John McDonagh (JM) speaks to Martin Galvin (MG) via telephone about his appearance on the BBC Spotlight NI programme, ‘Spy in the IRA’. (begins time stamp ~ 28:31)
JM: And now we’re going to play a clip from a show that was on the BBC Ulster on Tuesday night, BBC Spotlight, and it was about the spies within the IRA. Now in this clip you’re going to have intelligence, British intelligence agents, talking about how they were running eight hundred informers between the Loyalists and Republicans throughout the whole system and one unique view is that when they planted someone in there at a low level they would metastasise like a cancer throughout the movement. And you just show that – it was really the British intelligence that did win the thirty year war – that they brought the IRA in, they surrendered their weapons and that Sinn Féin gave up politically and just said: You know what? We’ll just administer British rule from here on in. And this will give you a little insight on how that was done. And when we come out of that we’ll speak with Martin Galvin, the other co-host of Radio Free Éireann, who was on the show and he’ll talk about Denis Donaldson.
Audio: Portion of the BBC Spotlight NI programme ‘Spy in the IRA’ is played. The programme can be viewed here.
JM: Ugh! It’s not pretty listening when you hear them when they talk about that cancer – that cancer was in New York City – Denis Donaldson. And it’s amasing – the reaction to this documentary – the Loyalists have come out and encouraged Gerry Adams to sue the BBC, they said: You don’t want his reputation being tarnished. And Lord O’Dowd of the Irish Voice – to me he’s no different than a Donald Trump supporter – Donald Trump can do anything and say anything and he’d support him – Lord O’Dowd is the same way. Gerry Adams can do and say anything and he will support him even as – Gerry Adams: I was never in the IRA – I was never involved in the last thirty years of any of the killings that went on and there is Lord O’Dowd saying: That’s right! We have to believe our Gerry. Well one of the people on the line right now is Martin Galvin and Martin was in the documentary and he dealt with Denis Doanaldson as I did when Denis was out here in New York as the cancer was spreading throughout the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. Martin?
MG: Yes, John, and yes, Kate.
JM: Yes. Yeah and we’re describing about – she even mentioned how the FBI were running agents and one of the agents they were running was Denis Donaldson being that they put him in a position within the Republican Movement in New York and that’s where the problems started.
MG: Well John, one of the things that you have to look at: America was crucial. It was crucial enough and we were effective enough and doing a good enough job in the United States through Irish Northern Aid and other organisations that they felt that an agent of the importance of Denis Donaldson should be sent here to work here, open the books, try to undermine people who were responsible for that progress, responsible for all that good work. I mean just think about it: When he came out, the year before Brendan Hughes had come to the United States, had done a tremendously successful financial tour for the Republican Movement. We were at the point, we were only a couple of years away, thanks to John Deerie and others, with candidates for presidential forums. We were going to propose the question about a visa for Sinn Féin, for Gerry Adams, that was set. We were there at the point where that would have to part of an Irish presidential agenda and it would be asked – I would be the person picked to ask it of Bill Clinton in 1992, just a couple of years after Denis.
We had Elizabeth O’Hara, the sister of one of the hunger strikers, that actually walked in – she was involved with Irish Northern Aid in Brooklyn at that time and had contacts with Mickey Rourke and others – they wanted to do a hunger strike film and have the Republican Movement – have us very much involved in setting the actors, setting the script, in every which way – that would have been a tremendous benefit. The organisation was growing and what happened was we were at a great point and then all of a sudden Denis Donaldson came out. And I just want to correct one thing that you said, John: Denis was sent out – somebody – Brian McDonald had been in the office, had done a great job – Denis then came out for a year and he – I right away knew that he was a problem. We talked about problems, he seemed to be undermining people who would be responsible for the progress what was being made, he seemed to be responsible, that cancer that you talked about, for undermining the organisation. But at the beginning I didn’t think it was an agent but there were a couple of things, one of which you hit upon. Denis finished his year, went back to Ireland, Hugh Feeney came out to the United States, he was doing a great job, he was repairing some of the damage that Denis had done and all of a sudden the FBI could come up to the office and arrest him and Denis Donaldson could come out. Now Denis, like Hugh Feeney, had been an ex-prisoner – the British should have known about it, the FBI would know about it – why was he allowed to come back out? That was one of the things that I complained about that said he should be investigated.
