Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 10 June 2017

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Martin Galvin speaks to journalist Eamon Sweeney via telephone from Doire who provides analysis of the results of the recent general election in the United Kingdom. (begins time stamp ~ 38:00)

Martin:  And with us on the line we have Doire-based journalist, Eamon Sweeney. Eamon, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Eamon:  Thank you, Martin.

Martin:  Eamon, on today’s Irish News there is a big cartoon on the front page and it has Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, and she is on her knees saying: ‘Your Majesty, I wish to form a new government’ and the person that is wearing the crown and that Theresa May is kneeling in front of is Arlene Foster, the head of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). 

Cartoon by Ian Knox.
Source: The Irish News

And I’m reading about how Theresa May will be quote unquote ‘in office not in power’, various other things – they’re talking about the DUP wagging the conservative – the tail being – that wags the conservative dog. How did we come to this? Theresa May did not have to call an election. She could have waited. This was supposed to be an election that she thought would bring in a bigger majority, give her a bigger say and now she’s, figuratively speaking, proverbially on her knees in front of the DUP making concessions to get their support. How did that come about? How did it happen?

Eamon:  Well to put it in context: Almost exactly a year ago we had a referendum that was brought about by the previous Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, based on the UK’s status within the European Union (EU) and their desire to either stay or to go. It was as simple as that. He promised an election (inaudible) himself and he didn’t believe, I think – and nobody would believe at that time – that the UK electorate would actually vote in favour of leaving the European Union but that’s exactly what happened. Now the ramifications from that were: Number One, Cameron had to resign. He was replaced by Theresa May as prime minister. She then initiated a process of departure from the European Union which is going to take around two years to complete. In order to push that through she went to the British electorate with the suggestion that there will be an election, I think she called it around two months ago, it happened on Thursday – and it was a gamble which spectacularly backfired for her. She and a lot of others thought the Conservative Party would win a landslide. In fact what happened was that she narrowly scraped by in terms of numerical superiority over the British Labour Party. In order for her to continue in government she has now had to go, basically cap in hand, to the Democratic Unionist Party here in Northern Ireland; they returned ten MPs on Thursday night. Effectively they are now in a massively strong position, the Democratic Unionist Party, because Theresa May has no option but to form some sort of association – it’s not being called a coalition by either the DUP or the Conservative Party at the moment – but she needs them desperately in order to retain power. So what they want basically will be given to them – I would imagine in terms of concessions – and that’s why we’re arriving today at the situation where you have that cartoon on the front of the Irish News. The negotiations behind the scenes are going on straightaway. The Chief Whip of the Conservative Party is actually in Belfast this afternoon negotiating with the DUP. (Negotiating might be a strong term for it – basically the DUP will be telling him what they want from this deal.) And that’s exactly where we are. It’s been a very strange two years in politics in the United Kingdom and in Ireland.

Martin:  And Theresa May, we should explain: The British system, it’s a parliamentary system as is the Irish system. It’s, for example, in the United States the head of the – the Speaker of the House – is elected separately based on the number of members in the House of Representatives let us say – it’s separately from the president. In Britain and in Ireland the head of the – the prime minister is the person – is like the Speaker of the House. It’s the person who can make up a majority of votes within the House. So Theresa May – she lost her Conservative Party…

Eamon: …Yes….

Martin:  …lost thirteen seats. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn gained thirty seats and they got close enough where Theresa May needed the DUP votes to make a majority to keep her in office. Now, some of the things that people are suggesting or think that they might be asking might include a statute of limitations for British troops for events like Bloody Sunday and other killings, it may be something like a change in the Parades Commission which puts regulations on parading, Loyalist and Unionist parades, it may be no special status in the European Community which would certainly affect you in Doire and other areas affected and make Brexit, the effects of it, much worse. What are some of the other things that we might expect the Democratic Unionist Party to demand and get from Theresa May in order to keep her in power?

Eamon:  Well, what you’ve just said I would imagine are the fundamentals of what they would desire to have on their list of demands. Interestingly, the talks to re-start Stormont begin once more first thing on Monday morning. I would imagine what’s happening this afternoon, with the Conservative Party representatives and the DUP, is that they are putting their demands along those very lines that you suggested to the Conservative Party. The ramifications of the coalition with the Conservative Party in the UK and the DUP for Northern Ireland could be huge. It could have serious bearings on whether or not Stormont actually comes back or not. Sinn Féin for example, the second largest party, as you know, in The North, withdrew from Stormont quite some months ago now and Martin McGuinness, before his death, actually triggered the fall of that. The fundamental, one of the fundamental parts of trying to get a lasting agreement at Stormont is, of course – you’re quite right, dealing with the killings. Nationalists, of course, want everybody, including state killers, brought to bear. Unionists say there’s a disproportionate amount of concentration on bringing prosecutions or attempted prosecutions against British soldiers, for example, who killed people whilst they were on service here. And it has to be said neither of those scenarios effectively help the victims in any way – either on the Unionist or the Nationalist side. So it’s been real turmoil for all the families involved on all sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland and it has been a real, real stumbling block between the DUP and Sinn Féin as to how to proceed.

If, I would imagine, that the DUP demands that the statute of limitations be enacted in order to give immunity from prosecution to soldiers, for example, I can’t see Stormont will be resurrected again. I get the sense from Sinn Féin that they’re not overtly concerned whether Stormont actually returns or not at the moment; they have other fish to fry both in Dublin and now they’ve got their seats – of course which they don’t take – at Westminster. They don’t sit inside the chamber because they will not take an oath of allegiance to the British monarch – that’s been a fundamental core principle of Sinn Féin politics for years. But locally in terms of what has happened in terms of Nationalism at this Westminster election, this British UK election, is that the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the SDLP, were effectively wiped out on Thursday night. They had three MPs, one of which was the local MP for Doire, Mark Durkan, and the other was Alasdair McDonnell you know and one again was Margaret Ritchie – all three of these personalities were former leaders of the SDLP.

So for the first time in many centuries, I suppose, the voice of Irish Nationalism has no representation at Westminster whatsoever in terms of people actually going into the chamber. Whilst there are seven Sinn Féin MPs elected to the British parliament as of Thursday night they don’t sit inside the chamber. So back and forward you have the argument there about abstentionism to Westminster – they say they won’t. In order for them basically to try and offset the hard Brexit that is being sought by Theresa May and offset the very serious economic ramifications that it will have for places like Doire and border areas in the North of Ireland – they can’t do so because they won’t go in and take their seats. Now, it didn’t seem to matter to the electorate that that would be the case because their eventual eclipse of the SDLP is now finalised – it’s complete. The SDLP – where they go from here, nobody actually knows. Will the SDLP, for example, ever bother contesting another election at Westminster? It remains to be seen because they’ve gone! You will vividly remember twenty-odd years ago, Martin, when the SDLP representatives at senior levels would have quite arrogantly said that Sinn Féin would never, ever eclipse them electorally and they have. They’ve totally decimated them in terms of Nationalist representation. It’s a strange one. For Doire itself and people, your listenership in New York, will would know very well the character of John Hume and his regular visits and just not to Washington (inaudible) has the electoral decline in the SDLP has been huge.

Martin:  Eamon, the peace process, one of the first steps in it was a statement by a British minister that the British government had no selfish or strategic interest in the North of Ireland and that was supposed to signal that the British government was going to be neutral and that by coming to a resolution, by coming, you know working in Stormont itself, you could have neutrality, you could have Sinn Féin working with the DUP or working with Unionist representatives gradually doing away with some of the injustices of British rule, gradually getting to a point where you could get to a united Ireland. This whole structure in which Theresa May is, figuratively speaking, kneeling to Arlene Foster to keep her in power, that is going to be exactly the opposite. You’re going to have Theresa May propping up, favouring, trying to use/introduce legislation which helps the DUP which does not work towards a united Ireland. Wouldn’t that be the case?

Eamon:  Well the statement all those years ago, I think it was (former Northern Ireland Secretary of State) Patrick Mayhew who made that, I always regarded that as something to coax Republicans in from the cold in order to take part in negotiations and help Sinn Féin convince the IRA, for example, that the peaceful, democratic route was the one to take. If anybody actually believes that the British don’t have any selfish or strategic motives for remaining in Ireland then they’re crazy. That’s been borne out by the actions of the British government since that statement was made all those years ago in terms of the open and transparent methods that they suggested have never taken place – especially with the examination or looking at the actions of their own British troops in Ireland so I always thought that was much more of a soundbite than a reality, as a matter of fact. But where we go from here? I mean it’s – the departure from the EU for Britain has brought a lot of things sharply into focus especially in Ireland – especially in the North of Ireland. We’ve had to take a step back and watch basically. The UK, as it was, in terms of a union between Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales is crumbling; it is dissolving around them. The Scots, for example, are making great strides again towards demanding another referendum for independence which eventually will be successful. I mean it’s a matter of keeping going back there until the matter is resolved – in terms of Scotland. England, I think, is a place largely defined at the beginning of the evolution by Tony Blair all those years ago where he was only interested in basically creating a separated England for the square mile in London in terms of economics. He didn’t want responsibility in fact for Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales – at all. All he wanted to do was keep them in terms of resources and taxation and that’s essentially what the three, peripheral Celtic nations mean to England – is to bleed them for more taxation and more money – as much as possible as far as I can see. It will eventually, I mean this British election that took place three days ago it was basically, in all but name, a border referendum in Ireland. It distilled the question about remaining or leaving the United Kingdom for Northern Ireland down into the basic tenet between Nationalists and Unionists yet again. Both those main parties that dominate the political scene in Northern Ireland, ie the DUP and Sinn Féin, are those who have been successful at the British election and that tells you that the argument delineated along those lines still exists the same way as it did thirty years ago but with the absence of a conflict. It hasn’t been resolved. All elections that take place in Northern Ireland (inaudible).

