Cáit Trainor RFÉ 23 September 2017

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Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

Martin Galvin speaks to Irish Republican activist and campaigner, Cáit Trainor, via telephone from Armagh about a recent commemoration for Thomas Ashe and about the Duleek Hungerstrike Monument. (begins time stamp ~ 39:54)

Martin:  And with us on the line we have Cáit Trainor.  Cáit, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Cáit:   Thanks very much, Martin.

Martin:  Okay. Today you’re in Duleek, Co. Meath, and you’re talking about Thomas Ashe, a great Irish patriot who died almost a hundred years ago today after a hunger strike, after being force-fed and it was one of the key moments – his life was one of the key inspirations which helped turn Irish public opinion around to the point where, in 1916, it may have been unpopular in many areas to the country to the point where, by the following year, 1918, people would overwhelmingly vote a mandate to endorse what they stood for. Could you tell us a little about Thomas Ashe and why he’s being commemorated today?


Cáit Trainor

Absolutely. Well yes, you’re right, Thomas Ashe’s death was a seminal moment in Irish history. It did certainly did change Irish opinion along with the fifteen executions that happened after the 1916 Rising. So Thomas Ashe was a great Irish patriot. He was a teacher, he was president of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood), he was a great man in the GAA and the language Irish language and culture. He was immersed in Irish culture growing up and took part in the 1916 Rising.

Battle of Ashbourne Plaque

He was arrested as part of that 1916 Rising, being a Commander in the Fingal Battalion, and they took part in the Battle of Ashbourne and it was a great military victory for them at the time – one of the military victories of 1916. However, along with the rest of the leaders Thomas Ashe was arrested. He was sentenced to death. But because fifteen people had been executed there was a public outcry and Thomas Ashe, luckily enough, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Thomas Ashe in Kilmainham, 1917

Now the following year – public opinion had swayed that much – that the British forces actually had a general amnesty and the rest of the Republican prisoners were released. Thomas Ashe got straight back on the bandwagon and the business of Irish independence and he made a number of public addresses and he was actually arrested then for seditious speaking. When he was arrested they treated him as a criminal, this was in June 1917. So like prisoners since Thomas Ashe, and I’m sure your listeners will be very aware of this, Republican prisoners are political prisoners of war and they refuse to be criminalised. And Thomas Ashe refused to wear a convict’s uniform, a prisoner’s uniform, and he, along with six comrades, embarked on a hunger strike. As part of that hunger strike the authorities at that time had a policy of force-feeding people on hunger strike and two days into his hunger strike they, after cruelly force-feeding him – and actually they did the force-feeding while they had Thomas Ashe in a strait jacket – they pierced his lung which was a fatal injury to Thomas Ashe and, unfortunately on day three of his hunger strike, he unfortunately died. So the importance of Thomas Ashe, is that firstly, he is the first Republican hunger striker and in Irish history, we’ve had twenty-two of them in total to date. And he was a great Irish patriot and an all round great – just a fantastic man who Irish people still very much hold Thomas Ashe’s memory dear to our hearts.

Martin: And his funeral was also a tremendous turnout, something that showed just changing feelings in Ireland in support of a free, independent republic and what Thomas Ashe stood for and died for…

Cáit: ..Yeah.

Martin:   It’s important – you were referring – Dolours Price, Marian Price, for example, Gerry Kelly and Hugh Feeney were on hunger strike in the ’70’s and they were force-fed – brutally treated that way.  The hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and the others in 1981 were over the same issue of political status – refusing to be treated as a criminal. You’re in a place, Duleek Hungerstrike Memorial Garden, it’s run by Thomas Lynch. I see very frequently, there are very many commemorations – it’s an independent Republican commemoration. How is that organised – that independent Republican commemoration – and some of the events that they have?

