An IRA Hand Is There In Some Way

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview author and award winning journalist Ed Moloney (EM) via telephone about recent events in Ireland this week with focus on the murder of Kevin McGuigan in the Short Strand last Thursday. Thanks to TPQ transcriber, who not only worked on this, but brought it to our attention that Radio Free Éireann is back on air.

WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
15 August 2015
(begins time stamp ~34:10)


SB:  And we're talking to Ed Moloney, the author of A Secret History of the IRA. Ed, thanks very much for being with us. 

EM:  No problem, Sandy. 

SB:  So a few interesting developments this week: Very famously, Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin, said that in 2016 Ireland would be united. But this week Martin McGuinness wasn't quite so sure. And as well this week the Irish seemed to go back to war but not against the British Army. But first maybe we could talk about Martin McGuinness sort of interestingly back-tracking on Gerry Adams' famous prediction. 

EM:  Yeah, it was a very foolish prediction, if you can call it that, to make in the first place. I mean it was obviously going to be a hostage to fortune because the hundredth anniversary of 1916 was approaching and he'd be asked why this thing hasn't happened and clearly wasn't going to happen. I mean the impetus towards a united Ireland is probably less now than it has been for a long time largely because of the peace process. So it was a nonsense claim to make – made obviously to win over some faint hearts possibly within his own organisation and now of course with 2016 just round the corner and no united Ireland in sight Martin McGuinness is adjusting the party message accordingly. 

SB:  Well also it seemed to be a message to certain Irish-Americans who might write some very big cheques. 

EM:  Well indeed, I suppose that was in his mind as well and he might have thought that perhaps people three thousand miles away from the reality on the ground might be more willing to believe in such a possibility. But all that I think has been overshadowed by the killing of this guy, Kevin McGuigan, in East Belfast in the Short Stand area last week as it's created all sorts of difficulties which are being wrestled with now by my colleagues in the media, some of whom who are taking a more forthright stand (thankfully) than normally is the case in this. 

This guy McGuigan is alleged to have been involved in the killing in May of a very senior IRA figure called Jock Davidson; comes from a very famous IRA family in the Markets district and was at one stage a candidate for Chief of Staff. He was shot dead in a sort of very cold-blooded way. Apparently there's a history of animosity between him and Kevin McGuigan and McGuigan was killed outside his home last week late at night and immediately fingers began to point at the IRA which of course is supposed to be: a) on ceasefire b) supposed to have stood down and c) is supposed to have decommissioned weapons. But there is absolutely no doubt in the minds of people who are following this story closely over there that an IRA hand is there in some way, shape or form in the killing of Kevin McGuigan.

But it's also raised I think embarrassing and important questions about the partiality of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) because what happened after this killing is that you had the usual chorus from Sinn Féin people urging, indeed warning, the media not to speculate about who was responsible - ie code language: do not blame the IRA. And they were being told in no uncertain terms that they would be considered quote “unhelpful” end quote if they did so. Now, the adjective “unhelpful” was a word that came from the early days of the peace process when the thing was unfolding and “helpful” journalists were stenographers – they just wrote down what they were told at Sinn Féin press conferences and didn't ask too many questions or probe. “Unhelpful” journalists, in whose company I was very proud to stand, took a different ,more professional attitude towards the whole business and probed and asked awkward questions and wrote stories that revealed things that powerful people did not want to see in print. Well again, that came out this week and the warning was to those journalists: Don't be unhelpful to the process - ie do not speculate about the IRA.

Well this time they were joined by the PSNI. The guy in charge of the investigation, the Chief Inspector John McVea, was giving a press conference and he told the media it would be quote “reckless and dangerous” to link this murder with the IRA when in fact more or less every single conscious person in Belfast was doing exactly that and the very first thought that flashed into their heads when the news came on the television screens that this was a revenge killing by the IRA.  

And of course it raises very serious questions about the PSNI and Catherine McCartney - whose brother Robert was brutally stabbed to death allegedly on the orders of Jock Davidson -  has gone public with her view that the PSNI is not a fit service to investigate such killings because their priority is to protect the political process - ie protect Sinn Féin and the IRA - rather than investigate and get to the bottom of this killing. So this is getting a wee bit out of control. She's called for an outside police force to be appointed to investigate this killing. It remains to be seen what the political pressure is. There will be a lot of resistance in British circles and Sinn Féin circles to this but it's a real issue. How can you trust a police service to investigate a murder which everyone in Belfast believes was carried out by the IRA when the very first words uttered by the investigating officer is warning people not to go down that road? So an interesting week from that point of view. 

JM:  Ed, I wanted to tackle – I mean this whole re-writing of history – back in the '80's I used to drive Joe Cahill around (because I was one of the few guys that had a car) and in the '90's when he was given a visa to come over he stated that the prisoners would be released and there'd be a united Ireland in the '90's. And then when that wasn't working out Martin McGuinness came over and he gave speeches in mid-town about how by 2016 – but another re-writing of history and I'm reading the headline here: 

Gerry Adams accuses David Cameron of arrogance over comments about seeing off the IRA: Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of arrogance over the comments he made about seeing off the IRA. Mr. Adams released a statement yesterday, marking the tenth anniversary of the IRA ceasefire, in which he insisted the IRA was never defeated. 