Dublin, as ever, are making great noises about representing Nationalist views in The North. As we both know that has often been a case of lip-service down the decades. The SDLP, for their part, where they go I really don’t know but it’s interesting to note that an old argument from Fianna Fáil, the Nationalist party in Dublin, where once both the SDLP and those in Fianna Fáil’ll want to merge into one party – that’s never happened. There’s now suggestions yet again that come the next local elections in Northern Ireland , which are due in 2019, that Fianna Fáil will cross the border and stand candidates at local level to test the water and that means, if that happens, the SDLP may completely disappear forever because people may opt to give Fianna Fail a vote because they think they will have a say-so therefore in Dublin after that. So it’s all very much up in the air. The likelihood of Theresa May being able to maintain what she kept calling a ‘stable government in Britain’ with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party is negligible. I honestly believe that before the autumn arrives there’ll probably be another general election. I also honestly believe that in the coming months in Belfast at Stormont there will be another assembly election as well. People…

Martin:  Alright, Eamon. Eamon, sorry, we just have to close there. We’re closing off. We do want to thank you. We have a lot of potential elections that’ll have to be covered. And again, that cartoon – just Theresa May bowing down to the Democratic Unionist Party and Arlene Foster – it seems to say it all. Alright, thank you, Eamon, and thank you very much for that analysis. Wish we had more time. (ends time stamp ~ 54:37)

Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 28 January 2017

Radio Free Éireann
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Martin Galvin (MG) speaks to Doire-based journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) via telephone from Doire who updates us on the Bloody Sunday prosecutions status and about events this week leading up tomorrow’s Bloody Sunday March for Justice. (begins time stamp ~ 23:19)

MG:  Okay. We’re back. I believe we have Eamon Sweeney on the line from the very well-known…

ES: …Hi, Martin.

MG: Eamon – Hello! Welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. Eamon, of course, is a well-known Doire reporter and journalist who was formerly with the Derry Journal. Eamon, this week – it’s the forty-fifth anniversary, I believe it’s today, of Bloody Sunday – that terrible day when people were protesting – it was still a predominance in terms of the civil rights movement as opposed to armed struggle. Internment had been begun by the British, torture had been coupled with internment. There had been the Ballymurphy Massacre and other events like that that had escalated the level of armed struggle between the British and between Irish Republicans but on Bloody Sunday a large civil rights march had occurred and thirteen people were shot down – cover-ups. The Widgery Tribunal, which was a complete judicial whitewash, immediately it was announced that the individuals who were shot were gunmen or nail bombers or otherwise criminals and for those forty-five years the families of those victims have been fighting for justice, fighting to put the real criminals of that day, British troopers and those who commanded them, in the docks. Eamon, where are we in terms of getting prosecutions of those British troopers who committed those ‘unjustified and unjustifiable killings’, as it was called by British Prime Minister Cameron, on Bloody Sunday?

ES:  At the moment no further forward at all – forty-five years later on as you said. The update on that would be that the murder investigation that took place under the auspices of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) has concluded some months ago but as yet the Department of Public Prosecutions have not announced the decision on whether they are going to prosecute any soldiers in relation to the murders on Bloody Sunday or not. Time is dragging on – it’s been purposely delayed – as well-known by all the relatives seeking the prosecution of soldiers. The update at Westminster at the moment where they have openly admitted they’re formulating specific legislation in terms of making sure that old age pensioners soldiers, ie soldiers over the age of sixty-five, are going to be immune from prosecution and that of course would include the vast majority, I would assume, of those who carried out the killings forty-five years ago in this town. So in essence no further forward at all, Martin.

MG:  Eamon – we’re talking to Eamon Sweeney about Bloody Sunday – what’s happening this weekend. The person who’s going to make that decision – now there was – I actually, in researching this article, hit up ‘Bloody Sunday prosecution may soon occur’ – it was from a BBC article in 2010; we’re now in 2017. The person who’s going to make that decision, Barra McGrory, he is the Director of Public Prosecutions – like what we would call a District Attorney in the United States, he’s not viewed as a very strong Republican figure by many people here. His father was a very strong opponent of Diplock non-jury courts. Barra McGrory continues to use them against Republican suspects. But during the week there’s been a number of actions taken which seem designed to influence or put pressure or embarrass him – there’s been calls for an independent inquiry, there have been other statements and actions taken – what’s been done, which it seems like it’s there to intimidate or influence Barra McGrory from making the decision to announce prosecutions?

ES:  I don’t think Barra McGrory as a person would be swayed either way by any of the criticism that he has encountered in the past week. I think this is directly as the result of a snap election being called and I would imagine that the vast majority of the criticism is being leveled by Unionism and its representatives. Barra McGrory has been labeled as somebody who is not strictly impartial by those in the Unionist community because in the past he has represented figures like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – that doesn’t make him any less of an impartial figure when it comes to operating the position of Director of Public Prosecutions. It’s just nonsense but the man has had to take to the media to defend himself. Whether or not he in the end-up does take the decision to prosecute some of those responsible for the killings in Doire forty-five years ago will rest solely on his shoulders and it has to be evidence-based. And it has to be based on the evidence gleaned from the interviews conducted on these soldiers by the PSNI. So it’s the quality of evidence that will eventually lead, or not lead, to the prosecution of these soldiers. So to point the finger at Barra McGrory for being not an impartial character is absolutely ridiculous when the testimony will have to be tested for its quality by those who gained that information, ie the Police Service of Northern Ireland. So let’s see what they actually come up with. It’s my understanding that a lot of these soldiers who were questioned simply replied when asked questions during the interview, ‘no comment’ which, by and large, keeps them out of contempt of court. So let’s see what actually comes forward from the interviews that were conducted by the police and then, and only then, can Barra McGrory take the decision to prosecute or not.

MG:  Well one of the ironic things – I was reading reports that they want to have an inquiry because there’s been some sort of more selective prosecutions of British troopers or British Crown forces since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 – and actually nobody – no British trooper, no member of the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) has been put in jail as the result of any conflict-related offence. Although people like Gerry McGeough, like Seamus Kearney and others have been, who are Republicans, who were jailed for conflict-related offences. So some of the arguments that they’re putting forward, which it seems to embarrass Barra McGrory, just have no validity. But what is going to happen with the families this weekend? Tomorrow there is another activity, it’s a climax of a week of activities to commemorate Bloody Sunday – what’s going to happen tomorrow? What’s been happening all week in Doire to commemorate Bloody Sunday and also to put more pressure, more drive, more demand and more appeal for there to be prosecutions of those who are guilty of murder of their loved ones?

ES:  Well the March for Justice as it’s now called doesn’t just concentrate on the events of Bloody Sunday. Whilst it commemorates the victims who were killed on the thirtieth of January 1972 it takes in the broad remit of international human rights. So during this week there have been several well, very well-attended events. The one which I attended and I found very fascinating was in the City Hotel last Wednesday night and it was broadly on the theme of internment which was what the Bloody Sunday demonstration was originally about in 1972 – campaigning against taking people from their beds basically and putting them in concentration camps without trial or charge – so on Wednesday night we had a speaker for the campaign Justice for the Craigavon Two, which your listeners would be well aware of. We had Francie McGuigan, he was one of the ‘hooded men’ – twelve guys who were taken to Ballykelly Army Camp in the early ’70’s and basically subjected to five horrific techniques of torture which the British invented and then sent around the world to countries, including your own, as a blueprint for the way forward for torture methods.

We also had Moazzam Begg who spoke of his incarceration and torture in Guantánamo Bay. Interestingly, as Moazzam Begg was speaking we received news that Donald Trump had just authorised through an Executive Order the re-opening of CIA torture units throughout the world. So things like that but it also covers topics such as austerity, economic austerity, which has been rampant in Britain and Ireland for the past almost ten years now since the economic crash and the effect that it’s having on working-class people on a day and daily basis. So the scenes of Bloody Sunday, whilst it concentrates and remembers those butchered in the streets of Doire – and they were butchered by the British Army – it also highlights these other injustices throughout the world. It’s becoming more of an international event as the years go on. Tomorrow the main speaker, after the normal march, which beings at around two thirty from the usual spot in Creggan shops, which you’ll know well, Martin, will be a lady called Sheila Coleman. Sheila’s a Liverpudlian woman from England and she will speak about her experiences of spearheading the campaign to break the cover-up that took place over the deaths of ninety-six football fans at Hillsborough soccer ground in England in 1989. Now the parallels between the cover-up that happened after Bloody Sunday and the police cover-up which took place in England are startling – the same amount of aggression, the same amount of whitewashing – it went on and on. The likelihood however for the relatives of Hillsborough will be that it’s quite likely, sooner rather than later, that the policemen at high level in England who attempted to cover this up for twenty-five years and more will face prosecution and quite likely face jail time. That’s the main difference between what’s happened at Hillsborough and what’s happening with Bloody Sunday in Doire. So she would be a very powerful speaker I would imagine. And the crowds that typically attended the march in the past five-six years are growing – I estimated myself as a journalist last year it was around four or five thousand people marching on the streets on Doire in the pouring rain, which being here at this time of year, Martin, is not particularly pleasant at times but the event is going from strength to strength each year. So that would be the fulcrum of it tomorrow I would imagine.

