Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Kevin Martin (KM) in the studio about the 1916 Societies One Ireland One Vote event being held tonight and hosted by Hugh O'Lunney.
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Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
28 November 2015
(begins time stamp ~ 37:30)
MG: And we're here with Kevin Martin who was in this studio a little over a month ago. Kevin, we didn't expect to see you this soon again.
KM: No, thank you very much, Martin, for having us back again here on Radio Free Éireann. Well actually, we weren't expecting to come out until maybe next year again but we've had a huge response after the last visit out here. There was a lot of people that couldn't attend the last event who had only heard about it afterwards and had been in touch and asking us when we were coming back out. So we just planned another event and Derek Warfield, who will be a guest speaker on a united Ireland on the One Ireland One Vote petition, he'll also be singing a few songs on the night – Republican songs of freedom – so he's backed the campaign – he's fully behind it. He's actually said that he sees this as one of the most exciting initiatives for Irish freedom that he has seen in a generation. So we're back out to New York tonight at eight o'clock in O'Lunney's Pub in Times Square at 145 West 45th Street – we're going to be there at eight o'clock. We're going to be outlining the One Ireland One Vote initiative – the campaign – what we're about – Derek Warfield's going to be there and he's going to be speaking on a united Ireland and his view on the petition and the referendum that we're promoting at the minute.
MG: Alright. Now, this is going to be at Hugh O'Lunney's. Kevin, I was at a meeting that you had a few nights after you were at Malachy McAllister's and Joe McManus' pub, The Wolfe Tone Pub, the last time you were out and Hugh O'Lunney invited you down and said that this was one of the most important things that he had ever heard – that this was something that he wanted to get involved in supporting - and he is now hosting you tonight at O'Lunney's at 145 West 45th Street at eight o'clock. Derek Warfield, in case anybody does not immediately recognise the name: You've heard of The Wolfe Tones, he's now with the band, The Young Wolfe Tones – Derek Warfield was the leader of that band - he would be the person who introduced most the their songs with stories about the song – what they meant – about the history of each song - so that when he played it you would know and appreciate and understand exactly how important - what the words of the song meant – exactly how much it meant – he is going to be there and this is an event – Kevin, I don't like to criticise anybody on the air - but how could you possibly hold an event like this and not charge anything? I don't understand - we have people with five hundred dollar plates, we have people with twenty dollar – fifty dollar plates – you're going to have Derek Warfield – he's going to sing a couple of songs as part of the event – you're going to be there. How is it that you can possibly arrange this event without charging any money and asking people just to sign a petition?
KM: Well, it's just what the 1916 Societies are about. We're not a political party. We're not out to make and raise money. And Derek Warfield has kindly given us his free time to come and support the campaign. So really what we want the people to do is come in – hear what we're about. And there is no charge as you said. The only thing we're asking people to do is listen to what we have to say and sign the petition for an all-Ireland referendum on Irish unity. That's what we're about. We're not about trying to make money and as you said earlier on - five hundred dollar plates for functions - this is a - it's a peoples' initiative. It's a citizens' initiative. It's from the bottom up. So obviously we want as many people to come along – like it's going to be a great night where Derek Warfield, who's actually playing at a few venues over here - there's charges on every other function that you would hear tell of – so it's totally free. There's actually going to be a raffle on the night – there's a cross that's been brought over from Ireland and it's of the signators of The Proclamation of 1916 – so that's going to be there on the night. So hopefully people will come along. There's no charge as was said earlier on so: People! Come along! Listen to Derek Warfield. Listen to what we have to say. And I think, coming from the last visit, there's been a huge response from people that, especially the Irish immigrants over here, who want a united Ireland, have seen that there's nothing out there – that the strategies that was promised by people before have failed. We've had a Stormont settlement there recently that's implementing the Tory British cuts and the austerity. Sinn Féin have become a party of austerity now The North. I think a lot of people are beginning to see that a united Ireland isn't in anyone's political agenda except the 1916 Societies. And what we're offering is a very simple, straight forward strategy which is an all-Ireland referendum where all the people of Ireland have a say: One Date. One Vote.
