WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
2 February 2013
John McDonagh (JM) interviews Martin Galvin (MG) via telephone from the home of Gerry McGeough in Dungannon, County Tyrone about the recent events he attended in Ireland. Thanks to our transcriber.
JM: Martin, before we get into your itinerary I just wanted to reminisce a little bit about (former New York City Mayor) Ed Koch. I told the story about how Ed Koch tried to stop the NYPD Emerald Pipe Band from marching in Bundoran, County Donegal on behalf of the Republican Movement even though they were doing it here and marching at Irish Northern Aid events in Astoria. What's your recollections of Ed Koch?
MG: John, I have two strong recollections, personal recollections: one positive and one negative.
The first: In 1984, when I was banned from the North of Ireland and the British, you were there, the British attacked the crowd, murdered Sean Downes. When I came back from that I was working at the time as an administrative law judge for New York City and the first question I got at a press conference was: Do you think Mayor Koch would fire you? And I right away said: Well, Mayor Koch feels very strongly about Israel. I would hope that he would respect the fact that Irish-Americans feel just as strongly about their ancestral homeland of Ireland. So it went back and forth but he decided not to intervene and I kept my job for some period of time there. But, on the negative side: Ed Koch made a visit to Ireland – I forget the tour ... he might have been with Cardinal O'Connor I'm not sure - but he made a statement – he was lured into making a terrible statement by a British official. There was an outcry by Irish-Americans.
After he came back his office indicated that he wanted to make peace. So we were prepared to do that. We were going to have a meeting and a press conference and he was going to make an explanatory statement and we were going to forgive him. And then all of a sudden - this was arranged over a period of days - about two o'clock on the day of the meeting, which was scheduled for three, I get a phone call that I am banned from the meeting because I represented Irish Northern Aid and I'm a terrible person. So at that point, the Irish delegation, all the groups, refused to meet with him ... it became an even bigger story. And when he next ran for elections, at an Irish-American mayoral forum, there was an outcry there. He was booed very strongly almost off the stage as the result of his action.
So I have negative and positive feelings about Mayor Koch. As a mayor he started out much better than he finished. Let's put it that way. And that reminds you of somebody else right now who's in the mayoral seat.
JM: Well, Martin, let's go to your itinerary. You've been in Ireland for a very eventful week. What was it like in Doire last Sunday for the Bloody Sunday March?
MG: Well John as you know, I promised to be here when Gerry was released but because it was so close to Bloody Sunday I was able to come over on Sunday.
I was very impressed. It was very moving. It was a very strong, large crowd. Many Irish organisations were there: Republican Network for Unity, Republican Sinn Féin, The 1916 Societies, The Friends and Families group, The Marian Price Campaign - all of them were there – it was a huge crowd.
It was very bad day. It was rainy, it was windy, it was muddy where the eventual speeches would be. But people marched together very strongly, very somberly. At that point we knew that Dolours Price had passed away. There was concern about whether Marian Price would be able to attend part or all of the funeral or if she'd be with her family.
But it was a very emotional march. I was very impressed by the crowd.
The families, Kate and Linda Nash and some of the other families, actually made me a presentation, of something with a picture of Cú Cuchlainn on it with a statement – you know the same sort of a thing that hangs in front of the GPO which I was very moved by ... I was very touched. They thanked us for all the support that comes from Irish-America.
Again, you couldn't fail to be impressed by all of the people who were there: by Bernadette's speech, by all of the anger in the crowd – the determination. Not just about Bloody Sunday, that injustice, but about what was happening with Marian and Dolours Price and all the injustices that were going on. And people also spoke to me at great length - they knew that I was there for Gerry, about whether he'd be released and to congratulate him and how much of an anger that was that we'd be marching for prosecutions of Bloody Sunday troopers who have never been arrested but the British could move so quickly to gaol Gerry McGeough for two years in Maghaberry.
JM: And then you went from Doire to Belfast the next day. What was the funeral like for Dolours Price?
MG: It was another terrible day – it was rainy, windy, but the crowd – that did not matter at all.
