North West Today
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Niall Delaney (ND) has Dominic Óg McGlinchey (DM) with him in studio and speaks to him about his life and his family as the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of his mother, Mary, is 31 January 2017. May Mary rest in peace. (begins)
ND: Our next guest in studio is Dominic McGlinchey, Dominic Óg McGlinchey. And many of you out there will be familiar with the name Dominic McGlinchey – he was one of the most notorious Republicans during The Troubles. He was leader of the INLA, the Irish National Liberation Army, and dubbed in the media ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey. He once admitted involvement in thirty killings in Northern Ireland and famously said during an interview that he ‘liked to get in close’ when attacking his victims. And Dominic Óg witnessed the murder of his father before his very eyes in Drogheda back in 1994. He was age sixteen when his father was gunned down outside a telephone box. Not only that, he also witnessed the murder of his mother, Mary, at their home in Dundalk in 1987. And this week marks the thirtieth anniversary of that particular shooting. Now Dominic Óg was just nine years old and was being bathed by his mother when gunmen broke into their house and shot her dead. It was a time in Ireland’s history that most of us will never forget and for the younger generation perhaps a time which is completely unbelievable in every sense of the word when you consider the country of relative peace that we live in today. And Dominic, Good Morning to you! Welcome to the studio.
DM: Yeah, no worries, thanks very much.
ND: Tell us a bit about your earliest family memories. Your memories of growing up in what was a staunch Republican family.
DM: Well the first memories probably – I remember growing up – memories would be in Carlane which would be in Toomebridge which would be South Antrim and they would be of waking up in the caravan that was beside my grandfather’s house, my mother’s homestead. And it would have been the prison van would have been coming early on a Saturday morning to collect my mother and my brother and myself.
ND: What age would you have been back then?
DM: Oh! Young enough to be carried around to be honest. But I…
ND: And that’s your earliest memory? Of prison vans showing up at your house?
DM: Yeah, well it would have been the PDF, would have been the local Prisoners’ Dependence Fund, and they would have funded the van that would have carried wives and children to a lot of the prisons around the country. And I remember one morning waking up and sometimes there wouldn’t’ve be room in the bus for everybody so I was left behind and my Uncle John picking me up and carrying me in where my grandmother was making sodas on the griddle. And I remember her picking me up and sat me on the counter where she would have made the sodas and put butter on them and fed me them and then lifted me and sat me onto the bed beside one of my uncles so that’s as far, that’d probably be as young a memory I can ever, ever remember of childhood.
ND: And your parents – I mean what is your memory of your parents from an early age – that was the background, too, that they were…
DM: …The first memory of my mother would be in the caravan which we lived in at the side of the home house and the first actual memory I can have of my father would be in Portlaoise where we were looking in a closed visit – the closed visit would have been the cage where you’d look through the cage and you’d’ve seen him at the other side of it. And there would have been a prison guard would have sat at the end of the prison box.
ND: And what was that like for you as a young child?
DM: I didn’t know any different so it was a normal experience as regards me because I had no understanding of any other life – only that life. Yeah, so that would be – I didn’t contemplate that there was any other type of life going on outside there other than the one that I was living.
ND: I’ll get back to that in a moment. Later this week, the thirty-first of January, is the thirtieth anniversary of your mother’s murder.
DM: That’s correct, yeah.
ND: And you were living in Dundalk at the time.
DM: That’s correct.
ND: You were what? Nine years old?
DM: I was, yeah I think I was eight coming nine then. Yeah, it’s quite a considerable time ago now like but the memories are still there. We lived in that housing estate – really, really good community – good people. It’ll live in my memory for as long as I live and it probably has exposed me to the media in maybe other ways that other people that maybe haven’t been exposed to were. The fact that I’m sitting talking to yourself now is probably based on being Dominic and Mary McGlinchey’s son.
ND: Is it difficult to talk about that? I mean you were only nine years old. It was very personal for you – you were only a child. You were being bathed at the time by your Mum. Isn’t that right?
DM: Yeah well I just actually got out of the bath and my brother was in the bath and it was then that we’d heard the bang at the back of the house. We had actually thought that Declan had fallen in the bath and it was at that stage where my mother had asked me: ‘What was that?’ and I said I think that Declan had fell in the bath and then two men come running up the stairs and shot my mother. So yeah, but you know you do learn to live with it and move on and I am the person I am today and I think I’m a better person than maybe some people give me credit for.
ND: But to witness something as horrific as that as a nine year old boy.
