Slugger O'Toole

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“I believe the time is apposite to reveal what the interviewees did not disclose”

Fri 14 September 2012, 11:39pm

Eating dinner in the Burns Library of Boston College last night, I glanced around at the old manuscripts sitting on the shelves, knowing that the now infamous oral history tapes from the “Belfast Project” must be stored within a room or two of where were sitting.

On Friday morning, researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre were back in Belfast High Court seeking a judicial review of the “decision of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to request the United States Government to seek on its behalf confidential material held by Boston College, Massachusetts, USA, pursuant to the treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom on mutual assistance in criminal matters”.

As part of the Judicial Review, Ed Moloney submitted an affidavit setting out some of the background to the oral history project, the legal action and the implications of the tapes (or transcripts of the tapes) being handed over fro Boston College to the PSNI. (Technically, a US judge is already holding the transcripts.)

5. There is no doubt in my mind that if any of the oral history archives of the Belfast Project at Boston College are handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (“PSNI”), the peace process in Northern Ireland will incur destabilizing and irreparable damage. In addition to my participation in the Belfast Project, my opinion is based on my lengthy experience as a reporter covering the Troubles in Ireland for the Irish Times, as well covering for the Sunday Tribune the peace process from its inception in the 1990’s through to its successful culmination. My book A Secret History of the IRA is regarded widely as the most authoritative account of how and why the Irish Republican Army (“IRA”) took the path of the peace process.

But crucially, the affidavit – for the first time – outlines some details of what the taped interviews do not contain.

6. When the research project at Boston College (“BC”) began, I as project director, and Anthony McIntyre as researcher, gave interviewees a pledge that nothing of what they said would be revealed until their deaths. I intend to keep that promise.

7. However, I believe the time is apposite to reveal what the interviewees did not disclose.

8. I now wish to make the following facts public: in her interviews with BC researcher, Anthony McIntyre, Dolours Price did not once mention the name “Jean McConville”. The subject of that unfortunate woman’s disappearance was never mentioned, not even once. Nor so were the allegations that Dolours Price was involved in any other disappearance carried out by the IRA in Belfast, nor that she received orders to disappear people from Gerry Adams or from any other IRA figure. None of this subject matter was disclosed in her taped interviews with Anthony McIntyre.

9. The truth is that the interviews that Anthony McIntyre conducted with Dolours Price are notable for the absence of any material that could ever have justified the subpoenas. In this respect it is worth noting that, when she was interviewed by Anthony McIntyre, Dolours Price was given the same confidentiality assurances as other interviewees, which was that whatever she said would not be revealed until her death. As the interviews with Brendan Hughes, later published in the book Voices From The Grave, graphically demonstrate, this enabled interviewees to speak freely, fully and candidly and to talk honestly about their lives in the IRA.

10. The subpoenas served in May 2011 by the United States Attorney General on behalf of the PSNI seeking the interviews with Dolours Price, which was followed in August by other subpoenas seeking further information relating to murder of Jean McConville from the BC archive, was based upon false information emanating from a newspaper report in Northern Ireland published in February 2010 suggesting that Dolours Price had recorded details about the disappearance of Jean McConville during her interview with Anthony McIntyre for the BC project. She did not.

11. The McIntyre-Price-BC interviews are the wellspring for this extensive legal action carried out by the U.K. and U.S. governments in legal actions that could do irreparable harm to the peace process in Northern Ireland, irretrievably reduce academic and media freedoms in the United States and imperil the lives of researchers and interviewees alike.

The affidavit refers to Allison Morris’ interview with Dolours Price and her subsequent article in the Irish News.

12. Specifically, the newspaper report that began the saga of the BC subpoenas appeared in The Sunday Life on February 21st, 2010 under the by-line of Ciaran Barnes. The report, splashed on the front page and continued inside, alleged that Dolours Price had been involved in the McConville disappearance and several other similar events and had admitted all this in a tape recorded interview.

