Reliance on the Boston tapes would be a long term mistake

I have no particular sympathy for this frail 77 year old grandfather. There may indeed be short term gains in bringing the case to court. The reliability of the Boston tapes as evidence will be tested. Will corroboration in any form be produced? If the tapes are regarded as sufficient in this case what are the implications of the others referred to, including Gerry Adams? Like lots  of other people I have copious extracts from the tapes and an account based on them sitting in my bookshelves.  

Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Mr Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ‘, was his client.But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.

“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.

Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.

“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.

The solicitor for Mr Bell told Belfast Magistrates Court his client was not involved in the murder of Jean McConville. He said the case against him was based on the Boston College tapes and “the evidence was not credible”.

A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.

He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville

In response to Bell’s court appearance Gerry Adams said  that what happened to the mother of ten was “wrong” and a “grievous injustice to her family”.

Adams goes on to state that:

It is Sinn Féin’s view that legacy issues and dealing with the past, including past conflict events, are best addressed through an independent, international, truth recovery process.

He would say that wouldn’t he? And yet it seems inconceivable that he will feel the hot breath of the law.  You can hear the cry of “political trial”  already. The result I fear will be even more cynicism about politics and the risk of a chilling effect on prospects for wider  truth recovery in the medium term.

Ed Moloney has not yet reacted to the court hearing but he has responded to Mary Lou Mc Donald’s attack on the reliability of  tapes on RTE last night:

On last night’s Late Late Show on RTE, Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein trotted out the hoary canard that the Boston College oral history archive had a political agenda when choosing who to interview or not interview for the project.

Long before I left Ireland to live in America, Sinn Fein was employing the same tactic against myself, accusing me of political bias in my coverage of the peace process and in particular claiming that I was prejudiced against and even obsessed with Gerry Adams. It was clear to me then as now what the real purpose of this slur was.

This is an old public relations trick designed to intimidate other members of the media by demonstrating what could happen to them if they followed my example and probed too deeply into the opaque depths of the Provisionals’ internal politics. Unfortunately such tactics all too often work and their result is always to the benefit of the initiators, in this case less scrutiny of their business.

In relation to the Boston project, Mary Lou cites two interviewees to justify this accusation. One was Brendan Hughes, the other Dolours Price. Is she really saying that when it comes to compiling a history of the IRA and the Troubles, the woman who led the first IRA bombing team to London and the man who was Gerry Adams’ closest buddy and whose IRA career is the stuff of which legends are made should be excluded because they and Sinn Fein had fallen out?

So who then, Mary Lou should be allowed to speak for the history books for Sinn Fein and the IRA? Only those who parrot the party line of who was or was not in the IRA? Really? What sort of history would that produce?

 

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London