#BostonCollege and the clash of law with the covert politics of peace…

The Boston College tape court case is reaching an interesting pass, though it’s unlikely to be the final decisive stage. The circuit court hearing is worth listening to (takes about 45 seconds before anything happens) for a number of reasons.

One, it’s an, albeit brief court room drama featuring what must be the most comprehensively qualified brief in western jurisprudence (Eamonn Dornan of New York and Belfast)…

And two, it demonstrates the utility of having court cases recorded and made available (hopefully) in perpetuity online.

Ted Holkman’s piece is well worth the read for you law heads.

Elsewhere on the Irish Echo site, Ray O’Hanlon reports on some trepidation in the Senate (and presumably some parts of the lower house). But it would not do to exaggerate the extent to which this has yet forced the hand of the US executive.

Senator John Kerry notes the odd politics behind this (and there’s a lot more than just one line at play here), in this statement (conveniently hosted on the Boston Subpoena site):

I can still remember with vivid detail April 10, 1998 – the day the Good Friday Agreement was signed, under the enormous leadership of President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, and so many others who wanted the cycles of violence and retribution to end. It meant so many things to so many people – to the citizens of the North, it meant global legitimacy and to many throughout the rest of Ireland it was a hopeful day that the violence just might be coming to an end. Now almost 14 years later, that Agreement, the spirit in which it was reached, and the United States’ role as a friend to the Irish people, must be protected.

I have been in close touch with our Department of Justice, the Department of State, and officials abroad to emphasize the risks of a political exercise that threaten what so many struggled so long to achieve. Treaties like the MLAT between the United States and the United Kingdom are vital, but they were never meant to be used as a method of reaching far back into a difficult history and perhaps eroding a delicate truce that could lead to more lives being lost.

Well, quite. As the Belfast Agreement noted at the time (although I slightly abbreviate): “…a fresh start in which we dedicate ourselves to achievement of reconciliation, tolerance & mutual trust”.

Yet the case of Gerry McGeough (not to mention the drip feed of detail from ongoing HET inquiries) demonstrates that this provides no form comprehensive cover.

As regards the current case, it’s probably best skip to Ted Holkman’s take on the matter:

I was surprised by how well the arguments seemed to go for Moloney & McIntyre, though of course it is a mistake to try to read the tea leaves too closely after an appellate argument. My view throughout the case was that there was a really interesting First Amendment nugget that could come out either way, but that Moloney & McIntyre’s claims should fail.

I still do think their claims under the MLAT will fail—the language of the treaty is clear and the judges did not seem interested in the issue—but I expected the judges to focus on the fact that the documents were BC’s not Moloney & McIntyre’s.

Even if they have sufficient interests to intervene, could Moloney & McIntyre have interests sufficient to give them standing to assert the First Amendment claims? But it could be that when the judges asked Smith to assume for the sake of argument that Moloney & McIntyre have standing, they were not showing their hand on that issue but simply focusing attention on what they thought was the juicier issue, namely the First Amendment issue.

The judges in the circuit court have retired to deliberate on the matter. Whichever way they go, this is likely to end up in the Supreme Court, who will concern themselves solely with the question of Constitutional law. And not the rather clandestine politics of our complex peace.

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  • cynic2

    So just what is the case presented in the USA.

    That if the bearded one were to be exposed, nay prosecuted and banged up, as a result of disclosure of these tapes, that we would be back to war? Especially given the fact that in the negotiations his party was resolutely against any form of amnesty.

    Is it seriously alleged that SF Ministerial Oaths on a total commitment to democratic politics are paper thin or even mere posturing?

    And is it alleged that they haven’t gone away you know but are lurking in the bogs practising with all those Kalashnikovs they hid from deChastelaine?

    Really … the truth must be told? Or are the Paddys just trying to pull the wool over the eyes of another US court, yet again?