MG:  Well the families – Kate Nash, Linda Nash – all of the families who continue that march have done a tremendous job. They’ve gone through so much – forty-five years, the Widgery Tribunal, all of the other things – delays that they faced and it seems that every time they get close to prosecutions it’s just – it’s like Sisyphus – the boulder gets pushed down the table. But I just want to mention – I was just struck by something – a press release that came out during the week and it was by a member of the Ballymurphy Massacre Families and it was really poignant. And I know Kate Nash, Linda Nash, some of the Bloody Sunday families have sympathy for other victims such as the Ballymurphy Massacre Families . And that had occurred just in August, around the time of internment – a number of people had been shot in the Nationalist/Republican areas by some of the same troopers, the British Paratroop Regiment, and one of the spokesmen for that campaign was saying we haven’t even gotten to the point where our families have been cleared. I believe John Teggart said my father is down as a gunman – that’s how he was branded after he was shot. He was shot a number of times, he was just there on the street near his own home as internment was being carried out or in the three days following internment. So it’s not just – Bloody Sunday stands out as an example because there were so many thousands of witnesses who were there because there were so many photographers, reporters like yourself, Eamon, who were there to cover the event. It was done outside, in public, and the British were able for so many years or have been able for so many years to stall any prosecutions. But it just brings to mind the impact on so many other families in The North of Ireland whose family members were murdered, who were never given any kind of justice even in the form of having the excuses – having family members then branded as criminals to excuse and cover up their murders by British forces that they haven’t been able to get to the truth and how Bloody Sunday, really, is a fight for all of them. Would you agree with that?

ES:  I can agree with that; one hundred percent agree with that. I mean you also have an incident not related to Ballymurphy or Bloody Sunday around that same time by the same members of the Parachute Regiment: Two completely innocent Protestant civilians shot dead on the Skankill Road by these guys as well for no apparent reason apart from they took pot shots at them and more or less executed them in the street. Those families – let it be made clear that it’s just not Nationalist or Catholic communities who have suffered at the hands of British forces in Ireland. You know, the Protestant community has been hit as well, many times. So on and on and on ad infinitum. The purposeful policy of the British government, with regard to Northern Ireland, is to delay and stall and go on and on until they hope that those relatives here fighting for justice – whether it be from the Shankill Road, whether it be from the Bogside in Doire, whether it be from Ballymurphy in Belfast will die and eventually the claims will go away. If you listen to people, for example, like Kate Nash and Linda Nash or Francie McGuigan, one of the ‘hooded men’ who spoke in the city on Wednesday night, they make it perfectly clear that when they go their children and their grandchildren will continue on this campaign until their loved ones’ names are completely vindicated and those responsible, whether it be posthumously or not, responsible for their murder will eventually have their names be made public and shamed as such which is judicial process – it’s the rule of law in any other civilised society. The shroud of darkness conducted by British forces in Ireland still remains the same. Whilst violence has largely abated in this country the legacy of what’s left behind and what went on carried out by a supposedly legitimate state force of a western democracy has been utterly shameful. Be under no illusion that the relatives of these people will not stop this until redress is actually achieved.

MG:  Alright Eamon, before we go we’d like to ask you about one other case – you mentioned internment – there is a case – it’s called internment-by-remand that of another Doire man, Tony Taylor, who was – served a sentence as a Republican and then just one day was shopping with his wife and child and was picked up and was put in prison, doesn’t get told why or what the basis of putting him back in on licence – what’s happening with Tony Taylor’s case?

ES:  Well as I’m sure you’re aware there was another event last night but I know Mr. Taylor’s family and his wife and the supporters of his campaign, which there are many across a large spectrum, held an event to highlight the plight of Tony Taylor in one of the hotels in Doire. I can’t comment on how well it was attended because I unfortunately wasn’t there. But what I can tell you is that the campaign to free Tony Taylor is ongoing. This guy, as you said, was simply lifted from a shopping mall one afternoon with his family and taken away by the police and incarcerated. He has not been informed why – largely it’s on the say-so of undercover security operations, or security forces. His lawyers haven’t been informed of the reason why he’s been incarcerated without charge. His family hasn’t been told why. So whilst internment was launched on the ninth of August 1970 internment in Ireland has gone on in every single decade since Northern Ireland was formed as a state – from the ’20’s right through to this present day. It’s called something different, slightly different now – it’s internment-by-remand. So this guy is sitting in jail for almost a year now, or over a year, and hasn’t been informed why he’s there.

Now if, as I’ve said on this programme many times before, the British are so proud of their great form of justice then bring the man into a courtroom and let’s see what the evidence against the guy actually is otherwise release him. What they’re doing is technically illegal. On the say-so of some British apparatchik this guy has been taken from his family home and put in jail. He’s not the first – this happened to Marian Price. It happened to Martin Corey. They were eventually released but under horrendous conditions in terms of they weren’t allowed to fraternise with certain people, they were under curfew, they had to report to a police station every day, they were removed of any communication devices and so on and so forth. So in the twenty-first century in the year 2017 this type of bullying from the British state still continues in this country. There’s no other way around it. Give the man due process or let him go.

MG:  Alright. Eamon on that note – we’re talking again with Eamon Sweeney, a Doire-based reporter and journalist. I want to thank you. We want to – we hope you’ll extend our good wishes and our support and our solidarity with all of those who march tomorrow – marching for justice not only for the victims of Bloody Sunday but for all of the other issues that you’ve talked about, the injustices under British rule. Thank you, Eamon.

ES:  Thank you, Martin. (ends time stamp ~ 41:38)

 

Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 12 November 2016

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John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) via telephone from Doire who brings us up to speed on news and events from Doire. (begins time stamp ~ 22:49)

MG:   Our first guest – now we had a number of stories and we keep changing because we thought we were going to be on a few weeks ago. We had on the great journalist from Doire, Eamon Sweeney, to cover a couple of stories and as week after week went by more stories – and we were preempted for fund raising – more stories would come on so we are going to recap a number of those crucial stories with Eamon Sweeney. Eamon, are you with us from Doire?

ES:  I am indeed, Martin.

MG:  Alright, that’s great. Eamon, I had a number of stories lined up but you tell me that there has been another event that you went to I think last night or the night before to deal with Bloody Sunday. We’ve been waiting to hear. We had had people on to talk about how the investigation had been completed, it’s now been referred to the Public Prosecution Service, that there would be a decision made on charges and we wouldn’t need any more demonstrations – The Nashes and the others, Eamonn McCann and the others who lead those marches for justice to put British soldiers who are guilty of manslaughter or unjustified killings before a court. What event was it that you were on within the last couple of days and what announcement, if any, has been made by the Public Prosecution Service in The North?

ES:  Well the event took place on Thursday evening in a bar in the city centre in Doire  and it was simply an anti-war evening on the eve of the annual armistice events which happen in the United Kingdom. But the format that took place was several performers, including Eamonn McCann reading out anti-war poetry, but ostensibly the purpose behind that was to raise funds to organise a march which will take place this year, well sorry, early next year, as close as possible to the actual date of Bloody Sunday on January 30th 1972. It was a well-attended event and it was a very enjoyable one you know, performers giving their time for free to highlight the injustices of the world wars which, of course, America took part in, the injustices that were foisted upon the mainly working class people of the world, at that stage, by colonial powers. The other aspect of it is, of course, as you said, the investigation into Bloody Sunday. All the soldiers that were pinpointed by the PSNI, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to be interviewed in relation to their actions on that day forty-five years ago almost has been completed now for some months – at least two and a half three months – but as yet no word has been received by any of the family members about the progress in that movement towards putting soldiers in the dock to question them about their actions where fourteen people were shot dead and twice that number injured on that day. So again, there seems to be a slowness in making these final decisions. This is all against the backdrop, of course, of the wider victims’ issue in Northern Ireland at the moment which is gathering great pace.

The refusal by the British government, basically, to release a hundred and fifty million pounds that was promised as part the new deal or the latest re-working, if you will, of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 to fund legacy investigations and legacy inquests into fifty-six different cases involving ninety-five, ninety-six deaths throughout the course of The Troubles which involves state killings, it also involves paramilitary killings and it seems to be the last piece of the jigsaw in terms of reaching a final Fresh Start Agreement in Northern Ireland with regard to victims has again reached an hiatus and is stalling.

