Death of Dolours Price – opens up possibility that her taped oral history will be published (or not)

Dolours Price – sister, mother, bomber, prisoner and a thorn in Gerry Adams’ side – died in her Malahide home on Wednesday night. The Guardian’s Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald writes:

Price was involved in a car bombing at the Old Bailey in 1973, which injured more than 200 people and may have led to one person’s death of heart failure. The ex-IRA prisoner, who went on hunger strike with her sister Marian in the 1970s and was subjected to forcefeeding in English prisons, had struggled with alcohol problems later in life.

She became an arch-critic of Gerry Adams, claiming the Sinn Féin president had ordered her to have one of the most famous victims of the IRA – Jean McConville – abducted from her west Belfast home, murdered across the border in the Republic and buried in secret in 1972.

Price alleged that she was given the task of driving McConville, a widow, away from her 10 children in the Divis flats complex to her death on the County Louth coast. McConville became the most famous of the “Disappeared” – IRA victims whom the organisation killed and buried in secret during the Troubles.

Price claimed Adams had set up a secret IRA unit in Belfast to weed out informers, both in its ranks and within the wider nationalist community, who were helping the security forces. The Sinn Féin Louth TD, one of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, has consistently denied her allegations.

Henry McDonald’s piece also refers to the remarkable interview that Dolours Price gave to CBS news last year in which she repeated her claims. She also spoke to the Sunday Telegraph.

It is thought that the PSNI team investigating the 1972 murder of Jean McConville are behind the UK Government request to get hold of the taped interviews with Dolours Price (and other republicans) which are currently held in the Burns Library at Boston College as part of the oral history Belfast Project.

Loyalist and republican contributors gave interviews on the understanding that they would only be released or used after their death. While the PSNI have been pursuing the taped conversations held in the US – which would carry little evidential weight in any court case – they did not take opportunities to interview Dolours Price face-to-face when she was up in Newry court nor at her home in Dublin.

Following the death of IRA member Brendan Hughes and UVF member/PUP politician David Ervine, Ed Moloney published the book Voices from the Grave based on the recorded reminiscences of the two former paramilitary leaders. A TV documentary was also produced.

According to an affidavit made by Ed Moloney, unlike Dolours Price’s more recent media comments, the Belfast Project interviews will not shed light on Jean McConville’s disappearance.

… 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.

In an affidavit to US District of Massachusetts Court, Anthony McIntyre was of the opinion that Dolours Price would be “deeply traumatized were
the confidentiality guarantees given to her by me not to be honored” (ie, if the tapes were released early).

However, Dolours Price’s death does offers the opportunity for her taped testimony and interviews with Anthony McIntyre to finally be released and published in book or documentary form in the short to medium term.

Update – In Dublin, Gerry Adams [video] expressed his “profound sadness” at the news of the death of Dolours Price.

I want to extend my sincere condolences to her family and especially to her two sons, Danny and Oscar, and her sister Marian. Marian should be released from detention. I have known Dolours for a very long time. She endured great hardship during her time in prison in the 1970s enduring a hunger strike which included force feeding for over 200 days. In more recent years she has had many personal trials. I am sure all of those who knew Dolours will be very sad at the news of her death. Go ndeanfaidh Dia trocaire uirithi.

Update – Researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre have released a statement in which they express their sadness and convey their condolences to Dolours’ family.

Throughout the last two years of our fight to prevent her interviews being handed over to the police in Belfast, our greatest fear was always for the health and well-being of Dolours. Now that she is no longer with us perhaps those who initiated this legal case can take some time to reflect upon the consequences of their action.

Dolours Price’s interviews will not now be immediately handed over, as some reports have wrongly claimed. The interviews are the subject of a stay imposed by the Supreme Court of the United States and that stay remains in place until that court, the highest in the land, decides otherwise. There are other subpoenas outstanding and as far as we are concerned the same issues affect them as they did Dolours Price’s case and we intend continuing the fight with renewed vigor to stop the remaining Belfast Project interviews from being handed over.

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen notes that incoming US Secretary of State John Kerry petitioned outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the tapes case. Also Belfast Telegraph analysis, and coverage in the Irish News, Irish Times, Independent.

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