that interview Gerry McGeough talked about civilians who were killed with the support of members of British Crown forces, either directly or in collusion by some of the Loyalists. And I’m surprised that no one would mention that – I mentioned some of the families, Roseanne Mallon, or The McKearneys or my friend, Liam Ryan. And Mr. Beattie said – and I’m just going to read this to you and ask you for a comment:
Martin, it’s really quite simple: If anybody committed a murder, be they in the British military, be they a police officer, be they civilian or anybody else if they committed a murder – and it was wrong – if there’s evidence they should be brought to court. I condemn anybody who conducts a murder so don’t try and drag me down a road here where I’m trying to defend anybody who committed an unlawful act.
Who was the main speaker trying to defend those British troopers who committed what a British Prime Minister called an ‘unjustifiable and unjustified killings’ on Bloody Sunday, who committed killings, which we believe would be found murder if the Ballymurphy Families would ever be able to get an inquest and ever be able to get the facts out – who committed murder in collusion with Loyalists – who was the person defending them and saying that they should not have to face British courts on charges of murder yesterday?
Joe: Well see to be honest – yesterdayDoug Beattie – he revealed himself when he declared that murdering little boys in Ireland granted Irish people to protest. Beating women at checkpoints on the way to events, which is all the UDR (Ulster Defence Association) ever achieved is, to Doug Beattie, the equivalent of fighting for freedom. We know that the British were not fighting for freedom. We know and Doug Beattie knows that the English murdered innocent natives in Ireland yesterday for the same reason that they murder innocent natives in Afghanistan and Iraq today and that reason is imperialism – it’s nothing else. So no matter what way he dresses it up – that’s the main reason behind it all.
Martin: I had actually written a letter at one time and I said: Let’s take a figure – fifteen thousand Republicans went through British prisons and less than a handful of British troopers for on-duty killings. Kate Nash actually did an interview later, one of the Bloody Sunday families, and said it was more like twenty-five thousand so there’s – let’s say twenty-five thousand Republicans or Nationalists who went through British prison, who were in jail for short periods of time, many long periods of time – so if the British courts did not put Republicans before British courts they certainly – it was not for want of trying. There’s been only a handful of British troopers charged for on-duty British Army killings. So what is the imbalance that Mr. Barr, Mr. Beattie – excuse me – is talking about? Why does he think that there is – Why are they so afraid of going before British Diplock courts on charges of murder for incidents like the ‘unjustified and unjustifiable killings’ of Bloody Sunday?
Joe: Yeah. Your guess is as good as mine because here in Ireland we haven’t seen any justice. These people know – even when it was announced that some Bloody Sunday soldiers were being, I think, arrested and questioned. I mean we first heard that five or six years ago and it hasn’t went anywhere since. It’s not going to go anywhere. None of these people are going to do a day in jail – that’s the reality of it.
Martin: Alright. We talked about the amnesty for British troopers. It seems they’re upset that there has been so much pressure from Nationalists, from Republicans, from families like the Bloody Sunday families, like the Ballymurphy Families and so many other families in The North of Ireland – simply to get an inquest, simply to get the word out in British courts or British legal proceedings, so that the British have no alternative but to bring them before courts, to bring them before charges – that that’s what yesterday’s demonstration was about and I want to commend Saoradh for going out and defending the families. Just a couple of brief things: Last year you had a major, there was a major Republican commemoration for Easter at Coalisland and that gave the impetus, or one of the things that was an impetus, for Saoradh to be formed by many of the groups that participated in that Easter commemoration. What is Saoradh going to do this year to commemorate Easter and what is some of the themes that you want to bring out in terms of the oration, the main oration, and Easter message of that event?
Joe: Yeah well you’re a hundred percent right. Last year was a great event in Coalisland. We had over five thousand people who turned up, who lined the streets and who marched with us. Now the initial talks behind Saoradh had already begun prior to that event but after witnessing the crowds, you know the atmosphere, the feeling, it really drove us on and the momentum was built there to get Soaradh off the ground. Now this year on Easter Monday we are having our national commemoration here in Doire. It takes off from Free Derry Corner at two PM and the theme again is the same as last year, it’s that Easter 1916 is an unfinished revolution, is an unfinished revolution – it’s unfinished business – and until we have our thirty-two county socialist republic that will remain so.
Martin: Okay. Now, the talks at Stormont right now – they’ve been adjourned again, there’s been no resolution, there’s no signs of when that resolution would be. It’s between Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Official (Ulster) Unionist Party (UUP) all involved. And James Brokenshire he’s the, of course, the representative for Theresa May, the colonial secretary who presides over it, and he was supposed to be sort of the deus ex machina, the person who was going to, the god from the machine who was going to solve things and put it back together after Arlene Foster broke it apart. What is your party’s reaction to those talks? And why do you think another approach is necessary if we’re ever to get freedom for all of Ireland?