One interesting aspect of it has been the personage of the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, who has very vocally put it out there in recent weeks that one of his main priorities is to get a mechanism in place to adequately deal with the past. However, in saying that, just this week the Irish newspaper, the Irish News newspaper in Belfast, ran a story saying that files belonging to the British Army with relation to the bombing in Belfast of a bar called McGurk’s in 1971 will remain closed until 2056 which is another forty years down the line. That doesn’t auger very well, I suppose, for British claims that they’re willing to deal, as a priority, when looking into the past.

MG:  Eamon, it seems that they’ll withhold funds and put Sinn Féin in a position where they have to have some kind of deal and then call it a victory or else get nothing and they’ll stall it as long as possible. I want to move it just very quickly – there’s a couple of other stories. Just before we started our break on fund raising Michael Doherty had talked about the case of Tony Taylor, somebody who was interned-by-remand, doesn’t get a hearing, finished his sentence, was then suddenly was re-arrested, put back in on his old sentence, doesn’t know why, doesn’t know the charges. His solicitor can’t find out why but there’s been a sinister, even more sinister, development with that involving his wife and visits from his handicapped child. What happened to Tony Taylor?

ES:  Well in this instance the local press reported some two weeks ago now during the conclusion of a visit by his wife and his son to Maghaberry Prison that there is an allegation of assault, both physically and verbally, against Mrs. Taylor by a female prison officer and the police said that they are investigating that. We’re not sure of the exactitude of the details of the nature of the assault but it seems to be centred around the fact that Mr. Taylor’s son is a disabled child and his only means of communication depends very heavily on physical contact. And it seems to have arisen around some form of physical contact at that point where allegedly a female prison officer then committed verbal and physical assault upon the personage of Mrs. Taylor. That’s ongoing.

In terms of the actual campaign for the release of Tony Taylor I had explained, both myself and you have explained the exactitude of the sort of nonsensical manner in which this is dealt with by the British state that there was a protest held in Doire just over a week ago at Free Derry Corner and despite the fact that it was a very cold, dark, rainy night it was attended by around, in my estimation, around three hundred people again calling for the release of Tony Taylor. You know and it was attended widely by many groupings, political groupings, and ordinary members of the public so it’s not something that’s going to go away. The bottom line, as we’ve said on this programme on a few occasions already is this: If the British state perceives Tony Taylor to be a threat to them then put him into court and present their evidence and give him the trial which he would be entitled to. Otherwise his incarceration or continued incarceration – he’s a prisoner, he’s not a convicted prisoner however – is a total nonsense. An absolute shocking case of taking somebody from their home and incarcerating them on the say-so of somebody within the British security services. And the point, again, is simple: Get him into court and let’s see what evidence you have against the guy. Give him the due process that the British seem to be very proud of.

MG:  John, you have a question.

JM:   Eamon, John McDonagh here. We had our own Brexit here but you had it first over there in the Six Counties and now it’s going maybe go to a vote in Westminster and there’s now talk of Sinn Féin maybe taking their seats there. They’ve taken their seats in Dublin, they’ve taken their seats in Stormont and now they’re talking about taking their seats in Westminster. Now I follow Dixie Elliott and one of the main reasons they say they can’t take their seats there because they’d have to swear an allegiance to the Queen of England. Now Martin McGuinness is now giving tours of Westminster, Sinn Féin has offices there in Westminster, they get paid by the Queen – what is the feeling over there about if the vote comes down, very crucially, to a couple of votes – Sinn Féin has four British MPs in Westminster – do the people there want them to go in, take their seats and vote to remain within the European Union?

ES:  That’s a very interesting question. I mean at this point it’s total speculation. Martin McGuinness said that he would not rule anything out as a possibility in terms of using those four votes at Westminster to offset any hurtling towards Brexit. Brexit is going to happen. It’s just the manner in which it’s going to happen that has to be discussed. There’s no doubt about that. The political ramifications of that are going to be huge for this particular part of The North of Ireland but in terms of Sinn Féin taking their seats – that is a possibility. I mean they do actually use the offices at Westminster and have done since they’ve contested the elections although they do not enter the chamber on the basis they abstain because of the oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Their policy on abstentionism, as we know, has weaken from what? say thirty-five years ago when it changed so they were allowed to enter Leinster House. Then of course came the Good Friday Agreement and now they sit in Stormont.

On their particular political journey I don’t see any reason why, in the end, they wouldn’t take their seats in Westminster given they have moved quite away from the left-hand side of the political spectrum into the centre in terms of administering rule. They are a bona fide elected body in both sections of the island of Ireland. It’s a decision which will, I suppose, cause some ripples within their own party at certain levels. It’s certainly a decision that would not be widely popular, in my estimation, within Nationalism in The North. This is the last bulwark of Sinn Féin’s Republican ideology. Sinn Féin, as we all know, stands for ‘ourselves alone’ – ourselves alone meaning: We will stand ourselves alone outside the structures of the British government and create our own parliament which, of course, happened in 1919. And it’s a very tricky one. If they are going to use the caveat that we have to enter Westminster in order to help offset the effects of Brexit in Ireland then that’s a decision that’s going to be taken by them and them alone. But it’s not one, that I personally would see, would be a highly popular one among certain sections of their own voters as well.

MG:  Alright Eamon, we just have a little over a minute left. I wanted to ask you about one more character: We’ve talked a lot about a guy named Denis Donaldson who was killed. There was somebody who passed…

JM:  ….well, who was an informer – worked for MI5.

MG:  There was another informer who worked for MI5 in Doire – a character named Raymond Gilmour. He passed away recently. They say don’t say anything but good about the dead – there was an exception made for those two. Raymond Gilmour’s son had actually said he was ashamed of his name, the family had left him, the guy may be buried in a pauper’s grave and another informer, Martin McGartland, is trying to raise money to keep him from that fate. Could you just tell us, I know it’s very briefly, why there is some much animosity towards Raymond Gilmour and his memory in Doire?

ES:  Well Raymond Gilmour was a character who was firstly jettisoned from the Official side of the Republican Movement then the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) under the suspicion of being an informer. He then ended up within the ranks of Provisional IRA and then very briefly was spirited out one night from his home in Creggan around 1982 when it became clear that he had become a dedicated sort of agent for the British state within the ranks of the Republican Movement in Doire. He then became what was known as the first ‘supergrass’ in Northern Ireland and he implicated many hundreds of people – thirty-odd people were eventually taken to court. The court case collapsed after two years, around 1984, when the Lord Chief Justice at the time, Lord Chief Justice Lowry, said this was a man who, of whom, a lie would trip more easily from his lips than the truth. He was totally discredited and all those involved were exonerated. The fact is that you’ll not find anybody with any sympathy in the Nationalist person of the day who has any sympathy for either Raymond Gilmour’s actions at the time nor his memory now. His name became synonymous with that of an informer ie if somebody accused you of being an informer you were called ‘a Gilmour’ – that’s how entrenched this character’s memory became in the city.

Martin McGartland, obviously his co-equivalent who operated in other parts of The North including Belfast, has tried to start a gofundme campaign on Facebook and other sort of social media outlets to raise money for Gilmour in order to bury him. My last check, although it’s been up and running for a couple of weeks now, I think it’s maybe around close to a thousand pounds when five thousand pounds were needed to get this man buried. The next thing that you would say about Raymond Gilmour is that he became a very tragic character. He sunk deep into drinking and we understand that that was the eventual cause of his death. He was found alone after a week in a flat near Ramsgate in Kent in England and there’s no great outpouring of sympathy in Doire for Raymond Gilmour and there never will be and that’s how sort of despised his name, unfortunately for his own…(crosstalk) (inaudible)

MG:  …Alright Eamon – we’ve been talking to Eamon Sweeney from Doire, a great reporter and journalist, who’s good enough to wrap up a couple of the major stories that happened in the last few weeks. Eamon, thank you very much and again – well, I won’t say anything about that – we’re certainly not asking people to contribute to that funeral arrangement. Let Raymond Gilmour go to the pauper’s grave that he so deeply and richly deserves. Alright thank you, Eamon, and we’re looking forward to having you again when we can deal with one story and give it the time it deserves instead of having to go through three or four as we did today. Thank you.

ES:  No problem, Martin. Thank you. Bye-bye.

JM:  And also, during that time when Raymond Gilmour was giving evidence so many people were picked up in Doire. But but one person wasn’t picked up: Martin McGuinness – who we had on, Ian Hurst, who worked for the British government, stated that Martin McGuinness was a ‘protected species’ and he was never picked up during those supergrass trials. But the wit and irony with the people in the Six Counties during those thirty years – there was a wall mural that was up in Doire and it said: ‘I know Raymond Gilmour thank ‘f’ he doesn’t know me’ and that was one of the more famous wall murals that went up. Because anybody who was connected with the Republican Movement was arrested at that time and brought up on charges.

MG:  They had thirty-five people in jail for I think it was up to three years before – and they don’t get the time back. (ends time stamp ~ 39:21)

Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 13 August 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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Martin Galvin (MG) interviews journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) of the Derry Journal via telephone from Doire about the passing of Bishop Edward Daly. (May he rest in peace) (begins time stamp ~ 9:21)

MG: We are going to try and go to Doire. We’re going to talk to Eamon Sweeney. Eamon, who has been on the programme before, is a journalist with the Derry Journal. During the past week Bishop Edward Daly, who was a very well-known and respected, beloved figure in Ireland – he had been the Bishop of Doire for almost twenty years. He happened to be a priest assigned to Doire at the time of Bloody Sunday and he – one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday is of then Father Edward Daly – a handkerchief – holding it up in one hand – his other hand holding it up. And this happened only a few months after another priest, Father Mullan, was killed in Belfast during what was called the Ballymurphy Massacre – shot down for trying to prevent people from being arrested, unjustly and falsely interned – what Francie McGuigan had just talked about.

