GOTF Podcast - Liam Ó Maonlaí: Songs and Conversation, Live from An Cuan
Liam Ó Maonlaí is probably best known as lead singer for the Hothouse Flowers, one of the biggest bands in Ireland in the 90’s, and still loved today. As a band they are still producing music and Liam continues to collaborate with the band and with all of Ireland’s best musicians today. Liam is passionate about the Irish language, his songs are steeped in a mystical spirituality, particularly Songs From The Rain. In this interview we hear not only the story behind some of the songs but he also plays 5 beautiful stirring versions. He plays a song from Songs From The Rain, he plays a completely apt song for the Covid times we are in called Worry Not, also a hauntingly beautiful song that can be used in a Catholic mass written by Seán Ó Riada, and a Sean-nos song. Sean-nos is a very traditional way of singing Irish traditional music. All of this, as well as Liam’s exceptional musicianship and his contemplative spirit gives this interview a unique feel.
GOTF Podcast - Richard Moore: A Rubber Bullet, Forgiveness and The Dalai Llama
Richard Moore was blinded by a plastic bullet after being shot by a British soldier in Derry. This was 1972, Richard was ten years old and it was just weeks after Bloody Sunday where one of his uncles was killed. Since that time Richard has become something of a modern day saint. I remember hosting him two years ago in Rostrevor and being so blown away by what I heard. That day he quoted his friend the Dalai Llama: “we as humans have spent centuries developing the human mind, but we need to start to work on developing the human heart”. Richard is a down to earth man who is not used to complaining. He speaks in this interview, not about his lust for vengeance, but of his compulsion to forgive. In fact he speaks of developing a friendship in later life with the soldier who blinded him. This former military man did not initially say sorry. In fact it took him years. Finally he seemed to give in to the weight of mercy he was shown and expressed a “sorry” for what he had done to a 10 year old boy running through a school playground at Rosemount Primary School. Despite a lifetime of blindness Richard speaks of only a few times he dwelt on the sadness of losing his sight. He says he will often show a picture of his two girls to audiences he is speaking to. He says “you’re doing something I’ll never be able to do: you’re looking at my girls.” He then went on to talk about the gift of forgiveness, how it can’t change the past but how it can change the future. He has developed a charity “Children in Crossfire” which has impacted the lives of countless children around the world. This is an episode of profound hope in the midst of tragedy.
GOTF Podcast - Dr Gabriel Scally
This is a fascinating interview with one of the U.K. and Republic of Ireland’s leading public health experts. Dr Gabriel Scally has been a regular commentator on News channels for the last year, often taking the British government to task for their failings in their dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. He has been serving society as a doctor for over 40 years with public health being his main focus in that time. In this interview we chart his life from growing up on the Falls Road in West Belfast during the civil rights movement and early days of the Troubles, his travels as a young man to Chile, Angola and Burkina Faso, and some of the many achievements in his career. It is fascinating and heart wrenching to hear him describe his work on the failings in the Republic of Ireland on the Cervical Check programme. What comes shining through in this episode is Dr Scally’s fierce determination to advocate for those most marginalised in society and to advocate for Public Health policies that will benefit all of those in society. We also touch on the subject of abortion. This is obviously one of the most divisive subjects in many Western societies. I was keen to create a space for someone like Dr Scally to articulate what would have motivated him in his advocacy for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland. As we try to build a broad catalogue of podcasts dealing with all of life, this episode adds a new dimension.
GOTF Podcast - Peter and Beryl Quigley
Beryl Quigley appears in our documentary telling the story of how her husband, Bill McConnell, was killed by the IRA. Her story is repeated in this podcast where she adds more detail. Several years after her husband’s death she remarried Peter Quigley. Jonny Clark has known Peter and Beryl since the early 90’s and here he allows them to each tell their stories. Peter’s life is one of sadness and redemption. Both speak compellingly about their Christian faith and how it has lead them to walk the path of forgiveness. As people of faith they have made a life’s work out of courageously crossing boundaries that were considered taboo by many in the church. They share a simple faith that is simultaneously uncompromising, profound and one which is steeped in kindness and acceptance. An interesting contribution in this interview are a couple of Peter’s “thoughts from the day” which he regularly shares on BBC Radio Ulster.