  • andnowwhat

    Being the second most naive person on this site, I’m confused by people like cynic’s excitement over the possibility of top shinners being put in the frame.

    I’ve really no sense of concern from SF or the one that all the salivating is over.

  • I dont think it is a simple case of the Law versus (the implied ambiguity) of the Politics of Peace.
    The great Strength AND Great Weakness of the Good Friday Agreement was the Creative Ambiguity.
    We rejoiced in it, agonised over it, condemned it…….but ultimately that is what we signed up to…so all was going along swimmingly.
    Until this case?
    It was always the case that people (a lot more than the “Boston” folks) had an archive of tapes, statements and other stuff which satisfies their own curiousities and hopefully History in the future.

    Unfortunately some people blew it for others.

  • anne warren

    This entire issue has become extremely complicated, raising questions about academic freedom, whether the USA should protect non-USA citizens like Moloney and Mc Intyre and so on.

    However I wonder what it is really all about.

    What is recorded on each tape is one person’s personal view of events as told to an interviewer/researcher.
    For example the interviewee could have recounted gossip as fact, had an axe to grind with an individual, was looking for vengeance for some slight etc. We do not know whether the interviewee actually told the truth and even if s/he did, surely that truth is only hearsay and needs to be backed up by evidence to be brought to court?

    I do not think the tapes could have any legal validity otherwise.

    If the PSNI already have evidence, why aren’t they prosecuting?
    If they don’t have evidence, what were they hoping to achieve when they made the request?

  • cynic2

    ” I’m confused by people like cynic’s excitement over the possibility of top shinners being put in the frame.”

    I am not excited. I am just appalled at the hypocrisy that has allows major criminals and murderers on both sides to escape justice for the sake of ‘the process’ then insist that others be investigated and prosecuted. I am amused by a society that without thought re-elects time and time again those who covered up the most vile sexual assaults and rapes

    You will see elsewhere I i have a simple view. If they did the crime (whoever they are and from whatever faction) they should do the time. As simple as that

  • cynic2

    “whether the USA should protect non-USA citizens like Moloney and Mc Intyre”

    What from?

    “that truth is only hearsay and needs to be backed up by evidence to be brought to court?”

    but of course if you have different tapes recorded separately by different people at different times and all telling the same story then they might corroborate each other. In any case whatever happens any evidence will have to meet the standard of proof demanded by the court.

    And even if it doesn’t, don’t the Mcconville;e family (and all the others) have the right to know what really happened? Who killed their mother and whop ordered it? Indeed, some might seek justice in the civil courts where standards of proof are lower…. and why shouldn’t they be able to?

  • Alias

    The ‘peace is a delicate flower’ spiel is introduced by Maloney and McIntyre solely for the purposes of political campaigning. It is designed to get political support for their position from a political class who have a vested interest in Irish votes in the US (Hilary Clinton, John Kerry, etc). It has nothing to do with Maloney and McIntyre substantive points, i.e. that BC gave a guarantee of confidentiality to the interviewees that must be honoured; that the material is privileged by academic freedom, and that the treaty does not apply to police fishing expeditions.

  • cynic2

    “that BC gave a guarantee of confidentiality to the interviewees that must be honoured; ”

    a bit like the Mafia then?

    ” the material is privileged by academic freedom”

    Thats not what the US courts have said?

    ” the treaty does not apply to police fishing expeditions”

    Except that the boul Dolores outed herself in an interview giving the police due reason to hear the tapes and then the other witness went and died dissolving the agreement in his case. Great. So now let us all hear them and see what really went on.

  • Alias

    Take it up with Moloney and McIntyre. Those are their substantive points, separate to the political ‘protect this, wee delicate flower’ spiel aimed at securing political intervention to suppress what is now a judicial process.

    I don’t know how either Moloney or and McIntyre manage to keep a straight face when they now find it convenient to claim that the British state is actively attempting to incarcerate one of its chief assets for the crime of murder – something it has protected him and its other chief asset McGuinness from for nearly 40 years.

