WBAI 99.55FM Pacifia Radio
New York City
2 May 2015(begins time stamp ~ 26:45)
JM: When I was starting this show and thinking about what I was going to do I was going to be covering one event that happened in Glasgow but after I spoke to Jim McDonnell it morphed into that I have to cover now two events that went on in his life. But I'll go to the first one first about his arrest there last week in Glasgow. Jim, as a member of Republican Sinn Féin you were asked to speak at an Easter commemoration which is not unusual – which has been going on for hundreds of years in this country, in Ireland and over in Glasgow. Explain to our audience what happened.
SM: I went up to the commemoration and as you know I was asked to speak. When we had gotten to the end of the road as it were – you have your speeches and play the national anthem. As Maureen said, she read out The Proclamation. I had a few words to say and I said my speech and then the police approached me even before the national anthem...
JM: ...What did they say to you when they approached you before the national anthem?
SM: They told me that – at the end of my speech I said Tiocfaidh ár lá which means our day will come in Irish – they told me you weren't allowed to say that in Scotland because it was sectarian and they wanted to take my name and address. So I asked them if I was being detained and they said: Yes. And then they said to me they had to take me to the police station to verify my details. So I went to the police station to get my details verified and then I wasn't released. And I was interviewed later that evening by two officers and during that interview they asked me questions about my speech. And then I said: No comment. And then after that they said I was going to be charged with committing like terrorist offences. So I wasn't actually charged with membership of anything. I was charged with trying to get support for the Provisional IRA – that's what they said.
SB: And Jim, they said that the words “Tiocfaidh ár lá” which as you said is our day will come in Irish is somehow sectarian which means anti-Protestant. How could the words Tiocfaidh ár lá be anti-Protestant?
SM: There's a lot of confusion in Scotland. The Scottish government have brought a lot of sectarian laws and it's all to do with football and people singing Irish songs at football and they're trying to make Irish songs sectarian.
JM: And there have been a lot of arrests of fans for singing that - even in the streets for just singing even The Fields of Athenry - and now, it's even getting into the Irish language which Tiocfaidh ár lá? I mean, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness should have been arrested a hundred times over because that's all they seemed to finish their speeches with throughout Ireland and I would dare say if they were in Scotland they would probably doing the same thing. But you end up being arrested. What did the charges bring on? I mean, how long were you held? When's your next court date? What was the bail?
SM: I don't have a court date. I don't have a court date because the law's a bit different in Scotland so I don't have a court date. But basically they just arrested me and kept me from my Saturday afternoon until they made me go to court on the Monday afternoon.
JM: And then were you represented in court or how does that – do you have like legal aid?
SM: Of course. Of course I was, yeah. I was represented, yeah.
JM: But did you have to pay for the lawyer?
SM: No. No.
JM: So this was the state paying for the lawyer and the exact charge was you were enticing people to join a terrorist organisation?
SM: Yeah, basically yeah.
JM: Being this is, I would say, one of the first of its kind – we were talking to Maureen – it is I think, unbelievable that there was coverage of this in the Scottish newspapers...
SM: ...You wouldn't get any coverage.
JM: There was none?
SM: You wouldn't get any coverage because what's happening in Ireland and Britain is that they are trying to stifle anything Republican – anything that goes against the normalisation policy in The Six Counties. They make it look as if everything's rosy to the outside world when really it's not.
SB: As you know, Jim, I think this is a pattern of something new that's happening. The British government seems to be on the offensive against every breed and kind of Irish Republican. Dee Fennell was arrested a little over a week ago for making a speech where he said that armed struggle against the British Army was legitimate in 1916 and is legitimate today – which I would say is free speech. And you have a very strange case of the British government today prosecuting a dying man for something he did fifteen years ago for which he got an amnesty. So you seem to be part of that on-going pattern of attacks on Irish Republicans.
SM: Yeah. And it's only going to continue. It's only going to get worse.
JM: Well, that brings us to the next case because the British government seems to have a lot of interest I you, Jim. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised?
SM: I was born in Paisley in Scotland. But I stayed there 'til I was ten and then I moved to England.
JM: So, one of the highlights of your life – never mind giving speeches up in Glasgow – but is to come to New York for Saint Patrick's Day – enjoy the festivities here in New York - you've been doing that for quite a while now. Explain what happened this March.
SM: I've been doing it for three years now and I absolutely love it! And New York is absolutely fantastic! Everybody's friendly. It's a great place to be. And basically before I came to New York I was getting emails telling me that people could get me a job and stuff like that.
JM: Now who were the emails coming from?
SM: Well, it's going to be from MI5, isn't it?
JM: Well, no – I don't know. What was the subject headline? MI5?
SM: Just we can help you – we can help you - I've got people in America that want to talk to you and then maybe they want to offer you a job.
JM: But what is the email address? Was it from an official government source?
SM: No. It was just an email – a made-up email.
JM: And offering you work – and did they say what you would have to do for that work?
SM: No. No.
JM: Alright, so now you're getting this and you're coming to New York - and then what happens?
