Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
Martin Galvin speaks to Anthony McIntyre, the historian, author and political commentator who maintains the blog, The Pensive Quill . Today’s topics include Patrick Radden Keefe’s new book, Say Nothing, and Operation Kenova. (begins time stamp ~ 44:43)
Martin: Yeah, Anthony, can you hear me?
Anthony: I can hear you, Martin, but I missed the last three times.
Martin: Ah, right, okay. Look, we just have about five minutes left. I covered Brexit. I covered Strokestown and the eviction. I covered, to a degree, Freddie Scappaticci. I want to start off: The book, Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe. Could you tell us what your reaction is to that book – whether you’d recommend it?
Anthony: I would highly recommend it. It’s a brilliantly written, brilliantly researched, atmospheric book that captures the essence of the early ’70’s. A very, very moving book. I found it an excellent read as have most people who have read it – it seems to be getting well read – highly recommend it.
Martin: I know that Ricky O’Rawe told me there was a sentence, ‘one day’, in 1972 – ‘one day was bleeding into the next’ – and he said it was just such a great sentence, a great characterisation of what happened. Now, there is some controversy. They do deal with the killing of Ms McConville and there is some mention that Marian Price, who has always denied that she was involved in any way, was involved. And that’s based on speculation, based on one of the Boston Tapes I believe and that Ed Moloney and some of the other people involved with the Boston Tapes had said the tape did not refer to Marian Price. With that caveat I heard that the book is very good and you highly recommend it. Is that correct, Anthony?
Anthony: Well, that’s very correct. The book is brilliant. I don’t think there’s any reference whatsoever to the Boston Tapes and Marian Price at all. I certainly didn’t get that impression from the book.
I think that the, I’m certain that the tape that’s been referred to, or the interview that’s been referred to, is the one between Ed Moloney and Dolours Price, which was not part of the actual Boston College project.
Martin: Alright. That’s my mistake. That was a different tape that was referred to but okay. Alright.
Anthony: But it’s a highly recommended book. And I mean, Patrick has made that suggestion, I think it’s regarded by most people as a theory, and I mean, in many ways, having read the book, Marian Price is not the person that leaps out at you from the book. The book, I think it was referred to today by Mick Clifford in the Irish Examiner, it’s really a story that brings to life Brendan Hughes, Dolours Price and Gerry Adams, in many ways, is central to it. I think the person who comes out of it in a most negative light is Mr. Adams. And that’s a lasting impression that one gets from the book.
Martin: …Why is that? Why is that, Anthony?
Anthony: Well, I reviewed the book and I said that if you – each page you open where his name is mentioned there’s sort of, you get the smell of decomposition.
Patrick Keefe is such a good writer that he conveys and stimulates the sensory – I mean, your senses are made to respond and twitch to the way he writes. I found it an excellent piece of writing and he has described Adams as someone who’s centrally involved in all the dark deeds, the dark side of the IRA, a man who has an instinct, a sociopathic instinct, for self-preservation. It’s just that sort of book whether you like Gerry Adams, you approve of Gerry Adams, or don’t – he is the character I think that would have the most to worry about in terms of this book.
Martin: Okay. Now speaking of people with things to worry about: I did mention very briefly Freddie Scappaticci, Operation Kenova – obviously someone within a particular squad that was supposed to be unmasking informers with the IRA was actually a top British agent, paid, involved in killings, involved in making tapes of killings – playing them for some of the families of victims – there is a police operation, Operation Kenova, it’s supposed to be looking into his activities, the activities of people who directed him as well as possibly people within the IRA. Who has most to fear, do you think, from that Operation? – if it’s allowed to go forward instead of ending like Stalker or some of the other investigations by the British which seem to go so far and then just be stopped and contained and controlled and halted.
Anthony: Well, I find nothing that I can disagree with in the comments by Barra McGrory when it became clear this investigation was going ahead. Now Barra McGrory was the British state’s prosecutor in The North and Barry McGrory said that the people who are most threatened by this investigation are the people who carried out the killings on behalf of the IRA Security Department and also on behalf of the British state. So I think that IRA Volunteers, IRA leaders, face the biggest threat from this inquiry. And with Gerry Kelly calling for prosecutions of anybody, on the basis of new evidence, has legitimised the British state investigation against IRA, former IRA, Volunteers that may result – or any prosecutions that may result, from the Operation Kenova because this is going to be presented as new evidence. I think it shows the, to a very weakness of Sinn Féin’s position on this. I think that, again, they will demonstrate that they have been unable to protect their own people and have effectively called for their prosecution. I also feel and fear that John Downey, the Donegal man, who lives in Donegal but is wanted in a very vindictive sense by the British police for IRA activity in The North back in 1972, he will be shafted by Sinn Féin in all of this as well – although that’s not related to the Freddie Scappaticci Operation Kenova investigation.
Martin: Alright. Now we are still waiting to see if there’ll be any prosecutions for Bloody Sunday – they keep being delayed. Do you think there will be any prosecutions of British forces who were involved in paying, operating agents who were then directed, permitted, paid for killings, you know, within Freddie Scappaticci or others who did that? Do you think that’s (inaudible).
Anthony: In my view: No. I think the very reason that Freddie Scappaticci has been charged and convicted in relation to possession of extreme pornography is to so discredit him that when he comes to give evidence against people the British do not want evidence given against that his evidence will be discredited and his character will be discredited – either that or the British are hoping to prompt him into suicide – but I don’t think that they want this ever to go to the point where their people are prosecuted. I do not foresee any circumstances in which a member of the British state forces will be convicted of murder in relation to anything that went on in the past. And this is why I think that the strategy of pushing for prosecutions is very limited in terms of what it can actually achieve. In effect, it undermines the process of truth recovery because the evidence required brings it to a very, very high level – ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is the standard term in the courts – and I mean how much evidence beyond reasonable doubt are you going to get in relation to the past – forty-fifty years ago – I just can’t see it.
Martin: Alright, Anthony, I’m sorry, we had some difficulty reaching you. I know you were on the phone – we could hear your voice – you couldn’t hear me. I apologise for that. This is my last show. I want to thank you for closing it out as I do everybody. I know this show has had a lot of impact – some of the interviews I’ve done with people in Ireland – I hope that you’d agree with that. They’re going to change the format of the show, make it more cultural, bring in more plays – work it as a literary show as well, you know, devote more time to that so they’re changing the format. I wish that Radio Free Éireann and WBAI all the luck in the world and I hope just your interviews as well as other interviews has added a lot to the dialogue in Ireland and the political debate there.
Anthony: Well, your show covered a wide range of opinion and it wasn’t just opinion that was anti-Sinn Féin or opinion that dissented from the Sinn Féin position. You did many good interviews yourself and John did many good interviews. I’m surprised and saddened that this is your last show. Your show became a valuable resource and I mean this was obviously complemented by the existence of the blog that would transcribe by a very capable transcriber who would often transcribe the interviews – they took a massive reading in Ireland and Radio Free Éireann was a very, very – a very influential show. It will go down in record as having established a very important paper trail or public record of thinking at a particular juncture and well done to you for that.
Martin: Alright, Anthony. Thank you. (ends at time stamp ~ 54:54)