And Bishop Edward Daly passed away and one of the things we’re going to talk about is that – the impact on the community. And the reaction where Unionist officials wouldn’t attend and where a Bloody Sunday Trooper has accused Bishop Daly of literally having a gun up his sleeve. Eamon, welcome back to WBAI Radio Free Éireann!

ES: Thank you, Martin.

MG: Eamon, this past week I got an urgent email from Kate Nash. Kate Nash of course was the sister of one of the young men killed on Bloody Sunday and the last time she contacted me urgently was to tell me about Sandy Boyer, who used to be the host of this show, passing away. And this week she emailed me about the death of Bishop Edward Daly – how much of an impact that had on all of the Bloody Sunday families, all of the people of Doire. There are a lot of clergymen that wouldn’t be thought of and remembered so fondly by people like Kate Nash, by the Bloody Sunday families and others but Bishop Daly certainly stood out. Could you tell us why that was?

ES: Well plainly and simply and by Bishop Daly’s own admission the reason why he became Bishop of Doire in 1974 was because of his actions on the 30th of January 1972. The pictures are well 220px-Edward_Daly_Bloody_Sundayknown to all your listeners, they’re known around the world, of him showing immense physical courage in leading a group of men carrying the dead body of Jackie Duddy, a seventeen year old teenager who was gunned down by the Parachute Regiment that afternoon. That was the culmination of ten years of service that he’d already spent in and around the Bogside as a priest in Doire. He came to the city in 1962, was basically given charge of the local parish hall, which is Saint Columb’s, as you know well, Martin, at the centre of Doire and told to revitalise it. He then launched a career of basically organising huge and very, very popular quality entertainment nights at Saint Columb’s Hall, raising money for it – keeping it going. But also mainly giving the people in the area an outlet, somewhere to go. So there was much, much more to Father Edward Daly, then Bishop Edward Daly, than just the actions that he is known worldwide for on Bloody Sunday.

He is first and foremost a priest of the people. And secondly he then, because of the position he found himself in, became an advocate for peace in the country. But you know the very fact that he is a priest and many other priests on that afternoon in 1972 chose to be on the ground with the people who were marching against internment in Doire City shows the calibre of those men as human beings. It shows that they actually cared for the flock that they had as a congregation in the city, you know? Bishop Edward Daly is, in my estimation, there will never be another one who will shine out like that. I don’t think anybody would ever pretend that in the years to come that they could ever live up to the quality of the man that he actually was – basically he’s been christened here as ‘the people’s Bishop’ and that’s what he was. Many other church figures have been criticised for their standoffishness during the decades. He certainly wasn’t like that.

Bogside Fr. Dalyimages
By The Bogside Artists at The People’s Gallery Doire

MG: Alright. Eamon, there are two things that I just want to go over about that famous, iconic photograph that people have seen, or painting. A few months before, in August of 1971, the same Parachute Regiment that was there in Doire on Bloody Sunday had opened fire in Ballymurphy during the process of internment. And a number of people had been killed including a Father Mullan. So the fact that Bishop Daly was there with a handkerchief, was there with his hand up, that did not guarantee that he would not meet the same fate as Father Mullan – and he of course led Jackie Duddy to an ambulance at that time.

ES: Absolutely not. I mean a dog collar, or a clerical collar, was no guarantee of immunity from being shot dead by the British Army in Northern Ireland. Father Hugh Mullan in Ballymurphy, which was again another instance of abject terror inflicted upon people and lasted for over three days. Father Mullan went out, identified himself as a priest and crawled on the waste ground to try and help another man that had been shot down by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy and the response to that was to shoot him dead as well – on open ground where he had clearly nothing in his hands in terms of weaponry or anything else – he was clearly seen, identified as a priest, but they chose to shoot him dead. So Father Daly was under no illusion that once the Parachute Regiment opened fire on the streets of Doire all those years ago that he was, because he was wearing a dog collar, he was safe from any sort of injury – he simply wasn’t.

So that very fact that he chose to step out in front of the group of men carrying the body of Jackie Duddy and try and use his position as a priest or a clergyman and wave a white hankie of truce to let this body get through and hopefully be treated was an immensely brave thing to do because he had known all along about the stories from Ballymurphy. Priests were regularly abused by the British Army in and around Doire. There was no immunity or respect from the British Army for clerical collars – not at the ground level anyway.

MG: Considering – one of the articles that I was sent – it’s somewhat shocking – usually you say nothing but good about the dead but I’m reading an article by a British Paratrooper, a fellow named Allan Woods, where he is claiming that Bishop Daly literally, had a gun – he said he was concealing a weapon in the sleeve of his left arm and he called him a number of things which I wouldn’t repeat because there’s a list of words which we’re not allowed to say on the airwaves in the United States but there is a list of things that he called Bishop Daly and said he was associated with the IRA and questioned the legitimacy of his parents at the time that Bishop Daly was born – that sort of thing. What do you attribute this – I mean this is so many years later and these British troops are still attacking the man like that?

ES: Well first and foremostly: Is this guy for real? Number Two: Can he prove his bona fides of his presence in Doire on the 30th of January 1972? If he was there he was extremely young. On top of that he claims by the information that he’s making on those Facebook posts that were picked up by the press that he was at the spot, at the corner of Chamberlain Street and High Street, where the footage of Bishop Daly and Jackie Duddy and the other men carrying the body were – so there are clearly soldiers visible in that footage – was he one of them? I don’t believe it for a second!
(Ed. Note: 15 Aug 2016 Update on Allan Woods)

I would actually question whether or not this guy was in the British Parachute Regiment and if he was I don’t think he was in Doire at the time simply because any of those guys who were involved at the time – why would he take the chance of ruining his own anonymity after they fought so hard to preserve it during the Saville Inquiry? His comments are lamentable – being kind about it – lamentable. At the other end of it they are an absolute disgrace, you know? And if he thinks he’s going to sully the name or the memory of Bishop Daly by calling him an associate of the IRA or whether he was carrying a gun or not up the sleeve of his coat while the hankie was in his other hand is an absolute drivel and nonsense! So to give this guy any more credence than we just have is completely unnecessary. I think he should just crawl back under the rock from where he came.

MG: Well he wasn’t the only person who seemed to have some kind of disagreement or some kind of negative reaction to Bishop Daly’s death. The mayor of Doire – and Doire of course is an overwhelming Nationalist city but they move back and forth between the parties as a matter of courtesy – the mayor of Doire I believe is in the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) at this time but at any event, the Mayor said she could not attend or did not attend the services for Bishop Daly and I don’t know if anybody from her party attended the services for Bishop Daly in Doire. Is that correct?

ES: Well, she didn’t and for whatever reason, and that reason hasn’t come to light – she maintained that she had a prior engagement – if that’s the case then and that’s the way she wanted to tackle the funeral of Bishop Daly and that’s entirely up to the mayor of Doire. It’s sad that somebody from the civic representation side in this city didn’t choose perhaps to attend. She is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party. Perhaps the lady has her own religious beliefs. That’s absolutely fine as well. The Democratic Unionist Party did however – she did open a Book of Condolence for Bishop Daly – she did sit and get pictured and signed you know a good message in that book. And another local guy, who’s now an MLA within the Democratic Unionist Party, Gary Middleton, also took the time and trouble to come and send his sympathies and sign the Book of Condolence. And Gregory Campbell, believe it or not, actually sent out a message lamenting the passing of Bishop Daly. So I think there is a sadness about the fact that perhaps the reason why the mayor didn’t attend was on religious grounds in this day and age but that’s where we are but if that’s her belief then she’s entitled to it.

All the churches in Doire of all denominations, Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian – all had representatives in that chapel for the funeral on Tuesday. First and foremost amongst them was another elderly former bishop called Bishop James Mahaffey with whom Bishop Daly, in the ’70’s and ’80’s – from the ’80’s rather, when he arrived in Doire, Bishop Mahaffey struck up a great relationship and did more in those years quietly and behind the scenes to promote community relations between Catholics and Protestants in our city and beyond than a thousand politicians have done in a lifetime of trying. That’s says it all so never mind about the absence of the mayor of Doire. There were a lot stronger tributes to be paid and they were paid in full.

MG: Alright. I want to, just in terms of Bishop Daly and Bloody Sunday – one of the reasons why he is thought of so fondly and remembered so fondly, particularly by the Bloody Sunday families: It was not just the courageous help that he gave or just his leading the way so that young Duddy could be brought to an ambulance, although Duddy passed away, but in the months that followed that there was a complete attempt to whitewash and deny what had happened by the British government and Bishop Daly was a leading figure through that. The first thing that happened of course was the Widgery Tribunal. And just could you explain to our audience what that was and what Bishop Daly did during that tribunal?

