Irish Radio Network, USA: Audio interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney

Irish Radio Network, USA – Adrian Flannelly Show
November 19, 2011

Program: Ed Moloney is a highly respected journalist and author of 3 riveting books dealing with the Northern Ireland Troubles. His latest, “Voices from the Grave”, includes interview material provided by Boston College Oral History IRA/UVF project collected in the 1990s. Now, U.S Feds, at the behest of the UK, have issued subpoenas on Boston College for confidential interviews of IRA members. This issue is causing widespread anger and opposition in the American Irish community.

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Listen to the archived show here: http://media01.ultratek.com:81/player.php?clid=5&mid=1092

Adrian Flannelly (AF) interviews Ed Moloney (EM)

Adrian Flannelly (AF): You’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA. Over the last few weeks on this program here, we haven’t often planned this way, but as I have done through the decades, I try to keep our listeners informed about Northern Ireland, about what is happening, and I always…and I think my next guest, my guest of this week, Ed Moloney, will vouch for the fact that for decades, this last one has been used to disseminate information about Northern Ireland. Matter of fact, as most of you know, I’m broadcasting for forty years. I think going back close to three decades ago, there is a journalist who’s covering Northern Ireland and somebody who, before Wikipedia and before the internet, one would have to keep any eye out for articles and for news items from my guest, Ed Moloney, and we generally found you where ever you were back in those days through the 80′s and 90′s, Ed Moloney, because you’re the man on the spot. I welcome you back to our studios and to our microphones.

Ed Moloney (EM): Thank you, Adrian, that’s a very flattering introduction. I don’t know whether I live up to that but it’s more than welcome, thank you.

AF: Well, you’re our primary source for information on our program and indeed, if we go back to that particular period of time, most of my listeners would have been interested primarily in the Nationalist community, in the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, and so I would like you to kind of, we’re going to take the chronology of that period, we do know that things started to heat up after Bloody Sunday, which was, that was 1968, 72, is it? (EM interjects: January, 1972.). That was the beginning, even though there was a lot of unrest before then, but that was the beginning of what appeared to, I’d say to Irish-Americans, as an outright war in Northern Ireland as opposed to decades of unrest, and so the war was on and Irish-America became involved, reacted to what was happening. And there were very few, and perhaps I’m only speaking because of Irish media, but there were very few who we could identify, excuse the parochialism, “on the other side”, who would have anything to do with us here. Yet you were, as a journalist, you were able to follow and speak with, and you’ve received many awards through the years for journalism, you were able to bring us a clear picture of what was happening at that time.

EM: Well, that’s very kind of you and as I said, very, very flattered with that description of my talents and career record and I’m very grateful for it. But yes, indeed, I have covered Northern Ireland perhaps for far too many years now, but through most of The Troubles, and some of the worst years of The Troubles, I was covering for either Hibernia Magazine, Magill Magazine, The Irish Times, The Sunday Tribune and more recently, I’ve been sort of freelancing and living here in Riverdale, in NY. But you know I’ve had links here with Irish-America through my wife and her family obviously, for most of those years, and on more than one occasion I’ve had reasons to be very thankful to the Irish-American community.

Some people who listen to your program will doubtless remember ten years ago, I was in a situation very similar to the one I’m facing now in which the authorities in Britain, in the form of Scotland Yard, had served a subpoena on me to hand over my notes on the assassination of Patrick Finucane, who everyone knows is a Northern Ireland Belfast-based lawyer who was murdered in very shady, shadowy circumstances. And I had interviewed a Loyalist, a member of the Ulster Defence Association, the group that actually killed Pat Finucane. And he had told me that he had been working for the Special Branch at the time of Pat Finucane’s murder, that he was the UDA Quartermaster that supplied the unit that killed Pat Finucane with weapons. That he told his RUC/Special Branch handlers beforehand that this was going to happen and also afterwards, he told them where the guns were and who had them and what have you, and on none of those occasions did the police make any effort to intervene or to catch those who were responsible. And I’d interviewed him. And he was then, suddenly, he was charged with the murder of Pat Finucane, which was as obscene as you can possibly get because here was the guy who had actually provided the authorities with the information that could have saved Pat Finucane’s life and here he was being charged. And they served a subpoena on me with the threat that I would go to gaol unless I handed over my notes. And I have to say that but for Irish-America, but for American journalism but for the Irish-American community here I probably would have lost that case and would have had to make a very serious decision about going to gaol or not.

