WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
18 July 2015
(begins time stamp ~ 43:18)
JM: We were hoping to play a UTV clip of what the Loyalists want to do with Gary Donnelly - that he was at the house of Peggy O'Hara when, in tribute to Peggy and the O'Hara Family, a volley of shots were fired over the coffin. But we're going to go to Gary Donnelly right now and what I want to do before we talk about that is Gary, can you give us what happened today? You were at the funeral today. What was it like?
GD: Yes, I was at the funeral today and it was a fitting tribute to Peggy. It was very dignified and something that I believe that Peggy would have been proud of and there was absolutely no trouble or anything like that.
JM: Well, what the Loyalists consider trouble - you were there when the coffin was brought back to the house where there was going to be a house wake and a volley of shots was fired over the coffin. I listened to you on the Stephen Nolan Show, (begins time stamp ~ 33:09) which is on BBC Radio Ulster, and Gregory Campbell, one of your good friends there in Doire, wanted at a minimum you to be arrested and thrown off the Council over something that you had nothing to do (with).
GD: That's correct, yes. Peggy's remains were released and they were flanked by a guard of honour of female volunteers. You know Peggy is like a traditional Irish mother: She loved her son. She watched her son starve to death in a struggle against a criminalisation policy by Britain. And for a mother to have to go through that – there's utmost respect for Peggy within the Nationalist community. And Peggy seen it that it was her duty to continue that struggle on behalf of her son. And right up until Peggy's death Peggy was an advocate of civil rights and prisoners' rights and Peggy herself stood in elections. And so she was a pioneer of the independent model which we now seeing bear fruit in Derry.
However, the Unionists, the reactionary Unionists - and I would equate Gregory Campbell to maybe like the Westboro Baptist Church who would have a hatred of anything Republican – and you know this has fallen into tragic situations like this. My earliest memory of Gregory Campbell was as a young teenager when we were at the funeral of a young IRA Volunteer. Gregory Campbell and a rent-a-mob were waving flags and throwing stones at the cortege so it doesn't really surprise me that Gregory now is offended by this. But there's no one within the Nationalist/Republican community who've made a complaint and this is created by Gregory and his colleagues.
JM: Gary, I want to go back – the last time I met with you was in 2007 – we were both working on the political campaign of Peggy O'Hara - and so much was going on during that time: the posters that were being put up for Peggy O'Hara were being ripped down - wall murals were being paint-bombed - but it was not by the Loyalist community that was doing that...
I remember staying at Peggy's house: They had to put furniture in front the of the door in fear of someone attacking the house – coming from the Sinn Féin community who were not happy that she was running in the election - it might cost them a seat! I mean that time it was unbelievable - that they had to buy bigger ladders, the Peggy O'Hara campaign, so they could put up her posters higher than the Sinn Féin ladders that they had to take them down.
GD: Yes, that's right. Throughout Peggy's life Peggy faced a lot of abuse and some of it was from within the Provisional Movement because Peggy's son comes from an Irish Liberation National Army background which would have differences of opinion from the Provisional Movement. And anybody here in Republican parts of Derry or throughout The Six Counties would know that the Provisionals do not tolerate dissent and they attempt to undermine and crush it. And I suppose what we're seeing now today we now have five independent councillors - in this city we have over ten percent - and they're not all Republican but of that independent model - and Peggy O'Hara - I have great admiration and respect - and I believe that Peggy was a pioneer for that and I owe a lot of gratitude to Peggy. And I think at that time when Peggy stood up she stood on her own and she was saying to people, basically: Look, we can do this on our own. And I think there was a fear at that time because it has transpired that people are now voting independent and it doesn't suit some particularly within the political parties.
JM: Gary, maybe try to paint the picture of what it was like this morning at the church and seeing two hundred men with the black trousers and the white shirts and just some of the display of the military gear and support and the honour that they were showing to Peggy O'Hara today and even with the six women leading the coffin coming out of the church.
GD: Yes, well one word that would say it would be: dignified. And it was very emotional because if you could only imagine what Mrs O'Hara, the late Peggy O'Hara, went through having to make that decision to ... when her son made that decision to go on hunger strike to the death ... and Peggy had that choice where she could remove him from that but Patsy left her under strict instructions that she wasn't (to). You know, this is an Irish mother and she carried Patsy for nine months and no parent wants to bury their child – and Peggy had to, no doubt, live with that decision every day and it's a decision that I'm sure that she wouldn't have changed. So it was very emotional today to see the people of Derry turning out in respect for Peggy because Peggy didn't get it easy. And just last night I was just reading a poem by Padraig Pearse where he talks about Irish mothers and about the long sorrow because of sons getting involved in The Struggle and Peggy's long sorrow has now ended and Peggy is re-united with her son, Patsy. So you know, it was a very, very emotional day and a very, very dignified day.
JM: Ray Collins is here and he wanted to say a few words.
Ray: I'd just like to take the opportunity to say hello Gary and congratulate you on your election, especially topping the poll, and sending my support across the ways and the miles - it's good to have a rebel voice on the Council.
GD: Thank you.
JM: And Gary, a lot of times – if you're familiar with Irish history, particularly some of the funerals that have taken place in Belfast and in Derry where the police presence and the helicopter - I remember going to the hunger strike funerals where the helicopter would hover within feet of where you're doing the burial where you could hear no oration or anything - what was the police presence like today?
GD: The British police presence today was - it was discreet. They were there. They were filming from high powered cameras on the top of armored Land Rovers and they had heavily armed police officers but they kept a distance. But they made their presence felt.
SB: So Gary, do you think there's a possibility of prosecutions – that people could be prosecuted for participating - for paying honour to Peggy?
GD: Yes, well it is a possibility you know because there's those like Sinn Féin who would tell you that the Orange state is no more but I think the events of even the last two weeks would nail that lie because we've just come through a hate-fest here with the Orange celebrations. We've had an Orangeman, who was a former UDR soldier, who deliberately rammed a car into a crowd of civilians Nationalists and attempted to murder them. He was released on bail immediately. We have had, yesterday we had a Loyalist who was charged with murder and within hours he was released on bail. But the other side of that coin, the other side of that scenario is that we had Dee Fennell who made a speech at an Easter parade and who was remanded in custody for a number of months. We've had young Nationalists here who have been remanded into custody for waving Irish tricolours. So it doesn't surprise me that British Unionists are pushing the line for people to be charged and I know that they have contacted the Council here in the town in an effort to have me removed from my position as an elected rep.
But the hypocrisy in this is that Unionists, historically, have close connections with Loyalist paramilitaries. And in 1914 the Ulster Unionist Council equipped the UVF in a gun running operation and they shared platforms with Ulster Resistance and Third Force which are illegal Orange/Loyalist/terrorist organisations. We've had Willie McCrea, a British MP, a Loyalist, he shared a platform with Billy Wright who was a notorious Loyalist murderer and right up until this week we've had British police officers proudly having their photograph taken at a mural which glorifies armed UFF terrorists. And only this week in my own Council we had a DUP Councillor, Alan Bresland, who defended the flying of Ulster Volunteer Force Loyalist, terrorist flags. So there's always been a history of collusion between Loyalist/Unionist politicians and Loyalist paramilitaries.
JM: Well listen Gary, thank you for coming on and giving us that up-to-date description of Peggy O'Hara being buried today and we thank you for coming on.
GD: Thank you. Thanks very much.
(ends time stamp ~ 53:32)