ES: Well obviously in the aftermath of the killing of thirteen people in one afternoon by a British Army Regiment there has to be some sort of rationale by themselves to explain exactly what actions their troops had taken. Therefore, they set up a tribunal, a hastily arranged tribunal, which was actually held well outside the city in Coleraine in County Doire. It was chaired by Lord Widgery, one of the then leading Law Lords in England and he was brought on board to do so by then Prime Minister Edward Heath. There’s documentation now which has emerged down the years of conversations between Heath and Widgery in advance of the tribunal that he set up basically asking Widgery to look favourably, more than favourably, upon the actions of the British Army and pinning the blame for the deaths of fourteen innocent civilians and many more wounded on the IRA and make it plain that the IRA caused the problem (and the IRA weren’t even at the scene at the time). Of course, the Official IRA did fire one shot on Bloody Sunday which has now been well-documented it wasn’t the opening shot and it didn’t cause the deaths of the thirteen people on that afternoon.

But anyway, this hastily convened tribunal was you know set up in the flash of media hype. Pictures are still out there of the soldiers being helicoptered into the building in Coleraine with sunglasses to protect them from being identified and so on. They basically got to go through the motions of saying X, Y, and Z about what actually happened on the day – that they only shot at identified targeted gunmen – absolute lies from start to finish. A couple of months later the Widgery Report contends that it was the fault of the IRA, that the British Army responded and took appropriate action on Bloody Sunday. And this became a report which was on statute as an official piece of documentation and lodged at Westminster for thirty-eight years until the Saville Inquiry made mincemeat of Widgery’s conclusions.

However, whilst the people in Doire, and especially the relatives, knew that Widgery’s actions were based entirely upon falsehoods and lies, the rest of the world, if they wanted to find out about Bloody Sunday, had only got the Widgery Report to refer to in official terms – that was the record, that was the truth – as far as the British state were concerned. So that caused almost four decades of unimaginable pain and hurt to not only the relatives of course of those killed and wounded on that day but put an entire black cloud over the city of Doire for almost four decades. You know, having been there on the day that the Saville Report was launched, as a journalist, covering it as a journalist six years ago now, was there’s some aspects of it, of the Saville Report, which are regarded as thoroughly unsatisfactory by some people and I can understand those reasons.

There was collective weight lifted off this town on that afternoon six years ago and it was a damned shame that it took the British government forty years to admit that they simply slaughtered fourteen innocent people for no other reason than they wanted to control them and control the way they thought – and didn’t want them to answer back and simply because they were taking people out of their houses and putting them in jail without trial, without any recourse for justice back in 1971 and that’s what the Bloody Sunday march was about – it was a march against the completely undemocratic actions of the British government in Northern Ireland and for that their response was to shoot fourteen people dead… (crosstalk) (inaudible)

MG: …Right. I can remember here for example in New York the headlines of the New York Times and others talking about how the British were vindicated or exonerated on Bloody Sunday by Lord Widgery as if this was some kind of independent inquiry instead of just a whitewash with a predetermined result. What’s the status – but still – now we have troopers, so many years later after the Saville Inquiry – Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said it was unjustified and unjustifiable murder – to me as a solicitor that is manslaughter or murder if you say a killing is unjustified or unjustifiable. We’ve had Saville saying it was basically perjury…

ES: …Cameron never used the word murder.

MG: Sorry, ‘unjustified or unjustifiable killings’ which would be the same as murder. Saville basically said that they – well he used terms which would be the equivalent of perjury in terms of if you applied them to the legal definitions of perjury. Yet no British trooper has ever been charged for Bloody Sunday. Do we ever expect that to get any more than just another stage of investigation year after year after year as the people like The Nashes continue to march?

ES: They has been movement on that in recent months – over the past twelve – fourteen months in particular where it was put out there in the end that these guys could be charged with murder and brought into court and be identified and held accountable for their actions on that day. Now, this went round and round in circles until people like Kate and Linda (Nash) and various other members of the Bloody Sunday Trust and the families and so on and so forth kept pressing at the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) to go ahead and arrest these guys. What happened in that instance was that one soldier, identified as ‘Lance Corporal J’, who was responsible we understand for the killing of William Nash and the wounding of his father, Alexander Nash, and the shooting also of Mr. Young on Bloody Sunday was taken and questioned about his actions at the police station in Antrim because we understand he is a soldier from Northern Ireland who was part of the Parachute Regiment on that day. After that the other eight or nine soldiers, who are identified only by ciphers such as A,B,C,D until this very day lodged an objection at the High Court in England, in London, saying that they do not wish – they would fear for their lives if they came to Northern Ireland basically for questioning and therefore a ruling was handed down by the English High Court saying that they would have to present themselves voluntarily at police stations of their choosing in England. We now know that the raft of interviews with these guys and other soldiers who were there at the time – it wasn’t just the Parachute Regiment who were in Doire on Bloody Sunday but – have now been completed so what the relatives are now waiting on is basically word from the Public Prosecution Service as to whether or not these soldiers will be ever brought into a court of law. And the process ended some six weeks ago perhaps but there still has been no word whether the files have been passed onto the Public Prosecution Service nor indeed any determination whether that service will actually bring these guys before a court. So, yeah – it hasn’t completely stalled but we wait with bated breath to see if they ever will appear in a court room. This all ties in very much as well with the wider handling of institutions dealing with the past in Northern Ireland – a deal of some sort is expected to be announced very soon on that as well.

MG: Alright. Eamon, before you leave there’s another story that I want to talk about that relates to Doire: We’ve just had a guest before you who was talking about the process of what was called internment by licence and he mentioned someone from Doire, Tony Taylor. Can you explain what is happening with Tony Taylor and why he’s in jail if there are no charges against him at this time?

ES: Well Tony Taylor is a Republican. Of that there is no doubt. He served sentences on previous occasions for Republican activity but there is a licence mechanism in Northern Ireland where prisoners are sent out when they’re released on the understanding that if they re-offend or they are deemed to re-offend at the whim of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland they can be taken and locked up without even being told what they are suspected of having been done. So it’s internment by basically another use of the term. He was taken a couple of – well it must be at least five months now since Tony Taylor was re-arrested – and put inside. He doesn’t know what charges have been made against him, what the previous Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was told by someone in order to deem it necessary for her to issue an arrest warrant and revoke this man’s licence.

So you have a situation in the twenty-first century in a western democratic country where people, if they are suspected of something by a minister of the British government, can be taken from their home, not told why and basically stuck in a prison cell until such time as it’s deemed to be fit to be released again without being told why they are there. Now this is the same sort of mechanism that took place from the 9th of August 1971 when the British government re-introduced internment in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t the first time they’ve done this; they’ve done this periodically through their lifetime here since partition but that’s the very reason for example why people were marching on Bloody Sunday to stop this type of injustice happening and there’s a dedicated campaign going on that’s being widespreadly supported in all factions of Nationalism. And I’m glad to see there was a big rally in Doire last Saturday afternoon which was heavily attended by people who have signed petitions, mounted protests but it doesn’t seem to be taking any effect. It’s just simply being ignored by the new company at Hillsborough Castle and James Brokenshire, the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It will have to come to a conclusion but how long that will take is as good as anybody knows. If they have, and I said this the last time I was on with you, if they have any evidence to suggest that Tony Taylor for example committed any crime, deemed to be political or otherwise, then bring him into a court of law and let’s hear the evidence against him. That’s the only fair mechanism that people here have recourse to and they’re denying him even that.

MG: Eamon, just one of the things that I always get asked about is: You have Sinn Féin, you have a Deputy First Minister from Doire who has made a statement about Tony Taylor, saying he should be released. You have Sinn Féin in government, you have them on policing boards, you have them in other positions. The SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) is opposed to what’s happened to Tony Taylor. Why is it that this seems to have absolutely no effect in the sense that Tony Taylor is still in jail, doesn’t know when he’s getting out or why he’s there as you’ve just explained?

ES: Because when it comes to the tier above the Deputy First Minister and the First Minister, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, it’s quite plain and obvious that the British government, in the form of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and successively down the decades, have no power whatsoever to effect any change of that nature. That the British government still, in terms of policing and justice, rule the roost. And it’s as simple as that. Whilst the PSNI are a lot more accountable than the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) ever were there’s still a lot of mechanisms that they can get by with. I mean to take a man from his home, in the instance of Tony Taylor – and it’s happened to plenty of other people as well – and basically put him back in jail without telling him why I mean that’s – you know psychologically for an individual that must be a hell of a damning thing to have to try and deal with – never mind his family and his relatives on the outside. But what’s said is clear: What is said by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State still goes and that’s the final word – and that’s that! So what recourse or what change in that direction in terms of being able to appeal to the upper echelons of British rule in Northern Ireland who still has very limited capacity as far as we can see and it’s proven by simply locking up a man for no reason at all apparently you know, so – that facet of British rule in Northern Ireland hasn’t changed at all.

MG: Alright. Eamon, we want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been talking to Eamon Sweeney, a journalist with the Derry Journal, who’s been talking about the death of Bishop Edward Daly. Bishop Daly, what he did in terms of Bloody Sunday, the heroic conduct that he had in terms of young Duddy as well as what he did in leading and fighting for the families in the battle for truth and justice since then. Thank you, Eamon.

