Very Pressing Questions To Be Addressed To Gerry Adams.

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview via telephone both Ed Moloney (EM) and Richard O'Rawe (RO) about the CBS News 60 Minutes broadcast that aired last Sunday.
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
11 April 2015

JM: Now we're going to play a little clip from 60 Minutes last Sunday - did an interview with Gerry Adams and he really did tailor it towards an Irish-American audience because he really couldn't make some of the statements he made here on American television over there where he actually said on 60 Minutes that he hopes to see a united Ireland within his lifetime. Let me let this information out: Gerry Adams' grand kids will not see a united Ireland never mind Gerry Adams!

And he also talks about how he was never in the IRA but everybody around him was in the IRA, from Dolours Price to Brendan Hughes, and it just seemed kind of odd that everyone he knew, everyone he hung out with – they were all in the IRA but Gerry Adams wasn't in the IRA. And I have to tell you, when I was working up at The Irish People office up at 207th Street and Broadway and Denis Donaldson was there, Gerry Adams was a regular caller to the office to find out what was going on in New York with Denis Donaldson – who was sent out by the IRA - turned out that he was an MI5 informer – but - a very inquisitive fellow, Gerry Adams, for not being in that part of the Republican Movement. And when we come out of that we'll speak to Ed Moloney and we'll speak with Richard O'Rawe.

time stamp: ~ 19:05 portion of 60 Minutes audio is played.

time stamp ~ 27:30 audio ends and live show resumes.

SB: And we're going to Belfast to talk to Richard O'Rawe, who was interviewed – you heard him just a few minutes ago being interviewed on 60 Minutes. Richard, thanks very much for being with us.

JM: Yeah. He just dropped off but we do have Ed on.

SB: Ed – we do have Ed Moloney on. Ed, this 60 Minutes broadcast, largely about Gerry Adams and Jean McConville, reached a completely new audience. I mean, it reached millions of Americans who probably barely heard of Gerry Adams let alone seen him. What do you think the effect was? 

EM: And also those who had heard of Gerry Adams it was all sort of very positive story up to this – that he was like - ended the IRA's war – and he wasn't involved himself – and helped create the peace in Ireland and so on and so forth. And then you have this horrible story about this “disappearance” of this woman, Jean McConville. And this is a whole new narrative on Gerry Adams so it will not have done him any good and it will be interesting to see how American politicians now position themselves in relation to Gerry Adams – will they begin to distance themselves a little bit? Let's see what Hillary Clinton's demeanor towards him is. So I would say the Sinn Féin leadership is very disconcerted by: first of all The New Yorker article and then the CBS piece, you know.

SB: But this is not the usual Irish-American audience that goes to the Sheraton to give money to Gerry Adams. This is a completely different audience.

EM: Absolutely, yes, absolutely. Although I guess he's also or they would be, his handlers would be hoping that that type of audience hasn't got have much of an attention span on anything, more or less. I mean we all know, Sandy, we live in the United States of Amnesia, you know: that something that's a terrible scandal one week is utterly forgotten about three weeks later by most people, you know? So maybe that will act in his favour. But it'll register though in important circles: political circles and government circles. And that's where I think the concern will be in the Sinn Féin at the moment.

SB: But Ed, you said there's also a book coming out based on The New Yorker series.

EM: There is, yes, apparently. It was announced during the week - a book deal with Doubleday by the guy who wrote The New Yorker piece, a guy called Patrick Keefe. I'm presuming he's going to try and expand on the whole story which will be interesting to see. And again, that's a development which will not be welcomed because that keeps this thing going as it were. So it's a very changed American scene for Gerry Adams in the last - really since St. Patrick's week.

JM: And you saw in the clip that we just played there – we had Richard O'Rawe – now I know Richard has seen it. I don't believe that he thinks he was part of a civil war as a member of a Catholic militia. I mean almost, Richard, the description there was: the Sunni and Shia Muslims going at each other in Belfast – that this wasn't part of a national struggle. What did you think of the piece and your role in it? and What was left out from your interviews?

RO: Well, John, the analogy you made there was exactly the same thinking I had when I seen this Catholic/Protestant rendition about what occurred here in the North of Ireland. It was exactly the same. It seemed to me that they were almost trying draw us into a Middle-Eastern comparison. It was never that! It was unfinished business from the Irish War of Independence of 1919-1921 when, through the treaty, the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Ireland was divided and a sizable section of the people who wanted to be part of a united Ireland were trapped within the northern states. So it was a war of liberation! No different from the American war of liberation. And it's absolutely erroneous to portray it as a religious struggle. Yeah, there was, in many instances, people were killed because of their religion predominantly on the Loyalist side. The IRA was more concerned with their struggles with the British soldiers etc and the British security apparatus. However, it was never in my view and in a Republican view, a struggle of religions – never! Just before we move on may I make a point?

