The PSNI’s latest move against the Boston archive is unintelligent

Henry McDonald in the Observer has picked up on the PSNI’s latest incursion into Boston tapes morass. There is a blinkered police logic to this that contradicts the stated expectations of the law officers of the low likelihood of future prosecutions.   Pursue the Bloody Sunday paras and  give Gerry Adams lousy food in Antrim Police station for a couple of days. If the PSNI go after the Army and the Provos they have to go after the loyalists, don’t they?  Ed Moloney the original project director inveighs against this decision. He makes two interesting disclosures. One, that he was not present when the arrangement was struck between loyalists and Boston College in 2003. This seems like another example of the lack of formality and naivety  that bedevilled the project. And two, that the RUC knew about it and went along with it.

I disagree with one of his conclusions, that a wider oral history archive is “dead in the water.” There was ever the slightest prospect that any kind of meaningful archive could get off the ground without legal immunity. This has been aired but not gripped by authorities including the Attorney General and the DPP, and simply ignored by Stormont House. The only good that can out of this is that it may provoke a proper debate at last. It’s about time that more experienced people like Des Rea the first chair of the Policing Board and Robin Mountfield who used to run the prison service spoke out.  Fresh guidance is urgently needed from legal officials  to try to advance the Stormont House agenda.  But I’m not holding my breath.


Dozens of IRA and loyalist paramilitary veterans are facing arrest after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed its decision to seek all the taped testimonies that form the core of the controversial Boston College Belfast Project

In a court case in Belfast on Thursday, another participant in the Belfast Project, the ex-UVF veteran Winston “Winkie” Rea, it was revealed that the PSNI had moved to seize his testimony as well. Police have since announced that they are pursuing all of the Boston College’s archive. “Detectives in Serious Crimes Branch have initiated steps to obtain all the material as part of the Belfast Project,” said a spokesman. “This is in line with the PSNI’s statutory duty to investigate fully all matters of serious crime, including murder.”


The RUC was also approached and agreed to participate on the same terms as everyone else, including those covering confidentiality. Again these negotiations took place directly between Boston College and the police, initially at a weekend conference at Gleneagles golf resort in Scotland.

And again neither Mr Moloney nor Dr McIntyre were involved in these discussions but the RUC representatives were satisfied enough to agree to participate.

RUC involvement in the Boston Project commenced in June 2003, around the same time as the UVF interviews began….

The truth is that this PSNI pursuit of Mr Rea is a fishing expedition carried out for narrow political purposes. They have no evidence that any alleged interview given by Mr Rea describes any offence committed by him and I am reliably informed that the last time the police, then in the form of the RUC, showed any interest in him was seventeen years ago, in 1998, when he was brought in for routine questioning and quickly released. The last time he was in court was 1986.

There is, as far as is known, no current investigation into Mr Rea and if there was one he would have been arrested long before now and questioned. In court today a lawyer for the PPS’s office was unable to answer when asked if there was a current investigation by police into Mr Rea.

In one self-serving act the PSNI and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory have blown a huge hole in the recently negotiated deal crafted by local parties and the three interested governments to deal with Northern Ireland’s bloody past. A proposal to create an oral history archive where activists could tell their stories is now dead in the water

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  • sean treacy

    ED,the entire Boston college project was started by you and McIntyre for”narrow political purposes which was to “get” Gerry Adams. Interviews with loyalists were merely window dressing to give an impression of “balance”.

  • chrisjones2

    “There is a blinkered police logic to this that contradicts the stated expectations of the law officers of the low likelihood of future prosecutions.”

    Personally I want blinkered police logic to apply and not one that is selective in what murders will and will not be investigated. The entire NIO and SF strategy post agreement has been to create just that situation

    And I just love the phrase “the stated expectations of the law officers”. Which law officers are you suggesting? Because if they do not want this done they are clearly failing in their duties to uphold Article 2 rights which, we are so often told, are absolute. And on what basis do you suggest the Law Officers will select which cases to follow up? And how will this not involve them making biased political decisions?