Joe: To be honest it’s all – it’sjust a sideshow. Stormont is dysfunctional. It’s never going to work. The real power lies with the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) and Whitehall. Essentially it’s just a front for British imperialism in Ireland. Sinn Féin collapsing this in January has vindicated what Republicans opposed to Stormont have been saying for years – that it is a failure and it is nothing but a front for British rule. I think it’s been twenty years – is it twenty years now since the Good Friday Agreement? No, sorry, nineteen – it’s nineteen years since the Good Friday Agreement and in that time, when I look around Doire, what has the Good Friday Agreement done for Doire? It’s done nothing. We’ve three thousand people waiting on a housing list. We’ve got the highest youth unemployment rate in obviously the western end of the UK, the highest youth unemployment rate, suicide here is through the roof – it’s just that Stormont has done nothing for my people and will do nothing for my people.
Martin: And I remember when it was signed Joe Cahill was in the United States and after a debate that I was in along with John McDonagh and Martin Ferris and others, Joe Cahill announced that we would have a united Ireland within five years – which would have been by 2003. I just want to ask you one thing before we let you go: You actually had an employment. You were in the United States just for brief periods of time legally and you were out for a few days and what happened – just simply as a result – you know we talked about the issue of censorship by visa denial – what happened to you at the end after just being a few days being in the United States?
Joe: Essentiallywhat happened: The company I was working for, I was selected to go to New York for a few days to work. So my first morning in New York I was sitting having my breakfast, I was at my hotel in Times Square and I was having my breakfast with my manager and two guys came down to where I was sitting and pulled out their badges, identified themselves members of the FBI counter-terrorism unit – and I had to come with them. So they took me to a separate part of the hotel and first thing, the guy, I think he said his name was ‘Jimmy,’ and his exact words to me was: He has been working an active ISIS threat against the Macy’s Day parade but his bosses at FBI headquarters felt that my presence in his city was enough for him to be pull off that. So I was kind of a wee bit shocked to be honest and they questioned me on basically on Saoradh and what my role within Saoradh was. He questioned me on what he said that he was briefed by the British government, by intelligence, about my Republican activity here in Doire and that was the Monday. He left me on Monday and then he said he would have to contact the British government and get back to me. So then on Tuesday, then he came to my hotel again but I wasn’t haven’t breakfast – I was having lunch this time and he came to my hotel and he began to question me again, you know, just on people back home, said he had watched things on the internet of me being stopped by the police and things like that but then on the Tuesday he told me that was it – everything was grand and I wouldn’t hear from him again. So then on the Wednesday morning – I wasn’t due to go home until Wednesday night – but then on the Wednesday morning about eight o’clock he stormed into the hotel again, called me outside, started roaring and shouting at me saying that I was nothing but a liar. That I had made myself out to be ‘nothing’ when he believed that I was ‘something’ and that he hoped that I had enjoyed my time in The States because I will never be there again. He then went on to tell my manager, who was present the whole time, that he was investigating our company for links to terrorism and attempting to fund raise for terrorist groups. And at that point then they told me I had to make my way to – I was flying out of Newark so I had to make my way to Newark, I can’t remember what the airport’s called but headed to the airport out there anyway…
Martin: …Newark Airport, yeah.
Joe: …Aye. It’d have been Newark. So that was eight o’clock in the morning. My flight wasn’t until eight o’clock at night and I was put in a taxi and sent out to the airport so I got home anyway. And then within a week I was asked to come to my work’s headquarters in Manchester and when I got there I was basically told I was let go because of what happened to me in America.
Martin: Alright. So it’s the situation – we talked aboutcensorship by visa denial. We’d hoped that that was over with. You’re involved with a legal, lawful political party. You’re also working for a company that was based in Manchester, in the United States legally with a visa, with a work visa just doing market research and not raising money or anything of that nature and…
Joe: …nothing like that.
Martin: Okay. And this happens because of briefings from the British government.
Martin: Alright. Joe, we want to – you’ll still have access to the United States through Radio Free Éireann, we want to say we’re sorry about the way in which you left but we’re glad that you’re with us today. We’ll have you back. And tell us: If people want to read about Saoradh, find out more information – how would they go about doing it?
Joe: Okay. Well we’ve a website, www dot saoradh dot ie, we also have several Facebook pages and if you’d like to find out about Saoradh in Doire you can check out the Junior McDaid House page on Facebook.
John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to Dr. Ruán O’Donnell, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Limerick, via telephone about Irish-America’s contribution to the 1916 Rising. (begins time stamp ~ 31:24)
Martin: And with us on the line we have a premier Irish historian and University of Limerick lecturer, Dr. Ruán O’Donnell, who’s actually in the midst of an American tour. He had one last year on the 1916 Centenary and he’s doing a tour now on the influence of America, the Fenians, and Irish freedom beginning in 1867. Welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.
