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.

MCDONALD  REPORT EXTRACT

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.”

EXTRACTS FROM ED MOLONEY POSTS IN  HIS BLOG, “THE BROKEN ELBOW”

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

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