    MacIntyre also attacks the DPP in this for sanctioning this police action. As a law officer he has to – he too is bound by Article 2

    This is part of the entire constitutional and legal cess pit and Blair and his Minsters created with OTR letters, RPMs and nods and winks to murderers. A world of false and no-so-false promises to killers and their supporters that they could just forget the past. I have no doubt that were LAbour to come to power again we will again see some prosecutions being abandoned ‘in the public interest’ while other proceed, not the least because ‘Tony s legacy’ and image must be preserved at all cost, and sod the victims and their families

    Now MacIntyre and Moloney gave also assurances to people that once created this archive might never be used while they were alive. They had no authority for that. That is the problem. Not the existence of this archive or any of the others that exist. Its not a question of the support for or legitimacy of the Boston Archive – it is that like the rest of material in public and private hands, if its available and pertinent to the investigation of murder it should be handed over to help bring criminals to justice

  • Tacapall

    “This is in line with the PSNI’s statutory duty to investigate fully all matters of serious crime, including murder.”

    And if you believe the above then you’ll believe anything, how many times can the wool be pulled over peoples eyes. Remind us again why George Hamilton was forced into court recently to answer for the actions of the PSNI in deliberately witholding of a HET report into Sean Browns murder including unnecessary redactions, lost files and using any excuse to delay the inquest in order to frustrate the legal process. This is not an isolated case there are literally dozens of similar cases and the PSNI seem unwilling or unable to to folow the same statutory duty to all citizens when it comes to those controversial cases that involved state forces and their agents.

  • chrisjones2

    Wheres the evidence for your assertions? Why did he delay? Were there other legal issues? Do you know or just speculating – you have clearly already decided the motive?

    And what has that got to do with the Boston archive. Do you then applaud or attack PSNI for attempting to get information on what loyalists may have said? Well?

  • Dina Shea

    *yawn* Same ole Shinner mantra on this. Even though it doesn’t work that way at BC.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes bit all those who told stories about Gerry seem to have been Republican insiders. Old comrades who remember him being in the IRA when he says he wasnt. And strange they are also now all labelled by SF as mentally deranged.

  • chrisjones2

    Things quite in Connolly House today?

  • Turgon

    The PSNI’s latest move against the Boston archive is unintelligent”

    The above statement says a great deal about the mentality of the person making the statement. The idea that it is “unintelligent” to try to ring murderers to justice is abhorrent. This sort of serious crime is where whataboutery is entirely appropriate: Were the attempts to bring war criminals from Yugoslavia to justice “unintelligent” maybe the attempts to catch the accomplices of the Paris murders are “unintelligent” or maybe pedophiles form the 1980s are attempts to prosecute them “unintelligent”

    There is no statute of limitations on murder or other serious crimes nor should there be. It is also as chrisjones2 above states a requirement on governments to prosecute serious crimes. The fact that a senior journalist like Brian Walker is making such claim is utterly immoral.

  • chrisjones2

    not immoral – just narrow and ill thought out perhaps

  • Dina Shea

    Why would you think I would know whether things are quiet there (or not)?

  • alexbr

    Did they really believe they had an amnesty from the law LOL.
    Had they any intention of protecting their sources the tapes would have been destroyed.

  • Chris Bray

    Missing from this post and the comments to it is the fact that the PSNI got subpoenas of a first set of Boston College interviews four years ago so the police could bring Jean McConville’s killers to justice. How did that one work out? Lot of murderers in prison, now, four years later?

    So they went and noodled around in a collection that gave them precisely no significant criminal charges, and now are diving back into a collection that proved to be of no value to them for purposes of criminal charges. What’s the point? Maybe they’ll bring weak “aiding and abetting” charges against some peripheral figure again in another four years or so.

    They went to Boston to get Gerry Adams, and they didn’t get him. Adams was released from police custody last May, with promises that prosecutors would decide on charges and announce their decision in six months. Now it’s nine months later, and the whole mess has just faded away. It’s just a farce, at this point. But anyway, keep going.