  • Alias

    “Except that the boul Dolores outed herself in an interview giving the police due reason to hear the tapes and then the other witness went and died dissolving the agreement in his case.”

    Yes, but you overlook an inconvenient fact, i.e. that the other interviewees whose interviews were handed over by BC to the Court did not give any interviews to the media ‘outting’ themselves.

  • tacapall

    cynic2 how is it that the statements below are hearsay and innuendo –

    John Weir’s Affadavit
    Statement by John Weir 03.01.99


    But those Boston tapes can be taken at face value therefore in your eyes and the eyes of the PSNI can be used as evidence against those who give them along with anyone else mentioned in them who are alleged to have been accomplices.

  • cynic2


    Stop obfuscating and changing the subject.

    Who said they were hearsay or innuendo?

    Who caught John Weir?

    Who gathered the evidence to prosecute John Weir?

    Who gained convictions against John Weir and his criminal friends?

    Read what I wrote above. Any serious allegations should be investigate and evaluated. If there is evidence there should be prosecutions. That should include an analysis of the source of the allegations,. the circumstances in which they were made and their motivation and reliability

    Now the real question is why do you not support investigating the most dreadful murders? Why not enlighten us on that

  • cynic2


    So what.

    If it was known that there was an Al Queda archive of statements that would bring people to justice for 9/11 shoudl US prosecutoirts tray and gain access to it?

    If not, why not? Are they just the wrong kind of terrorists?

  • tacapall

    I dont object to anyone being investigated for wrongdoing if there is evidence against them however Im just pointing out the elephant in the room to Unionists regarding John Weirs testimony. I cant seem to remember any investigation into his claims nor of anyone being charged in relation to any crimes that he testified were committed by him and others maybe you could enlighten me.

  • ranger1640

    If the IRA as has been claimed by many a poster on here and republican politicos. Who exactly are Moloney & McIntyre afraid of the bogey man???

    Anyhow I thought republicans and nationalists had bought into the new policing dispensation, so what’s the problem??

  • cynic2

    “nor of anyone being charged in relation to any crimes that he testified were committed by him and others maybe you could enlighten me.”

    ….well he was as were a number of those mentioned in his statement

  • tacapall

    Cynic you know as well as I do the none of those police officers that he testified were involved were charged with any offence a bit like these RUC officers.

    A former RUC ‘whistleblower’ has criticised a decision not to prosecute 20 policemen and soldiers who had previously been identified by Sir John Stevens as having been involved in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.


    RUC whistleblower calls for collusion prosecutions

    Earlier this week the Public Prosecution Service announced that it would not prosecute the 20 security force members identified in evidence gathered by the Stevens inquiry team.

    “That evidence included collusion in the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane and Protestant teenager Adam Lambert and the RUC decision to hand over weapons to a UDA gang, which were subsequently used in the murder of six people in gun attacks on a west Belfast bar and a south Belfast bookmakers”

    Im all for bringing those to justice who have committed crimes but if you’re going to turn a blind eye in one direction then its not justice at all.

  • cynic2


    So are you going to suggest then that the DPP is biased?

  • cynic2

    That ‘evidence’ thing is tricky isn’t it

  • tacapall

    Cynic obviously you never read the whole link – Stevens found evidence they were guilty, Nuala O’Loan found evidence they were guilty so did Al Hutchison and Former RUC detective Trevor McIlwrath and his colleague Johnston Brown but that obviously isn’t enough evidence for you when it comes to former police officers but in your eyes hearsay is evidence enough to convict republicans.

  • cynic2

    So ask the DPP why he wont charge them

    And can you remind me. Who was actually convicted on Steven’s evidence never mind prosecuted

  • HeinzGuderian

    Anne is correct. This ‘Historical Archive’ is nothing more than a lot of aul tittle tattle and bragging.

    Well,that’s the way it is being presented now…..:-)