Ruán: Hi, Martin.
Martin: I have to ask you – we’re going to get into a number of things about the American contribution – about how important America was to 1916 and The Rising that would occur – but while we have you on I have to ask you one thing that we are constantly asked, that’s constantly put to us: Why is it that in Ireland, particularly with official government commemorations of 1916, it seems like there’s so much concern about not offending the British? People here do not understand why there are walls where the names of those killed in 1916 would be put along side British troopers who were killed – as if those who fought against Irish freedom should be remembered and cherished equally with those who fought for Irish freedom and were executed. We had commemorations last year, there was an official government commemoration, I did not attend it, but somebody from Belfast called me and said they did not mention England, they did not mention Britain, much less mention anything to do with the part of Ireland that was still under British rule. Why is it there seems to be such a reluctance to really be proud of or celebrate 1916 and the fight for Irish freedom? Why is there such a reluctance about doing that and how it may offend British sensitivities?
Ruán: Well, that’s a very good question and it would take a very involved answer to answer fully but I suppose, to cut to the chase, there’s been a very significant effort made by the Irish Establishment, in other words the government and the civil service and the state controlled media, to basically nationalise Ireland, to be unpatriotic, by American standards, to discourage any assertion of Irish national self-determination due to the conflict in The North of Ireland. When Dublin was not in the position, or seemed to be incapable of resolving the matter, they tried to ‘contain the problem’, inverted commas, in The North itself. So we have considerable state censorship and manipulation of the national curriculum in schools and discouragement of Republican lines of analysis at third level effectively to keep us, as they would say, in a progressive, forward-looking programme and not dwelling on the past and not dwelling on the unfinished business of 1916 which, of course, is when we declared our Republic. Now to this very day, only twenty-six counties are part of the Republic of Ireland and six remain under British sovereignty so they’re causing huge trouble now with the Brexit controversy. So coming forward to the commemorations: There was a mistaken belief, and this is factually untrue, that the fiftieth anniversary of The Rising in 1966, obviously which did have a major state role, including military parades and all of that, led to a heightening of I suppose feelings that helped ignite The Troubles of 1968. That is a complete myth, completely different forces were at work, but this misconception has been widely portrayed.
One thing that’s considered absolutely untenable in modern Irish discourse, officialdom, is any criticism of the British at all in any capacity. So we’re not allowed to talk about imperialism, colonisation, expropriation, subjugation of our people in The North – none of that is considered politically correct. And it became quite clear in the advent of The Centennial that the government’s going to have a major programme of sanitising all these issues. Now I have to say: In fairness to what was originally planned, far more events took place at different levels of society than I even envisaged and overall the commemoration was very well and widely observed by people in all walks of life all over Ireland. I don’t think that had been planned in 2014-2015 but that was net result. Our events, the British Ambassador was present for many of the most important ones, including the state’s commemoration, which took place at religious Easter, quite deliberately, and not on the actual centennial, which some idiot referred to as the ‘calendar anniversary’ where in actuality the 24th of April 1916 to the 24th of April 2016 – that’s the centennial. Easter is used for commemorations but the official one is the 24th of April. A (inaudible) of this I might say before I give it back to you, there’s reluctance to declare the 24th of April Republic Day – it is something I was personally engaged in. I spoke on the matter and had the great honour to do so outside the GPO at The Centennial itself. They don’t want to do that (inaudible)
Martin: Okay. Ruán, are you still with us?
Ruán: I am.
John: Try to get to an area where you can get at least get three bars.
Martin: He’s all choked up and so are we from listening. Okay. Ruán, we want to talk about – you’re on a tour now and one of the things that we really were impressed by last year – you were on a tour, a centennial tour, and in that tour you mentioned something that is very seldom mentioned or not as mentioned as often as it should be about the impact, a leading role, a driving force played in America. Britain had this whole generation that they thought they’d gotten rid of. They thought at one time they solved the ‘Irish problem’ – you had the great hunger, you had the massive emigration to the United States, you had generations of people coming out to the United States – and the British figured they were done with them, these people were now, literally, beyond the pale, they were beyond The Atlantic and you’d never hear from them again. And that generation, many of them joined in the American Civil War, they used the leadership, the training they had gotten and became a driving force. They recognised that there would never be true peace and justice and economic sovereignty in Ireland without an end to British rule and they started to work in the 1860’s to make that a reality even when there were many people in Ireland who thought that that was an impossible dream. What’s your reaction to that statement that I made?
Ruán: You’re absolutely correct. Where the British miscalculated was the size and strength and prominence of the Irish community in the United States was a major, major asset for their countrymen.