So there’s a very special place in my heart for Irish-America because they came to my rescue then and I have to say that this time as well. There are lots of people who have rallied around recognising the importance of the action that the authorities are trying to take against Boston College and the seriousness of it, the seriousness partly for American academic life, partly for the very proud and long tradition of Oral History that exists in this country, a tradition that can boast people like Studs Terkel and Mark Baker as being its most eminent proponents, as well as those who (are) actually involved in the archive, either those who were interviewed or those who did the interviewing, all have a great deal at stake in this. And once again, Irish-America has come to the assistance. We have a very good lawyer, Eamonn Dornan, we have Jim Cullen, who’s working with us, we have people in the Irish-American Unity Conference, we have The Brehon Law Society, we have the AOH, they’re all recognising the importance of this. And also of course there’s the added ingredient that they all know that there are implications for the peace process back in Belfast if this case were to be lost. So once again, Irish-America had rallied to the flag as it were.

AF: Okay. And once again, as I would know quite well myself, having over the decades, it doesn’t take too many to have a movement that starts somewhere and has a tendency to grow, for those who would like to take and place the blame during this period of time and take that and said: Look, this has to have something to do, this Boston College and the Oral History and Boston College, this was something that was started by Moloney, he wrote a book last year and it turns out that your book, Voices From the Grave, had indeed created a tremendous amount of interest, not only among those who are trying to/would like to understand about the conflicts in Northern Ireland, but this a book from a journalist who’s spent decades covering Northern Ireland and actually you take, and your book focuses on two people, two well-known people from opposite sides of the political war. Both of them, no stranger to violence, and both of them indeed very much responsible for the turning around of a life of violence to become part of the peace process, The Belfast Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, and whatever. There are those who are now saying had you not started in Boston College, had you not, had you’d just simply ignored the fact that Boston College not only, that you didn’t have to kick in there or that Boston College wanted an Oral History, you had indeed, you yourself, as a respected journalist, to be a director of that project and therefore, at this juncture, when Boston College is now, has been served subpoenas, has been subpoenaed here at the behest of the British government, we’d have to say, whether that’s directly or indirectly and you can respond to that in a moment, and then somehow your book comes out based on your own very reliable information, you knew these, both of these gentlemen, and that so two and two adds up and sure enough we have five and that’s why the entire peace process in Northern Ireland might be in jeopardy and God knows since the subpoenas are coming from, you know, unknown sources somehow this Moloney guy’s in the middle of it and if he minded his own business everything would be absolutely fine, thank you.

EM: Well, I don’t know where to start with that one. (both laugh) First of all, I don’t think that it is the British government that’s behind this. I think it’s elements within the Police Service of Northern Ireland. They are the ones who initiated the process for serving these subpoenas. It’s one of these bureaucratic processes that once you’ve pressed the button the machinery starts working. And as far as I know there was no political input into the decision making at all it’s virtually an automatic process that just whirls into action and away you go and out the other end comes these subpoenas. Which by dint of a treaty between the the Americans and the British and the Americans have a duty and a responsibility to serve. And I think that’s what’s really happening. So I think if you’re looking for questions about motives, I don’t think it’s the British because the British don’t want to damage this peace process. The peace process is far too valuable for them.

And not only that, the politicians who’ve have been running the Northern Ireland Office on behalf of the British government in recent years are big fans of the Boston College archive. And indeed, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Patterson, at one stage wanted to model his Truth Process, truth seeking process, something which is designed to deal with the past and put it behind us, very much like the South Africans did with their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He wanted to set up an Oral History archive very similar to the one we had going in Boston College. That’s point number one.

