They'll Always do the Dirt on You

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview via telephone Ed Moloney, (EM) author of Voices From the Grave and A Secret History of the IRA, about his recent blog post, Britain Continues The War Against The IRA And Sinn Féin Stays Silent. Many thanks to TPQ transcriber.

WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
28 March 2015


SB: And now we have made contact with Ed Moloney, the author of Voices From the Grave and A Secret History of the IRA, and Ed blogs on The Broken Elbow. Ed, thanks very much for being with us. 

EM: My pleasure, Sandy. 

SB: And Ed, the war in The North is supposed to be over but it seems the British government doesn't think so - they are continuing to prosecute and potentially lock up former members of the IRA - even those who had an explicit agreement from the same British government that they would never be prosecuted. So what's going on?

EM: Well, you know when the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated and a few years later the deal finally implemented, there was a belief that two things would happen: 1) is that while there wouldn't be an officially announced amnesty, the police and the authorities on the British side would close the books on The Troubles as it were – leave that all behind - and reach out to the future with a sort of clean slate.

And secondly: As part of the secret negotiations that took place between the Sinn Féin leadership, the Provo leadership, and the Blair government: A number of letters were issued to people who were On-the-Run, in other words who were wanted for certain offences and could risk being arrested and put on trial if they ever came back to Northern Ireland or to Britain, and these letters more or less guaranteed that these people would no longer be sought. In other words, that was sort of an official, agreed amnesty and it became part of the Good Friday Agreement accords and the whole peace agreement. And I think Blair and his people have said on several different occasion that without it it would have been much more difficult for Gerry Adams to have delivered the peace process because you know - what worth is the peace process if the British are still going to lock up your activists? You know, it doesn't look like a negotiated peace at all. It looks like a victory - a military defeat.

And that's the way it stood until the Cameron government came into power. Now the Cameron – it's very important to understand the influence of neoconservatives on Cameron and his administration – there are a number of his senior ministers - his Chancellor, the Exchequer, George what's his name who – I forget his surname now – and also Michael Gove, who was Minister of Education and various other - George Osborn is the name of the Chancellor - and various other ministers and MPs are all signed-up members of the neoconservative wing of the Tory Party. And the think tank which has the greatest influence on conservative policy, an outfit called Policy Exchange, is headed by Dean Godson whose brother worked as a neo-con adviser to the Bush administration and is himself a neoconservative.

Their view of the peace process is that they were entirely hostile to it – their analysis of it was that cockamamie analysis and it was: That this was all a big trick by Gerry Adams to get the IRA back into a war situation strengthened by the various concessions that they had wrought from the British - it was absolute nonsense and based upon testimony from one former IRA member (whose name now escapes me) but he was their sort of “pet” IRA person who fed these fantasies - and that's all now being translated into action which I think, myself, runs entirely contrary both to the letter and the spirit of the peace process.

First of all, these letters to the On-the-Runs have been torn up and the police are making it very clear – the PSNI are making it very clear that they're going to pursue these people and pursue other people and try to put them behind bars.

And why I say this is a return to the war is that: If you examine how the conflict was fought between the British and the IRA – I mean, clearly the IRA went out to kill as many British targets as they could and to blow up commercial targets, etc etc - now obviously they killed an awful lot of civilians in the process - but that was their stated methodology of fighting the war.

The British response was two-fold: Party it was taking out and killing IRA members themselves but primarily and mainly and mostly it was an attempt to put people into goal – put them behind bars – put them on trial - convict them and throw them in goal for a number of years. And that was how they fought the war.

Well, the IRA has ended its war – it no longer bombs, it no longer shoots, it's given up all its weaponry and most of its structures - IRA structures - have been dismantled. But the British? There they are - they're trying to put people back in goal – not only people arrested under the Boston College business but also people who were On-the-Run and every week it seems that there's some eighty year old or seventy year old arrested and charged with this that and the other. It seems as if it's going to continue under Cameron and - to my mind - it is a breech of the peace process – both the spirit and the letter - it is a return to war by the British - because this is how they fought the war – it's not being reciprocated by the IRA. And the strangest thing of all is that seems to be tolerated by Sinn Féin because they're not saying a word in protest yet everyone can see there is something really radically wrong. Even Niall O'Dowd's organ this week carried a story from Eamon Delaney , a former Irish diplomat, pointing out that this was something that could really undermine the peace process so - everyone else is saying this is wrong or most people are who are following the situation - except Sinn Féin – they're saying nothing at all - which is really strange. 

