Britain Doing What It Has Always Done

Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Anthony McIntyre (AM) via telephone from Drogheda, Co. Louth about problems with the legacy issues as addressed in the Fresh Start agreement and about the political fallout from the recent conviction of Tom Murphy on a tax evasion charge. TPQ's transcriber takes credit for making the interview accessible in this form.

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
26 December 2015
(begins time stamp ~ 17:13 )

MG: Next on the line we have Dr. Anthony McIntyre, a former political prisoner like Gerry McGeough. Dr. Anthony McIntyre was in Long Kesh for a number of years so he also knows what it's like to spend Christmas away from home in a British prison. He's now an author, a commentator and analyst and his website, The Pensive Quill, is one of the best websites if you want to look at different political opinions concerning The North of Ireland The Pensive Quill and Anthony McIntyre is one of the best places to go. Anthony, Merry Christmas! Nollaig Shona!

AM: Nollaig Shona duit fosta, Maírtin. It's good to be on and I hope you and your listeners had a very happy Christmas and all the staff at Radio Free Éireann.

MG: And I want a special thank you for not going out early on Boxing Day.

AM: Well going out early on Boxing Day is certainly a treat in Ireland – we enjoy a few bevvies but I mean I actually went out earlier and walked the dog along the side of the Boyne River getting soaked in the rain. But I don't mind so I didn't have time to think about it anyway and this is for a very good cause.

MG: Alright Anthony, We want to talk very briefly about a couple of subjects: Number one – there was the Fresh Start agreement that was signed. Now, they were supposed to deal with welfare reform and then legacy – the past – in which everybody would talk about – tell the families of victims, those who had been killed during The Troubles - give them information about what happened during that period. The welfare reform, or the austerity measures, that went through – that was agreed. The legacy issues were not and it's because Theresa Villiers, David Cameron's Secretary who runs The North of Ireland for Westminster for David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said that they couldn't make an agreement on national security. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

AM: Well what the British are doing is ensuring that they are hiding behind the blanket of national security and it's a convenient device for allowing them to protect their own people who were involved in British state terrorism throughout the conflict in The North of Ireland. But having said that I also think that none of the combatants, the leaderships certainly of the combatants, have any real interest in divulging the past because for many of them they're still are involved in current political life and they do not want the past coming out so I suppose all around it's very useful. And what the British are trying to do is ensure that the exposure they have been subjected to in relation to recent events, like Freddie Scappaticci now being investigated for possibly having been involved in fifty homicides, they want to protect themselves from that and they want to be able to withhold information which they will say is vital to national security. Therefore, it doesn't matter how you were killed - who killed you - the British think, or want it to be the case, that your interest - the interest of the people, the rights of the people belonging to these lost ones to know the facts - that will be trumped by national security. It's a cover-up exercise. It's Britain doing what it has always done.

MG: I just want to give you an example: The day after Theresa Villiers gave an Op-Ed or a platform piece in The Irish News about how much she wanted to reveal more on the past. She had a meeting with the Irish Foreign Minister, Charles Flanagan, and during this meeting Flanagan wanted to talk about the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Now, there's been programmes going back – I think 1993 there was a TV programme by Yorkshire Television, The Hidden Hand, which showed that the British had been very much involved in setting up bombers to travel from The North to The South to have those explosions, those bombings, kill many people in Dublin and Monaghan on the same day. There's been programmes this year - Darrah MacIntyre, a namesake of yours, there was a programme on RTÉ Television, the Irish state television, which all revealed the same thing. Why is it or what reason would there be for Theresa Villiers not to finally admit that the British government, as those TV programmes have made clear and public, were involved in sending out those bombers to bomb Dublin and Monaghan?

AM: Well because the British in the conflict were the victors and the victors always write the history and the British want to write it to their own good – to portray themselves in a very favourable light – and there's no surprise at this. The British - for example, up until recently many people accepted that there were clear lines. And if we look at the book, Lost Lives, by Brian Feeney and three other journalists, a very good book that people constantly refer to about all the deaths during the conflict and who was responsible for them - I mean books like that now have to be called into question. Not because the authors were bad or in any way mischievous but because more information is coming to light and where previously we may have been able to say that the UFV (Ulster Volunteer Force) or the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) killed such an individual – the IRA killed other individuals - we now have to explore in greater depth the concept of joint enterprise – that the IRA, many IRA killings which were thought to be the work solely of the IRA were carried out with the approval of the British state – and we've always known this about the Loyalists and the Unionists. So there's no clear lines. Everything has been blurred. And the British do not want this blurring. The British want to have a narrative that they only put their people here on the ground to prevent two tribes killing each other and the British made a few mistakes, minor mistakes, and we should all gloss over it. The British state in Ireland was not here to fight terrorism as writers like Ruth Dudley Edwards and others pretend. The British state was waging terrorism and that sort of redefines in many ways officially the IRA campaign because whatever else the IRA campaign was against, one of the major factors that it was against was British state terrorism and the British do not ever want that to become accepted logic.