SB: Please do.

RO: Please. Thank you so much. During the programme Scott Pelley said that I “ran a hunger strike that led to deaths of ten prisoners in 1981.” That is factually incorrect. I did not run the 1981 hunger strike. I was part of the prison leadership but I did not run that hunger strike. It's incorrect to say so. I think – I mean, I also that said in my two books, Blanketmen and After Lives, I mean - I wrote two books about this and made it quite clear what happened during that time. And I mean, I'd also say I wish to hell I had been in the position to run it because I'd suspect that the last six hunger strikers would have been alive today.

SB: Richard, I want to come back to that but you told me that CBS took you and your wife, Bernadette, out for a very nice dinner.

RO: Yes, they did, Sandy, yes. They took us to The Crown Bar and they bought us fish and chips and (inaudible) after as well. I have to say they were very, very nice - very pleasant.

SB: But you told me that when you sat down for dinner with them they were really interested in the hunger strike and Adams' role in calling off the hunger strike. Then when you got to tape the interview - none of that was there.

RO: No, no, no, the principle reason I was there was principally because the hunger strike, however, when we did go to the interviews etc - as you say, none of that was there. But also, I must say the Boston College debacle was also a part of the interviews even when we were sitting in The Crown. And they were very interested in my opinion in Boston – of the BC situation, so I mean I was wasn't surprised that they did bring up Boston during the interview.

SB: And where did they tape the interview?

RO: They taped the interview at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast.

SB: Fancy quarters for you! (both laugh)

RO: Well, I wouldn't say so, Sandy, I mean, one tends to have a beer here and there and everywhere when one's in the mood.

JM: Ed, I wanted to get some of the reaction to what's going on in the New York magazine, The New Yorker, and the 60 Minutes piece and particularly Niall O'Dowd or Lord O'Dowd of Irish Central and The Irish Voice. He seems to question everything - he questions you – he questions the Boston tapes - but he doesn't question anything about Adams stating that he's not in the IRA and Adams saying he's going to see a united Ireland - that seems to be off-limits – that you do not question Gerry Adams - but you question everything else!

EM: Well I mean, are we really surprised at that because that has been Niall O'Dowd's form ever since he became a supporter, an advocate, of the Sinn Féin policy and programme in relation to the peace process. And don't forget: this is the man who, when The Irish Voice started, shunned everything to do with the IRA. He refused to, when it was suggested to him that he hire me as a correspondent from Northern Ireland, he shunned that because – you know, Ed Moloney's too close to the Provos.

He was much more interested in getting advertising revenue from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in those days. But then with the peace process it became possible to support Sinn Féin and be respectable and have none of these dangers. So it's not surprising that because that's consistent - the attitude and the demeanor he now has towards Sinn Féin - is consistent with all of that. But it's to be expected and I think everyone knows now the tune that Niall O'Dowd plays and I think a lot of people just switch off because they've heard it all before so many times. There are very pressing questions to be addressed to Gerry Adams.

But if I could just go back to that theme of “this was a civil war”. They called it a civil war between Catholics and Protestants. And by calling it that they excluded the role of the British in all of this. And the British - if what is said about Jean McConville is accurate and truthful – and I believe it is – I've talked to enough people who had direct dealings with her, like Brendan Hughes, and other people. And they are all convinced and they gave me evidence of their experience and I am absolutely convinced that she was working for the British Army.

While it was absolutely deplorable and completely indefensible for the IRA to have killed this woman (she was only a minor informer - she should have been put on the Liverpool boat and told never to come back) and even worse to “disappear” her - hide her body for thirty-odd years or so – what about the role of the British Army in hiring someone like this as an informer who's got ten children?

If she's caught - the consequences for those ten children are going to be - and were in her case - dreadful. And don't forget Brendan Hughes let her go – she was discovered at one point - a British Army transmitter was found in her apartment, in her flat in Divis Flats. She confessed to Brendan Hughes that she was working for the British. He let her off – unprecedented for the IRA to do something like that but it was very typical of Brendan Hughes (I think people who know him would understand that). But he did let her go because of her domestic situation – the fact that she had these ten children - but with a very stern warning that: Jean, if you do go back to this the next time you won't get off – it'll be curtains for you. And what did she do? She went back to being an informer. (And wait 'til the full story is told before you make a judgment on what I'm saying.)

