Interview: Former BNP chief who changed heart and ditched hate party
Former BNP leader Kieran Devlin says he quit far right politics when he realised he was just a hate preacher like Abu Hamza.
The Conlig man – who the Sunday World exposed ten years ago for spreading hate about Muslims – met us this week to bravely admit he had been completely wrong.
And in a searingly honest interview Kieran – who is now incredibly a paid-up member of the Green Party – says he realised he was a hypocrite who was living a lie.
“I was having severe doubts because I couldn’t stand over the terrible things I was saying about foreigners,” says the former soldier who fought in Iraq in 1991.
“I was spreading lies and I was becoming sick of those lies. And I was a total hypocrite – I was giving political speeches around the country about foreigners stealing jobs when the truth was my own brother was out working in Spain.
“Then I realised one day when reading about hate preacher Abu Hamza – that was me! I was a hate preacher just like him.”
Abu Hamza was c onvicted in London of inciting violence from his mosque in Finsbury Park before he was extradited to the US where’s he’s serving a life sentence for terrorism.
But Kieran says he fears hate preachers on the far right are no longer having to do in secret what he did – he says they are getting prime-time slots in the mainstream media.
“Look at the former EDL [English Defence League] leader Tommy Robinson getting to sit with Piers Morgan spreading his lies on prime-time TV and then you have Katie Hopkins writing what she writes in a national newspaper,” he says.
As revealed last month by this paper, the former organiser of the Ulster branch of the British National Party has rejected the politics of hate spun by the far right.
Kieran Devlin spoke on camera, rejecting far right politics
The Sunday World first came across his work as far back as 2005 when he was behind a nasty leaflet campaign in Bangor where he lived.
The leaflets warned Northern Ireland faced being “swamped” by Muslims and blamed immigrants for causing “rampant crime and squalor”.
Now he wants to tell his story to anyone who will listen about the mistakes he made ever getting involved with the BNP.
He recently posted a video on the Facebook page of an anti-fascist group where he talked candidly about how he had been wrong about foreigners.
After our story about his ‘road to Damascus’ conversion he contacted us and said he wanted to get the message out to as many young people as possible.
He explains how he joined in the first place after leaving the army an angry young man and he now believes his racist views were born in the British army.
“My whole family was military and all I wanted to do was join up,” he says.
“When I was accepted into the Royal Engineers I was ecstatic. I was just 15 so was really a child recruit. But right from basic training you are taught to dehumanise people from other countries.
“I served in Iraq but when I came out of the army I was getting into a lot of fights – mostly getting my head kicked in – sometimes it went the other way.
“I got a two-year jail sentence for GBH and served a year inside. When I came out I was angry and was looking for something that appreciated the flag of the UK with pride.
“It was a time when Tony Blair was in power and there was a bit of embarrassment of waving the Union flag – the only people I could see who were doing it unashamedly was the BNP and that’s why I got involved around 2004.
“You’ll find the BNP and EDL is full of ex-military – it’s because the British army is institutionally racist. Even though I was in the army they called soldiers from Northern Ireland ‘Green Niggers’ and ‘Bog Wogs’.
“If they taught you to call their own names like that you can only imagine what they think of ‘Johnny Foreigner’.”
Kieran says he now regrets his time in the British army as much as he regrets his time in the BNP.
“The British armed forces have done a lot of damage across the world and I’m not proud of that – I went to war on a lie and every war since has been a lie.”
In 2015 he marched to Downing Street with other former soldiers who are now members of a group called Veterans For Peace where he handed back his medals, his army helmet and discarded his oath of allegiance.
He told the crowd at Downing Street: “These are my medals, these were given to me as a reward for invading other people’s countries and murdering their civilians. I’m now handing them back”.
Kieran left the BNP about seven years ago but until he quit he had been a highly trusted member – leader Nick Griffin even entrusted him with the duty of opening up six bank accounts in Northern Ireland for the party.
“Griffin had this feeling that the party was about to be flooded with legacy money/inheritances from the US and Australia.
“That’s when I started to have doubts about the party for another reason – the people in charge were obsessed with money.
“One account was supposed to be for former soldiers and police officers who had joined the BNP but I can tell you Nick Griffin and others had access to a credit card linked to that account.”
Kieran walked out of the BNP following a leaders’ meeting where another senior figure was accused of threatening to kill another senior figure.
“By then I was already having a lot of doubts and so when I walked out of that meeting that was me finished with the party.
“I couldn’t get far away enough from the BNP. I now have a massive level of regret but I’m trying to advise others who might be tempted by the far right.
“I joined the Green Party though it took a while for them to accept me as genuine. I want to reach out to others and I’m putting it out there that I will go to any group and tell my story.”
He says he has received death threats for turning his back on the far right but says it will not deter him from spreading his new message of hope.
“To some people once a Nazi always a Nazi but most people have been very supportive towards me. I’ve met with various groups and MLAs like Anna Lo to offer my services.
“I just hope people will take me up on it – I think young people will listen to someone like me, who has lived that life, rather than someone who hasn’t just telling them that it’s wrong.”