ES: Thank you, Martin. Okay. Bye-bye. (ends time stamp ~ 35:18)

Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 2 July 2016

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
listen on the internet:  wbai.org  Saturdays Noon EST

Martin Galvin (MG) interviews journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) via telephone from Doire about current topics related to Doire and the effects Brexit may have on the Doire area.  (begins time stamp ~ 16:25)

MG: Yes, we have Eamon Sweeney on the line. Eamon, this is Martin Galvin. We’re to you a few minutes early. We had a problem with the other number on the line so I hope you don’t mind doing the interview now. And just we’re moving you up to the top of the programme.

ES: Okay.

MG: Alright. Eamon, you’re a journalist with the Derry Journal and that’s one area where the effects of Brexit are going to be more deeply felt than anywhere else. I did want to ask you about one other issue before we get to Brexit: I met you, I spoke to you covering the demonstration for George McBrearty in Doire a few weeks back. Now this week Theresa Villiers, the Secretary appointed by Cameron to run the North of Ireland for him, made a speech and she patted people in Ireland on the head because of their dignified and inclusive way they commemorated Easter 1916 – and they brought in British soldiers, and they brought in people who had been trying to put down The Rising and execute the patriots and they hadn’t said anything about the North of Ireland in those – the Irish government said nothing about the North of Ireland or the unfulfilled right of those people in Doire, in Tom Clarke’s county of Tyrone and in the Six Counties, to freedom.

And I mentioned that when I spoke at the commemoration for George McBrearty. And I can’t tell you how many people came up to me afterwards and said that that is a theme that they deeply resent, that that is not mentioned more, that they seem to be forgotten by the Dublin government, they seem to be forgotten in all of these commemorations and that is something they felt very strongly about and very angry about. Could you tell me about that feeling? Do you recognise that same feeling in the North of Ireland?

ES: Well in the round I think that it’s why – Easter 1916 was obviously one hundred years ago and it’s at a safe, historical distance – now for commemorations to take place in Dublin and in other places around world including Australia and they were marked in many countries including the US, in your own country – the intervening years, for the past forty years, in the North of Ireland where the conflict raged and various shades of Republicanism take their sort of cue from the lineages of 1916 and their inspiration and claim legitimacy through that for their actions, whether that be right or wrong, I think it’s still a very thorny issue in the North of Ireland. It’s too soon, perhaps, to recognise in the round what the patriots of 1916 did in terms of taking on the British Empire and eventually succeeding a few years later in getting them to leave a portion of the country. So I think it’s generally glossed over to a certain extent; not by the people in Doire or the Nationalist people in The North, but in terms of there’s still a prickliness, an uncomfortable sort of attitude or recognition from Britain about Nationalists in Northern Ireland because it’s still ascribed to be a political territory belonging to Britain and that’s what I think it is. That has, in recent months, had a knock-on effect in electoral terms for Nationalist parties I think where you saw in the Assembly elections that Nationalists didn’t come out to vote in the numbers they used to come out and vote, and that’s votes for Sinn Féin and the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), because I think they feel that they’re not getting anything out of the Good Friday Agreement almost twenty years after it was signed. They see that the aspiration that was granted to legitimately look for a united Ireland some time in the future isn’t being spoken about to a great extent by Nationalists and political representation and therefore they feel: Why should we bother going out and vote? We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this at all.

MG: Alright, Eamon. We’re talking with Eamon Sweeney who’s a journalist with the Derry Journal, with other papers in The North of Ireland – Eamon, your area, Doire City, will be one of the areas most affected by Brexit when that, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Community, when that actually comes. Could you just tell the audience, an American audience, where Doire City is in terms of the border, such as it is, with the Twenty-Six Counties?

ES: Well, the outer western side of Doire City is approximately about three miles from the border with the Republic of Ireland and Inishowen in Co. Donegal. So I mean at certain points it’s walking distance. From my house – twenty minutes will walk you across the border from here to where I stand.

MG: I’m just laughing when you say that. When I was banned from the North of Ireland I did have occasion to walk that a couple of times some evenings and it is certainly walking distance. So they’re now talking about having a border and the decisions about that border – they won’t be made by people in Doire, they won’t be made by people in Ireland even. The decisions are going to be made by two parties. Number One: You have a Tory government – they, in campaigning for Brexit, had ads about Syrian refugees fleeing or getting into the European Community and coming across the border. They are the majority party – they constitute Parliament in London – they’re going to make the decisions on one side. And the other side is going to be the European Community – that if they decide there has to be a hard border – there has to be some sort of customs check, there have to be checks on immigration – they are going to be the ones who will tell the Twenty-Six County government how and what must be done. Now what does this have the potential to mean for Doire where you’re right, literally, on the border with Donegal?

ES: Well, the wider northwestern region can take the border out of the equation, that includes Doire City and portions of Inishowen, which since partition have been largely isolated in many ways. We don’t really as a people, a Nationalist people in Doire, believe we belong inside the British state but neither do the Dublin government want us attached to them for purely economic reasons. The upside of that was that the Articles 2 and 3 in the Irish Constitution that made a territorial claim at least on all Irish territory, including Doire, were abandoned during the signing of that particular agreement almost twenty years ago. So obviously, in terms of the Irish Constitution, the government no longer have the ability to assert a territorial claim, albeit theoretically, as it stood for all those years. That no longer exists. The more practical side of it would be that there’s an economic hinterland that runs from Doire City right into Inishowen. And you know, if you draw a physical line again across that border point  then what the ramifications are for trade, both north and south of that border, are going to be disastrous. I’ve spoken to the president of the Chamber of Commerce in the nearest Donegal Inishowen town closest to Doire City recently and he said that the whole debate on and around Brexit was it was characterised by nothing more than uncertainty. The Inishowen region was benefiting, getting a boost, for the first time in many years simply because of the strength of the pound sterling against the euro, which is used in the Republic of Ireland, and people moving freely in either direction across the border to spend their money.

So the re-imposition of a physical border, whilst it won’t be militaristic in tone as it was during The Troubles, will put people off. You also have a lot of Doire people and, on the other side of the coin a lot of Donegal people, who live in either area and work in either area. So having to cross the border every morning and the spectre of having to produce your passport at a border on the island of Ireland simply to get to work every day, in practical terms, is going to be intensely annoying for a start, time consuming and its going to cost people money in the long run.

MG: Alright. Another thing that you pointed out to me when we were speaking about this interview – and we’re talking with Eamon Sweeney who’s a journalist with the Derry Journal and other papers in the North of Ireland – the European Community gives a great deal of money to all of Ireland, North and South. For example, you were saying farmers, almost all farmers, or a large majority of farmers in the Six Counties would get a subsidy from the European Community. Now if you take away European funding you’re giving that there may be money coming but you’re talking about a Parliament – and you used this phrase when we were speaking about preparing for this interview – where it’s run by the people you call ‘Thatcher’s children’ and who are not likely – who support austerity, who have pushed through austerity throughout poor Ireland as through well as everywhere else under their jurisdiction and who are very loathe to give support, prop up, give benefits to people who may need them, particularly in the Six Counties. What effect do you think that that’s going to have, the withdrawal of European funding, and is it going to be replaced from London?

ES: Well, my take on it is that the only streams of funding that have kept portions of the North of Ireland going over the last forty years through community development and industrial development has majorly come from the European Parliament in Brussels. You know, that was spearheaded by both John Hume and Ian Paisley whilst they were MEPs (Member of the European Parliament) and both of those guys, you know, they’d harness the European mechanisms to bring and attract inward investment to the North of Ireland. Once there’s withdrawal from Europe by Britain I mean that, by necessity of the fact that that they don’t want to participate, why should the European Union (EU) therefore keep pumping money in? And on a very practical level within Doire City all those community programmes that were basically born out of the peace process and linchpinned into the Good Friday Agreement are funded by the European Community. Those are things that in a place where there’s still high levels of unemployment, no opportunities for youth, that gives them a bit of hope, a bit of aspiration for training and development and so on and so forth – if that’s gone what replaces it? What comes into that vacuum? Certainly the money won’t come from London because they’re telling us that they’re not only not able to fund community programmes but they’re cutting peoples’ welfare benefits. So what happens next? We really don’t know. It’s a massive period of uncertainty. The advertisements for the next batch of peace funding from Europe are actually appearing in local papers north and south of the border at the minute.

The Peace IV programme, which is an inter-regional programme based on not only cross-community aspects but also on cross-border aspects. So if that’s gone, I mean even something as simple as providing programmes for older people, educational programmes for people who are unemployed, for youth programmes, for sports programmes, that’s going to end. You know, this city, and Inishowen as well, have largely been forgotten about by both the British and the Dublin governments for a long, long time. So it’s going to be a disaster if this follows through and there is a full-blown withdrawal. I mean, Britain can’t cherry-pick anymore about wanting access to the single European market without having to pay in. The whole thing for me was, as you said, a grubby little power grab by the children of Margaret Thatcher to try and wrest the keys of Number 10 Downing Street from David Cameron. This guy foolishly, in my estimation, agreed to an EU referendum and when it backfired it’s gone spectacularly out of control. What it also has shown, also in my estimation, is that the whole concept of a United Kingdom is faltering greatly. I don’t see how it can survive another ten or fifteen years. So where does that leave Northern Ireland in terms of being a political entity? Scotland have already said they wish to remain in the European Union and if that means searching for their own independence from the UK in order to maintain that they will do so.

