WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
26 September 2015
(begins time stamp ~ 40:55)
SB: We're going to be talking to Ed Moloney who's the author, of course, of A Secret History of the IRA and blogs at The Broken Elbow. Ed, thanks very much for being with us.
EM: No problem, Sandy.
SB: And if you listen to the show at all you know that the Irish peace process once again is in free fall and various people pulled out of the Stormont government and there's a mad scramble to get it back up again. But before we get to the details on that, Ed - Just this morning there's a development: Bill Clinton says he's available to ride to the rescue and save the situation. And of course, if you read The Irish Voice and listen to Niall O'Dowd you know that Bill Clinton was behind the whole thing in the first place.
EM: Absolutely. And Hillary will not be far behind him one presumes as well and any sort of beneficial effect to her flagging presidential campaign will of course be entirely coincidental but maybe I'm just being a wee cynical about that. I doubt whether he's actually going to be needed to be quite honest with you because there's a sort of an air of falseness about this crisis and you know I don't myself believe that it is as serious as people make out to be. It began with disclosure that the IRA was still around and that its members were responsible for killing a guy called Kevin McGuigan in East Belfast. Well I mean, from all the available evidence it's clear to me that every single party to the agreement, including the DUP, were aware that the IRA was still around, was likely to be armed, needed to be armed in case there were dissidents and everyone was giving a nod and a wink to it. And all that happened is that the slip has been shown as it were and they have to do something in public to pretend that they're all upset and angry about it. So maybe again I'm being cynical but I don't think this will need Bill Clinton or even Hillary Clinton to rescue it.
SB: I don't know how you could be cynical about the Irish peace process Ed, but as I said now they're trying to put the pieces back together again and the latest ploy is that they're going to set up another committee to investigate whether there is an IRA still around and shooting people and you had...
EM: ...Well, actually it was - sorry, go on, Sandy, sorry.
SB: You have some interesting information on who is going to be on this committee and what their background is.
EM: Yeah actually, it won't even do that – it won't investigate itself. What it's there to do is to listen to a bunch of MI5 people and a bunch of PSNI people tell them what they think - and we know already what they think - and do they or do they not believe what they're been told by the police and by the spooks? And clearly you know when - you know this is a very, very old and tried tactic by British governments, and I'm sure other governments do the same thing as well - when you have a problem like this and you know that it can be only be solved in a certain way you choose people to head a commission or head an inquiry who are all dependable - whose form as it were is well known to the government and, therefore, what their conclusions are likely to be and that seems to be the case in this instance. There are three people. One of them is a - what I've described as a clappy happy born-again Christian - a QC who does an awful lot of work for...
SB: ...Sorry, Ed, our listeners may not know that a QC is a senior barrister.
EM: That's right, yes. And he has all sorts of links with the DUP so he's clearly Peter Robinson's man and he's there to give Peter Robinson cover. So when he comes out and says: Yes, I agree with the PSNI and I believe MI5 Peter Robinson turns out and says: Look! See this guy – he's like a good Christian – you couldn't help but believe him. Another one is a female, Catholic ex-civil servant who I'm told is the safest pair of hands at Stormont who's never has taken a risk in her life and was the permanent Secretary or senior civil servant in the Ministry of Culture and Arts and what she knows about the Provos could probably be written on a half page of note paper.
And then the third one is more interesting: He's a guy, an English guy, although he's been associated with Northern Ireland politics secretly, we're now learning, for some time and he's called Lord Carlile, who was known before he was elevated to the peerage as Alex Carlile. He was a Liberal Democrat MP and he was on the right wing of that party and we've discovered since he was appointed to this job that he has a secret role in Northern Ireland in which he liaises with the PSNI and MI5 as a one-person court of appeal for members of the establishment who have their close protection, ie their police protection, withdrawn. And of course, the police, the PSNI, are trying to withdraw a lot of these protection units because they're first of all they're expensive - they require an awful lot of manpower - and secondly the threat, in their view, has gone down. And the people that they normally give protection to are like judges and prosecutors and senior civil servants but I'm led to believe or I am told by reliable sources that a lot of these people are kicking up about the withdrawal of their protection - that they feel that there is still a threat to them and that the protection shouldn't be withdrawn. And they are accusing this character, Lord Carlile, of taking the word of the PSNI and MI5 far too readily and far too often. In other words, the police come to him and tell him X, Y and Z don't need protection anymore - he says: Okay, that's fine by me and the protection is then withdrawn.
Now, the importance of that of course is that he's got to do the same sort of job with this assessment of the IRA that this committee of three is supposed to monitor and assess and if he has a record and a track record and a history of acquiescing in whatever the police tell him then it's very likely that he will do the same in relation to the PSNI's view about the IRA which will be, you can be absolutely sure, will be exactly the same as the view that they gave after Kevin McGuigan which is that: Yes, the IRA still exists, some of the IRA members were involved in the killing of Kevin McGuigan but of course the Sinn Féin nor IRA leadership knew nothing about it ~ which is a very difficult thing to accept if you know how an organisation like the IRA works. So that's the sort of conclusion that will be presented to this committee and this character, Lord Carlile, who will be obviously dominating the group of three because he's the one who knows more about these things than they do, are likely then to just to rubber stamp and once they rubber stamp it then Stormont will be back and then the gravy train will chug out of the station and everyone will be happy again.
SB: And also Lord Carlile is the only one of the bunch with a top level security clearance so he could just say: Excuse me, I know. You guys don't really know but I know what's going on.
EM: Yes, yes. I'm not sure if he's a Privy Counsellor but if he's a Privy Counsellor, which is a quaint sort of post created in Tudor times in the Middle Ages by the English government, he'd also be getting like top secret briefings from MI5 and people like that and he'll be able to say: nudge, nudge, wink, wink - I know an awful lot I can't tell you about but take my word for it blah, blah, blah. So yes I mean, I think the outcome of this is more or less a foregone conclusion. And it all reminds me – you know there's an event that takes place every year in Northern Ireland on the thirteen of July, the day after the Twelfth of July Orange parades, and it's held in the village of Scarva in Co. Down and they reconstruct the Battle of the Boyne. And you have King James in his green outfit on his horse and you have King William in his orange outfit on his horse and soldiers behind them and they stage a mock battle but everyone knows how the battle ends because it's re-enacting history; King Billy beats King James. And it's called the Sham Fight at Scarva and there's a element of the sham fight about this crisis at Stormont.
SB: Well Ed, thank you very much. We're talking to Ed Moloney, the author of A Secret History of the IRA and Ed blogs at The Broken Elbow and for some strange reason Ed is very cynical about the future of this peace process. So again, Ed, thanks very much for being with us.
EM: No problem. Bye now.
(ends time stamp ~ 50:50)