John McDonagh (JM) interviews Mick O'Brien (MO) of The DruidsEliza Butler (EB) comments.
JM: And welcome back to Radio Free Eireann. Everybody who's been listening for the past year or so know we've been featuring The Druids out of Wexford, and Dublin and Meath and all around. And the last time we left them was on Saint Patrick's Day where they were robbed down in Tompkins Square Park; car broken into and instruments gone!
And Eliza (Butler) said to me as she was talking to Mick O'Brien, one of the founders and lead singers in The Druids, she said “Mick, you're causing trouble everywhere you go!” And I said, “No, no. They're causing trouble at places they're intending to go! They're not even there yet and they're causing trouble!” (all laugh)
I saw up on Facebook that The Druids now have lost a gig in Glasgow because a group over in Glasgow run by Provisional Sinn Fein has (been) trying to ban them from playing in Glasgow.
Mick, what exactly is going on and when were you heading to Glasgow?
MO: What's going on is a very good question. When were we heading to Glasgow? We're due to sail out to Glasgow next Friday the 20th of April.
And we are going. We won't be stopped (from) going. As far as I know there is no legislation (scoffs) or no illegality of us traveling anywhere so we will go to Glasgow and we will go on Friday where we play in Port Hibs Hall in Port Glasgow on Friday night and we play in The Lancashire Hall in Glasgow on Saturday night, the 21st and that's for the Volunteer Brendan Hughes Republican Flute Band.
Now, we were supposed to play a gig on Sunday afternoon in a pub in Glasgow. We booked the gig. Actually the guy who runs the pub contacted us and booked us to play in the gig; we didn't go chasing it, he booked us.
Everything was fine.
And I got a call last night from him basically saying to me, and very sincere, and basically saying: “Look Mick, I have to cancel you after getting a communication from a group called Cairde Na hÉireann in Scotland basically saying to us that if we allow you to play in the pub that basically they will direct their people somewhere else.”
In other words, he'll get no more customers.
It's not his fault and I completely understand that as well. He has to earn a living and we don't hold any grudges towards him whatsoever.
Now this goes back a good bit ago, John, where probably about two years ago we were contacted by Sinn Fein here in Ireland. And we were contacted by a local representative here County Kildare and basically the communication was, as follows: saying to us that they had become aware that we were playing music and playing gigs for other Republican groupings, basically RSF, Republican Sinn Fein, and some other groupings as well and we were also playing at that time in The Players Lounge in Dublin, which was owned by John Stokes. And basically the communication was that if we did not cease playing for them organisations and playing in that particular venue that we would go on a “banned list.” Now I don't mean a music “band list” I mean a “banned” list...a blacklist. And what appears to have happened is that has come to fruition... where we are now blacklisted.
JM: And what is exactly this group? Who do they represent in Glasgow and where do they get their marching orders from?
MO: My understanding is that the Cairde Na hÉireann is affiliated to Sinn Fein; that's my understanding. That basically they're either a sister organisation or supporters of Sinn Fein here in Ireland (Ed Note: Scotland). I'm not too familiar with the group but I know there's a connection between them and Sinn Fein and the orders have come from Sinn Fein. I'm under no illusion about that.
We were also playing in a pub in Belfast, although we haven't been officially told this, but I truly believe that the reason why we no longer play in that venue is because of the same reason: it's because we've been blacklisted by Sinn Fein. This is absolutely and totally and utterly crazy, John.
Let me tell you this and I want to say this on the airwaves and I want to say it clearly: During the Presidential Election in Ireland, which was only what? a couple of months ago...we were the only band, we were the only band, The Druids Irish Rebel Band, were the only band that publicly supported the campaign of Martin McGuinness, right? We had posters of Martin McGuinness at our gigs because he was the only alleged Republican that was standing for the Presidential Election.
JM: (quips) Alright, cancel your ticket to New York! Continue! Go ahead... (both laugh)
MO: For the previous election, the General Election in Ireland, because of the Republicans standing for elections in Ireland, the only people that you can vote for if you're a Republican is for Sinn Fein because no other ... like RSF ... don't run a candidate or any other Republican group. So for the General Election a year ago, March a year ago, twelve months ago, we supported Martin Kelly, who ran here in Kildare, and we supported Jason Turner, who ran here in Kildare, for Sinn Fein as well.
Now my understanding, John, is that no other group, no other band has done that. But yet, Sinn Fein has us on this “banned list” which is absolutely ridiculous!
Our stance has always been very, very clear from the very beginning ... our stance has been that we are an Independent Republican band. We play for everybody.
JM: And Mick, also you were up in County Tyrone playing for Gerry McGeough. But also, I want to say the power that Provisional Sinn Fein do have in Glasgow particularly with the Republican pipe bands that come over and play at commemorations throughout Ireland. Now this is a big deal for the bands in Glasgow.
And I know how they work. I know how they put “the arm” on because I was involved in organising things in Bundoran in County Donegal where they told the pipe bands in Glasgow: “You're not allowed to play at the hunger strike commemoration in Bundoran in Donegal”.
I know the weight they carry in Glasgow. They could go up to some of these pipe bands now, you're playing for the Brendan Hughes one in Glasgow, they say: “listen, if The Druids play for you, you're not going over to Ireland to play any of the commemorations that are coming up!”
Which is a big deal for the bands in Glasgow. It's a great week out for them.
MO: It's absolutely crazy! I had a communication today, just today I had a communication from somebody in Scotland over Facebook, right? Basically saying that we should not be talking about this on social media, or we should not be talking about this on the airwaves, that we should it to ourselves. Well, I'm fed up with keeping this to myself. Do you know what I mean? Absolutely fed up with this! It's absolutely ridiculous!
If we do not have the freedom as a Republican music band to play for who we want and we're singing songs of freedom...that's a serious contradiction! That's a serious contraction! I'm not prepared to stand on the stage and do that.
JM: Well, Mick, we're gonna play a song right now... it's Bobby Sands poem...
EB: Wait, John. Let’s just say: If you guys want to see The Druids they will be coming over in September and want to pack the house. They'll be playing Connolly's and we want to make sure and pack the house. And I think you guys are coming over again in December. So (for) people out there who want to support this band and what they're doing and what they're representing.
MO: Thanks very much, Eliza. Could I just say that gig in Connolly's is a huge ordeal. It's a huge, big gig for us. It's our biggest gig in New York to date and we are really, really looking to get a crowd in there. It'll be absolutely brilliant! The fifteenth of September in Connolly's in Times Square.
JM: Mick, maybe describe this next song which will not be heard at that bar next weekend in Glasgow but it'll be heard here in New York. It's the Bobby Sands poem.
MO: When we were recording our album, (the) Starry Plough, we really wanted to include a poem, some of Bobby Sands' poetry, because his songs are known here in Ireland, like “Back Home in Derry” and “McIlhatton” and songs like that but his poetry, and everybody was aware that he was a poet and he wrote poetry, but very few people have heard it, so we really wanted to include something like that on the album. So I picked out this piece called Weeping Winds which basically describes the conditions of the hunger strikers or of a prisoner locked up in Long Kesh.
If you listen to it and listen to the sentiment in it - it's horrific – it's absolutely horrific!
And if you try and get inside of what Bobby Sands was trying to put out and understand what he means ... I think he had a unique way of expressing himself through poetry. I love it. I absolutely love it!
This is called “The Weeping Wind”.
JM: Mick, we'll be in touch with you in Glasgow next week 'cause you'll have more of a firsthand account when you're in the city itself.
1:32 (Interview ends) The Druids song “The Weeping Wind” is played.