And from, as you said, the 1850’s into the 1860’s it was legal and possible and feasible to coalesce here as a revolutionary movement. And that from, I suppose potentially, from ’58 this formal kind of alliance between the Fenian Brotherhood, aka Clann na Gael, and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Dublin.
And in that intervening years, the generation between the Civil War veterans who were very active in many capacities in this country and abroad, you have people like John Devoy in New York, Joe McGarrity in Philadelphia, later Luke Dillon in Philadelphia, J.T. Keating in Chicago and many others who basically realised that they were in a position to force the pace of events in Ireland.
And the catalyst for this was 1907, when Tom Clarke, a naturalised US citizen and ex-Fenian prisoner, was sent back to Dublin by Devoy to represent the American dynamic and that led to the bringing together of a more assertive and militant and coherent IRB leadership who launched 1916. And this is why, amongst other reasons, Clarke had the honour of being the first signatory of 1916 The Proclamation, which declared Irish independence from Britain.
Martin: Okay. I want to ask you about a few other individuals: We heard just a few minutes ago, there’s going to be a commemoration and it is going to be at the grave in the Bronx, in Woodlawn, actually a stone’s throw from where you’re speaking on April 19th, of Colonel Thomas Kelly. Who was Colonel Thomas Kelly and why is he so important to the issue, the whole driving force for Irish freedom?
Ruán: Well Kelly was a very significant figure and it’s actually remarkable how little known he is today. He deserves much more prominence.
But for a thumbnail sketch: Irish born. A Fenian. Rose to the rank of colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Went back to Ireland in 1867 to participate in the Fenian Uprising which did, unfortunately, misfire in March of 1867 and effectively assumed control of the organisation when much of the domestic leadership had been arrested or forced to go on the run. He himself, when visiting Fenian Circles in Manchester, was arrested along with Captain Deasy, another Irish-American veteran of the Civil War, and they were then dramatically rescued from a prison van in Manchester. This resulted in two things: One was the escape back to America of Kelly, where he remained prominent in such matters, and the other is the execution of Allen, Larkin and O’Brien, the people who gave us the famous phrase ‘God Save Ireland’ – the motto of the Fenians and the subject of a very famous rebel song that was one of Ireland’s unofficial national anthems and certainly not ‘God Save the King’. So Kelly was a key figure. He survived into old age and he represented the continued, direct involvement of the Irish-American diaspora in the revolutionary aspirations of the Irish people themselves.
Martin: Okay. And one of the things that was remarkable – I was reading about the Manchester Martyrs, who you’re going to be talking about, was the presence of so many Corcaigh-born Civil War veterans. Timothy Deasy, who was rescued along with Kelly, was a captain in the American Civil War. Edward O’Meagher Condon, who was the organiser of the rescue, was another Corcaigh-born American Civil War veteran and one of the three people who you’ve just mentioned: O’Brien, who was executed – one of the three Manchester Martyrs, was another Corcaigh-born American Civil War veteran. It’s amasing the impact of people who had come to the United States, involved in the American Civil War and were so prepared, after that struggle, to try to work for the freedom, to get the freedom for Ireland that they had seen and enjoyed in the United States.
Ruán: Well you have to remember, Martin, and it’s something you know very well, we’re talking here about deeply ideological people that a set-back or even (inaudible) to the end that they would never receive until final victory. ‘Not for Nothing’ was the Fenian motto ‘Beir Bua’, which basically means ‘we will win’ and in more recent times it was re-articulated by Bobby Sands as ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ – ‘our day will come’. It’s certainty of final victory because there can be no regression, or let up or abandonment of the principle until it (inaudible) so it’s perfectly consistent for men like Kelly to have more than one campaign in them if that is the only way forward. And they lived it. They risked their lives for it. And they were prepared to fight and die. It’s not something that’s often articulated because it’s a little bit seditious but nonetheless it’s the truth of the matter. And we can see this as a factual record.
Martin: Okay. I want to ask you about a name you mentioned, somebody that I think has been neglected by history to a great degree – somebody that I think of the same way, he’s like the Michael Flannery of this generation in America, he was for many years had the same sort of impact in terms of leading to the Irish Rebellion and that’s John Devoy. How important was John Devoy in terms of there being a 1916 Rising?
Ruán: John Devoy was absolutely crucial. He was the single most powerful figure in the Clann na Gael organisation in the US and he was one of the three-person Revolutionary Directorate, the ‘Triangle’ as such.