The Welsh result, in terms of their choice to withdraw from Europe and back the English vote, is still baffling to many people out there. As somebody who is supposed to know about these things I can’t for the life of me fathom why the Welsh, a Celtic nation, decided that they wanted to break away from the European Union. The English devolutionary programme has been one which has been running for many years. Blair, Tony Blair, actually started this in the mid-90’s as the peace process in Northern Ireland actually built up – that’s the origins of it while the culmination of it now is being played out in the Tory Party. The devolutionary project to give a degree of power to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as separate from England was started by Tony Blair for no other reason, in my estimation, than this guy wanted an England that was able to compete in a global market – and by ‘England’ I mean the confines of a square mile in London where he wanted to create an economic powerhouse and this is coming full circle now where you’re seeing the cracks appear in the United Kingdom political project.

MG: Eamon – and we’re talking again with Eamon Sweeney, journalist in the North of Ireland with the Derry Journal and other papers. Eamon, one of the things, the immediate reactions that happened, was that Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin asked for a border poll and that was immediately refused by Arlene Foster and by Theresa Villiers, the British Secretary for the North of Ireland. So it won’t happen. They’re now talking about having some kind of common approach to what’s going to happen with Brexit. How do Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster, who are on opposite ends of this issue – Arlene Foster, the First Minister, wanted to leave, they wanted Britain to leave and Martin McGuinness of course wanted The North to remain as part of the European Community – how do they now form a common approach to protect Irish interests at Stormont?

ES: Okay and it’s part of the political project at Stormont; the rules say that there must be a cross-community leadership approach in terms of the First and Deputy First Ministers’ offices. However, they are diametrically opposed in terms of ideology. Martin McGuinness is a Republican who wants to take Northern Ireland out of Britain. Arlene Foster wants to retain it. How do they come about in forming a joint approach in terms of dealing with Brexit is beyond my capability to explain. I don’t see how it’s possible. Martin MCGuinness is well within his rights, as is laid down in the legislation in terms of the Good Friday Agreement, to ask for a border poll. Why wouldn’t that not be allowed? I mean there are other societies out there, in terms of broad Nationalism and Republicanism in Ireland, including organisations like the 1916 Societies who are formulating a campaign for an all-Ireland referendum on a withdrawal from the UK. So while this legislation in ingrained in the Good Friday Agreement that the vast majority of people North and South signed up to almost twenty years ago the flat refusal by a Unionist leader in the form of Arlene Foster and then the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is flabbergasting. Theresa Villiers words were, basically, that there aren’t enough people out there wishing to sign up to a united Ireland. How does she know that without a poll being actually held? It’s impossible. She has no legitimate right to say that so it probably will be an argument that continues on. You may well see a wider Nationalist campaign to demand a border poll. I’m told this afternoon, after I spoke to you earlier, that there’s a huge cross-political, party political meeting being organised in our community being organised for the city in Doire next Wednesday specifically to thrash out what we do about Brexit next. But the one thing that the Unionists and Theresa Villiers can be assured of is that there will not be a ‘quieting down’ of the demands or an aspiration for a border poll; they simply do not have the power or the authority to say ‘no’ and to leave it at that. There has to be a rational explanation behind why they are refusing a border poll. That’s just nonsense.

MG: Well do you think, at this point, there’s been a strategy that Sinn Féin had of going into Stormont, working with the Unionists, trying to whittle away at any injustices and meeting the Queen for example this past week, do you think that that is achieving, growing, any Unionists coming forward who would now vote for a united Ireland or do you think it’s more likely that they’re seeing, that Nationalists seeing Martin McGuinness at Stormont, working with the British government, shaking hands with the Queen, that there are now more Nationalists who would not come out and vote for a united Ireland if there was such a border poll?

ES: You know, the symbolism that’s involved with Martin McGuinness as a Republican leader going to shake hands with the Queen of England I mean it’s becoming a recurrent thing. That’s part of his job. He signed up to take part in the Stormont Assembly. It’s part of a strategy to convince Unionists that Nationalists are not only their equals but appreciate their culture and respect their traditions. And that’s fine. It’s nothing more than symbolism. On the wider view what I would ask is: Why have Nationalists in general, those who would vote either for Sinn Féin or the SDLP or anybody else who ascribes to a Nationalist ideology, why aren’t voters coming out and backing them in the same manner that they used to? Is it because, for example, that Nationalists feel they’re not getting any benefit out of what they signed up to twenty years ago in terms of practical economics on the ground, in terms of jobs and investment, or in terms of the aspiration to someday seek a vote or a referendum, in a peaceful manner, for a united Ireland?

There’s something wrong there. Why are people not backing this anymore? Do they feel that the Nationalist political representatives have let them down in this matter? In Doire, for example, in May you had two candidates who were not in the mainstream parties in terms of Sinn Féin or the SDLP. Eamonn McCann, who stood for the People Before Profit Alliance – you know Eamonn a long time, he’s been a veteran campaigner, I think he’s been on your radio station many times – he came through and got himself elected. Now that was at the cost of a seat for the SDLP. Another independent, Dr. Anne McCloskey, who almost made it over the line as well. Now that tells me that there wouldn’t have been a lot of people from the Unionist direction voting for either Anne McCloskey or Eamonn McCann so it was a protest vote, perhaps to a certain extent within Nationalism, who decided to give somebody else, in the form of Eamonn McCann, a chance and let’s see if he could change anything in Belfast.

So there are problems within the wider Nationalist family. I think there’s a wider desire within the public, that I sense anyway, that the Nationalist parties need to talk a lot more about how, in the long term, they plan to reunify the island of Ireland. It’s something that has disappeared largely from the political agenda. And while there is an aspiration there for it the outlet or mechanism for it has been strangulated at every opportunity both in London and in Belfast. So that’s something that isn’t going to go away. It’s been centuries long in coming and it’ll come back again.

The crazy thing about it is that while Nationalists want to withdraw from the UK they want to remain within the European Union. And a lot of Nationalists want to remain within the European Union for very valid reasons, primarily because European courts of human rights provide us a lot of legal protection in terms of the injustices faced by Nationalists and Nationalism in the North of Ireland. It also provides workers’ rights that – you know the Tory government is nakedly capitalistic in London and don’t care about the working class in any shape or sense – want to destroy it.

If they withdraw from the European Union and those legal routes are blocked off in Europe in terms of investigating the past, holding the British state to account then what’s the political landscape in the North of Ireland going to look like for Nationalists come two years time when they eventually withdraw if the UK from the EU happens? It’s not a pretty picture.

MG: Eamon, we want to talk just on that one further issue before we let you go: There is a campaign right now for Tony Taylor. Tony Taylor is somebody from Doire who was, served a term of imprisonment for a Republican offence and then all of a sudden one day he is then brought back in, he’s held on licence, he’s not told what the charge is, what specific allegations are against him. His solicitor can’t be told about what is happening. Can you tell us what’s happening right now with Tony Taylor? Is there any campaign for his release?

ES: There is, yes. There is an on-the-ground campaign to try and get the guy back out of jail. I mean he was taken from his home, subsequently imprisoned at the will or the discretion of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State because she felt that he was involved in some non-specific, in some activity which has been non-specified without the right to trial, without the right to have a jury or have the accusations from the Secretary of State and it is her, in her person, that actually ascribes this power. If they were confident, for example, that Tony Taylor had committed what would be described as a criminal offence then put the man in court and give him access to the system of British justice that the British are very proud of. But no, it seems to be that, despite the political advances overS the last years in Northern Ireland, there are mechanisms by which people can still be taken from their homes and interned without trial.

Now this was one of the fulcrums of the civil rights campaign, one of the root sources of the conflict in Northern Ireland. It was the reason why people went marching on Bloody Sunday in January 1972 – to protest against people being taken without trial and imprisoned for whatever reason that the British saw fit. So are we coming full circle again here? Are people just going to be taken at will because they upset the British state? The British state seems to have the right to imprison people without accusing them of anything, to revoke a prison licence and put people back in jail. There is a campaign and I’m sure it’s being backed by both the Nationalist parties in Doire at least and the wider community. How far that will go because Ms Villiers seems to be very fond of the use of the word ‘no’ in the wider sense of all issues.

I may add as well, in my opinion, her behaviour during the Brexit campaign in terms of being a minister of state for Northern Ireland and supposed to demonstrate some aspects of impartiality as a minister of state was absolutely disgraceful. Her whole outlook was to campaign for a Brexit when she held a ministerial post, and a very sensitive one in the form of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. You know, she negated the entire wishes of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland who wanted and voted to remain in the European Union. She should have been censured for that.

MG: Well, we’ve been talking – Eamon, I want to thank you. We’ve covered a lot of ground – you spent more time with us than I had asked you to and we’ve covered a lot of issues and we’re looking forward to having you again in future. This has been Eamon Sweeney, a journalist with the Derry Journal and other newspapers in the North of Ireland. (ends time stamp ~ 42:27)