But, did the British Army know that the IRA were on to her and did they continue to employ her? We don't know. But it's a very valid question. These questions – the role of the British Army in Jean McConville's life and death – are never raised at all because everyone accepts this Nuala O'Loan report that she wasn't an informer. When you examine the Nuala O'Loan report it's not very satisfactory. And the other problem with the Nuala O'Loan approach to it is that the alternative explanations for her being killed by the IRA are just not believable.

So there are sides to this story which, unfortunately, will never get covered on places like CBS. They got a touch in The New Yorker article and I hope if Patrick Keefe produces this book that he delves into that in much more detail because it is a very necessary part of the story.

SB: Ed, I want to come back to Gerry Adams and 60 Minutes. There's a lot of people who have commented how this was not his usual smooth, professional delivery. He came off very badly. He kept blinking. He was evasive.

EM: Yeah, the body language was redolent of lying – that was the problem for him. It was a very bad experience. Maybe it was just far too close – see the CBS started this – they interviewed me as well and they interviewed Anthony McIntyre (I think) and they interviewed other people. And they just dropped all of those interviews when The New Yorker came out and they focused on Gerry Adams. So they were over in Ireland doing this, and Richard there will bear me out, fairly early on after Adams' arrest so maybe he was still suffering from the after-effects of that – but it was not one of his stellar performances that's for sure.

JM: You're listening to Radio Free Éireann and we're talking about the 60 Minutes piece on Gerry Adams last Sunday in which Richard O'Rawe appeared. And Richard, I just want to get something – I was speaking before – I was the editor of The Irish People newspaper and Gerry Adams used to call up all the time and we understood that he was a member of the IRA – and it was told to us by everyone that came out – from Denis Donaldson and to any other Republican coming out. When you had your dealings with him in 1981, who did you think you were dealing with – I mean coming in and negotiating with the British - the British actually flew him out of Long Kesh - not as some civil rights activist but as a member of the IRA. What is your take on him saying that he's never been a member of the IRA? And what were your impressions that he was?

RO: Okay, John. I'll answer the first part of your question and then go to the second part. Our view in the prison was that Gerry was a member of the IRA Army Council and that is how he got so much trust from the prison staff. Plus, he was known to us so I mean we had a lot of respect at that time. That's the first part and the second part of the question...sorry, I've lost my track here – what was the second part of the question?

JM: No, no...but when you were dealing with him directly about the 1981 hunger strike you were dealing with him as a Volunteer of the IRA - not some civil rights worker working out of some office in Belfast.

RO: Well, when I was writing my book I spoke to two members of the 1981 IRA Army Council, when I was doing my research, and both of them confirmed to me that at the time Gerry was Chairman of the seven-man IRA Army Council – that is the body which ran the IRA. We didn't know he was Chairman but we always - we suspected and we believed, as did the prison leadership, that when we were speaking to Gerry Adams we were speaking to the IRA Army Council.

EM: Can I just put in a word of explanation there, John? Being Chairman of the Army Council means that you are the IRA's official representative in discussions with outside bodies. You're sort of like the IRA's ambassador. Martin McGuinness had that role during the peace process which is why you saw him, along with Gerry Kelly who was Adjutant General, going up to Stormont to talk to British officials. They were there speaking on behalf of the IRA and reporting back. So when Gerry Adams was Chairman of the Army Council during the hunger strike it was part of his job to act as the negotiator and the face and the spokesman and the negotiator with other entities including the British government. So what Richard is saying in his account of the hunger strike is strongly supported in that regard by the fact that was Gerry Adams' role so there's no dispute about it I don't think.

SB: And Richard, has there been any reaction in Belfast to the 60 Minutes interview?

RO: Well truthfully, Sandy, there's been very little. It wasn't broadcast over here and unless you were actually aware of it people wouldn't have tuned in to it. Now there's been a couple of press articles about it - Malachi O'Doherty did one for The Belfast Telegraph last night which was very critical of it and, in particular, he was critical of the portrayal of the war here – he didn't accept that there was a war but then that's his own opinion. But he was very critical of the fact that it was portrayed in such simple terms as a Catholic v. Protestant thing and absolutely no mention was made whatsoever of the British Army's nefarious involvement in the war and all the dirty tricks, etc and the torture and everything else that they were involved with.

