John McDonagh (JM) interviews Martin Galvin (MG) about the Liam Ryan commemoration held in Ardboe, Co.Tyrone and about The Irish Voice article by “James O'Shea” that is critical of Martin Galvin being named an Aide to the Grand Marshal (Cardinal Timothy Dolan) of the 2015 NYC Saint Patrick's Days Parade. Many thanks to TPQ's transcriber.
Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
20 December 2014
JM: When last we left we were trying to get Martin Galvin at a hotel in Tullamore and we were getting the reception and we sorta had Martin so we said: you know what? We'll wait until he gets back to the Bronx. And with us on the line is Martin Galvin who was speaking in Co. Tyrone at a commemoration for the assassination of an American citizen, Liam Ryan.
Martin, I just want you to speak about when you did give the speech about how many young people came up to you and said: they didn't know the history of Liam Ryan and some of the other Tyrone men from that area - which I thought was a sad commentary on what's going on in Co. Tyrone.
MG: (technical difficulty)...The phone wasn't working. I couldn't speak. I apologised and I've actually been confronted by people in Katonah Avenue and in the Bronx about why I wouldn't talk to you and believe me it was very bad listening to that on the computer and then at the same time not being able to speak.
Anyway, John, as you said, I was in Tyrone, in Ardboe, to speak at the commemoration for Liam Ryan - a great Irish patriot, a great Irish soldier who lived in New York for many years, worked for Con Edison, bought a pub in Ireland, The Battery Bar, a beautiful spot in one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland in one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland.
And twenty-five years ago he was murdered after the British scouted his place – were clearly involved in collusion with the murder - and recently we found that the weapon that was also used in other assassinations in the area.
And when I spoke about that I spoke about things that he grew up with – about being second class because of where his family sent him to church or school or his background as a Ryan - how he was regarded as second class - he was denied work - they made attempts to deny housing - they made attempts to deny him the vote - all of the those things that were part and parcel of British rule in Ireland.
How he came to the United States - found a place where being from Tyrone did not count against him it counted for him and the opportunities he'd had - and how much he dreamed of going back there and simply raising a family with the same opportunities that he enjoyed in the United States and how he was killed.
And when I spoke of all those things – of civil rights or how civil rights was met with internment, with torture - some of the people who were involved in that legal case that you mentioned last time were at the march – or how the British then had sent in troops to enforce internment to shoot down those who got in the way at Ballymurphy and to shoot down those who protested on Bloody Sunday - all of the things that led up to people like Liam Ryan joining the IRA or people being assassinated.
When I spoke about that, afterwards, family members in Tyrone came up to me with young families – a young girl said: it'd make you want to fight against them (the British) and people telling me how they were impressed with that and how they didn't hear things like that anymore. And I'm saying, this is a small area, you have great patriots like Pete Ryan, Liam Ryan, Lawrence McNally and others who had died – been killed and murdered - from that area. And how in this small area in Tyrone, in one of the counties that's always been known for Republicans, it was surprising to me how people didn't know about that. And that night they had a function and other people came, younger people, and said – 'cause I wasn't supposed to speak – could you speak again about some of those things? We want to hear it first hand.
So it was a very impressive commemoration. It was a very impressive crowd. And there was a great deal of things to say about Liam and about other people in that area
and I just don't know why people who attend nationalist schools who grew up in that area - they're not being told. One of the things I said was: there'd be no “sorry” initiatives - no apologies. We're here to speak about a patriot with pride and I think more of that should be done in Ireland.
JM: And Martin, before we go to the latest controversy about you in The Irish Voice or Irish Central, what were your impressions traveling around to Doire and throughout The Six Counties?
MG: John, first of all – people look to America – they look to WBAI – there are transcriptions of the programmes or they listen while streaming - they need help more than ever. I met with some of the Bloody Sunday families - Kate Nash and Vinny Coyle and some of those who are involved in Bloody Sunday - who've been on the programme and talked about the efforts now - how they're being drip-fed where there's been one promise after another after another and no one ever gets arrested – none of the British troopers from Bloody Sunday. But they can move against Ivor Bell or Seamus Kearney as they did against Gerry McGeough.