Point number two, let me explain the background to the Boston College initiative: it was born out of the peace process directly in the sense that post the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, it became clear that even though all the dots hadn’t been put over the i’s and the t’s remained to be crossed and there was still a lot of argument and negociation to be done, the conflict was essentially over. And this was a conflict that was, in terms of Irish History, one of the longest lasting, bloodiest and, in terms of its effect, long-lasting that there has been in recent Irish History. I mean, it really has been a massive, cataclysmic event. The death toll in Northern Ireland would be equivalent to the death toll in the American Civil War, 600,000, you know, if you if you were to translate it proportionately. There wasn’t a person or family in Northern Ireland really who wasn’t affected one way or another or in Ireland as a whole, so it was a huge, huge conflict.

And here it was coming to an end. And the problem was, well one of the many problems was it was a conflict that had lasted thirty years by that stage. And a lot of the people who’d been involved in the conflict were getting old and some of them were already beginning to die. (AF interjects: and some of them dead and gone.) And some of them dead and gone. I had in my mind for a long time, and I’ve always been a big History buff, I would always pass on materials, files that I would get, documents that I would get to The Linen Hall Library in Belfast, which has got a special collection devoted to The Troubles, the ephemera of Northern Ireland Troubles. And I’d always had this in my mind that it would be a very good idea if we could somehow replicate something that the Irish government did back in the 40′s and 50′s, which was a project to interview people who had been involved in the Anglo-Irish War. They were able to do it. Well, first of all, the Anglo-Irish War only lasted a few years and then you had the Civil War and then you had a period of peace. By the time the Irish government got round to doing it, something like thirty years, twenty-thirty years had passed between the worst of the violence and them starting their project. And people were still alive and passions had cooled. In Northern Ireland we didn’t have that luxury because as I said, The Troubles had lasted for thirty years already and people were already dying who had been involved in the conflict. If we didn’t collect their stories…these stories were going to be lost forever because if you waited for another thirty years or twenty years as the Irish government had, you would definitely would be dead and you would lose a very, very important part of the story.

And it is important to gather these peoples’ stories. We know the stories of the politicians, we know what John Hume did, we know what the Irish government did, we know what Ian Paisley did, you know all those histories are straightforward. But the history of those people who actually went out and did the bombing and the shooting and the killing, awful as those events were, nonetheless were extremely important. What were their motives? What drove them? What persuaded them to do this? How did they feel? How did they go about it? How did they feel at the end? Was it worth it? All of those sort of important questions were all there and unless someone made an attempt to answer them then they would be lost.

And at the time that I was thinking that, it just so happened that a friend of mine, Paul Bew, who is a Professor of Politics at Queen’s University, had a year at Boston College as a visiting Professor. They had come up with the idea that they wanted to start some sort of collection. I think their original ideas may have been something based on The Linen Hall Ephemera Collection. But that had already been done. And I suggested to Paul that this may be one project that we could do. We then had a whole series of discussions with Boston College and the net result of that was we started the archive. Now what was the purpose of the archive? The purpose of the archives was to interview as many people as we possibly could as soon as we got the money in place from all aspects of The Troubles.

We started off with the Republican side and notice I’m using the word “Republican”, not Provisional IRA. It’s a Republican archive. And the Republican struggle in Northern Ireland consisted of much more than the Provos. There was the Official IRA, the INLA, the IRSP and a whole number of other smaller groups; we set out to interview as many of those as possible. So this is not a Provisional IRA archive. Let me hit that one on the head straightaway.

Secondly, we wanted to do the same thing with the major Loyalist groups. Now at that time there were two Loyalist groups in Northern Ireland: the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association. The UDA was in the middle of a nasty, horrible feud about drugs and prostitution and criminality and was literally falling to pieces. It ceased to be a coherent group. The only really coherent Loyalist group still around was the UVF so we decided we would start a project with them.

We also, incidentally, started a project on the Royal Ulster Constabulary and this is not very well known. We wanted the RUC to be involved. And indeed there were also plans, at one stage, to include those who were in the Ulster Defence Regiment and also the British Army. We wanted to interview as many people involved in the conflict from every side as possible. Now, as things turned out, the money became very tight. We got the RUC part of the archive up and going but it turned out the interviewer wasn’t really up to the job so we had to put that on hold and then the money did run out.

