As we wait for the US court’s ruling on the release of the Boston College archive material, it’s worth noting that there have been a number of recent articles in which some interested parties have made their views known.
A couple of weeks after a Boston Globe editorial called on the college to release the information requested, a joint op-ed from Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre appeared in the same paper. Accompanying it was a separate article from columnist Kevin Cullen arguing the same lines. Although neither addressed the points made in the editorial, nor those made elsewhere. Kevin Cullen was less strident, and more open about his sources, in a subsequent Irish Times article.
But perhaps the most bizarre intervention came from Niall O’Dowd, who clearly had the tinfoil wrapped a little too tightly at the time – claiming, as he did, that the 2010 publication of Voices from the Grave represented a breach of the confidentiality agreement between researchers and interviewees. That’s despite the fact that, as the title suggests, the two interviewees concerned had died prior to publication – as required by that confidentiality agreement.
O’Dowd’s website, Irish Central, has offered Anthony McIntyre a right of reply. And he’s taken it with gusto.
The preposterous suggestion that Boston College carried out a witch hunt against the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is a figment of Niall O’Dowd’s imagination every bit as much as never having been a member of the IRA is a figment of Mr. Adams’ own imagination. Was the late Kader Asmal, via memoirs published after his death, also involved in a witch hunt against Mr Adams? What possible interest would Boston College have in making life difficult for Gerry Adams? It more than any other US university has worked diligently and assiduously in its promotion of the peace process of which Adams was one of the prime architects.
Niall O’Dowd may well seek to smear the people assigned by Boston College to conduct its research project, and by extension the college, but in doing so he has failed lamentably to make a convincing case that the Boston College research project worked towards a predetermined outcome. What he has achieved is a demonstration of his own proclivity for discriminating against journalists and researchers who have had the temerity to probe beyond the politically expedient narrative of the peace process.
Whatever Niall O’Dowd’s motives in attacking the oral history project of Boston College the defense of academic integrity does not figure amongst them. He is merely behaving as an echo chamber for Sinn Fein exasperation that its version of history is not the sole thread in the historical tapestry. But in a milieu of intellectual pluralism he should expect no less.
In his Periscope broadside he accused Boston College of having hired anti-Adams researchers. He fails to make the point that both myself and Ed Moloney are considered well outside the confines of Boston College as competent analysts. We brought a measure of certifiable journalistic and academic acumen to the task at hand. Perhaps had we lacked qualifications, were members of Sinn Fein and interviewed people who would testify to Gerry Adams history of non involvement in the IRA, we might have satisfied his rigorous criteria as to what constitutes a non biased research team.
What none of the main protagonists have done so far, prefering instead to question the motives behind the subpoenas, is address points raised some time ago.
John A. Neuenschwander, an emeritus professor of history at Carthage College in Wisconsin and author of “A Guide to Oral History and the Law,’’ said institutions and researchers have an obligation to defend confidentiality agreements, but they also should warn subjects that they may not override a subpoena.
“You need to alert people that you seal the interview for, that you may not be able to prevent it from being picked up by a subpoena and going to court,’’ Neuenschwander said.
Neither have they addressed the points made by the US Department of Justice.
As for the timing of the subpoenas for the college’s archival material, the March 2010 publication of Voices from the Grave and the later publication of an interview with Dolours Price, noted via Mick by Liam Clarke, would seem to be sufficient explanation – those were the first details to emerge in public of the specific information the archive actually contained.