Now Ed, the last time I was back in Ireland in Derry I actually had people coming up and saying: Oh you know, the IRA were never defeated. We stood toe-to-toe against the British Army and they had aircraft carriers and nuclear bombs and they still couldn't beat us. And I was looking – it was such bizarre statements and the world that they want to live in – it is truly bizarre – and now Gerry Adams is taking about the arrogance of the Prime Minister about saying seeing off the IRA. 

EM:  Yes, but he's able to do that because of the nature of the peace process. It was a gradual and staged withdrawal from the battlefield by the IRA on British terms. But it didn't end in a General MacArthur meeting (from the British side) meeting Martin McGuinness on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to sign surrender terms. It was never done in that sort of way because to do so would have been to reveal the truth of what was going on which was that the IRA had, in effect, been defeated by the British - militarily and also politically. And the way that you measure that is not by the existence of a document – a  surrender statement by the IRA by P. O'Neill or Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams - but by the circumstances that were created when the conflict ended.   

And you look at the way that the conflict in Northern Ireland has ended: the war aims of the IRA, which were to reassert the Irish peoples' right to national self-determination across all thirty-two counties of Ireland not only was not reached but they've actually accepted the 1921 settlement which was based upon the idea that Northern Ireland had a right of its own self-determination. That was something that the IRA continued fighting against because it offended the 1919 election and the 1921 elections in Ireland which produced an overall majority in the whole of Ireland for independence. So the war ended with the IRA accepting the British terms and the Unionist terms for the existence of Northern Ireland – for the existence of partition. And that's how you measure, in this case, who won and who lost the war. The British war aims were attained: the IRA was forced to accept the existence of partition. It now accepts all the parliaments except for the Westminster one and it sits half-in and half-out of the Westminster Parliament – it doesn't sit in the Chamber but it sits in the offices above and beside the Chamber and it takes all the expenses that come with that. It takes ministerial seats in the Assembly in Northern Ireland and also they take their seats in Dáil Éireann in Dublin – so they've accepted all the formal aspects of the partition settlement of 1921 and that is what Cameron means when he says he saw the IRA off. And indeed, if you look at the circumstances towards the end of the conflict it was clear that British intelligence had so thoroughly infiltrated the IRA that it was almost incapable of carrying out operations. There was only one part of Ireland that was still relatively immune to penetration, that was South Armagh, but even then at the end, they were being penetrated.

I have read very authoritative statements from senior members of British Intelligence saying that by the time of the peace process, in the early 1990's when Joe Cahill was being squired around New York by John in his taxi, the British Intelligence estimated that one in every three IRA members was working for one or other branch of intelligence – that is the RUC Special Branch, MI5 or Military Intelligence. So when you have a third of the enemies' forces working for you there's no question about who's won. 

SB:  Ed, you were bringing up how Sinn Féin and the British government agreed on the killing of Kevin McGuigan and that it would be very unhelpful for journalists to go there. But another thing they agree on is that the IRA gave up, surrendered, destroyed all their arms. Now that raises an interesting question if...

 EM:  ... Well I never believed that, sorry Sandy ... I never believed that for a moment and what happened last week is a textbook example of why I believe that. There was no way that the IRA was going to entirely stand down: a)  it's organisation or its machine or b) give up all its weapons because of the existence of dissident groups – I mean there were break-offs from the IRA - the Real IRA first and then the various splits that took place - there's other groups that opposed them – opposed them politically. There was always a danger that they would be attacked by these groups. And common sense – I mean Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would be very, very foolish people indeed if they did not say to the British: Listen, the reality here is that we might be shot by one of these dissident groups. You've got to turn a blind eye to the fact that we're still going to have the capability to defend ourselves at the very least. And that's exactly how they will argue about what happened last week. I mean, you know the rumour and reports coming out of Belfast last week were that the killing had been ordered by very senior members of the Belfast Brigade, or what used to be the Belfast Brigade, on the grounds that if they did not retaliate for the killing of Jock Davidson, who was a very senior colleague, then the message would be sent that rest of them were easy targets so therefore they were going to hit back. But where we get into the deception and the dishonesty of the whole business is that we're all then asked to pretend that it didn't happen. And the people leading the charge as it were in demanding that we all keep quiet and be “helpful” is the police who are supposed to be of course the characters who investigate these killings. 

So it raises all sorts of very difficult questions for the basis of the peace process – the honesty and dishonesty which it's based upon and the honesty and dishonesty of all those who are participants. Because every single political involved in this arrangement, including the Unionists, know full well that the IRA still has the capability to kill people and will kill people when and if it's in their interest to do so.  And that's exactly what happened last week but they're not doing anything about it so what sort of society do you have when you have that level of duplicity and moral dishonesty? Raises very serious questions, I think.

SB:  Well it does indeed and we're happy you could be with us to raise those questions. So we've been talking to Ed Moloney, the author of A Secret History of the IRA. Ed, thank you very much, as always.

 EM:  My pleasure, Bye-bye. 
 (ends time stamp ~49:08)


  1. The most important words in all of that, at least from what I can see, are 'what sort of society do we have here' (or something to that effect)

  2. Ed Moloney is spot on here with his assessment. Interesting developments with the four arrests and the capture of two weapons. Would anyone hazard a bet on the weapons being given up as a token gesture and the arrested persons being released without charge after the standard fig leaf interviews?

  3. Who was it christened him Ed BALONEY? LOL