EM: You know, the thing about 60 Minutes is that when you see them make such a hames of a story which you're very familiar with you wonder – you know, the stuff that they give us about Iran or Israel – if it's as bad as that then the American viewing public, certainly in it's relation to 60 Minutes – is badly, terribly, cruelly misinformed about an awful lot of trouble spots in the world. If they screw up a story which is relatively simply that we know about and we can point to all the things that they got wrong - what on earth do they get wrong elsewhere?

JM: You're listening to Radio Free Éireann and we're discussing the 60 Minutes piece. We're going to take advantage of our being up here in the Harlem studios because we can't do it down at Rocky Sullivan's - we don't have the facilities to take phone calls. But if you watched the piece, I'd like you to call in and give us your observations of what the piece was like and how you interpreted it. (John gives phone number.)

Richard, I listen to Stephen Nolan every morning and they did touch on the subject but the one thing that they touched on was when Gerry Adams said: what happened to Jean McConville one of those things that happen in war. And that seemed to get more people riled up than “there's going to be a united Ireland” – or “he was never in the IRA” – I just think they just say: Well, that's just his nonsense. But it was his phrasing of what happened to Jean McConville – that she was a casualty of war and that seemed to be more coverage of that than there was of anything else.

RO: Well, that's a fair assessment, John. In actual fact Adams is correct inasmuch as filthy things happen in war - that's the nature of the beast. The way he put it across was very sort of cold – if I may use that word. It was very cold. And I think that, more than anything, was what touched on people. And the other thing that grasped me in Gerry's interview was that he minimised his answers – it was yes or no or I didn't know – and to me that was clearly a tactic that he had decided upon beforehand because I'm quite certain that he would have known that Mrs. McConville would have been an issue.

JM: Okay, no – we have some people that are calling in: WBAI, you're on the air and what did you think of the piece on Sunday?

Caller1: The piece on Sunday put the smoke screen up that it's only the Irish-Catholics (the IRA, the Republicans) that are to blame. They're not going to do a programme asking for the British Army to send over the people that ordered Bloody Sunday. They're not going to ask people for MI5 to send over people that were responsible for joining Loyalist killer gangs and killing people who also had families. So if you'd just mention that you might balance the coverage.

JM: Well, I think you're going be waiting a long time if you're waiting for 60 Minutes to cover that aspect. (Caller lost.) (John gives station phone number.) 'BAI – you're on the air.

Caller2: Yes. Good Afternoon. I'm just amazed - I'm not surprised at what CBS did. CBS has a history of double standards. And you're completely right when the other speaker said - they lie about Israel. They lie about Iraq. They lie about Iran. They slant it. But what amazes me about this whole thing - how about the - why can't they go back and talk about the potato famine when they was exporting food out of the country while people were starving? Why don't they talk about that? Why don't they talk about the conduct of the British police – MI5 - the torture chambers. Why don't they bring up little things like (inaudible) people do not have a right to expect the people that they're colonising to simply lay down and die. It's human nature to fight back to protect your family and when your country is being over-run by a bunch of Protestant English - not Irish - English fanatics - you have a right to fight.

JM: Well, I would disagree with even to say the English Protestants or whatever I mean there was a political agenda and there wouldn't have been a religious agenda on that. WBAI you're on the air. Alright. (John provides phone number). Richard, when they were doing the interviews what were some of the answers that you gave that didn't make it on that you wish would have made it on?

RO: It's hard to say, it's hard to say, John. The Boston College thing, right? I elaborated a lot more on Boston College than was broadcast if my memory serves me. I mean, in my view Boston College was a tremendous idea and had it been left alone I think it would have been an absolute treasure trove - an historical treasure trove. I don't think that was touched on enough.

JM: And you know what, Ed? I want to bring that up because that seems to be a running theme in The New Yorker article and also in the CBS 60 Minutes piece. I mean, Niall O'Dowd would go almost as far to say: if the peace process collapses it's because of the tapes of the Boston College and not anything else.

EM: Yeah. Well, I mean, let's wait to see how this story ends because we're still in the middle of it and they have yet to make a decision about whether to bring any prosecutions - and it will be very interesting to see if they can justify bringing prosecution on what is, essentially, hearsay evidence and nothing else, more or less. So I think the jury is literally still out on that one. But if this peace process collapses as a result of this you know - it takes more than one to tango in this type of situation. The motives of the PSNI in pursuing this material I think is something that deserve an awful lot of scrutiny and they never get scrutinised at all – it's just: well, the police have the duty to do this type of thing, and no one can stop them and they're doing their job etc etc.

