The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Interview with Michael McKevitt

Forum Magazine recently interviewed Michael McKevitt, who in August 2003 was convicted, on the evidence of the MI5/FBI paid perjurer, David Rupert, of directing an IRA breakaway faction opposed to the Belfast Agreement. Michael McKevitt is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Portlaoise Prison, Ireland.

Forum Magazine • April-May 2006

FM: Gerry Adams believes the Belfast Agreement contains the potential to deliver republican objectives. Do you agree?

MMcK: Adams recently described the Belfast Agreement as "an agreement to a journey, but not a destination". Well, this particular journey has copper-fastened partition and has led republicanism up a political cul-de-sac. The Agreement will not deliver republican objectives. Indeed it is contrary to republican principles to seek to redress the questions of independence and national reunification within the terms prescribed by the Belfast Agreement. The Agreement stipulates that Irish unification will not transpire until a majority within the six counties supports such a political outcome. This represents an anti-democratic unionist veto on reunification; a veto which is now entrenched in Irish and British constitutional law. The existence of this veto acts as a permanent bloc on unity and is an invitation to unionists to say no in perpetuity. The people of the island of Ireland have an inalienable right to national self-determination, free from external impediment. This political unit is the only democratic channel through which the future of Ireland should be decided. Under no circumstances should a unionist or any other majority within six of the nine counties of Ulster be permitted to exercise a veto on an independent, united Ireland.

FM: Do demographic trends within the north hold out any prospect of progress towards unity?

MMcK: Prominent Sinn Fein spokespersons occasionally point to demographic trends within the north as proof that the Belfast Agreement can deliver republican objectives. In fact Adams recently claimed that unionist majority status may be becoming somewhat precarious. Notwithstanding the totally spurious nature of these claims, this battle of the cradle type politics is totally abhorrent. Republicans should move beyond this type of narrow sectarian politics and move beyond the terms of the Belfast Agreement when seeking to redress partition and reunification. It is the people of the island of Ireland as a whole - and not an artificially created majority within the six counties - that should decide the political future of this country. Republicans and anti-imperialists must not be diverted from this fact.

Those republicans who support the Belfast Agreement, and who are pinning their hopes on future demographic shifts within the north, should ask themselves whether they really believe the British government will withdraw from Ireland in the event of a 50% plus 1 scenario, as repeatedly forecast by numerous Sinn Fein spokespersons. Do they really believe the southern establishment has the political will or appetite to move towards unity on this basis? Over the coming years unionism will seek to shift the goalposts on the future of the north's constitutional status from the present scenario in which it is decided by a majority within the six counties to one where future constitutional change it is dependent on dual majority consent within both communities. Have no doubt, unionism will attain support for this position from the London and Dublin governments, both of whom are hostile to the emergence of an independent, united Ireland.

FM: Martin McGuinness maintains that, while the peace process has involved difficult decisions for republicans, the Agreement is working. Do you agree?

MMcK: The British state views the peace process as war by another means. It has relentlessly pursued its war objectives under the banner of the peace process - and it must be added, with some degree of success. This process has witnessed the provisionals abandon Irish unity and agree to administer British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future. The provisionals have also endorsed the entrenchment of British sovereignty over the north and accepted the anti-democratic unionist veto on Irish independence. They are about to accept a reformed RUC and an expanded role for MI5 in the north. The surrender of their entire arsenal, weapons which were procured to end British rule, was the price they paid for the implementation of an equality agenda within the British six-county state and for access to power north and south. In the negotiating rooms of Stormont Castle, the British state - in tandem with unionism - inflicted the political and military defeat upon the provisionals which it could not achieve in the field. What McGuinness refers to as difficult decisions could be more aptly described as a wholesale political and military capitulation. It is somewhat surprising that Trimble was treated with derision within unionism for having negotiated the Belfast Agreement. Instead of highlighting the ideological compromises which he and the British state forced the provisional leadership to swallow, he conducted what seemed to be an almost permanent rearguard action. In contrast Adams and McGuinness cleverly repackaged a resounding political defeat and sold it to their constituency as victory.