Now the Clann had a public presence across the United States and would frequently hold their, every second year, it would hold their convention in Atlantic City, which was convenient for many of the east coast resident persons but people from as far away as Portland Oregon would come in person to attend. But the Revolutionary Directorate itself was the inner circle that was plotting the revolution in Ireland. Now Devoy, after a number of scuffles with others, emerged as the clear, prominent figure by the early 1900’s. He was able the bear the full weight of the national platform of the IRB’s secret revolutionary leadership in Ireland which whom they were basically a natural – they were tied, and had been, for decades. This is why as soon as Clarke is sent back by Devoy Clarke immediately became the treasurer of the Supreme Council of the IRB. And in that capacity he received from Devoy in excess, certainly, of one hundred thousand dollars for clandestine purposes in addition to other funds raised publicly and disbursed in a public manner. So it’s hard to envisage the successful creation of the Irish Volunteers by the IRB without the direct involvement of Devoy. Moreover, in the early first months of 1914 several key people were sent by Clarke back to the US to represent the new leadership of the Irish Volunteers, aka Óglaigh na hÉireann aka the Irish Republican Army, and this represented the fruition of decades, and in fact many decades, of assiduous work by men like Devoy of whom he, himself, was the single most important.
John: Ruán, I wanted to talk about the easy access of everyone going back and forth – I just finished a book there about the wives of the revolutionaries or the signatories and it was amasing with Connolly and everyone else the ease of which they were just getting on boats and going back and forth all the time – that they weren’t stopped in the United States. England? They were going in through Liverpool or coming in through Corcaigh or Queenstown and into Dublin – how was this allowed because we know the British had informers all over the place within the Clann na Gael and with the Irish Republican Brotherhood but it was the ease that everyone was traveling, even bringing back the body of O’Donovan-Rossa from New York for the funeral in Dublin. Why was all this allowed because, years on, you just couldn’t see this happening – that some government would have blocked it.
Ruán: Well, you’re quite right and O’Donovan-Rossa is an interesting case in point. If it was possible to have direct shipping links with Ireland, normally Cobh – in other words the greater Corcaigh area – that was relatively straightforward even though there was, of course, a major police intelligence representation in all those ports. However in 1914-1915, the British government was attempting to divert the trans-Atlantic liners from Cobh to Southampton and other English ports. That was a major cause célèbrein Irish-America and was seen almost as a act of war against the Irish people here who required the capacity to cross in both directions with frequency and ease. Now, we have to remember something important: The British did not know the relative importance of the individuals we’re discussing. They would have known, of course, that Clarke must have been important as an ex-prisoner – they were watching his premises night and day and following him everywhere – but they weren’t watching Pearse very closely and Pearse was the Director of Military Organisation of the IRB. They didn’t know he was. The upper leadership was not penetrated to any significant extent that we can see and if it was they didn’t utilise operation intelligence. They didn’t make a difference. They didn’t interfere in any way that mattered. Now in the case of couriers, many of the liners had men on that whose job was was to transfer coded messages in both directions. And as far as I’m aware none of them were ever unmasked or intercepted. Certain persons, like Seán Mac Diarmada, would, on occasions, travel under an assumed identity. In some cases they would, and I don’t specifically mean him, but one of the methods was to assume a role working on the ship or impersonate another individual. Checks and balances were taken. And as you say, a large quantity of American war material, including revolvers and shotguns, was illegally smuggled into Ireland in small packages and various ruses were used to do this. I’m not aware of any (inaudible) port but the appearance of American weaponry in Dublin did excite the interest of the Special Branch, the political police. However despite all of this, money flow was the most important thing and besides the diaspora and those who were supporters were such that they effectively bank-rolled the Irish Republican Movement and that made it that much more easy for the people of the fighting side, if you’d like, to concentrate on the task at hand and not have to worry about you know, robberies and forgery and things like that.
John: How was the money going back and forth – or heading in one direction – how did that happen? Was it through banks or individuals bringing the money over in cash?
Ruán: Individuals would carry, believe it or not, quantities of gold and cash and cheques. I wouldn’t be an expert on this aspect of it – I don’t know how some of those cheques were negotiated but remember – this was legal money. This was money raised here openly. The Irish Volunteers had a fund you could deposit money in at Manhattan. Most major American cities would have had legal funds for the – it was called ‘the Equipment Fund’ of the Irish Volunteers and that was money especially meant for weaponry. And had matters gone differently, in other words if the First World War had not broken out, my expectation is that large quantities of modern weaponry would have been purchased here and imported into Ireland which at various times was actually not illegal. The UVF for instance, the Ulster Volunteer Force who were created by the British government to basically stymie the aspirations of eighty percent of the population, they were able to equip themselves quite readily by buying and importing German weaponry. Then an arms embargo was placed to stop the Irish Volunteers emanating it but that did not work. An American-backed shipment – monies raised in London but backed by Devoy was of course the famous importation into Howth and then Kilcoole in 1914 – fifteen hundred rifles were purchased but much larger sums would have been shipped had the war not broken out.