DM: Yeah. Well emotionally you carry it around with you all your life. I think ultimately it resulted in the death of my brother last year where he took a massive heart attack. I don’t believe that – I think what he witnessed on that night, which obviously he witnessed a lot more than I witnessed, we never ever, ever fully ever had the full conversation about what happened. We carried our own individual pain in our own way.
ND: But you think it contributed to your brother’s death of a heart attack?
DM: There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that it contributed to the death of my brother.
ND: As you said, you didn’t know any different as the way you were brought up was what you were used to. But I mean if that wasn’t – I mean when were you – when did you become conscious of the fact that your parents were very well-known, not only nationally but internationally as well – always in the media, always being written about and talked about?
DM: Well probably when, maybe when we were in Shannon. We were living in Shannon. We were staying with a woman called Brigid Makowski and I think that was the first time that we ever experienced being wheeled out in front of the media as regards both our parents being on the run. The probably slight bit of isolation maybe from other children because we only found out later on in life that other children wouldn’t have been allowed to play with you for fear of a certain stigma that might have been put on them and things like that.
ND: But looking back now you understand that was the case, perhaps?
DM: Absolutely, yeah. Funnily enough, I was talking to a man in Shannon recently and he informed me that, I was at a christening, that when he was a young child he wasn’t allowed out to play whenever we were out playing so it was an interesting thing to see.
ND: Okay, well if that wasn’t bad enough back, what happened to you back in 1987, you were also present when your father, Dominic Sr., was shot dead in 1994.
DM: Yeah, I was indeed, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a strange time because I remember a few weeks before it all the talks was going on, the Hume-Adams talks, and we were going out of the house one morning and you could see the helicopters – they were flying down towards Dublin – it must have been a delegation or something going to Dublin and it was interesting times as well but ultimately my father lost his life that night and you know, the implications of that on me and my brother were massive. Luckily, the broad Republican family and our own family were there and supported us. There was always somebody there to help you if you needed help – to catch you.
ND: And just again, just people will be calculating on their own – you were only what? Sixteen-fifteen-sixteen?
DM: Sixteen years of age, yeah.
ND: But again, to be a sixteen year old boy to witness your own father being shot dead.
DM: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I mean it’s how you’re conditioned and programmed – about the not trusting of the the state, not trusting uniforms. The first thing I done was that I emptied my father’s pockets – made sure any pieces or scraps of paper were taken out of his pockets.
ND: You were conditioned to do that, as you say?
DM: Naturally. Straight in.
ND: That was just after he was shot?
DM: As soon as the paramedic said to me: ‘I’m sorry, son, you father’s gone’ I started taking pieces of paper out his pockets – very, very aware that there seemed to be a complete absence of Gardaí on the night. They spotted us earlier on that night. We waved at them. Then, all of a sudden, they seemed to be gone – a window of opportunity for whatever amount of time it was it took the people to come in and kill him and leave again. No traceability on weapons or cars or anything like that – everything gone – vanished. But in saying that, like I’ll be honest with you, I’ve left that behind me. I don’t carry that. I don’t carry that around. I’ve left that behind me a long, long time ago.
ND: And people will be curious to know this: You know, the media depiction of your Dad was ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey and a man who was on the run. To quote you, what you said about your Dad, Dominic: My father was the most genuine, caring individual you ever came across.
DM: Well I’ll give it to you more clearer than that again: I believe a true revolutionary travels with love in his heart, you know? My whole life growing up and traveling, especially within my own area – being South Doire, Southwest Antrim and North Antrim – the amount of houses that I would have visited and frequented during the course of being involved in the Republican Movement and where I’d be met by people of a similar age as my father and older, that would have kept him and looked after him and fed him and watered him tell me that my father would have been staying and using their houses as safe houses where he’d have been the first up bathing the children, changing nappies, doing all of those things. He absolutely and utterly adored children. He adored being around children.
ND: So when you read about, and it’s still brought up – in the Vincent Browne interview with your Dad and when he said that he ‘likes to get in close’ when he’s…
DM: …Well, I could give you – Tom Barry…
ND: …attacking people – killing people, essentially. That’s not the person you remember or you knew?
DM: No, I don’t remember him in that way but likewise, where if I go to Tom Barry, you know one of the greatest Irish Republican revolutionaries in Corcaigh, and when they talked about taking on the British Army they talked about ‘getting in close’ – giving no quarter. You know, men like my father, like Francis Hughes, like people like Ian Milne and people like that there from South Doire, Eugene O’Neill and men of that calibre you know, they took the war to the British Army. They took it on. They faced them on. They gave no quarter and expected no quarter. So, but outside of being a soldier, which they were, they were also humans, human beings – they were brothers and uncles and they also had a life to live. They came from an area that there was work aplenty. They weren’t living in places like Doire City or Belfast. They took a decision to play their part to fight for people’s, other people’s rights, never mind fighting for their own, and most of them paid the ultimate price. But it’s not all of them have died by being shot. Some of them also have lived their whole life suffering in silence as a result of things that they were involved in.