Cáit:  So the Duleek Hungerstrike Monument Committee are a local group of people here in Duleek that I’d say maybe ten, maybe a bit longer ago, decided that they wanted to create a hunger strike garden memorial to all of the hunger strikers. And along with a prominent Republican such as Thomas Lynch here in Duleek and with the support of the local people they gathered up the money and they’ve created – and you really have to see this garden to believe it.

Duleek Hungerstrike Monument

It’s absolutely beautiful! It’s so well-maintained.  The love that goes into cultivating and creating this garden is unbelievable. The passion these people have in Duleek for the hunger strikers is second to none. And as part of that – they’re just a local independent committee, I mean there’s no big organisation backing these people – they are, they constantly are looking at commemorations, commemorating Irish patriots, the hunger strikers – they have a very successful independent Easter commemoration here every year also, but it would be well known the length and breadth of Ireland, they’re a very highly respected group of people and certainly all independents and also organisations would throw their weight in behind the Duleek people who are keeping the flag flying for Irish Republicanism and they will not allow the memories of Irish patriots, and in particular the hunger strikers, to die. And they do a fantastic job of it. I mean, even outside of Duleek they’ve organised convoys for current Irish political prisoners, such as Tony Taylor, the Craigavon Two, where they would actually have convoy of cars coming from Duleek to Dublin and then maybe having an address at the GPO. They’re a very forward-thinking and innovative bunch of people who are constantly trying to move the national agenda forward. So the garden, I have to say, is fantastic and for anybody who would like to look that up they are on Facebook, Duleek Hungerstrike Committee, and even if you want to google them you will see this beautiful garden that they’ve created.

Martin:  Alright. One of the things being done today – Paul McGlinchey, who was on this programme just a few weeks back, has a new book out, Truth Will Out, about being a blanketman, about during the time of the hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981. What was done to break prisoners and to force them to wear a criminal costume and allow themselves and their struggle to be criminalised. I know that that book is going to be promoted in conjunction with the event today. Is that correct?

Cáit:  That’s correct. We’re actually going to the book launch here now just when I’ve gone off this interview. I was speaking to Paul just before I came on here and he said you know, he told me that he was on a number of weeks ago, the book is going to be sold and launched and I think Paul is going to say a few words about it.

Truth Will Out
To order email: [email protected]

Yes absolutely, Paul McGlinchey, ex-blanketman, very much in the tradition of Thomas Ashe, so that’s quite fitting that he’s going to launch that book here today. I haven’t actually got a chance to read the book myself, I’m going to purchase it after this, and I’ll be able to report back if it’s a good read after that but, by all accounts, it’s a very informative book and it’s very important for Paul to do this – Paul was diagnosed with cancer last year and he just felt now was the right time to actually, as the book says, the truth will out – he wants to put the truth on the record of his experiences in jail.

Martin:  Okay. Now you were the main speaker at the commemoration, we’ve just got a couple of minutes left, but was there a central theme or message that you wanted to express to the people who were at that commemoration today for Thomas Ashe?

Cáit:   Absolutely. The central theme of my speech was that we need to keep going in the face of adversity.

Cáit’s speech from her blog.

We are facing very dark times in Ireland at the moment. We have a supergrass trial, we have an increase in IRA membership charges. Indeed today the Special Branch of An Garda Síochána, you know, completely immersed our commemoration – they were taking local peoples’ names, they were intimidating the crowd – and my message to the people really was that in the face of all this adversity and in the memory of Thomas Ashe and the rest of the Irish patriots we need to keep going because these men and women gave their lives and we need to pursue their ultimate goal which is Irish independence. They, just to hit on it again, the Gards really were acting very – their behaviour was terrible today in trying to intimidate local people – but, true to form, the Irish Republican people here in Duleek stood up and faced them down and we had a fantastic commemoration which had a great turnout and all credit must go to the Duleek Hungerstrike Committee for organising it.