MG: Alright now Kevin – and again we're talking to Kevin Martin, the National Treasurer of the 1916 Societies, who's going to be appearing at O'Lunney's tonight along with Derek Warfield in a back-by-popular-demand event to talk about what they're doing, why this organisation, the 1916 Societies, is the fastest growing Republican organisation in Ireland. You heard Richard O'Rawe talk about just some of the deadlock in Stormont where Sinn Féin is tied to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – that there has to be – the Loyalists or Unionists - have a veto on any movement on a united Ireland – on any movement towards legislation – and how that has completely blocked up any movement towards a united Ireland. How is it that the 1916 Societies hopes to achieve a united Ireland?
KM: Well I think, the first point people need to realise is: There never will be a move towards a united Ireland through Stormont. Stormont is made for that particular reason – it's there to administer British rule in Ireland - it's a mandatory coalition. And we have to remember, too: Britain doesn't really want to rule Ireland via military force. They want willing partners. And I think in probably in a hundred years I don't think they'd ever would have thought that they would have got such willing partners in both the DUP and Sinn Féin. And I think as Richard O'Rawe had said earlier on they're not actually opposites - they actually are very alike in the way the parties are run – the structures - the dictatorship and the control that they have on it. What we're doing is we're saying: Stormont isn't going to achieve a united Ireland - it was never set up for that reason. What we're doing is we're saying: It's time for an all-Ireland referendum – a people's democracy. We had a conference there recently in Galbally, in Tyrone, and we had somebody over from Catalonia – the movement over there that is working towards a referendum on independence from Spain. And they were saying that we are similar to what they were doing a few years back, that they had built a movement for the people - a people's democracy – about (inaudible) had no right to be in our country and at this point that we can't allow Britain to set the terms for Irish unity and Irish freedom. We have to get the people out- mobilise the people to come out – demand freedom! Because at the end of the day Britain isn't going to give us freedom. The people's going to have to come out and take it from them.
MG: Alright. Kevin, one of the things that I don't understand – what you're doing – what your organisation does - as you say it's a citizens' initiative. It's people on the ground going out with petitions about supporting a vote for a united Ireland. You foster debates on a united Ireland. You have public forums on a united Ireland. You have a great range of activities all so that there would be popular support for a united Ireland. How can anybody who's Republican be opposed to that? I mean at the very least – you're not a political party – if you're generating support for a united Ireland – whether it's for any kind of a poll – then certainly that support that you generate - that should benefit – lift all Republicans, all Nationalists, all people who want to see a thirty-two county Ireland. Why should there be any opposition from any Nationalist or Republican to your group?
KM: Well I suppose the people that are opposing it are the people that are comfortable in the positions that they're in at the minute. We know that in The Twenty-Six Counties the Free State government isn't – they have never had any desire for a united Ireland. And in 1921 when it was set up it was the same sort of process that was set down: This is a stepping stone to a united Ireland but you know - nearly a hundred years later since that we're still occupied. In The North obviously, the political parties that are in Stormont - as I said before Stormont is designed to uphold British rule in Ireland. A united Ireland will never come out of that. Obviously, we find on the doors from the people when we're going around with the petition that there is an appetite there – the ordinary people out on the ground do support this – the people who want a united Ireland. I think political parties have their own political agenda; they're very comfortable up in Stormont and they're not going to do themselves out of a job. So it makes no sense from our point of view that anyone who is a Republican who wants a united Ireland couldn't support this initiative. This is a democratic decision. It's about letting the people of Ireland have a say on Irish unity and Irish freedom. It has never been done before. And we know ourselves from the response we're getting around the doors from people that there's no doubt about it - the people of Ireland – and especially coming up on The Centenary of 1916 – that this initiative – it will take on – like we have new societies now growing – in the last month we have a society in Letterkenny in Co. Donegal and a new society in Co. Cork - so the people are starting to come. They're starting to see what we have on offer for them which is simple as people see it – it's a referendum for Irish freedom and Irish independence. So I don't see how anyone couldn't support it. But we do know that the likes of people in Sinn Féin have refused and they're actually working against it but that's because they're trying to maintain their own positions in Stormont under British rule.