So that was the basis of the Boston College archive. It was an idea that was going to, hopefully, end up with collecting as many stories as we could possibly get and don’t forget, (it’s) been very, very difficult and it was very difficult to persuade people to talk candidly and honestly about these things but we set out to try to do that as much as we could. That was the original idea.

Now, let me come to this book. Let me first of all explain the arrangements that were made with interviewees, these people that we asked to sit down in front of a microphone and have their stories and recollections recorded on tape for posterity. The very minimum deal that was offered to people was that nothing would be revealed until their death. And that was satisfactory for most people but some people wanted more than that and I’m not going to go into any great details about that. But some of them asked for a longer period than that and they were granted that. Secondly, there was no…

AF: And by the way might I add to that? That that is not an unusual request for Oral History.

EM: No, I think it’s fairly standard. In fact, let me explain how we got that. (AF interjects: Go ahead.) We got that from a Columbia University Oral History project here in New York, we actually used their plan, their best game, as ours; we adopted it entirely; and that is where we got that particular idea but we were flexible enough to allow people to impose longer and stricter conditions if they wanted to. At the same time, if people who we interviewed decided that they wanted to make their story public, anyway, there’s nothing we could do to stop them. It’s their life story. We don’t own it. When they died, that material became the possession of Boston College. It didn’t automatically mean that we would make it public and it didn’t automatically mean that we would publish anything based on it. The reason why this book came out, it’s based upon two people. One of them was Brendan Hughes who was, if you’d like, Harry Boland to Gerry Adams’ Michael Collins. The two of them were inseparable colleagues and comrades during most of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

AF: And Hughes was born in ’48, wasn’t he?

EM: Born in 1948, died in 2008 (AF interjects: the same year as Gerry Adams) same year as Gerry Adams. They were exact contemporaries, and very close comrades and friends for most of their lives. They did have a falling out over the peace process, but nevertheless they were inseparable. And there’s that famous iconic photograph of Brendan Hughes and Gerry Adams in Long Kesh with the arms draped over each others shoulders and clearly you look at that and say these two guys were as close as could possible be. In jail they bunked together in the sense that their beds were next to each other. They shared everything in terms of their thoughts and their ideas; they were extremely close.

His account was extraordinarily valuable. When Brendan Hughes was interviewed he initially wanted his story to be told and published before he died. Now it was only with great difficulty that we dissuaded him not to do that because it would created huge amounts of difficulties for himself and all sorts of other people if he did that. But he did insist that once he died he wanted his story published. The only reason we published this book was because Brendan Hughes, as an interviewee, wanted this to be published. And because he was our source, we had made a promise to our source, we fulfilled that promise and the book was published.

And the other person, David Ervine, died roughly about the same time (AF interjects: and he was actually five years younger, he was born in ’53.) Yes, he was a bit younger. The idea was if we put out a book just about Brendan Hughes it was going to be very unbalanced because it was just one side of the conflict. (AF interjects: Of course.) And so we got the go-ahead to balance Brendan Hughes’ account with David Ervine’s account.

So for those people who imagine there was some sort of conspiracy involved in the planning and publishing of this book, I’m extremely sorry to disappoint them. This was actually a dying man’s wish which we, as the people who interviewed him, had an obligation to fulfill, as we would anyone else.

All those other people who’ve been interviewed in the course of the archive, some of them have actually gone ahead and published their stories anyhow, even though they are very much alive. Richard O’Rawe, who wrote his book about the hunger strikes in 1981, very much against my advice, because I said to him you’re going cause yourself an awful lot of problems here, Richard, if you go ahead and publish this. He wanted to do it. We couldn’t stop him. It’s his life story. Even though we were going to lose a very valuable interview or set of interviews for the archive, he went ahead and did that.