Martin:  You know, it’s sad to think that a hundred years ago during Thomas Ashe’s funeral there would have been members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) writing down names and trying to intimidate people by their presence. And it’s sad to think that a hundred years later, after we have an independent Irish parliament in Dublin, for the Twenty-Six Counties at least, after we have, supposedly, an Irish force that is independent of the British that they would be concerned and trying to intimidate people simply for commemorating an Irish patriot like Thomas Ashe, like all the others of 1916. And I just want to commend everybody – the Duleek Hungerstrike Committee. I’ve seen a number of their events. I always read people who’ve spoken at them – Anthony McIntyre puts some speeches up on The Pensive Quill – I just want to commend you and everybody at that commemoration today for paying a fitting tribute to Thomas Ashe and for everything that he stood for, which Irish patriots have stood for. Alright. Thank you very much.

Cáit:  Thank you. Thanks again. Slán. (ends time stamp ~50:18)

June Murphy Cork’s 96FM 15 September 2017

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Opinion Line
Cork’s 96FM

Deirdre O’Shaughnessy speaks to former Sinn Féin now Independent Cork County Councillor from the Cork East constituency, June Murphy. Ms Murphy left the party two years ago due to bullying and is speaking publicly for the first time on the subject in this interview.


Deirdre:  Limerick County Councillor Lisa Marie Sheehy recently left Sinn Féin citing bullying and a culture of bullying throughout the party. But she’s only the most recent departure from the party. Previous to this there have been a number of high-profile departures in Cork City and county, predominately in the county, but none of those who left have spoken out about their reasons. Today, I’m speaking to Councillor June Murphy and it’s her first time going on the record about leaving Sinn Féin and why she left. June, you were first elected for Sinn Féin in 2014.

June:  That’s right.

Deirdre:  Tell me a bit about how you joined the party and how your election came about initially.


June Murphy

I suppose I was in the party a number of years ago. I would have run for Sinn Féin in 2002 in the general election and I had left the party for some time and I moved out of the area. And when I came back I was spotted and members of the Fermoy Cumann contacted me through Facebook asking to meet me. So I met them. And I left that night and I thought to myself: No way. Right? So I got a phone call then from a person in Sinn Féin and he had actually told them not to come near me that he wanted to meet me himself. So he asked would I’d meet him. I said I would and I met him in the Firgrove in Mitchelstown and we went over things. He was telling me about the state of the area – that it had been inactive for years, that it needed to build the structure, build the party in the area – that what was there were doing nothing. So my understanding was my role was to be brought back in and to start building, building on the party in the area. So that’s what I did. He said it had completely changed. It was more professional. You know, it all seemed very new and changed and I felt excited about it, you know? And you know just wanted to see how it had changed and so on. So we did and from that moment on the next year was an absolute nightmare. So you know and Sinn Féin were on a bit of a crest as well at that stage but the amount of hassle that I had during those short few weeks was, I thought I was – I couldn’t believe it, like. You know, there was constant changing of canvassing dates. I would a get a text from Fermoy telling me that, you know, we’re going canvassing, such and such,then I’d get a phone call from that organiser and he would change the times but not tell his own cumann…

Deirdre:  …Okay…

June:  …so then they blamed me.

Deirdre:  So was it deliberate do you think? Or was it just disorganised?

June:  Oh, absolutely! Absolutely.

Deirdre:  It was deliberate.

June:  I believe it was, like.

Deirdre:   From Day One.

June:   Yeah, but I didn’t realise it at that stage, you know. Because to be honest with you I didn’t realise I was actually walking into the middle of a civil war and that’s the only way to describe what was going on in East Cork.

Deirdre:  And I suppose Cork East isn’t the only part of the party now where these problems have arisen.

The Irish News
5 September 2017

We’ve seen them now in Limerick with Lisa Marie Sheehy, we’ve seen it in West Cork a little bit and there have been other councilors around the country who there’ve been problems with and there’ve been resignations I think. Would you say it goes further up? Is there rot there beyond, say, these two individuals who made life difficult?