As to McGuinness' suggestion that the Agreement is working. Well, I suppose from his perspective it is working. The protracted political stalemate over the past few years has kept Sinn Fein and their prospective electoral candidates firmly in the media spotlight. All of this has fuelled Sinn Fein's pursuit of power in both partitionist states. So despite the apparent absurdity of the comment, it is easy to see why McGuinness and Adams believe the Agreement is working. While it may not be advancing republican objectives, it is nonetheless facilitating their acquisition of power in both states - and that is what they are about at present.

FM: Do you believe Britain has a political or strategic interest in Ireland?

MMcK: Britain has conducted a brutal and dirty war in our country over the past thirty years. Britain has armed, trained and directed pro-British death squads. Britain has murdered hundreds of Irish nationals. Britain has been found guilty of inflicting torture and inhuman and degrading treatment upon Irish prisoners before international courts. This war has clearly tarnished Britain's international reputation. On the financial front Britain injects an annual subvention of £4bn into the north. It has spent over £60bn since 1979. Is it enduring all of this out of the goodness of its heart? To protect the "democratic rights" of one million unionists?

In the long run Britain is prepared to maintain a normalised and reformed six-county state in perpetuity. Some have argued the British establishment is fearful that a withdrawal from Ireland could radicalise Welsh and Scottish nationalism and precipitate the future dismemberment of the so-called United Kingdom. There may be something in this. But one shouldn't discount the British establishment's profound hostility towards Irish separatism and its deep-seated commitment to anti-democratic unionism, all of which are continued manifestations of its age-old imperialist mindset. The British establishment would also be fearful of the radicalising effects of unity within Ireland. So, for various reasons, Britain has a political interest in remaining in Ireland.

The strategic question is an interesting one. In 1987 Adams secretly presented a republican questionnaire to Tom King via Fr Alec Reid. All of this is well-documented in Ed Maloney's A Secret History of the IRA. The first item on Adams' questionnaire asked: What is the nature of the British government's interest in Ireland? The response declared that Britain has "no political, military, strategic, or economic interest in staying in Ireland". King subsequently informed Maloney that he never actually saw the finished written response. Consequently Maloney concluded that MI5 - and not any British politician - penned the reply. This debate then entered the public domain in 1989 when Peter Brooke famously declared that "the British government has no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Ireland". Patrick Mayhew reiterated this formula as late as May/June 2005 in a History Ireland interview.

Were these declarations of strategic neutrality genuine? Or were they a ruse designed to strengthen the hand of Adams and McGuinness? Well, published British policy documents contradict these public declarations of strategic neutrality. Throughout the Cold War British Foreign Office documents continually stressed Ireland's strategic importance for the British state, particularly with regard to the protection of shipping in the approaches to Britain. Has the end of the Cold War rendered these strategic concerns redundant? An interesting post-Cold War analysis was provided by GR Sloan, the Deputy Head of Strategic Studies at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, in a 1997 book entitled The Geopolitics of Anglo-Irish Relations in the 20th Century. Sloan believes the end of the Cold War has not diminished Ireland's strategic importance. Indeed Sloan encourages the British government to continue to pursue what he refers to as a "unique geopolitical dualism" which he believes is based on the assumption of being able to differentiate between a strategic policy enunciated for the purposes of political consumption in the north, namely, to send a signal to the provisional movement, and the necessity of maintaining partition to ensure the continued membership of a part of Ireland in the NATO Alliance. Sloan concluded that this "geopolitical dualism" looks likely to underpin British strategic policy for some time to come. So despite public pronouncements to the contrary, one shouldn't dismiss Ireland's strategic importance to certain elements within the British military establishment.

FM: Is the southern establishment interested in Irish unity?

MMcK: The southern ruling class is predominantly hostile to unity. All-island stability is its paramount concern. Granted most southern political parties claim to aspire to a united Ireland. However, it is necessary to separate rhetoric from realpolitik. For over thirty years the southern political establishment's primary objective vis-à-vis the north has been political stability, primarily because it enhances the prospect of wealth creation and induces foreign multinationals to invest in, and repatriate colossal profits from, the south.

