Eamon Sweeney RFÉ 12 November 2016

Radio Free Éireann
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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)