ND: Tell us a bit about yourself, Dominic, Dominic Óg, as you’re known – are you politically involved or have been or…?
DM: From all of my life up until the last number of years I’ve been politically active. The very virtue that I carry my father’s name – it can be a poisoned chalice at times. It’s a name that I’m also very, very proud to carry. I have, as I said, I’ve been involved most of my life politically. What I’m focusing on now is my family and…
ND: …Yeah, and you have a young family and yourself…
DM: …and it’s very, very important for me to set my children free. To allow them to maybe make their own choices. Allow them to go to college if that’s what they wish to do.
ND: And what do you make of what’s happening in The North at the moment? Well as we know there’s Assembly elections on the way. The Assembly collapsed a couple of week – what do you make of what’s happening at the moment? Are you happy with the way the process has gone since the Good Friday Agreement?
DM: Well as an Irish Republican there’s no way that you can say that you’re happy with the way the process has gone. What we’ve seen now is the best part of twenty years of a political strategy being flogged to death. The institutions are a failure. Stormont is a failure – number one because it props up a sectarian state. The people that have flogged this process to death, ie Sinn Féin, have tried to make the institutions workable, like the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) before them, like the Nationalist Party before that but the reality of the matter is that you can’t force somebody to treat you as an equal. That person has to willingfully want to treat you as an equal.
ND: Okay. So do you see no hope when the elections are held? Do you see no hope that you know that Northern Ireland is going to be a better place for everybody, for every citizen? Do you think the structures, as it is at present – that they’re not working?
DM: The structures, as it is, are impossible to work…
ND: ..So what’s the answer, do you think? What’s the alternative?
DM: Well the answer is, to me, I see it is that is that the citizens need to be actively involved in the participation of what type of society it is that they want to live in and to do that you need to go, and you need to go and talk to them. You need to engage with them. You need to ask them what type of governance it is that they want. Twenty years ago the Unionists were saying that the IRA held a gun to their head but that’s no longer the case. People might well want to involve themselves in some sort of a civic forum. We need to get away from the trenches of the Orange and the Green. We need to look about, as I said, what sort of society it is that we want to live in. About truly cherishing all of the children of the island equally. But you or me – I can’t force you to like me. I can’t force you to treat me as an equal. You have to want to treat me as an equal. And so long as you know bigotism and fascism and these types of things are continuing to go on then it’s just par for course that you’re going to get more of the same.
ND: Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams – would you be a supporter of either or?
DM: Well it’s an interesting fact that you bring up both Martin and Gerry. I remember Martin carrying my father’s coffin. He had came down and on a very, very human level I would’ve, I would have – at one stage in my life I would have played a bit of come and go with Martin. I find him a very affable man. When my brother died Martin took time out to contact me, to sympathise with me as the result of my brother’s death. Whenever I found out that Martin was sick I contacted Martin. He knows I’m not a religious man but my son was singing in the choir in Tuam for Christmas and I told him I’d light at candle for him and I did that. I went and I lit the candle for him. He wished me Happy Christmas and to my wife and my boys. On a political level we’re always going to have differences but I don’t believe that because you have political differences that you shouldn’t use the value of being a decent human being. I don’t see any value going forward in people being constantly criticising of each other. I think that people should be talking, I think that people should be open, I think that now is the time to be talking and not be going back into the trenches.
ND: Next Tuesday, finally, Dominic, next Tuesday is the actual thirtieth anniversary of your Mum’s murder. How will you mark that?
DM: How will I mark it? It’s a funny one because most years as you approach it it feels like a train’s coming down the track and there’s no way of getting out of the way – and it knocks you for six for about five or six weeks. But I can honestly say that this year I’ve probably been more happier than I’ve been in the past thirty years and ultimately it’s that because I don’t carry any bitterness or hatred against anybody. There’s not one person on this island that I have any hatred for.
ND: Not even those who were responsible for murdering your mother in front of you or your father in front of you?
DM: Absolutely none. Absolutely no hatred. There’s not one person on this island that I would not talk to. And there’s not one person on this island that anybody would stop me from talking to – there never ever is, ever ever have there – spent long enough walking around with a chip on my shoulder and hatred burning inside me and I can honestly say that sometimes I don’t even recognise the person that I am today. (ends)