Martin: Okay. Just – you mentioned John Devoy – just recently there was a monument put up in Kildare and just like the money for The Rising, the money for that monument was put up – Mike Flood, the Kildare Association here, was the driving force behind that monument and again, it seems to be another example about how America has to be a driving force in terms of being proud of its Irish patriots and the Irish government – an individual who did this so much, who was in American for decades, who never gave up on getting an Irish Republic until a rising had occurred in great measure because of money and efforts that he had contributed and it had to be Americans, the Kildare Association in the United States, particularly in New York, which was the driving force financially before that individual, John Devoy, being memorialised in his own home town of Kildare.
Ruán: Yes, you’re quite right and earlier the very, very fine statue of James Connolly – that was primarily an Irish-American project – I know Joe Jamison of the AFL-CIO (The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) and many other figures were tremendously involved in getting that to happen. And sometimes the moral support and financial support of the American diaspora has been the critical factor. For instance, it’s a bit difficult to get planning information for such memorial in Ireland – and again, it’s that sort of ‘don’t mention the war’ situation and even ‘don’t mention the last war’ situation so I’ve been involved fund raising memorials myself. I’ve published a number of items where the proceeds went to the National Graves Association and I got in trouble for it! I mean I’ve been criticised on the front page of the Irish Times for financing an IRA memorial in Wexford. Well it is an IRA memorial but it is a memorial to the 1950’s campaigners. So on the one hand you sing (inaudible) and The Patriot Game but once you start putting things into stone the reactionary elements get very het up. It’s easier in a way if the stimulus is for (phone line evaporates)
Martin: Um, Ruán, are you still with us?
John: Well, we’re going to have to wrap it up anyway. There’s only two or three few minutes left. (ends time stamp ~ 52:18)
John McDonagh speaks to Eileen Markey, author of the book, A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sr. Maura, the definitive biography of Maura Clarke, M.M. – may Sister rest in peace. (begins time stamp ~ 12:59)
John: Now I’m going to speak of a woman who came from Rockaway, Queens and anybody who’s born and raised in Queens knows what Rockaway means to you. I know they call it ‘Acapulco’, the ‘Irish Riviera’ but if you grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s and you were in Woodside you were waiting for that bus at 61st and Roosevelt to take you down Woodhaven Boulevard to Cross Bay to go to that bungalow – this was it – this was Miami Beach to us. And your parents would always throw you out to go up to Rockaway at 116th Street and ‘get a bit of colour’ which means get burnt but don’t get so burnt that you’ll have to go to the hospital because when we came back to the neighbourhood you had to show you ‘had a bit of colour’. Well, this story revolves around the Irish community out in the Rockaway area and the book that Eileen Markey has out is called: A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sr. Maura (Clarke). And Eileen, are you there with us?
Eileen: I am.
John: Yeah, maybe you could give just a bit of background about Sr. Maura Clarke and her family and her father – just to give about the type of upbringing she had before she joined the Maryknoll nuns.
Eileen: Yes. Maura Clarke was an Irish-American woman born in the Bronx but raised in Rockaway, in the Rockaway Park neighbourhood, in the ’30’s and ’40’s.
She’s known to us now because she’s one of four North American women who were killed in 1980 in El Salvador by the US-backed military government of El Salvador – so she’s one of those Maryknoll nuns. But I wrote this book to tell what her life was before she was killed and that life as a child was very much that – the Irish Riviera in Rockaway. She was one of the few year-rounders, right. So many people spent their summers out there – like you taking the bus out or many other people relocating from other boroughs to these bungalows for the summer – but Maura’s family was one of the year-rounders. So she grew up in that – you know close and communal Rockaway world, Irish-immigrant world and went to Stella Maris Academy and then like lots of girls in her day joined the convent.
John: And then her father was an immigrant from Co. Sligo. Maybe you could tell about the effect – we’re playing here about what went on in 1916 – but what carried on then was the Revolutionary War that lasted until 1921.
Eileen: Yeah, exactly. Her father emigrated from Sligo in 1914 but then, like so many people, went back to join the revolution. So he wasn’t there for ’16 but he went back in ’20 and fought for the end of the revolution and then became an anti-treaty IRA man during the Civil War and then made his way back to the US in the mid-20’s but remained a – you know he had made vows to the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) in his late teens, before 1916, and so when he came back to the US after the war he kept up those ties and especially told those stories. So he had you know, he had all these revolutionary guerrilla stories that Maura grew up hearing about and you know, old Sligo partisans were always coming to whatever house the family happened to live in in Rockaway and Sundays filled with these old rebels coming to tell stories and sing songs and she very much grew up hearing all of those heroic stories and these poems and songs and that really shaped how she understood things years later when she found herself in Central America.
John: And she joined the Maryknoll nuns. Maybe you could give a brief history of the Maryknoll nuns and why she was attracted to that.