From the outset of the peace process the southern establishment's sole objective was a termination of all armed opposition to British rule in Ireland and the attainment of stability in the British-controlled six-county state. Articles 2&3 were deleted without a murmur of opposition. Unity was relegated from a constitutional imperative to a vague aspiration. And Britain's constitutional hold over the North was entrenched.

Last year Bertie Ahern stated that "the constitutional question is now settled". At a 2005 Imagining Ireland conference Garret Fitzgerald outlined three reasons why he believes the goal unity should be abandoned - as if this goal hadn't already been abandoned by the southern establishment.

Further establishment hostility to an all-Ireland approach was recently evident in relation to the question of whether northern public representatives should be given speaking rights at Oireachtas committee meetings. Fianna Fail, the Progressive Democrats and most of the opposition parties rejected the suggestion out of hand. This exposed the blatantly partitionist mindset of the major southern political parties.

At the recent Sinn Fein ardfheis Adams stated that one of party's main strategic priorities is to engage unionism and convince it of the merits of Irish unity. To date he cannot even persuade them to share power in a reformed British six-county state. But perhaps he should begin with the southern political establishment and his partners in the so-called "pan-nationalist alliance" because these elements are the most resolute defenders of partition; and albeit for different reasons, their hostility to a British withdrawal is just as intense as that of any unionist.

FM: Yet the southern state is officially commemorating the 1916 Rising?

MMcK: The official state commemoration has more to do with the next general election than the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation or the actions of the men and women of Easter Week. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour are currently engaged in a distasteful and absurd tug-of-war with Sinn Fein over who can best lay claim to the tradition of 1916. Whereas in actual fact all of these parties have forfeited any right to lay claim to the militant, separatist, socialist-republican tradition. These parties support the ongoing partition of our country and British rule in Ireland. These parties have absolutely nothing in common with the politics of Pearse or Connolly, both of whom were resolute opponents of partition. Indeed Sinn Fein has pledged itself to administering British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future. People should ignore the hypocritical posturing of these parties and instead focus upon the ideals that motivated the men and women of Easter Week. Perhaps the best way to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising is by re-examining and debating the progressive and democratic ideals that motivated the insurrection and by re-committing ourselves to their realisation. The 1916 Proclamation remains a relevant political manifesto. Whether it is the issue of national sovereignty, the utilisation of our national resources, health and welfare, or the treatment of our nation's children, the Proclamation shines a democratic light on all of these important issues. It illustrates what nationhood could signify.

FM: This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike. How do you view this event after all this time?

MMcK: The ten H-Block Martyrs and all of the men and women who endured the brutal blanket and no-wash protests were highly courageous, highly committed, and highly principled IRA and INLA political prisoners. These political prisoners realised, perhaps quicker than most, the significance of the British government's attempt to criminalise the republican struggle. They knew that a victory for the British state inside the prisons would have devastating consequences for the overall struggle. On the first day of his hunger strike, Bobby Sands wrote that he was dying not only to end the barbarity within the H-Blocks but also in the knowledge that what was lost in the battle inside the H-Blocks, was lost for the entire freedom struggle. These young men, and sometimes we forget just how young they were, confronted criminalisation head-on and were ultimately victorious. The blanket protesters and the hunger strikers also raised international consciousness of, and generated unparalleled world-wide solidarity for, the Irish freedom struggle. But the prisoners were human. They could not have predicted future political developments. They could only respond to the situation in which they found themselves. And they did so, with unwavering bravery and steadfast courage. We must never forget this.

FM: And yet in 2006 the question of IRA prisoners inside British jails still remains a live issue?