GOTF Podcast - Bruce Clark: Journalism, Conflict Zones and Spirituality
Bruce Clark has been a correspondent for some of the worlds biggest news organisations over the last three decades: the Financial Times, Reuters, The Times and currently the Economist. He was based in Moscow in the final days of Communism and the fall of the Soviet Union. Following this he covered contexts all around Europe and notably for this podcast we talk of how he covered the Balkans in the mid 90’s and the Dayton agreement which brought the Bosnian war to an end. His insight into efforts to bring justice following conflict is fascinating. Bruce is also an author having written extensively about Russia and Greece and he is a cousin of mine. What a privilege it was to interview him. This podcast seeks to look at places with conflict and the roots of these often tribal divisions. Bruce is the first guest we have interviewed who is fluent in both Russian and Greek and well placed to comment on these nations as well as the growth of populism around the world at this unique moment in history. Finally, this conversation is enriched by Bruce’s deep understanding of Biblical Greek. We touch on theology and the importance of his deep Orthodox Christian faith.
GOTF Podcast - James Greer: From Paramilitaries to Reconciliation
James Greer shares powerfully from his experience of membership in the UDA, prison and then starting a new life as a bridge builder. A poignant moment is sharing his entry to the UDA, pledging loyalty to it while having his hand on a Bible. This joining of violence with Religious belonging and identity undergirds what the Guardians Of The Flame project is all about. How do we celebrate the lives of people who have fanned the flame of humanity regardless of what faith they are. And how do we challenge the toxic religious nationalism that can become destructive in societies. James Greer swears no religious allegiance now but he has an overflowing humour and humanity that make his friendship with those who would have been his enemies so poignant.
GOTF Podcast - Colum Sands: On Folk Music and Environmental Activism
Colum Sands is a hugely respected and much loved Irish folk music singer and songwriter. As well as penning a myriad of songs he has become more and more engaged in environmental campaigning. He led a campaign to recognise an “Invisible Tree”. This Oak tree on the edge of Rostrevor’s ancient Oak Wood was conveniently absent from developers plans to build inner city style apartment blocks with an underground car park on the site. Indeed, without a campaign like this one they would have “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. Colum is one of Ireland’s most gifted songwriters and story tellers. This interview traces his career with The Sands Family band, tells the story of songs written during The Troubles and his recent environmental activism with RARE (Rostrevor Action Respecting the Environment). Colum is a brilliant human. In this outdoor, socially distanced (and very cold) interview we try to catch the magic and beauty of Colum and his music. To see the work of RARE find them on Instagram at @rostrevor_rare, Twitter @rostrevorRARE or Facebook @rostrevorRARE. His music, including his brilliant new album can be found at www.columsands.com
GOTF Podcast - Brian Keenan
“We were chained but they were chained to their guns”, said Brian Keenan after being released from 4 1/2 years of captivity and brutalisation as a hostage of the Islamic Jihad during the Lebanese civil war. This is a fascinating interview. I believe there is a greatness about Brian Keenan. He has suffered more than most should ever have to in one life time. From growing up in the back streets of Belfast, he travelled to Beirut as an English teacher during a civil war. There he became a hostage. But today Brian is more like a mystic. He has a profound humanity and sees beauty in others. It was extremely moving to hear him talking about one of his captors who treated him with a particularly malicious cruelty. He said if he was to meet ‘Said’ he would want to sit and have a coffee with him and ask him what was going on in his head in those days. Why did he treat him so cruelly? I saw no desire for revenge in Brian, just a generous heartedness and profound wisdom. Among several other books Brian detailed his time as a hostage in his critically acclaimed book “An Evil Cradling”.