Willie Gallagher BBC Radio Foyle 8 May 2017

BBC Radio Foyle
The News at One

Amanda Williams introduces a report filed by the BBC’s Northern Ireland Political Correspondent, Enda McClafferty. Enda speaks to Willie Gallagher, spokesperson for the Irish Republican Socialist Party, about pinpointing the location of the remains of Seamus Ruddy, one of The Disappeared. Seamus’ sister, Anne Morgan, makes a statement as well. (begins time stamp ~ 12:00)

(Note: The audio cannot be downloaded. You can listen along by clicking here.)

Anne:   You know at this point I’d like to thank those people who were involved in that process, you know members of the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) and the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) and you know and maybe former members. You know, I have to acknowledge that without their information and their courage to come forward we would not be in the place we are today.

Amanda:   Well that was Anne Morgan, the sister of Seamus Ruddy, who was a member of the INLA who was kidnapped, tortured, murdered and secretly buried by the organisation in France thirty-two years ago. The family of the Newry-born teacher believe that remains found in a forest near Rouen are his but – why has it taken more than thirty years to pinpoint the spot where his killers buried him in 1985? Well our political correspondent, Enda McClafferty, has been speaking to one man who knows the answer to that question. So Enda, who have you heard from and what exactly did he have to say to you?

Enda:   Well this morning, Amanda, I’ve been speaking to Willie Gallagher from Strabane, a prominent member of the IRSP, and back in 1999 he was appointed as a go-between, essentially, between the Ruddy Family and the IRSP – the man that was most tasked to try and find the information that would ultimately lead to the discovery of Seamus Ruddy’s remains. Now he’s been involved in this process since then. He’s been liaising with the Commission of course which has been set up to search for the bodies of The Disappeared and also been talking, at length, to the Ruddy Family. So I have been hearing from him because he is the man who provided this information which has led to this discovery at the weekend. And a lot of people are asking that question today: Why has it taken so long? If the information was there why was it not provided more sooner and why have the Ruddy Family had to wait thirty-two years now to reach the point where they are at today? And I asked him that question and he explained it around information which had previously been discounted by them which then was re-assessed and then that provided the breakthrough, as he said, to reach the point we have today. So this is what he had to say, Amanda, in explaining how we’ve arrived at where we are now today.

(Ed. Note: 16 May 2017 – The IRSP has made a clarification on this point.)

Clarification provided by the IRSP:
It is stated above that the Republican Socialist Movement (RSM) had re-investigated a previously discounted rumour.  This is a misreading of what Willie Gallagher said. During its re-investigation into the precise whereabouts of the location holding the remains of Seamus Ruddy, the RSM came across a rumour that was new to it, not a rumour that had been previously discounted.  It is also pure speculation that this rumour centred around an arms dumps. The RSM has never discussed the nature of the rumour with anyone outside of its own investigative team and the ICLVR.

(transcript continues)

Willie:   We came across what seemingly seemed an insignificant rumour which we pursued and eventually that insignificant piece of information provided the key to unlock a door in regards to more precision where the body was and basically we were successful in the recovery.

Enda:  What can you tell us about that rumour?

Willie:   Well I can’t go into detail in telling you what the rumour was because I’m very conscious of the confidentiality of the whole process but what I can say like is whenever we first came across it did seem insignificant but we chased down every single lead possible. And some of those leads like came to dead-ends and actually involved a number of us traveling us over to France, Belgium and Spain. But eventually we chased that particular rumour down and, as I said, it provided the key to unlock a door to precision.

Enda:   So is that rumour then about the location basically: We believe the body is here, essentially?

Willie:   Yes, essentially. As I was saying I was over a number of times with the disappeared body like, along with other people – we went through the whole forest and down that particular path and we were always in the right area but we didn’t have the exact precision. This time we had more precision. And I don’t know how close the actual body was found to where we marked ‘X marks the spot’ but it was pretty close – we’re talking about yards and I think, if my information is right, that the last dig in 2008 maybe fell short of approximately forty yards from where the body was – that’s how close.