SB: But Ed, why is that? You have the British government essentially tearing up key parts of the peace agreement and Sinn Féin doesn't say a mumbling word.  

EM: Well, I can't peer into the minds of Messers Adams and McGuinness but let's look at the track record, for example: When Gerry Adams was arrested in May last year on the basis of Jean McConville's allegations against him his comrades outside - while he was languishing in a police cell – his comrades outside were jumping up and down - hopping with anger and Martin McGuinness was talking about dark elements still in the PSNI – which is entirely true, of course! I mean, we know that. The whole reason for the whole Boston College business is because of ex-Special Branch people who are now back into the PSNI who want revenge on Adams & Company. 

And it was clear from the behaviour and response of people outside Antrim Police cell that they were extremely angry at this and saw it as a betrayal of the peace process. And what does Adams do when he comes out? He slaps McGuinness down – no more talk of renegade or dark elements etc in the police force, please - and was quite happy to make no fuss at all - to make no political point relating to his arrest which is: Here I am - the guy who was the principle architect for this peace process - without whom there would not now be peace in Northern Ireland and between Britain and Ireland and yet here they are trying to throw me in goal - what does this say about the peace process? And I think that really is the fundamental weakness of the whole business and I think that's why Sinn Féin is staying quiet - because this really does demonstrate that this really wasn't – or at least it's open to the interpretation – that this wasn't an equal peace process. It was, in fact, a victory of one side over the other and no one in their leadership can admit that.

JM: And Ed, this is the difference between winning and losing: When Mandela gets out and the ANC members can come back – they're not being arrested and charged for things that happened years ago and Ed, it is so humiliating! I'm going to read a statement that was made in the House of Commons on Wednesday by Loyalist politician, Mr Dodds. Mr. Dodds asks: Would the Prime Minister now list in the Library of House all those other Sinn Féin members and leading Republicans who have likewise received a Royal Parson so that Republicans in Northern Ireland can know which of their stalwart leaders have either begged or asked or probably on bended knee such a Royal Pardon and secondly, so that everyone can know – in the country which governments have been involved in such nefarious activities. Now even the thought of asking the Queen of England for a Royal Pardon – I mean we're talking about what happened in 1916 and 1921 - you could almost say they might be asking now for a Royal Pardon. So now you have to ask Republicans in The Six Counties – they have to go to the Queen of England to get a Royal Pardon!

EM: Well, indeed and I understand that Gerry Kelly has since announced that he was on the receiving end of a Royal Pardon although that preceded – I think that happened before the peace process. But there's an awful lot about the process that remains secret and will probably remain secret forever and we will probably never get to the bottom of all of these stories.
But if the PSNI, as they say as they intend to do or the police in Britain intend to, pursue these people and try to put them in goal - I think that's going to produce a situation which cannot be ignored by the Sinn Féin leadership. Of course, I know they have their eyes very firmly set on winning this election in the South and that's all they really care about but at the same time they daren't risk the peace process falling to pieces in The North while this is happening - and I think that's the danger here – see, what it does, realistically, is that it tends to strengthen the arguments of the “dissidents” within Republicanism which is: that the peace process is not what it says that it should be or could be or will be – that it's something entirely different – that it represents a defeat. And not only that, but you can never trust the British and you can never have an agreement with them that they won't renege on.

And they've reneged on this one – I mean this is a “big reneging”. Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain, gave the Provos his word that these people would not be prosecuted and here's the subsequent government saying: Well, screw that - we're tearing those letters up. It doesn't matter.

So, what's the lesson from that? It's an ago-old lesson in Irish history and one which has always divided physical force Republicanism from Constitutional Nationalism with physical force people saying: At the end of the day you can't trust these people because they'll always do the dirt on you - and here is an example of it.

SB: Okay, Ed, thank you very much. Unfortunately, we are out of time. We were talking to Ed Moloney, author of A Secret History of the IRA, and you can follow Ed's blog, The Broken Elbow. So again, Ed, thanks very much. (ends time stamp ~ 43:25)

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