Eileen: Yeah, The Maryknolls are really interesting. So there’s always been orders of nuns and there’s always been missionary orders but the Maryknolls were an American order; they were founded in the first decade of the twentieth century as a women’s missionary order so they’re all American girls who served overseas – first in China, then The Philippines and then eventually in Latin America. And these were ballsy, adventurous, exciting girls. There was a lot of press about the Maryknoll sisters in the 1950’s and I found this great article I think in Time magazine that described the kind of girls the Mother Superior looked for which were: Not shy, not shrinking violets but well-rounded, healthy girls who had dates and were outward looking. So I spent a lot of time early in my research for this book speaking to Maryknoll sisters now in their eighties and I said: So why did you want to become a nun, Sister? or Why did you want to become a Maryknoll? And they said: They wanted to serve God, they were deeply religious but also for a blue-collar, first generation girl in the 1940’s and ’50’s – there wasn’t much for those girls. They weren’t going to college from those neighbourhoods. They weren’t going to be able to join the foreign service so becoming a Maryknoll sister meant joining up for this organisation that served the wide world – you were going to have an adventure. You were going to learn a new language, you were going to work in the jungle, you were going to ride on mules up through the mountains and go down rivers on rafts and meet people very different than you and be very much part of the wide, expansive world – not the hemmed in world of what was available to girls, in particularly to working class girls, in those eras. So Maura was attracted to that. She’d grown up I think – you know my kids read National Geographic – but for her it was reading the magazine of the Columban Fathers and Maryknoll magazine and that looked like an adventurous life and so she was attracted to that. She wanted to do something big with her life and that led her into Maryknoll as a place where you could be part of the big, wide world and meet people very different than yourself.
John: Well you talk about part of the big, wide world – I mean now we’re having conversation here in this country about how Russia has influence on our election but nobody has a bigger influence on elections, particularly in Central America – I was down in Nicaragua in the early ’90’s for the election down there and speaking to the people there – we had an embargo in Nicaragua, we were training the Contras with US tax dollars and telling the people of Nicaragua: If you don’t elect the person we want we are going to continue the war down there – El Salvador was the same thing – so even though she’s getting spiritually involved with the Maryknoll nuns it gets very political when you end up in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador and you see what our country is doing to these countries.
Eileen: Yeah, exactly and so Maura’s story is this. It’s all a Cold War story. The book begins – I begin the book at the end of World War II and what that felt like in Rockaway with the war ending. But of course the end of World War II was the beginning of the Cold War and Maura being killed in the Salvadoran Civil War – the Salvadoran Civil War was its own thing, its own revolution, but it was certainly a proxy war in the Cold War, right? From the time of President Monroe the US believed that it had the right to control the hemisphere – to control what happened in any of these countries – and we did. We invaded Nicaragua multiple times in the beginning of the twentieth century, we supported and propped up a dictator there throughout, you know until 1979 when he was overthrown (that’s Somoza) and similarly in El Salvador we were very invested in making sure that the government in El Salvador kept markets open for US goods and for US business interests. And because Maura’s work was working with poor people she came into conflict with that. You know, she set out as this very kind of naive and sweet missionary to the mountains of Nicaragua to work with very poor people, to run a school in an isolated gold mining community but she’s there as Vatican II begins to happen and the nuns are asked to look critically at their work to figure out: Well, what’s the work you do and how does that bring about the Kingdom of God?
And so their work in the middle of the ’60’s shifted from running a school for poor kids in this gold mining town to really doing adult-based education but that meant reading the Bible and saying: Well, what does Jesus want? What’s the kind of world that Jesus wants us to build? And if you look at those things sincerely, or at least when she looked them sincerely, it led her into opposition to this dictatorship in Nicaragua and so she transforms from – you know, everybody in power loves the nuns when they’re just educating people and teaching them about sin and helping them stay as part of the social structure that exists – but in the mid-’60’s the nuns and so many other people and all these lay people starting saying: Well wait. Maybe this system is corrupt. Maybe I’m not poor because I’m lazy. Maybe I’m poor because the whole thing is arranged against me and maybe I need to be doing something to shift the structure of this society that makes me poor. And that’s really what the middle years of her life were about – was working to change the structural conditions.
John: And Eileen, you write about the effect now of her father’s influence on her with the letters now she’s sending back from Nicaragua and El Salvador. Explain what were the letters to her father like?