The affidavit also critiques Ciaran Barnes’ report in the Sunday Life which included the text:

“Sunday Life has heard tape recordings made by Price in which she details the allegations against Adams and confesses her own involvement in a series of murders and secret burials.”

The affidavit concludes with statements about the PSNI’s “obligation to exhaust domestic resources” before seeking international assistance.

23. I say and believe that the PSNI failed in its basic duty to establish the reliability and credibility of the false newspaper report until more than fifteen months after publication of the article and long after the subpoenas had been served on BC.

24. I say and believe that the PSNI only moved to check the Irish News material or gather evidence after I submitted an affidavit to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts setting forth my belief that the basis for the subpoena was flawed and that the taped interview referred to was not the tape deposited with BC but was recorded instead for The Irish News.

A statement accompanying the sworn affidavit goes into even more detail about the background to the case and can be read over on The Broken Elbow blog.

The BBC report from today’s court proceedings notes that Anthony McIntyre has been order by Mr Justice Treacy to file a sworn affidavit by Monday to clarify apparent differences between the American judge’s view and today’s affidavit by Ed Moloney.

It was also set out in the hearing how Mr Moloney has claimed that his research colleague’s interviews with Price contain nothing relevant to the Jean McConville murder investigation.

Mr Justice Treacy said this appeared to be “at odds” with the view taken by an American judge who reviewed the material and concluded it should be handed over. He ordered Mr McIntyre, who attended court with his wife Carrie, to file a sworn affidavit by Monday in an attempt to clarify the position.

The judge stressed: “It would be incumbent on Mr McIntyre, if he knew otherwise, in the discharge of his duty of candour to the court, to indicate whether that averment by Mr Moloney was correct or not. “If it wasn’t correct and he knew if wasn’t correct and he didn’t take the opportunity to make it clear to the court that would be a serious matter not only for him but for Mr Moloney if it turned out not to be so.”

The judicial review hearing was adjourned until next week. A temporary injunction restraining the PSNI from taking possession of the interviews remains in place pending the outcome of the case.

UTV’s report quotes PSNI’s counsel comments on whether releasing teh transcripts would increase the level of threat to McIntyre:

Is there any evidence to demonstrate it could result in an Article 2 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] risk to his life? His cupboard is threadbare evidentially.

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Comments (24)

  1. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Alan

    Mr Justice Treacy said this appeared to be “at odds” with the view taken by an American judge who reviewed the material and concluded it should be handed over.

    Well, yes.

    Is there any evidence to demonstrate it could result in an Article 2 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] risk to his life? His cupboard is threadbare evidentially.

    Indeed.

    But you’d be better advised to pay attention to Ted Folkman’s coverage of this case.

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  2. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    In short, Alan, there’s nothing there.

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  3. Still a stunning revelation, Pete. If true.

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  4. Alias (profile) says:

    It’s also a bit disappointing, if true, given that the practice of academic researchers issuing guarantees of confidentiality, however dubious, to interviewees seems not to have served its claimed public service purpose of securing of ‘full and frank’ disclosure for the historical record.

    It seems they’ll tell what they want to tell to serve their own agenda but not much else…

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  5. Alias,

    Agreed, but once again, with the caveat – if true. Didn’t tell or didn’t know? Poor McConville family will be devastated, I imagine.

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  6. Dec (profile) says:

    ‘In short, Alan, there’s nothing there.’

    He’s a judge, now [sigh].

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  7. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    To clarify the apparent mis-intrepretation of one of my earlier comments, I was referring to the story as presented in the Belfast High Court. As Ted Folkman observes

    It’s a little curious for Moloney to be making these assertions now, after insisting on the confidentiality of the interviews for so long. He says he is free “to reveal what the interviewes did not disclose,” but that seems a bit forced. In any event, I am wondering what the court in Belfast will do with this new affidavit. In the United States, it strikes me that the affidavit would not be admissible to prove the contents of the Price interview, because the tape itself is the best evidence of what it contains. 1 This case actually provides a great example of the rationale for the rule—Moloney and McIntyre know what the tape says, but their opponents in court don’t, so it’s not proper for the court to permit Moloney and McIntyre to rely on their own say-so in the absence of some sound reason why the original shouldn’t be produced in court. Do they still have the best evidence rule in Northern Ireland?

