Des Dalton RFÉ 23 June 2018

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Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to Des Dalton, the president of Republican Sinn Féin, via telephone from Belfast, about Provisional Sinn Féin leaders meeting Charles Windsor on points of his tour in various cities on the island of Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 16:05)

Martin:   Alright and with us on the line we have Des Dalton, the president of Republican Sinn Féin. Des, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Des:   Hi, John! Good to talk to you.

Martin:  Well, this is Martin but John’s going to ask the first question.

Des:   Oh, Hi!, Martin. Sorry, sorry.

John:   Yeah Des, I was just telling our audience that the most dangerous place in Ireland this week was to be in-between a Sinn Féin member and Prince Charles as he does his victory tour around Ireland looking at his past conquests between Belfast, Corcaigh and Kerry. And you put out a particularly poignant statement on behalf of Republican Sinn Féin this week – that to see the Union Jack flying over Corcaigh City Hall to welcome Prince Charles – it was an amasing scene. And to see all of these Sinn Féin members just racing! And the look in their faces! You would swear they were looking at Elvis Presley or something and they were tripping over each other to meet this welfare family that comes over from England. But explain why it was so horrific to see the Union Jack flying over City Hall in Co. Corcaigh.


Des Dalton
President, Republican Sinn Féin

Well, Hello, John. I’m actually speaking to you, and it’s funny enough, I’m sitting here from outside Belfast and talking to (inaudible) but yes! Absolutely horrific on every level, historically I’m sure all your listeners will be familiar with the fact that two Lord Mayors of Corcaigh, Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney, died at the hands of the British state because of their refusal to accept British rule in Ireland. Corcaigh City itself was burned in November 1920 by the infamous auxillary, the Black and Tans, who actually famously wore burnt corks in their braids to celebrate the fact. Look, on so many levels, the flying of that flag there was completely inappropriate. And the point that I made during the week in that statement was that: What other self-respecting nation would even tolerate something like that? Like for instance, an example: France for instance. You know, could anyone imagine any city or town in France allowing symbols of the German occupation and oppression of the 1940’s to be displayed on a public building? You know it speaks volumes about our political past in the Twenty-Six Counties that people were willing to countenance that and I think it’s shameful of Corcaigh City Council that they allowed permission for that to go ahead. You know, I think the point that was made talking to John there earlier – and we’re talking about this whole ‘normalisation’ of British rule in Ireland and this attempt to pretend that relations between Britain and Ireland are now normal – which, of course, it’s complete nonsense!

You know, and an example would be Algeria. And Algeria fought a very bitter war of independence against France in the 1950’s which ultimately ended in an independent Algeria you know, with no residue, no partition, no continued French occupation of any part of Algerian soil and yet thirty years later despite, as I said, despite their having a full and viable settlement of the conflict between their two countries, Algeria, when it was proposed there’d be a state visit in 2003 by the French president, at that time the Algerians said: No. It’s too soon. We’re not yet ready to give this official recognition to the French state here in Algeria. Now, that’s in a situation where, as I said, with no residue. Here we are in Ireland where there continues to be occupation, there’s still political prisoners, there’s still the partition of part of our country and these people think this is acceptable and normal. Of course it’s not!

John:   Yeah well Des, also just a couple of weeks ago, there was a by-election up in Co. Tyrone and Sinn Féin won that and the person who won that went over to London and she wanted to meet with the Irish community. So Sinn Féin, being they have offices in Westminster, petitioned to get one of the rooms there and Westminster gave them the Thatcher Room in order to meet the Irish community in Westminster. So now, Sinn Féin’s accepted British rule in Ireland, the police force, the British Army and now the royal family. Do you foresee – it won’t be long before they’re taking their seats in Westminster because what, really, is holding them back?

