John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) interview Independent Irish Republican Councillor Gary Donnelly (GD) via telephone from Derry about the internment of Tony Taylor and the recent Easter commemorations in Ireland. Thanks to TPQ transcriber.
Radio Free Eireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
16 April 2016
(begins time stamp ~ 36:20)
MG: With us on the line is Gary Donnelly. He's an independent councillor from Derry. Gary, how are you?
GD: Hello. How are you? All good, thank you.
MG: Gary, a few years ago this station was involved very much in the fight for Marian Price. Marian had been released as a prisoner. She had given a speech, actually in a Derry cemetery on an Easter commemoration, and sometime later she was just picked up – put in gaol and held on what was called 'licence' – she was on parole or an unexpired sentence. And at that time there was no mention of any hearing, there was no chance to rebut what could be done – what was done to her – put her back in gaol - and there was a major campaign and we thought that this was coming to an end and in fact I had letters published in the Irish News about interment-by-licence and people said that that didn't exist. Now, Tony Taylor: from Derry, a Republican prisoner, he was released in 2014, he had previously served time in gaol, was released under the Good Friday Agreement. He was just recently put back in gaol and again – nothing - no way to challenge any allegations against him – no allegations against him. I know that you supported a motion in Derry in the Council where you are an Independent Councillor. Could you tell us about that and what's going on?
GD: Well as you know Marian Price was gaoled for life for attacks that she had carried out on behalf of the IRA in England and as a result of that conviction she had a licence. Now Tony Taylor was in a similar position. Tony Taylor has been injured in a bomb explosion apparently in an attack on British forces and as a result of that he spent a number of years in prison. And when he was released he was released on licence. Tony, like Marian, has had his licence revoked because the British Secretary of State believes that Tony is a threat to the community. Now, there has been no evidence produced. There has been no court case at all and they say they do have evidence but they won't allow anyone to examine it. They won't put it before a court system. Even by their own sub-standard court system, the British system here in Ireland which is Diplock non-jury courts, they won't produce that so that's basically where it is. And in Derry City and Strabane District Council I proposed a motion that the British Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, in conjunction with unaccountable intelligence agencies has ordered the incarceration of Derry Republican Tony Taylor without charge or trial and that this Council calls for Tony's immediate release. Now that Council, the corporate position of Derry City and Strabane District Council, has adopted that and we have called for his release. However, it has been ignored by the British Secretary of State and Tony still finds himself in prison without any recourse.
MG: How can you – you now have a Justice Minister who has to be appointed with the agreement of Sinn Féin as well as the Democratic Unionist Party - how can you have this type of injustice where a Republican can be just put in gaol, not told what the accusations against him are, not get a chance to fight against the accusations against him and even when leaders like you pass motions of support for his release they're just ignored – nothing happens?
GD: Well you know – that's the nature of the British system in Ireland. It's bizarre! The British justice system, for want of a better word, is not designed to administer justice. It's design to administer and protect British rule in Ireland. And a lot of times it even flouts its own laws or its own rules and regulations. Villiers has admitted that Tony's first three weeks of incarceration, even by their sub-standards, was without the law meaning that they didn't even bother with whatever – things that the had to incarcerate Tony – whatever rules - they just arrested him and then they proposed that they would withdraw his licence. So that's the nature of the system here in Ireland, unfortunately.
MG: We're talking to Gary Donnelly who is an independent councillor from Doire City. We're talking about the internment-by-licence (inaudible) about Tony Taylor. There is a procedure, I don't understand it as a solicitor or a lawyer, where if he gets the chance to evaluate the evidence against him it actually won't be him – it won't be his solicitor – they won't be told anything about it. It will be done in a closed proceeding where somebody else will look into the evidence – someone who doesn't talk to Tony Taylor and makes some kind of an evaluation. How does this 'star chamber' type of proceeding work?
GD: Well you're exactly – you're right there you know and that's frustrations about the whole situation here. Tony's lawyer – and by not allowing Tony's lawyer to see these allegations it casts doubt on the integrity of the lawyer – you know, they can't trust a lawyer to view evidence against their client? It's bizarre, you know? As I say, this is what passes here for a justice system. And this is designed to prevent prisoners who have been released from getting involved in any type of protests or any type of community work. Because just the day before Tony was arrested myself and Tony attended a scene of a British Army house raid in the Bogside where a widow had her home – her home was being raided by maybe up to a half a dozen armoured Land Rovers full of heavily armed British police officers. And even Tony did say to me that he was concerned – that he had a feeling that they may revoke his licence, you know? So it's all designed. This is all part and parcel to stamp out any opposition to British rule in The Six Counties.
MG: Well you have a number of prominent ex-prisoners who play leading roles or play prominent roles and I'm sure, for example Gerry McGeough has been a guest on this programme, I'm sure people like him must say to themselves: If you have a licence it can be revoked at any time, you'll never be told why, you don't really get a hearing or a chance to challenge any kind of evidence because they don't put any accusations or allegations to you and that has to have a chilling effect about people who simply would like to speak out against injustices like this – against British rule or as you say just monitoring somebody who's a victim of a house raid in Derry.