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  8. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    He’s a judge, now [sigh].

    It can judge without knowing,(or hearing)all the eveidence….(DEEP sigh)

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  9. Henry94 (profile) says:

    I suppose Moloney, having made the promise that the material would not be published until the people involved were beyond cross-examination, feels obliged to take every possible step to vindicate that promise. But some of his claims are a bit on the wild side.

    There is no doubt in my mind that if any of the oral history archives of the Belfast Project at Boston College are handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (“PSNI”), the peace process in Northern Ireland will incur destabilizing and irreparable damage.

    Really? Unionists already believe the worst about the involvement of senior republicans in the armed campaign and nationalists don’t consider such involvement to be show-stopper. Who in their right minds would throw away everything because of what are essentially mere details.

    My prediction is that statements intended for release post-mortem will not stand up to scrutiny and will be generally seen as unreliable score-settling. Reputations will indeed suffer but not those that were the intended target of this whole exercise from the start.

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  10. Is there any possibility of a downside in this for the PSNI?
    There will be no usable evidence; all hearsay. What if they get no new clues (they already know a lot) that leads to prosecution(s)? Are they just window dressing – see, we’re doing something – and hope that people are so tired of it all that they don’t notice anything useful coming out of it?
    Does the few comments here bear that out?

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  11. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Anyone who has suffered reading the sad, resentful outpourings of the late Brendan Hughes as revealed in Ed Moloney’s, Voices From The Grave will be inclined to agree with the predictions above of Henry 94 that “… statements intended for release post-mortem will not stand up to scrutiny and will be generally seen as unreliable score-settling.

    Besides which the value of any material harvested as evidence for the prosecution in any intended forthcoming trials is likely to be thin indeed without supporting evidence from live witnesses and that famine is unlikely to be any more of resolution by British effort that it has been to date.

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  12. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Slugger O’Toole’s spokesperson for the Queens own Shinners said with typical bile…

    “Anyone who has suffered reading the sad, resentful outpourings of the late Brendan Hughes….”

    The late Brendan Hughes was never outed as an informer as were many of Rory’s beloved leadership…

    He never covered up for and protected rapists and paedophiles as did Rory’s leadership.

    In fact even former British soldiers commented on Brendan’s courage (see the documentry Voices from The Grave) unlike Rory’s leadership who sent out others to do what they were unwilling to do themselves…

    What did Dolours Price say about when the first armilite rifles where moved into Belfast? Oh thats right Brendan was in the car while Adams kept his distance in another car…

    Thats what Shinners like Rory so hate about the testimonies held in the Boston archives, they expose too much about his beloved leadership.

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  13. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    My understanding is that most universities have an ethical framework and requirements governing the collection of material for research,infact they make people sign a document stating that they are aware dof these rules. i have even known people at QUB who were denied post graduate degrees because they have not complied with these requirements.

    I can’t imagine that Boston is so different, So looks like Maloney and McIntyre were unaware or did not comply with these rules. or at least we’re aware to creatively work round them. Therr also seems to have been a lack of communication between the journalist and the university people he dealt with.

    Brendan Hughes account is not “mere details” . To me it is however evidence of a Boys Own view of killing,not “bravery”. Which is not how “the movement” wants to be portrayed.

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  14. Granni,

    Romanticization?. Or arrested development?

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  15. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    The more I think on it the more I am sure that Boston academics worked with McIntyre and Moloney because they had access to sources of information not open to everyone because of their credentials, ESP in case of McIntyre. Hope lessons have been learnt: not to avoid such collaborations but to communicate uni rules so that all are working from the same page.