Well, that's not true because we're living in a very delicate political situation. They knew full well what the political consequences would be pursuing this archive. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that while there may have been one or two policemen involved in this inquiry who had the interests of the McConville family genuinely at heart I don't think there wasn't a single one of those cops involved in this inquiry who didn't also say to themselves (and maybe over a few drinks in the PSNI mess at night): And we'll also get that bastard Adams - because all the roads lead, in this business of Jean McConville, to Gerry Adams' door and they knew that – they knew that very well indeed.

And that then leads you into asking: Well, what were their motivations? We know from reports Amnesty International that the historical inquiry side of the PSNI (Ed. Note:the Historical Enquiry Team aka the HET) is over-populated by former members of the RUC Special Branch who took early retirement under the reforms but then were re-hired to help in this type of work – because of their expertise. 

These are people who bear an enormous grudge against someone like Gerry Adams and the Provo leadership because the peace process led to the disbandment of the RUC Special Branch – it was taken over by MI5. So there's all sorts of reasons – there's also personal reasons. At least one very senior policeman involved at the start of all of this business – whose father was killed by the IRA and who is said to bear an enormous personal grudge against Gerry Adams. Was that motivating him in all of this? 

So for all of those reasons one has to say, or at least ask questions about, what was in the minds of the PSNI. And equally, one has to ask what was in the minds of the Department of Justice who just rubber stamped this thing without thinking it through. I mean, if the DOJ had spent five minutes on the internet they would've realise that this inquiry, this investigation, was going to lead to Adams and if that happened then the peace process, which had mostly been created by two previous US Presidents, Bush and Clinton, could be brought down by a third, Obama. But they went ahead. And why did they go ahead? I suspect it was because the Brits are their pals in their war against Al Qaeda – they give us what we want – we'll give them what they want - no questions asked - and it's led to this situation. 

JM: Alright, we have one phone call – if you can be very quick - we only have two minutes left - what do you want to say? 

Caller3: Good Afternoon, John. Thanks for the programme. The chuckles began, too, when they got rid of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. So they took care of our children not knowing how to count – they go one, four. We have to teach math now to the children. Now they've destroyed the history. Wait, I was there in '96 with Adams and he should have gotten the British out like they did in Hong Kong not saying (bleeped) ten years. (call ends)  

JM: Listen, thank you for that and that was never on the table, negotiating-wise, during the treaty. Richard, any final words? And then Ed. 

RO: Just that last comment that that guy made there which I thought was very, very good. You know - we don't know what was said during all those negotiations, John. We don't know what the Republican leadership, McGuinness and Kelly, asked for in terms of a constitutional settlement. Did they just accept a settlement? Did they even try for a joint authority? We don't know any of that either! We're just left to try and pick up it ourselves in the wind! 

JM: And Ed, any final words? 

EM: Well, just on that. I mean you know the whole pattern and plan for the peace plan was set out in a letter that Fr. Alex Reid wrote to Charles Haughey back in 1987 and sent to him on behalf of the Sinn Féin leadership, not the IRA leadership but the Sinn Féin leadership. And you read that letter and look at what has happened - it's all there – and it's very clear. And there was no notion of a sort of major constitutional change that was looked for. It was Sinn Féin's participation, eventually, in some sort of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland – the creation of a pan-nationalist front to bring this about. And all of that happened.  

There was never, Richard, I don't think there was ever a notion in the head of – there was in the IRA leadership's head – they thought they were negotiating a withdrawal from Ireland by the British which might take place in twenty or thirty year's time – they had compromised on this idea that the British have to get out next week – they had given that up and said: well, if the British say they'll go in twenty-thirty years - that'll do and will end our war. Well, they didn't get anything like that. And it's a very, very interesting story but it's all there and I don't think there was ever really an intention to get that sort of constitutional change. It was really more about Sinn Féin becoming a very important electoral force in Ireland.  

JM: Alright, thank you. (end time stamp ~ 56:10)

1 comment:

  1. How can JM assert there was no English Protestant agenda in the colonisation of Ireland. Has he never heard of the Penal Laws? The Orange Order? Gerrymandering and discrimination?

    Granted had Henry Viii not had his spat with the Vatican England would have continued its colonisation here. Regardless, the conflict in the 6 counties was unfinished business between people who refuse to consider themselves Irish first and foremost and those of us who were cut off from the rest of the country and left to our fate.

    Why can so called republicans not face that fact. Is the endless bleeding heart hand of friendship to loyalism. Republicanism is a dead duck serial failure. No bad thing.