MG: Alright Anthony, we're now going to move to The South. There was a trial that concluded recently involving Tom Murphy from South Armagh which has made a lot of news and has been given a lot of commentary – you've written on it as others – it was a major subject. Could you tell us who Tom Murphy was and why this particular trial is deemed to have such important political implications?

AM: Well Tom Murphy was a very well-known leader of the IRA in South Armagh and it has been said that he, and I believe it to be true, that he was the IRA Chief of Staff post-1994 ceasefire and in fact he held the IRA together at times when there was a challenge made to the Adams' leadership. Adams and Tom Murphy would know each other very well. Both have served not only as Chiefs of Staff of the IRA but actually served on the same Army Council for many, many years. And Tom Murphy has been tried and convicted of tax evasion and Mr. Adams' opponents are gleeful because Mr. Adams has come out in defence of Tom Murphy which is very difficult to get away with when you are a leader of a political party that is advocating taxing the rich and now you're seen to be defending people who have just been judged to be very rich tax dodgers.

So there's a problem of credibility for Adams and I think it's causing some wobbles of uncertainly and discomfort within Sinn Féin because Sinn Féin - the type of people who are now coming into Sinn Féin are the type of people that would not have said "hello" to Mr. Murphy during his days within the IRA. And these people want to forward political careers and Mr. Adams is the ultimate political careerist but he faces a number of constraints in relation to the Murphy case and he just can't abandon Mr. Murphy as easily as he would like to. But we know that ultimately if Mr. Murphy is to come between Gerry Adams and the development of his political career there will be a way found to effectively throw Mr. Murphy under the bus. Neither raped children nor former Chiefs of Staff of the IRA will be allowed to hinder the progress of Mr. Adams' political career.

MG: Now one of the aspects about this trial it was in a Special Court, a non-jury court, where there are three judges in The South. (One judge sits at Diplock court in The North.) Why is it that in a tax case like this that a Special Criminal Court, a non-jury court, would be used?

AM: Well one of the reasons they're using it is they desperately want a conviction. Another reason they're using it is that they will claim that Mr Murphy's associates would intimidate juries and therefore make it impossible to have a conviction. But the problem here is that everybody should be entitled to a trial by jury. Mr. Murphy's not charged with the type of things that normally bring people before non-jury courts such as running a gang, such as being involved in serious armed criminality or being involved in what they call terrorist activity. Mr Murphy did not face a charge on any one of these things. He faced the charge of tax evasion but because of his past they are trying to create a public acceptance that the non-jury court is the right place to try Mr. Murphy. Now Sinn Féin, and some might say to their credit, have come out and opposed the non-jury court – the non-jury trial of Mr. Murphy. And in fact Sinn Féin have been very critical of the Director of Public Prosecutions in The South, Claire Loftus.

The problem with that is when non-jury courts are used in The North, as they frequently are to try Republican activists, the prosecutor, the Chief Prosecutor in The North, who's dragging these Republican activists in front of these courts and who's also tried in the past and failed (but is nevertheless committed to doing so) has tried to use supergrass evidence, Sinn Féin has been praising this public prosecutor, Barra McGrory. They have been describing him as a wizard rather than a weasel yet they have been very harsh on Claire Loftus in The South. So one sees the inconsistencies of this and Sinn Féin are tackling this matter merely because it poses a problem for them not because they're interested in the abolition of non-jury courts. Sinn Féin, if they get into power, will not abolish the non-jury courts - you can rest assured of that – they will maintain them. And they will tell you that there are different circumstances and the non-jury courts that they have are actually a safeguard to citizens' right rather than a threat to them!

MG: (Station identification) Anthony, one of the things that is intriguing: Diplock courts were abolished publicly in 2007. And they would only be used in narrow exceptions when (there are) exceptional circumstances. I know of no case in which a Diplock non-jury court would have been used in The North where one has not been used since that date in 2007 and the British continue to use these courts and every case now is “exceptional” - every case which would have used them before they were abolished - yet they claim these courts were abolished. I think it's relevant - national security - they can claim that every single embarrassing killing that the British State was involved in that that is somehow affected by national security the same way that they say that every single case is an exceptional case where Diplock courts have to be used.