MG: Alright and Kevin, last year – actually tomorrow would be the one year – I was asked to speak at a commemoration - it was a commemoration for Liam Ryan in Ardboe, Co. Tyrone. He was somebody who was a very close friend of mine who lived he a number of years - lived in the Bronx - a couple of blocks away from where I lived - right next to Gaelic Park. And that commemoration, when he was assassinated – he went back to Ireland – bought a pub – married – had a young child – was assassinated by Loyalists in conjunction it seems with members of the British forces - that commemoration was run by the 1916 Societies. And I noted there were other family members there - very strong Republican families in Tyrone, the family of Lawrence McNally was there who was also killed later on with Pete Ryan, Liam Ryan's cousin. There were other families there of Volunteers who were killed and it seemed that they wanted those commemorations to be run by the 1916 Societies. Why is that?
KM: Well, the 1916 Societies, any commemoration that they're involved in - they're always at the request of the families. And the commemoration is done purely on the individual, the Volunteer. There's no party political speeches at it. And everything is done in conjunction with (inaudible). Commemorations were being used for political purposes and they weren't really happy with that. It had moved away for a long time where the actual Volunteer was even spoken about. And at the same time a lot of families didn't want people who were actually sitting up administering British rule or sitting on policing boards with members or past members of organisations who had actually played a part in killing Volunteers so it became a point where there was no turning back I think and the 1916 Societies just offer a commemoration on the individual, on the person so I think a lot of families seen that as the way to go.
MG: I wanted to ask you: A couple of weeks ago we had on Declan Carroll, who was speaking on behalf of political prisoners in Portlaoise. He was affiliated with the group, Cogús, who represents those prisoners. I know the 1916 Societies does not have any prisoners, is not directly speaking for any prisoners or affiliated with them. But I just wanted to ask if your group has any feelings – they showed photographs, they displayed terrible conditions which have caused illness, which have threatened illness, which have threatened lives of people in Portlaoise Prison. I wonder: Does your group have any position on a humanitarian basis about those Republican prisoners in Portlaoise?
KM: Yes well, absolutely. It's disgraceful – the treatment of the political prisoners both in Maghaberry and in Portlaoise. Of course, there's still political prisoners in Ireland today while some people are talking about this new Ireland or this new approach that we have – absolutely - we would support all the political prisoners and as you said, on a humanitarian point of view, people should be treated with respect. But it goes back down to the same thing again: That as long as Britain is in Ireland there will be political prisoners. And the problem of it is: How do you end that? I think you have to remove Britain out of Ireland first of all because those people aren't in gaol for anything other than the fact that Britain is in there so we're onto this point again. So the 1916 Societies do support the political prisoners and we would campaign at different points when there have been protests and out supporting them.
MG: Now, your group also has a very strong website that people can see events, what you're up to, about the formation of new societies. How would they view that website?
KM: Well the website is: www.1916societies.com so on that you can actually go on that and sign the online petition. Anyone that's interested in The Societies or joining The Societies anywhere across America or anywhere else there's a link there to send an email and the national organiser will be in touch. We're actually getting a lot of interest from across America in different places where there's actually no structure at this point and we are setting up an affiliation membership for people that want to join the Societies but there might not be a 1916 Society in that location for them. But still again, I'd encourage people that is in New York to come along to Hugh O'Lunney's Pub tonight at eight PM – and come along and hear what we're about. Derek Warfield will be there, the ballad singer, and he actually is going to give his view on a united Ireland – the One Ireland One Vote referendum - and he's going to be singing a few songs of freedom as well. So anyone that is interested in Irish freedom and independence I think they need to check out the 1916 Societies - see what we're about and to see what we offer.
(ends time stamp ~ 52:15)
Editor's Note: The 1916 Societies event at O'Lunney's Pub can be seen here.