I spoke to Ivor Bell who's talking about how the British have so much money to move against him with the Boston tapes controversy in which they say he's one of the people who gave an interview - they're moving in that case. There's no end to the money to pursue him. But yet there's no money to go after the Bloody Sunday troopers or to have an inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre or to study collusion murders.
I spoke to Gerry McGeough. His case is up on appeal. He's hoping to do away with that licence – to fight and undercut that licence - that's going to be argued in England and he's hoping that justice will finally be done even though he spent two years of imprisonment, has to stay away from things like the Liam Ryan commemoration where he was so close to – very close friends of Liam Ryan - but he had to stay away from that. He's trying to get that licence overturned because he knows about the injustice that was done to Marian Price, to Martin Corey and others and now he can be pulled back in gaol at any time for no reason.
I gave an interview to a paper in Doire talking about the injustices in America. And people are saying: America used to be solidly behind them. We used to know about what was going on. We used to be in the forefront of campaigning for them and yet now it seems people are being told that: everything's better – everything's resolved - it can all be done up at Stormont - people on policing boards or constabulary boards - and there's no reason to get really involved in justice issues. Well, there ARE reasons to get involved in justice issues. In fact – one other that I almost forgot - Angela Nelson met with me about The Craigavon 2 - a case that Gerry Conlon was so much involved with and spoke about - he likened it to the same type of injustice that happened with him with The Guildford 4 and The Birmingham 6.
So it's more important than ever that Americans get involved. It's more important that the people who once marched the streets in front British Consultate on the MacBride Principles or campaigned on justice issues - you're needed now more than ever! We can't forget what's going on. We can't forget that there are still victims of injustice. And we can't let the British succeed in trying to normalising this situation now and try to paper over these injustices.
JM: And Martin, finally, there's a position within the AOH in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade it's called “Aide to the Grand Marshal” and usually it's not a big deal. Each county or boroughs appoint an Aide to the Grand Marshal and that's generally it. But it seems the The Irish Voice, who wants to dictate everything in the Irish community, are upset that you were picked by your fellow members up in the Bronx to be the Aide to the Grand Marshal this Saint Patrick's Day. What's going on with that?
MG: John, I arrived back home – I came back on Monday specifically because the Aides were going to be announced on Tuesday. I'd been invited to be there. I was obviously very honoured – it's considered a great honour. I'm very grateful to people in the Bronx who named me to that position but I thought that was the end of it.
John Dunleavy, ... Connolly, - when he mentioned my name said here's a man I went through shoes following him around the British Consulate in demonstrations and singled me out for special praise – I was grateful for that. I thought that was the end of it.
The next day, the Irish Central – now there's somebody named James O'Shea that's kind of strange. I've tried to find out who he is - he's covered other events or his name has been used on stories about other events - but no one has ever seen him or met him that I know.
People have actually suggested to me that it's Niall O'Dowd afraid to stand up under his own name and attack the Ancient Order of Hibernians or the parade or me – just does it under a pseudonym. So I found out that it was controversial.
My whole background had been distorted. Different viewpoints that I never had were put forward to me - for example: What about this guy? Twenty-five years ago they used to say that Irish Northern Aid gave money for guns - wasn't true then and at the same time the same people were saying that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and anybody in Republican was a mindless godfather - those things were all discredited - why shouldn't these things against me be discredited?
They bring up the fact in 1984 I was banned by the British - they admitted it was a mistake in a letter a few years later. They murdered somebody and put somebody on trial in a show trial - that was a British murder - a British mistake - why that should be held against me? I responded to that.
I was very grateful - the National Board of the AOH had somebody – they sent Dan Dennehy to congratulate me and say they were behind me. The state President, Jim Burke, the state Vice-President, Tim McSweeney – they said they were all behind me.
It must never be controversial for there to be somebody like me or others – many others in the parade - who remember that there are six contingents in that parade marching to represent people – counties - who are still denied freedom in the North of Ireland - that must never be controversial. And if people want to try to normalise the parade or take away from that message - they certainly aren't going to be able to do so as long as I, you and many other thousands who march in that parade and remember what's going on in the North of Ireland are there.
JM: We've got a full show today. Thanks for coming on.