There was an incident, you mentioned about the Bronx – one night FBI agents, people who, friends of ours spotted as people (who) must be FBI agents – came up, spoke to Denis, shook his hand and Denis brought them drinks and brought them around to people that I knew, including somebody who was the sister of somebody I was going out with at that time, introduced them and they were asking about me. I couldn’t believe it. The next day I had numerous phone calls about this – called Ireland to complain and say: Look. It’s more than just he’s just not good at his job. He’s more than he’s undermining. But he’s got to be a British agent. It was a situation where he introduced somebody who was thrown out of Ireland, was persona non grata, to respect to Republicans here to try to undermine them.
Just the way he was able to talk, use his – most people at the office who were from Ireland were ex-prisoners, would not use their correct names, would not speak openly – Denis was able to speak openly. So gradually I got to the point where I began by saying that he was undermining us, that he was not suited to the United States to the point where I kept complaining that this person is an agent, he should be investigated. I expected to go back and speak to people in Ireland about what I had learned because I knew that he was important in Ireland and Hugh Feeney again, was replaced – Denis is sent back out here – nobody that I know of ever did anything to investigate that and this was about ten years before he would confess to being a paid British agent for a full twenty years on that statement that you played for us.
JM: Yeah. And also when I was in the office Denis would always receive phone calls from Gerry Adams all the time and he would be updating Gerry Adams on everything that was going on in New York. And finally in the documentary, which you can see on my Facebook or Twitter account at Cabtivist, c-a-b-t-i-v-i-s-t, if you go to my Facebook now or my Twitter account the full documentary’s up there – I recommend click on it. But Martin, because you were in that the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, commented on you being in it. And you have to say the Irish News gave you space to respond to what he said about you.
MG: John, I was somewhat shocked at that. He attacked me and said that: Oh, someone from America who’s anti-peace or whatever, I don’t know – that’s the answer to everything. If you have a criticism of Sinn Féin policies the answer is not: Well, here’s why we’re doing this – here’s why this can lead to a united Ireland – it’s just: Well, you must be anti-peace or anti-something or other.
I made no reference to Gerry Adams. I, like you, was over in Ireland in May, I was speaking at the commemoration for George McBrearty. I was asked to do the programme. I just repeated things that I had said years before. Suzanne Breen, others, had interviewed me about Denis, that I knew he was a spy, that I complained that he was an agent, that I complained to somebody very, very senior within the Republican Movement who would have been right next to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. So I was surprised he referred to me directly as ‘someone from America’. Martin McGuinness, when I was banned from The North in 1984, Martin McGuinness was pictured with me on three separate occasions (inaudible) that day – thought it was important to be next to me.
Once in Doire in 1984 just a couple of weeks before the rally which would be attacked where John Downes would be killed – that you were present, I was present because I was called to a platform by Gerry Adams. Another time the following year at a funeral in Doire Martin McGuinness stood next to me carrying a coffin of an IRA Volunteer. And finally on the anniversary of British troops being re-introduced, it had been suggested to me several times that I defy the ban openly at Free Doire Corner, that I’d be arrested. I was very hesitant, reluctant obviously to do it – finally did it and Martin McGuinness was the person standing (next to) me just as I was led away – you see that at the beginning of the documentary, to be cuffed, to be shipped back on a plane to England and then from there returned to the United States.
But what bothered me is here is – you’re answering something about somebody criticises, as I do, whether Sinn Féin’s policies are leading to a united Ireland – I don’t believe that they are – and he’s criticising me and why is it that he can reach out to British royalty, he can reach out to Arlene Foster, an uncompromising Unionist, he can reach out to former enemies, members of the British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary, but when someone like me, who was very much a part, as you were, of the support that they got from America – criticises those policies, just as people in Ireland like Danny McBrearty and others, the families of, many of the families who disagree with them they just simply say: Oh, they must be anti-peace. They want to attack us. They can’t speak on the merits if they had an answer. We would welcome it if they had a good answer that their strategy is leading to a united Ireland. Instead it seems it just – in the show one of Martin McGuinness’ people be close to him, Denis Bradley, was talking about agents of influence and how they manipulated the Republican struggle. It seems as if Sinn Féin is being manipulated by the British and that’s why they can’t answer those questions.
JM: Alright, Martin, I’m going to go to the next clip and that’s where I disagree with you – I don’t think Sinn Féin’s being manipulated – they love administering British rule. (ends time stamp ~ 44:18)