Des:   Absolutely nothing holding them back, John, exactly! And you know, nobody should be shocked or surprised in any way at the fact that people like Mary Lou McDonald or Michelle O’Neill or Martin Ferris or Gerry Kelly met with a member of the British royal family during the week – no shock whatsoever here. As you said yourself there, these are people that already have offices in Westminster. They’ve already administered British rule in Ireland; they’ve acted as minister to the British Crown. They’ve signed up to that package and then they’ve accepted the legitimacy of partition in Ireland. So whether or not they go into Westminster – that’s purely a question of timing and it has to be questioned – it’s certainly nothing to do with principles because they signed up to all of that. You know, these people are no longer Republicans and I think, you know, that’s why I’m saying that there should be no shock or surprise. They ceased to be Republicans thirty years ago, you know, they’re probably (inaudible) not even really Irish Nationalists let alone Republican. So look, the day-to-day case in Westminster will be the day that they decide that that’s the right thing to do but I mean, look – as you said yourself – they’re holding meetings over there, they go and hold a meeting in the Thatcher Room of all places, and they as I say, they draw salaries from there which to me, as a member of Republican Sinn Féin – I mean Sinn Féin is a very honourable name, it’s a name with deep roots in Irish history and the very essence, the very reason, that Sinn Féin was founded was the (inaudible) pointed out, to pull the political centre of gravity from London to Ireland and you know, what they’re doing is actually a complete inverse of all of that and of course it is because, as we said, in 1986 when they signed up they accepted the two partitioned states in Ireland – that’s what they accepted and that’s what they’ve signed up to and as I said, they’ve gone even further than even those in the past who have administered partition – they’ve gone on to administer British rule and not only administer it but enforce it so look – yeah – nothing new there, really.

John:  Yeah, there’s that old saying that Sinn Féin will accept the half crown but not the Crown but it looks like they’re accepting the half crown and the Crown. Martin, do you have any…

Des:   …Absolutely!

Martin:   Yes Des, I’m reading now the basis or the advantage or the tactical advantage of these gestures is supposed to be that it’s a step towards reconciliation – that there’ll reconciliation with Unionists and this is going to be a step towards a united Ireland and it’s going to help us in that cause. I’m reading the Newsletter, which is a paper associated with many people in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and others and the article says: Sinn Féin’s meeting with Charles dubbed hollow and meaningless – and there’s a list of quotes from people like Doug Beattie, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), saying it’s ‘gesture politics’ and meaningless until the party condemns the IRA’s campaign, there’s others who were who were there who are listed – they’re all condemning Sinn Féin – saying it means nothing, it’s hypocrisy – ridiculed – it’s good to see them reaching out and meeting with a lot more than gestures. What is this supposed to accomplish? Why is this viewed to be beneficial for the cause of a united Ireland? If it’s not reconciliation, if it’s not working in terms of reconciliation with Unionists? If they’re not impressed by it, if they think it’s something something that they can ridicule – why do it?

Des:   Yes, that’s it exactly, Martin, and this isn’t about reconciliation. I mean, Irish Republicans have a long history of sitting down and talking with Unionists,

Source: Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta
Click here

I mean like going back to the 1970’s people like the late Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and the late Dáithí Ó Conaill and other prominent Republican leaders met with representatives of Unionism on an open and frank basis on the idea of Éire Nua, of a new Ireland, and so on and that’s basis on which to engage with Unionism and those, we’ll say, of that particular section of the Irish people. What the Provisionals are engaging in now is nothing to do with that. The Provisionals are engaging in the building of a constitutional political organisation. They’re ingratiating themselves with the Establishment, both North and South. Their sole purpose at this point in time, in particular in The South, is to enter a coalition. They’ve made it very clear, they’ll basically sit down with anybody, be it Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael in fact, we’re looking at the spectacle – we’re approaching, fast approaching, the centenary of the Treaty of Surrender and the Civil War, the counter-revolution that followed that – and we could very easily have a Fine Gael/Provo coalition when we’re celebrating and marking the centenary of things like the massacre of Republicans at Ballyseedy at the hands of the Free State – at the very political ancestors of Fine Gael – that’s really the grotesque situation that we’re faced with there. But look – what the Provisionals are engaging in at the moment, and I think the comments of people like Doug Beattie and so on are interesting, what they show is that the appeasement that they’re engaging in, and that’s what I would describe it as, it’s insatiable. I mean ultimately, anything that’s even faintly or vaguely Republican – even the very merest and most polite interest or aspiration towards a united Ireland – is condemned by these people. You know, it’s seen as something completely unacceptable. So like I mean what the Provisionals are engaging in it’s dishonesty. It’s not about strengthening the cause of a united and free Ireland it’s, actually what it’s doing – it’s erecting further barriers, further blocks on that road. And as I said earlier, they long departed that road, they long departed from that idea of a free and independent Ireland and what they’re trying to do now is consolidate until they’re in a strong political position, both North and South, implement the structures of the status quo that’s already there – they’re certainly not a revolutionary political organisation and they’ve long abandoned those goals.