AM: Well this is very true and we know what side the judiciary are on: the British judiciary in The North are on the side of the British State in The North - the British Prosecutor in The North is on the side of the British State in The North. The origins of the Diplock court go back to 1973 when Kenneth Diplock, a British executive – he worked on what was called, or colloquially referred to, as “Torture Central” - and it was one of the spy agencies that were involved in post-Second World War torturing people - and Kenneth Diplock recommended that in The North that the Diplock courts be introduced. So they pretended that they introduced them to ensure that juries would not be intimidated. They were actually introduced to ensure that police statements extracted from people under duress, in effect people who were tortured, would be accepted by these courts and would not be scrutinised by a jury. That's the way it worked. It's a Draconian measure. And it's the same in The South just as it is in The North.

MG: Alright Anthony, one final question: A few weeks ago we had Declan Carroll who talked about conditions in Portlaoise for political prisoners – which again: the prison in The South that somebody convicted in the Special Criminal Court would go to. And I just read a statement – you had re-blogged – or blogged that issue - you have a transcriber and put that full interview on your site, The Pensive Quill, but just read a statement where these prisoners expressed appreciation to four TDs (that's elected members to the Irish Parliament – to Leinster House): Maureen O'Sullivan, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Thomas Pringle - what's noticeable – who came to Portlaoise Prison, viewed the conditions and promised to speak out and do something about the deplorable conditions which are now being inflicted on these prisoners. And what struck me is that there is nobody from Sinn Féin included such as Dessie Ellis, who spent time in Portlaoise Prison, such as Martin Ferris, who spent time in Portlaoise Prison - none of these former political prisoners, who were in prison for much of the same reasons, bothered to go to Portlaoise to speak out about these conditions. Why is that?

AM: Sinn Féin are in a position where these prisoners are an embarrassment to them. Dessie Ellis and Martin Ferris and any other Sinn Féin TDs who had went through Portlaoise are now calling for the type of prisoners who are in Portlaoise to be put into Portlaoise with increasing regularity. Now, I'm not sure if the same happened in Portlaoise that's happened in The North:  when the Sinn Féin delegation of MLAs and former prisoners went up to visit Maghaberry Prison they were treated as prisoners used to treat the Board of Visitors during the blanket protest and they were simply shunned. Republican prisoners refused to meet Raymond McCartney, Séanna Breathnach and Jennifer McCann. Now both Raymond and Jennifer are members of the Stormont Assembly. (Séanna Breathnach is not but he's a former IRA prisoner – a longstanding long term IRA prisoner - who was OC in the H-Blocks) but all three were snubbed by the Maghaberry prisoners because they feel that Sinn Féin are behaving shamefully on the prisoners' issues. I myself am of the view that Sinn Féin are powerless to do anything about it but they should take a moral stand on the prisoners. The difficulty for Sinn Féin is that they want to stand with the prison authorities - shoulder-to-shoulder with the prison authorities – shoulder-to-shoulder with their oppressive state apparatuses and against people who are opposed to these apparatuses and institutions.

MG: Alright thank you, Dr. Anthony McIntyre.

(ends time stamp ~ 34:13)


  1. I think they do have power Anthony, maybe not to legislate on such concerns but certainly to pressure for them to be properly addressed. For instance they could have insisted such concerns be addressed and form part of the recent negotiations

  2. That they didn't is possibly because they fear the powerlessness you refer to being exposed but there's also the fact they wish to separate their prison struggle, which is cast as political and legitimate, from that of 'the dissidents', who they will agree have a humanitarian cast but not a political one

  3. Sean,

    their position is pretty much like the SDLP position was towards the H Block protest ~ the appeal made on a humanitarian ground. The SDLP were just more honest.

    I still think their power is severely circumscribed: they can talk about the issue but can't effectively do anything. power here is relational and fluid rather than a fixed asset. They probably calculate, rightly, that their ability to influence in other areas to whatever extent they do, would be compromised by the inevitable trade off that would be part of any resolution of the issue.

    They do not exist outside power but are constituted and even disempowered by it And in the type of system they are immersed in the power to lobby on radical issues is heavily limited. It was always the British state intention. As David Goodall said of the GFA it is all going exactly as planned!

  4. If they calculate according to that formula then basically they are bought and paid for. In fairness you are correct but the fact remains, if they were to demand the issues concerned be addressed properly, as a redline issue for their involvement in the political process of a statelet that remains within the UK, then they DO in fact possess the required power to make a more meaningful contribution and thus in turn a difference. They have been trotting out the line for years that Raymond McCartney is 'working on this behind the scenes'. Well how long is that going to wash...

  5. Sean,

    it is like expecting a man to give birth. I suppose he might if we could first find a way get him pregnant. SF cannot be brought to the position where they could or might make a difference.

  6. As far as the political prisoners are concerned if Adams and co still had Richard Mulcahy they would gleefully use him. They shot their comrades for a British free state and they still have it.