Secrets From Belfast: a definitive guide to the Troubles (troubled?) oral history project

Beth McMurtrie has published an extensive and well-researched article for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle of Higher EducationIt examines how the Belfast Project oral history project at Boston College was established and how it has fallen apart in recent years following the PSNI’s request for access to the archive (two months after the British government had “given the college highly sensitive papers related to the disarmament process, to be kept locked away for 30 years”).

burns library booksWhat sets Beth’s article apart from much of the other existing commentary [including Slugger] on the Troubles oral history project are her interviews with all the main players, including:

  • Ed Moloney, project director
  • Anthony McIntyre, conducted the republican interviews
  • Thomas Hachey, Boston College’s head of Irish programs
  • Robert O’Neill, (retired) head of the Burns Library (which holds the archive)
  • Kevin O’Neill, associate professor of history and former director of the Irish-studies program
  • Clifford M. Kuhn, executive director of the Oral History Association

The eight thousand word article finishes:

The remaining interviews are locked away in a vault inside the Burns Library. A number of participants—including everyone interviewed on the loyalist side—have asked for their recordings back. Mr. Dunn says the college will consider those requests and honor them “to the extent we are able.”

The project itself is dead. No more books, no more revelations, no further insights into the minds of former paramilitary fighters. “It can never be used now,” says Mr. Moloney. “It’s all done for nothing.”

The article author is hosting a Google Hangout at 2pm US Easter Time (7pm GMT) on Wednesday 29 January with with Mary Marshall Clark (director Columbia University Center for Oral History Research and Clifford M. Kuhn, executive director Oral History Association).