GD: Yeah. And what we have to remember, too, is that these unaccountable intelligence agencies are some of the same agencies who led the British nation to a war in Iraq about weapons of mass destruction. Their accounts, you know, their intelligence reports said that Iraq had had weapons of mass destruction and it turns out that these were fabricated or at the very least they didn't exist or are untrue and we're supposed to just accept the word of these unaccountable and uncontrollable intelligence agencies that they have some type of information that somebody may be about to do something or may have done something – it goes against the very normal concept of justice.
JM: (station identification) Gary, I was just reading in the papers this week that Sinn Féin's latest, talking about a united Ireland, they were in Westminster reading The Proclamation of 1916 - they think this is a great step forward to a united Ireland. Down in Dublin they're hanging banners of John Redmond who wanted people to join the British Army back in World War I. How are the celebrations going in The North? Because there was very little coverage and you were at one in County Tyrone, one of the biggest ones that was held on the island - never mind in The North. What's it like – the commemorations? And how is that being commemorated in The Six Counties?
GD: Well you're right. I was at the commemoration in Coalisland and the theme was 'Unfinished Revolution – Unfinished Business' and there was thousands of people who had a unity of purpose and who turned out to support that concept – that there is unfinished business – that the 1916 Rising – that dream – that Republic – it hasn't been realised yet and that was the theme of that march. And it was good to see thousands upon thousands of people, young and old, turning out to send that message – to drive that message not only to the British but to the illegitimate states here in Ireland and the puppet governments that are in them that they may have accepted something far less than the men and women of 1916 strove for but that there's thousands upon thousands of Irish people who will not accept anything less than an all-Ireland Republic.
JM: And just the way it's being commemorated differently – like we've been speaking about it for a while about putting the names of the British soldiers on the wall in Glasnevin Cemetery - this would be the equivalent with you up in Derry having a wall dedicated to the people that were shot dead on Bloody Sunday and then putting up the soldiers who maybe have died since because they were the victims of the same thing as the people on Bloody Sunday.
GD: Well you know, that's revisions for you and that's the reason – you have to look at the reasons why they'd do such a shameful thing - and it's because that they have accepted less, that they do run two illegitimate states and they have to give the impression that things are over and done. You know, the World War is over and done with but we don't have a tribute to the Nazis in France along with the French Resistance. This is about right and wrong. And you're quite right. We couldn't put a monument up to SAS soldiers who killed IRA Volunteers or those who perpetrated Bloody Sunday and murdered unarmed civilians. We can't remember those civilians along with British soldiers. It's a matter of right and wrong. And there can't be - and there's no moral equivalence, you know? There's no moral equivalence between occupiers or invaders with those who are freedom fighters resisting occupation. Could you imagine if people in the US if there was a monument to the victims of Timothy McVeigh and Timothy McVeigh's name was on it? Or those who carried out Columbine High, the school shooting, along with the victims – there would quite rightly be uproar because it's about right and wrong. But because of the political situation in Ireland, because it is built on sand the leaders here are driving full tilt at revisionism and they're trying to paper over the cracks in an effort to sell to the world that we have all our issues resolved here.
MG: Gary, I can tell you there are commemorations every year on July 4th and other times for the American Revolution in 1776 and nobody says: What about the Redcoats? And the only time we think about it is, unfortunately, some of them who surrendered and were treated completely respectfully as prisoners of war actually ended up in Ireland in the 1798 Rebellion and killing people or were executing captured rebels at that time. And it's again the same - no other conflict in the world – we made the point before – people run marathons and they will talk about how that celebrates a victory by the Greeks against the Persians, a celebration of democracy and the distance run by one of the soldiers in that battle back to Athens to tell people the story. That goes back hundreds of years and nobody ever says: What about the Persians? every time you have a marathon – only in Ireland – particularly in The North of Ireland or that commemoration in Glasnevin.
GD: You're a hundred percent. The reality here is that we just celebrated The Centenary of the Easter Rising and them celebrations were obviously an embarrassment to those in The Twenty-Six County government because it is a constant reminder – you know when James Connolly was strapped to the chair and blindfolded and executed by a British soldier he wasn't executed in a fight for a twenty-six county government or a partitioned Ireland. And I would imagine the Easter commemorations were actually an embarrassment to that government because it is a constant reminder that they have sold out...
MG: ...Alright Gary, we want to thank you – we want to bring it to an end. And hopefully at some point, the name at the top of the Easter 1916 Proclamation, Tom Clarke, a Dungannon and a Tyrone man, hopefully one day that Proclamation, that freedom, will reach Tyrone and Derry the rest of The Six Counties as it should.
GD: Thank you very much and I hope so, too.
(ends time stamp ~ 50:15)