June:  Oh, absolutely. There isn’t – I mean, they know what’s going on. I mean Sandra was emailing them – Sandra had plenty of private meetings with TDs, other TDs – Mary Lou, Gerry Adams, Declan Kearney – I mean it went right to the top like. Not one phone call did I ever receive of any of them. Not one. And it just amases me for a party that talks about transparency, justice, democracy – all those words – none of it exists in the party. None of it.

Deirdre:   I suppose there’s a level of these things where there’s bickering between candidates, all that sort of stuff – that happens in Fianna Fáil, it happens in Fine Gael. I’m sure it happens in all the parties but what is the difference in Sinn Féin do you think?

June:  It’s really, really aggressive. And no one’s stopping them. They promoted my bully. It’s a culture of men. It gives you the illusion that they support women. They tell the women what to do. And…

Deirdre:  …And would you say that goes to the top?

June:   Oh, yeah. I was told one day, they were like – Do you think (now what was it?) Do you think, I’m trying to remember what it was now – it was about – when Mary Lou and when Mary Lou goes to the gates that she does exactly what we’re doing – she does what she’s told and that’s it. I mean for the, the – when you look at how prominent some of the TDs are up there and I like some of the TDs up there, I mean really strong characters – they’ve no voice. They have parliamentary meetings going on up there and no one speaks up at them.

Deirdre:  So who’s in charge?

June:  It certainly isn’t who’s sitting in Leinster House.

Deirdre:   Okay. Do you think Gerry Adams, when he goes, will still be pulling strings?

June:  Absolutely, yeah. Yeah. And I think as well that, you know – it’s even funny they, like I hear Vincent Browne, I actually like Vincent Browne and I admire him a lot but it’s funny when I’ve seen shows where he has said: But sure Sinn Féin have a very democratic way of electing their party leader. They do in their arse. Do you know what I mean? You’re told who to vote for. You’re told who to vote for all the time. And he’s always the only name. What’s democratic about that? You know I was elected onto the Cúige as Equality Officer, right? We never had a meeting. And they were shocked when they found out I was on it – my organisers. They’re were going mad – how did she get on that? – you know?

Matt Treacy writes.
To read article click here.

And then you’ve councillors carrying out investigations on others. Like there’s nothing independent or transparent about it. But all the complaints in the country go straight up to the same structures. And they still try and say it’s a localised issue and it’s rampant in the country. I know of several other councillors in the country, because we obviously have met through different conferences that, you know, were organised by the party – we do talk and like they have said about their experiences and every one of them had the same kind of systematic abuse – because it’s all I can describe it as – as abuse, you know?

Deirdre:  Is it like they try and make you believe it’s not happening?

June:  Oh, you think you’ve gone mad.

Sinn Féin Cllr Séamus Morris
8 September 2017

Like, you actually do question your sanity because you think you’ve gone mad. It’s the manipulation. It’s they keep you stringing along. If they think they’ve gone too far there’s like promises made or there’s –  you’re treated with extra care or you know you’re just strung along all the time, like. The effects of what I went through with that, like it’s hard for me to admit like, but I had complete burnout after it, like you know, extreme anxiety. You know, you’re walking on eggshells all the time. You’re never told you’ve done a good job. You don’t get support. You’re completely isolated or you’re made to feel that way. You’re afraid to open your mouth in case you say the wrong thing and you’re always waiting to be attacked, you know? So, yeah.

Deirdre:   Okay. In terms of the future for you – they asked you when you left the party to resign your seat and you didn’t. Are you going to run again?

June:   I don’t know. That’s the honest truth. Like I have options that I have to weight up and see. See what way it goes.

Deirdre:  Do you think for the other councillors who left, say Lisa-Marie Sheehy, who’ve I mentioned, she’s only twenty-three, I suppose Sinn Féin has publicised a lot – it’s the youth of its candidates, the fact that it’s had a lot of women, people who are new to politics who maybe wouldn’t be in politics otherwise – do you think that is maybe part of the reason for people leaving? Are they naive? Or is Sinn Féin picking people because maybe they’re not familiar with systems?