John:   And was there any reports when they were meeting with this welfare recipient from London, Prince Charles and his wife, did they ever bring up about maybe, the release of political prisoners such as Tony Taylor, did they bring up about you know, we don’t want a ‘hard Brexit’ here with you pulling out of the European Union? I mean it just seems that they can’t get off their knees and even if they have to meet (and they don’t have to meet) with Prince Charles but to confront him on some of the things that are going on today – we don’t even have to go back to the 1920’s and the Black and Tans and you can just look how the United Kingdom will be destroying that part of Ireland, the border, with now a hard border that’ll be going up when they pull out of the European Union.

Des:   Exactly! Exactly! And of course, John, the short answer to that is: No, of course they didn’t raise any of those issues – of course they didn’t confront him because the last thing they want to do is to bite the hand that feeds them, you know? 

Internment Clock as of 28 June 2018
Source: Free Tony Taylor

Ultimately these are their political paymasters and they’re not going to do that, of course they’re not, and they’re not going to rock the boat because they pay lip service to all these things when it suits them and yes, they have the neck and the gall to meet with people like the relatives of the Ballymurphy Massacre, the relatives of Bloody Sunday or to talk about the implications of Brexit and so on for Ireland, but, you know? Strip away the rhetoric and what lies beneath it is again more of the same. They’re playing political games with all of this. And I think the important thing is that people don’t be fooled by this. Ultimately, these people will take office with whoever they’re (inaudible) in The South. They’re willing to sit down with people like Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil and they have no principle – there is no red lines here for these people and when it comes to confronting people like Charles Windsor you know – certainly not! They’re not going to do that because they want to be part of that system. They want to be on the inside looking out – not on the outside looking in. And in terms of advocating or championing anything approaching even the aspirations of a united Ireland it’s certainly far off their agenda.

John:   Yeah Martin, any final questions? Because I know we have to go to music and then bring up our next guest.

Martin:   Well, is this going to have an effect in terms of building up their vote in the Twenty-Six Counties and do you think that would help deliver a united Ireland? – because that seems to be the claim that they’re making.

Des:  In terms of the electoral impacts or otherwise it’s hard to kind of quantify because I think there’s all kinds of other issues that are at play there. I think what they’re attempting to do with themselves is to portray themselves as somehow ‘anti-establishment’. I mean that’s becoming less and less credible particularly as their actions here in the Six Counties where they have implemented cuts and so on I think that’s a sad befall if they do as it’s very likely enter a coalition. So from that point of view: Yeah, I think it’s debatable whatever will happen there in terms of their electoral support. In terms of the second part of the question – in terms of will this advancing a united Ireland – of course it won’t. Because that’s not what these people are about. You know when you question them in terms on how they’ve advanced towards a free and independent Ireland they’ll quote you the number of councillors that they have and the number of public representatives they have and as I’ve said, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh pointed out to them in the past – you know, all that tells you is: Yes, they built a political organisation, they built a political machine but it’s an empty one because it’s one without an ideology, it’s one without principle and it’s certainly one that’s not interested in advancing the goal of a free and independent Ireland. As I said, all these people are doing is erecting further blocks towards that.

Martin:   Alright. Thank you very much for that – Des Dalton, the president of Republican Sinn Féin. (ends time stamp ~30:16)

Anthony McIntyre Address at Duleek Hungerstrike Monument Anniversary 16 June 2018

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Former IRA Volunteer and blanketman now historian, author and political commentator, Anthony McIntyre, addresses the gathering which marked the 10th anniversary of the official unveiling of the Duleek Hungerstrike Monument on Saturday 16 June 2018. The memorial is dedicated to all Republican hunger strikers of the past century and was constructed by and is maintained by Duleek Independent Republicans.