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  16. Those expecting their imminent apotheosis have nothing to fear, I guess.

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  17. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Dixie Elliot may wish to observe that I am happy to state for the record that I am not a “Shinner” nor do I owe loyalty to any leadership.

    Apart from that, I have made no statement on the courage or lack thereof of the late Brendan Hughesand am happy to accept the word of others that he was full of dash and derring-do but, I do reiterate that I found his confessions as published in Voices From The Grave to be petulant, resentful and self-serving. As an example, Dixie draws our attention to Hughes’s recollection of collecting a shipment of arms, where he complains that Adams stayed behind in another car. Surely, if, as Hughes (and Dixie) claim, that Adams was Hughes’s commander, this would be the natural order of things. Commanders are to be protected by those below their rank and a soldier who complains about this necessary military protocol shows a woeful lack of discipline fuelled, as is obvious in this case, by resentment.

    I fail to see how the rest of the vitriol pouring forth from Dixie will serve to change my mind on that.

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  18. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    Necessary military protocol…(1a)….pira style………hide in the back seat.
    Holey moley. I’m trying not to :-) Rory,I really am mate,but it ain’t working !!! :-)

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  19. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Rory Carr says he isn’t a shinner…I’d deny it too the state that lot are in these days…Having to dance for their dinner.

    Oh and Rory I didn’t draw anyone’s attention to Hughes’s recollection of anything. If you read it again I said Dolours Price referred to Adams keeping a safe distance from the armalites in the Documentary Voices from the Grave.

    The rest of your comment about Commander Adams was, shall we say, humorously ridiculous…

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  20. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    You may find them humorous if you wish, Dixie, I suppose it will deflect from your inability to answer. Do you deny that a senior commander would not (and should not) be palced in such a vulnerable position ?

    And are you challenging my denial that I am a “Shinner” ? Why can you not just respond to the arguments instead of this childish man playing ? It does not become you.

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  21. streetlegal (profile) says:

    The Provisional Sinn Fein leadership has most to lose from revelations like this. Silence on the detail of the Provisionals campaign of violence is the preferred strategy of Messrs Adams and McGuinness and their cohorts at Stormont.

    This silence was demonstrated recently in relation to the Bloody Friday documentary when those best placed to explain what happened on that day – such as Messrs Adams, Kelly and Maskey – chose to keep their heads well down. But in the end, however inconvenient it may be, the truth will out.

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  22. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Rory Carr said…

    “Do you deny that a senior commander would not (and should not) be palced in such a vulnerable position ?”

    Sure didn’t the leaders of 1916 put themselves in such a position?

    Didn’t Tom Barry, Dan Breen, Ernie O’Malley etc put themselves in such positions?

    Thats what Brendan Hughes did, he led from the front otherwise why call themselves leaders?

    In fact…

    armchair general (plural armchair generals)

    An outspoken warmonger, and/or a self-appointed strategist, who normally lacks actual military experience, and probably has no intention to get any in the near future.

    Hmm that would be Gerry.

    Then again himself and McGuinness spent years preaching war, then when the time was right for them politically they became peacemakers…Self-proclaimed that is.

    Their hypocrisy is only comparable to that of Gregory Campbell and his ilk who not only cheer led the loyalist killer gangs but actually shared platforms with them, then they now scream about apologies from a government who consistently sided with the British against Republicanism.

    Declan Kearney should give Campbell a good hug instead.

    More fitting titles for the so called ‘leadership’ in the circus that is Stormont would be…Ring Master and Deputy Ring Master.

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  23. [...] Two weeks ago, McIltyre’s fellow researcher Ed Moloney (who directed the “Belfast Project”) submitted an affidavit in which he reluctantly stated: [...]

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  24. [...] if US tapes releasedBelfast Telegraph“I believe the time is apposite to reveal wha&#11…Slugger [...]

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