June:   Well you see like part of the reason, I believe, they pick them so young is ’cause they’re perfect for grooming. And they’re enthusiastic, they’re ambitious, they’re educated. Like, I have seen comments under some Sinn Féin articles where people say, you know, they’re idealistic. What’s wrong with that? You know, what’s wrong with being idealistic and being passionate? They’re very intelligent people, you know? They’re quite capable. You know and they are the future like, so why not? But yeah, it’s just, it’s, I just – I feel sorry, I really do. I worry about people in that party. I couldn’t – I’d an opportunity to run the general election if I wanted. I was told I’d be given the full support of the party and I couldn’t. I couldn’t sit up there and sit down and know, and know, that this is what was really going on, you know?

Re: Former Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan
The Journal.ie
18 February 2016

And to work for the people who did that to Sandra still in the party to do it to me? And there was a suspension in the party, and this is very funny: There was a suspension in the party and it was appealed. And there was only – think of it this way – over seventy people interviewed and I know what was on some of those papers and two lines were all that was put to this person. And one was to do with, from what I hear, post – cumainn not delivering posters, leaflets, which is pathetic. And the other one was to do with the ballots in Fermoy, which I actually never complained about. It was a joke. I think that they knew what they were doing all along. They just strung us along. And they played a game. That’s all. They’re masters at it.

Deirdre:  What would you say to people who have voted Sinn Féin in the past maybe, as you say, and that surge that happened in 2014 and would be thinking about voting for them again?

June:  They need to question them, you know?

The Journal.ie
22 April 2017

They need to question them. They need to find out what is going on with them like. You know like they just need to be more vocal and – you know, what’s going on? What are you doing? Why is this behaviour continuing? You know, if this is going on in your own party how can you govern a country, you know? They can’t even manage what’s going on in their own party. You know, if they’re willing to treat their own members like that I’d be worried about what way they would treat their – the people on the ground. I have had prominent Republicans say to me if they ever got into power they’d leave the country – they’d rob them blind. You know? Like, their own long-term members know exactly what they’re like. Power and money mad, that’s all. I know people are going to go out there and they’re going to say: Well, politics is dirty, surely she should have known that, surely. Yeah, I know that. But this was at a different level completely. Unnecessary, undealt with by people who are in positions of power who shouldn’t be there. They’re not trained for it. I remember Gerry Adams saying, when the review started, that he would publicly come out. We’re still waiting for that. I’m still waiting to find out the contents or what happened in the review. We were brought, called up, into a room in Barracks Street. Put in the same room with some of the bullies. We were told we weren’t allowed to ask any questions and we were told that some members were expelled, some were suspended. That is the limit of what we were told.

Deirdre:  Was there ever any time where you were in fear?

June:   There would be occasions alright, you’d think. Like I was told on the phone when they asked for my seat back, they said, the person had said to me: I know you’re not going to give it back, June, but I have to ask anyway. They sent me to ask. And I like, I did get angry I says they can ‘f’ off like. And they said: Look, if you leave Sinn Féin alone – we’ll leave you alone and you can’t open your mouth, he said, because they’ll go after you. They’ll sue you. And then you know, I kind of think: Well I own nothing so let them sue away. I got angry texts, alright, from other members, like members there that, you know, would have served a lot of time in jail – that make you nervous and I got one of them – but they were angry. And I got one telling me never to go inside Charleville again if I knew what was good for me – by a cumann member down there. I was talking to somebody who said: You know, they’re gong to send me to you to look for the seat back. What are you going to do? You know? I said well, you better make sure I don’t get up, you know? Because I’ll come at you like, I’m not – I’m a strong person but that broke me. That absolutely broke me. It took a long time to be able to speak in council. I avoid radio. I was shaking like a leaf knowing I was coming in here today. I avoid newspapers if I can. And yeah, it’s been tough. Very, very tough.

Deirdre:  Okay. Councillor June Murphy, thank you very much for coming in. (ends)