SM: I got to New York and I was thinking because of that maybe when I get to New York they're going to turn me back – put me on the plane – but I don't know why they would do that - as I said I'm not a threat to American or anybody else for that matter. But I got there and after the first morning I got a couple of phone calls – three phone calls in fact – to my room. Two from an American lady saying: Hi, Jim. I'm a friend of the person that sent me the email – Paddy, in fact – I'm a friend of Paddy's – do you want to come and meet us across the road? So I just put the phone down. And I got another one about a half an hour later and I put the phone down.
And then the third one said: Hi, Jim. It's Tim from MI5 – do you want to come and meet us down the road? So I put the phone down again. And that day when I went out I noticed a couple of people following me. And the guy had a limp – it was a very pronounced limp so he wasn't hard to spot - he followed me to restaurants, etc.
JM: What hotel was this? Give us the exact location.
SM: It was in Midtown. And it was the – oh, I can't remember what it's called now – the Fairfield Inn and Suites it was. So the next morning I get up and there's a letter under my door basically saying: Hi, Jim. We need to have a chat. You know we've got to have this chat so it might as well be now so you can get on with your holiday. And then I just – I ignored that as well. And then I don't know if they were still following me about but the last day of the holiday I received a text message that said: Don't worry about your flight home. It's all squared away.
So they even offered to pay for my flight but they said: Don't worry about your flight home. It's all squared away. So I was thinking: What? I was more worried about getting into America than getting out.
JM: Now, we thank you for coming on and speaking about this. I mean, we've had throughout the years here in New York City MI5 working – going to construction sites along with the FBI - and this definitely follows the pattern of having the American call you first and saying that they're friends of the MI5 agent to come and meet.
SB: And we actually heard from a barrister who practices out of Belfast who was stopped at Kennedy Airport by the FBI and MI5 and tried to interrogate him and he told them to get lost, of course. But as John said this is a continual pattern operating with MI5 and the American government. So you might be in fairly good company here, Jim.
SM: (laughs) Thanks for that. I mean I've done speeches all over England and Scotland and (inaudible) and nobody has ever said: You're going to be arrested for this or that or the other. So it's a new development for me.
JM: And Jim, here's the other part of the development: Now that you refused while you were in New York to meet with the FBI and MI5 – because I can only assume the woman was FBI - that now you go back and you give this speech, speaking in Irish for one sentence, and you're arrested that this could now affect your visa to come into the country and to come to the parade.
JM: So like – on the visa application – I don't know - have you ever been convicted or arrested?
JM: Could you be then - if you are convicted that would end your travel plans anywhere into the United States.
SM: To America. Yeah.
JM: But you can just see this is all part of their plan and all part of what they want to do to silence - and it's the whole re-writing of what happened in 1916 and probably one of the biggest re-writing is the Fine Gael government over in The Twenty-Six Counties where they put out – to celebrate 2016 - they don't mention The Uprising! I mean, it is getting so bizarre what's going on but it's also very dangerous what's going on with people being arrested.
Now it hasn't happened here in New York quite yet. There's a Fenian Commemoration coming up in two week's time. There was an Easter commemoration up in The Bronx at Woodlawn Cemetery recently but that still doesn't mean that the FBI haven't approached people who were at that to become informers. But it seems that they have a lot of money and a lot of travel that they can follow you here from Scotland and put a little bit of fear into you because I have to say Jim, if you're getting emails, and your phone – you're getting text messages - and then you're getting letters slipped under your door at the hotel – that's pretty frightening!
SM: Yeah, also – well, they're not frightening me. They certainly won't intimidate me. I'm a Republican. I'm going to remain a Republican. Nothing is going to take me away from that path; not them - not anybody. I mean I've even been approached in the street and near my home address as well by them. I've actually met Tim now and he tried to speak to me but I wouldn't speak to him then either. They can't intimidate me. They can't intimidate Republicans and this is why they'll try and use – try and destroy your life sticking you in gaol, see what I'm saying?
JM: Yeah. We're very grateful that you came forward with this because I know a lot of people who probably wouldn't come forward with it because they don't want to get mixed up and they don't want to have MI5 saying I heard you on the radio and stuff like that but we're very grateful here in New York to stay on top of things like that. And we would only wish that some of the Irish-American papers here would pick up on that – that we have people coming in from Scotland and they're being terrorised by MI5 and FBI.
SM: What you have to remember is Mr. Adams was over there telling people that it's all finished in Ireland now. There's absolutely nothing. There's no resistance. Everything's all normal. That's a bare-faced lie and he knows it.
SB: Yes, but Lord O'Dowd, as we call him, in The Irish Voice covered that like it was the greatest thing that happened in the world. I don't think Lord O'Dowd will be covering your arrest. And I don't think he'll be covering the fact that the FBI and possibly the CIA is cooperating with MI5. I don't think that's going to be reported in The Irish Voice.
SM: I don't think it will be, either. (inaudible)
JM: You know what, Jim? Thanks for coming on, we're going to play a little music and try to get back with Des Dalton who's on the road out of Belfast and it's really his organisation that's being targeted over in Glasgow and over in England and here in New York City where foreign intelligence services are working the streets of Manhattan. Such a job that they have!
(ends time stamp ~ 41:10)