Enda:   And how detailed was the information that you provided this time? What exactly did you tell the Commission?

Willie:   We told the Commission everything we that knew. We actually we able to provide the Commission with ex-INLA members, current INLA members and anybody who had information and one of the reasons why we were able to do that like was we were able to relay to these individuals like how confidential the whole process was, the integrity of the process itself and the integrity of the Commissioners and we were able to convince people to actually go and meet them and talk to them.

Enda:   So you actually liaised with the people who killed Seamus Ruddy? Is that right?

Willie:   That’s a road I’m not going to go down in relation to who did what. Our main focus was on the ‘where’ not the ‘who’ or the ‘why’.

Enda:   But surely does not that put you in a compromising position to be involved in such discussions because the police might come knocking on your door to say: What do you know about what happened to Seamus Ruddy and who was involved?

Willie:   Not really because there’s legislation put in place and that legislation covers and guarantees confidentiality, secrecy and also immunity in regards to anybody who may have been involved in the disappearing of any of the bodies and that’s why I would like to publicly call for anybody who has any information whatsoever, regardless of how insignificant they may think that is, because it’s the main reason why I’m giving this interview today is because we came across an insignificant rumour which opened the door to more precision and opened the door to actually finding the body. So there could be people out there who may think that they might have insignificant information which may be the key to unlocking the door for the other bodies, the other three bodies, which have yet to be found.

Enda:   Now you’ve been in regular contact with the Ruddy Family. What have those conversations been like given the fact that you are connected to the organisation which murdered their loved one?

Willie:   Well when I say that I feel disconcerted having facing the Ruddy Family face-to-face because at the end of the day, like I’m an ex-INLA prisoner, and even though I had been in prison at the time of Seamy Ruddy’s disappeared there is, perhaps, the feeling of corporate responsibility. But as time went on like we did strike a very good relationship.

Enda:   And did the family ever ask you why Seamus Ruddy was murdered?

Willie:   Again, the family were not interested in prosecutions, whos, whys – they just wanted the body so that’s what we totally focused on.

Enda:   And at any stage during all of this process did those who killed or buried Seamus Ruddy visit the site with you to point out where he was buried?

Willie:   Again, it’s locked into the confidentiality of the process and I don’t want to damage the integrity of the process in any shape or form. I want to encourage others to come forward – to have that confidence.

Enda:   Has this been a source of shame for the INLA that this case has been outstanding for so long and the family have waited for so long to get this body back?

Willie:  Well it’s been a sense of frustration all those years. We put a lotta, lotta work into it and again, I would be just a figurehead but a lot of people behind the scenes in regards to the IRSP and as I said in Rouen there like we chased down rumours – we went to Spain, we went to Paris, we went to Rouen, we went to Belgium. In fact at one point in time like we would have went to Paris, up to Rouen, back down to Paris again and onto Brussels – all in one day – so that’s the type of work we were involved in. And again, at the end of the day it was more than worthwhile – putting a lot of effort into it. And again, what did encourage us was the dignity of the Ruddy Family themselves. Even when we came against a brick wall they were still very hopeful and their dignity actually inspired us to go on.

Enda:   So there you have it, Amanda. Willie Gallagher there talking about the information that he passed onto the Commission at the weekend which then led them to begin this search and ultimately to find these remains which the family believe, of course, is Seamus Ruddy. And just to clarify he didn’t want to talk about, Willie Gallagher, about the rumour, the substance about this rumour that they had previously discounted. Now I understand it involved arms dumps in that particular forest – there’s a network of paths – there’s a number of INLA arms dumps, or there were and it was about which arms dump were, essentially, where Seamus Ruddy was buried. So that’s what the rumour was – they previously discounted it then re-examined it and then they came up with the new information and the new site and hence, we’re in the position we are today.

Amanda:   Enda McClafferty, thank you very much indeed. (ends time stamp ~ 19:59)