MMcK: Yes. Most definitely. Since 1998 there have been ongoing attempts to criminalise republican prisoners in Maghaberry Prison. Segregation from loyalist prisoners was sought and successfully obtained, but the ongoing attempts at criminalisation have not diminished. Numerous problems still exist. For example, one of the most contentious issues at present is the difficulties faced by the loved ones of republican prisoners when visiting Maghaberry prison. Prior to each visit, family members and friends of republican prisoners are subject to despicable and degrading searching procedures that involve the use of prison guard dogs. Then there is the closed nature of the visits in Magahberry prison, where republican prisoners are denied physical contact with their loved ones. This situation is a disgrace and must be resolved immediately. I would urge everyone to support republican prisoners in Maghaberry Jail.

There are also seven republican prisoners in English jails, some of whom have been waiting up to 3 years to be repatriated to an Irish prison. The Dublin government is just as complicit as the British government in all of this. The British government manages to repatriate its incarcerated nationals - even from non-English speaking countries - within a nine-to-twelve month period. So this vengeful policy of deliberately delaying the repatriation of Irish prisoners is totally disgraceful. All republicans should lobby and support these prisoners' right to be repatriated forthwith. There is growing anger surrounding this issue. Indeed some prisoners have actually suggested that a candidate should contest the next general election in Louth to highlight the scandal surrounding repatriation.

FM: In the February-March issue of Forum you called for an end to the provision of landing and refuelling facilities at Shannon for US military aircraft?

MMcK: In the article I pointed out how for the past fifty years - prior to march 2003 - foreign military aircraft were denied Irish overflight and landing facilities if they were carrying armaments or aerial photographic equipment, engaged in intelligence gathering or part of a military exercise or operation. However, the Irish government departed from this longstanding position when it joined the "coalition of the willing" and permitted US forces land and refuel at Shannon en route to the illegal invasion of Iraq. For the past three years the Irish government has been complicit in an illegal occupation that has resulted in the deaths of approximately 100,000 Iraqi civilians. But to make matters worse the government is now facilitating an illegal CIA intelligence gathering operation that is founded on abduction and torture by allowing CIA-owned planes involved in "extraordinary renditions" to also land and refuel at Shannon. I concluded the article by stating that the Irish government should desist from assisting US imperialism, and should comply with its obligations under international law, by immediately withdrawing Irish landing and refuelling facilities from all US military and intelligence aircraft and all chartered flights transporting US military and intelligence personnel.

FM: Michael, on behalf of Forum Magazine, thank you for agreeing to the interview.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

4 April 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Interview with Michael McKevitt
Forum Magazine

Catching the Monkey
Anthony McIntyre

Policing the Status Quo
Mick Hall

John Kennedy

T.W.A.T and the problem with Leopard spots
Eamon Sweeney

Bigotry Imperils the Union
David Adams

'Fury over British PM bigot remarks'
Michaél MhaDonnáin

Then Why Is My Colour On Your Flag?
Derick Perry

Exorcise the Ghosts to Revive the Party
Dr John Coulter

How the Irish Screwed Up Civilisation?
Seaghan O Murchu

Play Ball
John Kennedy

Cumann Frithdheighilte Na h-Eireann - An outline
Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh

Irish Prisoner Suffering Extreme Medical Neglect in English Prison
Paul Doyle

Profile: Maryam Namazie
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Expression: No Ifs and Buts
Maryam Namazie

Manning the Firewalls
Anthony McIntyre

Ulster Muslims' Fury at Web Cartoons
Elham Asaad Buaras

Freedom of Speech index

26 March 2006

Profile: Taslima Nasrin
Anthony McIntyre

For Freedom of Expression
Taslima Nasrin

Muslim News Interviews The Blanket

Who Fears to Speak
Richard O'Rawe

Dr John Coulter

Cartoons and Caricatures: An anarchist take on the cartoon row
Jack White

Taslima Nasrin (2000)
Anthony McIntyre

Who Said
John Kennedy

The Key
John Kennedy

Getting Away With Murder
Mick Hall

Will the Real Army Council Please Stand Up
Geoffrey Cooling

Upcoming New York Events
Cathleen O'Brien

The Letters page has been updated:

Freedom of Speech index



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