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Anthony McIntyre
Photo: BBC

Good Evening. I’ve been at this monument a couple of times now. It’s always been an emotional experience to think of the life lost that lies behind it. The life lost in the course of working towards setting it up and securing its construction and bringing it to the absolutely beautiful state which it is in today: A proud and fitting tribute to those brave IRA, INLA Volunteers who died over the past century on hunger strikes in British and Irish prisons. I don’t intend to speak too long tonight – I think you might find the next speaker more interesting – but I do feel and I’m deeply honoured to be here and I’d like to thank the Monument Committee for the sterling work that it has done and often does it in very difficult circumstances. The gathering here is fine, everybody sees everybody else, we’re suiting the day and the time that’s in it but throughout the year there’s a lot of cold sucked back by those people who trudge the streets, go to meetings, give up their free time to make these events possible and they expend the energy which goes into the construction of these most endearing monuments.

Duleek Hungerstrike Monument

When I came over here tonight I was brought over by a woman who, Shirley Matthews, a close friend of mine, who stood on the bridge in Drogheda for the hunger strikers during that traumatic time. When I got here I met a former blanketman, the brother of Patsy O’Hara who died on hunger strike in May 1981 in the H-Blocks – one of the ten Volunteers who died. When I think back to the blanket protest I never see it as a life lost but as a life lived differently. I met a lot of good people and I’m so ashamed to say that I still go out on the booze with them every year – they come down once a year from Belfast, some of them who I was on the blanket with, and we discuss old times, ‘talk shop’ – a lot of it nonsense but we’re very close. There were great bonds formed during that time which were not formed with other prisoners who were not on the blanket protest. The blanket protest was a very violent time. There was beatings on a daily basis. We didn’t get beat, individually, every day but somebody got beat every day. There’s was always a problem. There was deep conflict. There was deep hatred. Prison staff were being shot dead on the outside by the IRA and INLA because of the brutality that they were meting out and in the Blocks they were coming back at us very, very hard.

Every day for years, we remained naked, locked up, twenty four seven, three-six-five – it just went on. And we learned all manner of ways of overcoming the tedium and I suppose that was the greatest soul destroying thing: the tedium. The inability to, it wasn’t the violence as such – it was the tedium, the boredom. And that gave many of us a great intellectual thirst to understand more about the struggle and the opposition and the people we were up against. And it’s almost – I would have loved to come here and say: Victory to the Blanketmen!

Easter 2018
Duleek Hungerstrike Monument

But when I look at what’s happening today and I look at people, former Republicans, lining up to be patted on the hand or head by Prince Charles and British royalty I just feel it’s not: Victory to the Blanketmen! but Victory to the Banquetmen! – the men and women who can go to banquets and sit and suck quails’ eggs and drink pink gin – and to me it seems absolutely shameful that Republicans are reduced to this.

There’s no sadder sight in the world than to watch a slave kneel down and kiss his chains or to kiss her chains. What I would say is the greatest crime against the Republican hunger strikers, the Republican prisoners who protested for political status: It’s not actually what Thatcher did to them because Thatcher couldn’t win over them – couldn’t secure a victory – even though it’s pretended that she did but we know from Richard O’Rawe and others that the Republican hunger strikers actually broke the back of Thatcher – the agreement that was reached was actually sabotaged by the leadership of the Provisional Movement.

But the point that I want to make is that what actually undermines and is a slap in the face of every hunger striker and every blanket protester is when you lose your politics. It’s that when you lost the ability to think politically. The 1981 hunger strikes and the previous hunger strikes were always political. And now when we no longer have political activists – but we have a crowd of sheep – who follow blindly and abandon positions daily. Those people – when you lose your politics and stop thinking politically and stop acting politically and stop acting like a political, intelligent human being and behave like a mindless sheep prepared to follow wherever you’re taken – even over the edge of the cliff – that to me has been the greatest insult to Republicanism. And when people leave here today with whatever views they leave I’d only make one appeal whatever path you take is to: Think politically and never, ever follow blindly. Thank you very much. (ends)