I met a large number of people – many of whom have been guests - Anthony McIntyre and Carrie Twomey were there. I was walking with Ivor Bell, Danny McBrearty, very well-known Republicans. Hugh Feeney, who you spoke about recently being arrested in The Irish People's office, who actually was gaoled along with Marian and Dolours. And Gerry Kelly, who of course was not there. But Hugh Feeney was there. He was very emotional about what had had happened to Dolours (and) what was being done to Marian (and) how little had been achieved from the struggle. I saw many people who I just hadn't seen for years. Jimmy XXXX you might remember from The Phoenix Bar was there. A large crowd again – very determined. Danny Morrison came up and said hello. And he was one of the few people who didn't have many people talking to him. And he would have been one of the few people there, if any, that I would class as being well-known or very prominent within Sinn Féin at this stage. It was again a very moving day.
Eamonn McCann and Bernadette both spoke very movingly and just the spirit, the strong spirit, the anger of what the British had done in terms of Dolours and what they were doing to Marian - it just was palpable in that march.
JM: And then the next day you went to meet with Gerry McGeough who was being released after spending two years of a twenty year sentence.
MG: They added-on some time. He was supposed to be released at eleven o'clock. He was released much later. It turned out that before he was released they wanted to get one last strip search in.
They put him in a room that was heated, no air ... nothing ... to see if they could provoke him one last time. They said to him that they were unsuccessful in provoking him. And also he had to have his licence read to him - you know, to ensure that he that he knew that what happened to Marian Price and what had happened to Martin Corey - that the same type of thing was hanging over his head.
But ultimately he came out – he was photographed. Angela Nelson the Councilor as well as Helen McClafferty, myself, Maria, his wife and family were there - Damian Herron of The Gerry McGeough Committee were there to meet him. Photographers were there to take snapshots, some of which would have appeared in the local papers and he was finally able to go home – free at last - after two years.
We then we had a series of days in which Loyalists, Sammy Brush, Maurice Morrow, began to complain that there was an event scheduled for last night at Quinn's Corner, a welcome home night.
Now, “welcome homes” have been conducted for Republican prisoners going back to the '70's and I'm sure they went back generations before. Gerry McGeough had a previous welcome home night when he came back from America at Emyvale in County Monaghan.
But a welcome home night was scheduled and all of a sudden the Unionists started to complain that this was done to get at Sammy Brush and that it was a terrible thing and all sorts of articles started to appear that this man should not have a welcome home.
Well, he had a welcome home last night. It was a tremendous crowd.
I couldn't tell you how many people were there because you couldn't move in Quinn's Corner in County Tyrone. There were again many prominent people there. Angela Nelson, the Councilor, had come up. Éamon Ó'Cuív, who's been a guest on the programme, came up from Galway and was one of the speakers. They had a mayor from Spain who knows, is friendly, with Gerry's wife, Maria's family... Helen McClafferty of course was there, people from The McGeough Committee. Brian Halpin is one of the people organising the event in Dublin. There were people from around the country. Emmett Doyle, who assisted The Gerry McGeough campaign, he works with Pat Ramsey in the SDLP, he was present.
There was a huge crowd. I couldn't tell you how many people were there because you couldn't see it ... you couldn't get a seat, you couldn't move. The audience was very attentive. They were very moved by all the speakers.
Moya St. Leger - also from from England I should mention - but when Gerry spoke you could see the crowd stand up. They were anxious to hear him. They gave him a tremendous ovation ... a tremendous welcome. And particularly in my own speech when I just mentioned how Gerry was somebody who came back to us unbowed, unbroken with no apologies - that got a real cheer because it's in contrast with what has been happening by some other political parties and officials in Ireland at the present time.
JM: All right, listen thank you, Martin. If you could put the man of the hour on.
MG: I will. But just one quick commercial: On March 3rd we're going to have an event in the Rambling House for the AOH. Gerry pushed my into the AOH. I'm trying to work on that. Three to seven in the Rambling House in the Bronx and with that we'll have a message from Gerry McGeough in addition to everything else and in that ...
I'll give you over the the man who was cheered, given a standing ovation, packed the hall last night and has caused so much trouble with the Unionists in the newspapers.