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Belfast Telegraph logo
26 January 2015

Martin Galvin: He may be older, but his hatred remains intact


Martin Galvin

Remember Martin Galvin, that attention-seeking Irish-American who liked people to kill for Ireland? Well, he's announced that conditions don't exist at present for "the continuation of the armed struggle". Why?

Galvin came to prominence as the publicity director for Irish Northern Aid (Noraid), which from the early-1970s claimed to raise money for the families of republican prisoners. Of course, by taking a financial burden off the IRA, they freed up money for weapons.

They also, said Galvin, ran "educational programs in the US," which is a nice euphemism for spreading hate-filled anti-British propaganda.

Among those who believed that Noraid also raised money for US arms shipments to Northern Ireland was the US Department of Justice, which took them to court to demand they register the Provisional IRA as their "foreign principal".

The judge ruled: "The uncontroverted evidence is that [Noraid] is an agent of the IRA, providing money and services for other than relief purposes."

Noraid continued merrily on, shaking buckets in Irish pubs and extracting donations from ignorant, gullible or malign Irish-Americans.

From the mid-19th century, the island of Ireland was cursed by the interference of bitter Fenian exiles and their followers, who fomented and financed revolution.

They sat in their armchairs exulting as people thousands of miles away killed and died for hatred. Without them, there would almost certainly have been no rising in 1916.

Galvin was one of their heirs. He explained once that, as a 20-year-old New York fireman's son, he visited Ireland and discovered that, 60 years earlier, his grandfather had emigrated because "an English landlord had determined that he could get a higher price from the field that my family farmed to support itself".

This "made me see that this system, which had oppressed members of my own family, is oppressing people today".

Galvin is typical of a particularly stupid, tunnel-visioned strain in Irish-America, that finds a romantic vision that suits and never questions it.

The only time I lost my temper on the US lecture circuit was when two Noraid women, who had never set foot in Ireland, told me I didn't have a single drop of Irish blood in my veins.

Galvin, however, liked a bit of action and did sometimes visit. In 1984, at a time when he was excluded from the United Kingdom, he snuck into Northern Ireland to appear on republican platforms.

Violence broke out when the RUC tried to arrest him at a rally outside the Sinn Fein Belfast offices and, in the ensuing melee, Sean Downes was killed by a plastic bullet.

The police reservist who shot him was cleared of manslaughter after the judge saw a video of events, but, of course, for Galvin and Sinn Fein, his death - which they called murder - was a heaven-sent propaganda opportunity.

Galvin fell out with Sinn Fein over the peace process and quit Noraid. He became best friends with the Real IRA and Michael and Bernadette McKevitt, becoming the US support group for their 32 County Sovereignty Committee.

His comment on the Omagh bomb was: "People have to not simply react to the immediate, but to look to the bigger picture."

Galvin has adjusted his sights a bit, thrilled to have been nominated as an aide to the Grand Marshal in this year's Ancient Order of Hibernians St Patrick's Day New York shindig. The Grand Marshal is Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

Clearly, he had to make a big concession to avoid being blocked in the present climate, which is why he wrote an open letter to the AOH in which he said: "It is categorically untrue that I support armed actions today by any IRA, or as your writer puts it, 'denounce the Sinn Fein leadership as traitors.'"

He'll have his parade, but his hatred will remain intact. It's clear from a recent interview that he hopes that politics will fail so "nationalist areas, or at minimum in republican heartlands" will give support again to violence.

As the Omagh relatives said in 2000 in a Press release after picketing a 32CSM fundraising event in which Galvin starred, he "is contributing nothing to the people of Ireland only misery".

Expect no change.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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