  • Dina Shea

    LOL indeed. Consider the fact that then Sen John Kerry (now US Secy of State), when told of the first subpoena, also thought the same thing ie that a line was drawn and no prosecutions for pre-1998 “stuff” was to occur. And remember that Kerry was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He actually said something like Wait, no. We wrote specific language into it to prevent actions pre-GFA. Just (another) GFA lie.

  • Dixie Elliott

    The hypocrisy of the Adamsites knows no bounds….

    The Men Will Talk To Me – Kerry Interviews by Ernie O’Malley

    (On sale at the Sinn Fein bookshop)

    From Easter 1916 until the bitter end of the Civil War, Kerry was embroiled in bloody conflict. Now, for the first time in published form, many of the county’s main participants in the struggle tell their own stories. These were
    narrated to Ernie O’Malley in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. During their lifetimes, these men were reluctant to recount their exploits, even to their own families, but were willing to speak to Ernie O’Malley, a respected and legendary IRA leader during the War of Independence and Civil War.

  • Dixie Elliott

    More brazen effrontery….

  • sean treacy

    Dixie ,the men who spoke to O’Malley did so knowing fine well there would be no repercussions for themselves or their comrades and also had no agenda to “get” any of their former comrades.Maloney and your mate McIntyre had only one goal and that was to “get” Adams and to hell with the consequences.

  • Chris Bray

    Left unsaid: If you support this latest effort, and believe the PSNI has a duty to pursue this information, do you then “applaud or attack” the PSNI for waiting for at least three years to begin this latest move into the BC archives?

    Same question for all the people who say that the PSNI by god has a duty to get to the bottom of the Jean McConville murder, but decline to take notice of the fact that the police investigation into a 1972 murder began in 2011. A lot of institutional laziness, indifference, and political theater being elided here.

  • Dina Shea

    This just isn’t reality. Boston College considered the archive a crown jewel in their prestigious Burns Library.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…presumably that’s why Bloody Sunday has a dedicated team led by a senior detective and the former Deputy Chief Constable went to meet the families to launch the re investigation.

    By comparison the Enniskillen victims and their families got next to nothing

    Not let me be clear> Bloody Sunday was a dreadful crime and must be investigated. But so was Enniskillen McConville and the rest, OTR letters or not

  • chrisjones2

    Anyone dare to tell them?

    And what about all the help given to Garda killers to stay out of custody? Now who would have arranged all that? And lobbied for the convicted to be released? And picked them up from prison?

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps Tony told Kerry that

  • chrisjones2

    but Gerry wasn’t a former comrade was he?

  • ted hagan

    Totally agree. Loads of finger-pointing going but all the organisers of this project carry some blame. It should never have got to this.

  • chrisjones2

    “If Doctors, Solicitors, Clergymen, Academics, Journalists use the information for political purposes ”

    Sorry but this is ill considered nonsense. If Harold Shipmans Doctor had known what he was up to he was duty bound to report it to stop him. Academics have little protection. Solicitors do have protection – or rather their clients do but its not absolute. If a Solicitor crosses a line into fabricating an alibi or arranging for an inconvenient witness to be leant on, then they are fully open to the law.

    You seem to be confused because some Republicans now think they are above the law. So do some Loyalists – and all based on promises made by ‘straight sort of guy ‘ Blair. In the end, they arent

  • chrisjones2

    Why? If you are stupid enough to admit a murder why are you surprised when its dragged up in court

  • chrisjones2

    err….you seem to forget how long the US legal process took partky bevcauae those who gave the fqalse promises to participants challenged any relqase

  • chrisjones2

    they didn’t know anything at all and pa some of them were women

  • Chris Bray

    And again, Gerry Adams was arrested in April of 2014, and released in early May. Nine months later: no charges, no explanation, no announcement of a decision. It evaporated. However long the legal process took in the U.S., the PSNI and PPS have had nine months to make a decision about Adams. If their silence doesn’t tell you anything, it’s because you’re choosing not to notice reality.