Eileen: Yeah, so in like 1970 she goes away from this gold mining town and into like this squatters’ encampment outside of Managua to continue doing this adult faith formation which is really political, right? You’re getting poor people together to talk about what their lives mean and what God wants for their lives and that quickly becomes opposition to the Somoza regime. And then as the ’70’s wear on the resistance to Somoza is rising and the Sandinistas are gathering steam as a guerrilla revolutionary force and a lot of the kids she’s been working with – you know teaching those as altar boys and that she teaches in a youth group and a Confirmation class, they’re coming to the convent door saying: Bless me, Sister. I’m leaving. I’m going to join the Sandinistas in the mountains. Give me your blessing before I head off. And Maura writes home to her dad during these years saying: You know, it’s heart-wrenching to see these young people leaving. They’re taking up arms and that’s a complicated thing. And she’s afraid that they’re going to die but she also says: Dad, it reminds me of what you went through. So she’d been raised on the stories of the Irish revolution and the IRA and she recognises these young people in Nicaragua in the mid-’70’s as her dad in another guise.
John: And Eileen, I just now want to get up to: What exactly happened to her? How did she end up in El Salvador and the effect of her death on US policy in Central America?
Eileen: So she ends up – you know she works in Nicaragua for about two decades and then the Maryknoll sisters have this rule that you have to come back every so often and do service to the headquarters. So she spends the late ’70’s in the US doing consciousness-raising workshops with middle class Catholics. It’s not the old-fashioned ‘Hey, give money to the missions’ – it’s Catholic social teaching – you know – what does the world require, sort of – so she’s doing that in the late ’70’s as the revolution’s about to occur in Nicaragua. And during this time – 1980, the beginning of 1980, Archbishop Romero, who’s the archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador, he’s assassinated but before he was assassinated he asked for more Maryknoll Sisters to come to El Salvador to do this same work – organising and spiritual care work with the people in El Salvador. There’d been some nuns there for a long time but he wanted more.
And so Maura, as a veteran Latin American missionary, she’s asked: Well, do you think – you could go back to Nicaragua when you’re done this US work or you could go to El Salvador – we need more people down there with your kind of experience. So after a lot of thinking and praying and discerning she decides she’s going to go to El Salvador. So she spends just a couple of months in the Fall of 1980 in El Salvador doing really amasing work and (you know I’m switching from Nicaragua to El Salvador here) there’d been a people’s movement for land rights, for human rights, for economic reform that was met with a really vicious, directed campaign of state terror on the part of the Salvadoran government of which we were arming and advising. And she and the other women she’s killed with, along with seventy-five thousand Salvadorans, are killed by this government. So on December 2nd 1980 she and these three other women are stopped at a checkpoint set up just for them – the military was looking for them – and they’re killed and their bodies dumped by the side of the road – and you know, nine thousand other people were killed that way, nine thousand other civilians were killed that way in El Salvador that year, in the first year of that civil war, seventy-five thousand over the course of the war – but for people in the US it was like: Wait! What? They killed nuns? They killed North American nuns? And I think for a lot of people in the US it was this shocking – you know these wars are going on in Central America but most Americans don’t really know anything about them or don’t really know which end is up. But when a US ally kills four American women and three of them are nuns I think it made a lot of people in the US sit up and say: Wait! What’s going on? And which side are we on? Are we on the side that’s killing nuns? So it had this tremendous impact in the US throughout the ’80’s of really keeping US policy in Central America on the front pages. And you know, it involved many people in the US in resisting those wars and in arguing against Reagan, against continued support for the Salvadoran regime.
John: (station identification) And we’re speaking with Eileen Markey. She has a book out called: A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sr. Maura(Clarke) and Eileen, thanks for coming on. And can people – are you doing any book readings around the New York area?
Eileen: Not any more right now but hopefully we’ll schedule more. In the Fall I’m going to be at Glucksman Ireland House. I’ll let you know when that happens. I’ve got a Facebook page, Eileen Markey/Author, where you can see where I’m going to be. I’ll be at Notre Dame in a couple of weeks.
John: You’ll be out in South Bend talking about the book. And what is the reaction you’re getting all these years later about her life?
Eileen: It’s great! People seem to like the book. It’s a beautiful story. I mean, it’s a sad story when you begin thinking about this killing but the book really is about who she was when she was alive and how she got there. We only know about them as these dead women and the book is really bringing her back to life and understanding all the disparate influences that led her to be who she was. And she’s a lovely person to spend – I enjoyed spending five years with her. She’s a lovely person to spend three hundred pages with so people seem to like it and it brings up really important issues about what religion and politics mean and how you work for justice in the real world so I think people are enjoying it.
John: And that’s Eileen Markey. Her book is: A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sr. Maura (Clarke). You can get it on amazon and all – what’s left of – any bookstores here in the United States. Eileen, thanks for coming on.
Eileen: Thanks a lot John. Have a great day.
John: And talking about the impact that the 1916 Uprising had on her – father from Sligo and the letters that she was sending up – and seeing the comparisons in Nicaragua and El Salvador. (ends time stamp ~ 29:10)