So each person had, well first of all, the opportunity to impose their own conditions if they wanted to, impose extra conditions. Like Brendan Hughes wanted his book out; he wanted his story out as soon as he was dead. He wanted it before he was dead and we persuaded him not to. And instead he settled for the book being published in the wake of his passing. And that’s exactly what happened.

AF: Many of the activists in Northern Ireland were guests on this program through the years and if there is an Oral History somewhere in our own archives I think that would be quite valuable in terms of living as they lived. You have to imagine that these were, none of them were pussyfooting around. These were hard-nosed leaders who felt, that actually, the only justice, definitely on the Republican/Nationalist side, the only justice that the British would ever understand would have to come out of the barrel of a gun. Now when we cross to the Loyalist side there may be lingering opinion that the David Ervines, and that the leaders at that time were very happy with and enjoyed the support of Britain and in fact, with a wink and a nod, felt they were in the driver’s seat, or if not in the driver’s seat definitely very close to that. You were close enough, and indeed we were, to know that there were no…nobody in Northern Ireland at that period of time, involved in any of those movements, had any great gra, love, for Britain in the first place. They definitely, on the Republican/Nationalist side, yes, they wanted to be a nation once again. But on the Loyalist side, they definitely didn’t want to become part of a nation that, according to them, didn’t and wouldn’t do anything. So, could you help us separate the loyalties there from the perception that we had over here? That if you were a Protestant and if you had Loyalist leanings, then obviously, you were a friend of the Brits and they were gonna take care of you and, on the other hand, if you were a Catholic and Republican, well then the might of the British Empire was gonna be down on top of you no matter what you did.

EM: Except it is more complicated than that. You look at the violence history and see have seen its instances. 1912, for example, in which the Protestants took up arms against the British government, or at least threatened to take up arms against the British government. I think what that tells you about the Loyalists, and I think it’s almost impossible to understand the phenomenon of Northern Protestants and Northern Loyalists unless you grasp this, and that is, and it’s something that comes from their Scottish roots and their Presbyterian roots, in a sense. It is this notion that their loyalty is conditional, it’s not unconditional. Americans would have unconditional loyalty to the Stars and Stripes and to their Constitution and what have you. Northern Ireland Protestants only have conditional Loyalty to the Crown and what they mean by that is that we will be loyal to Britain only as long as Britain is loyal to us.

And what that translates to in politics is a figure like Ian Paisley, who most outsiders cannot understand. Here is this man, we’re talking about the earlier Ian Paisley, not the tamed one of more recent years. Look at Ian Paisley in the early years. And here is this man who is waving the Union Jack and he’s screaming insults at the British government for selling them out. Well, he’s understandable if you grasp that notion that people like him and the tradition that he represents say: Yeah, we’re British, but only as long as the Brits support our interests. And their interests were seen very much in terms of their physical occupation of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Which is that they saw themselves as people very much like, if the comparison isn’t over-stretched, with the white Afrikaners in South Africa, colonizing this land which was full of savages. They took the black savages’ land, they made the place civilized.

This is the way they would look at their place in Irish society and the Catholics of Northern Ireland take the place of the black savages in South Africa. They see themselves very much as people who have taken land and who live under the constant threat that not only is this land going to be taken back from them at some time but that revenge is going to be wreaked upon them for that. And that instills in them all sorts of notions of fear and dislike and antagonism towards their Catholic neighbors.

And that’s all a result of, if you like, Britain’s involvement or England’s involvement in Ireland because how did these people get into Ireland in the first place? They were planted there in the 17th century by the British in order to make Ireland less of a threat to England. That’s the origin, I think, of this very confused philosophy and ideology known as Loyalism. But we’re still living with the consequences of that.

People like David Ervine I think very strongly reflects that sort of thinking that: Yes, okay, we are British, but only as long as the British are meeting our needs and our requirements. If they don’t meet our requirements and if we think they’re selling us out, we’ll turn against them as they did during the course of The Troubles. Shots were fired on many, many occasions by UDA and UVF gunmen at British troops. And also back in history, you’ve seen examples of Loyalists taking up arms against the British.

AF: The book, friends, is Voices From the Grave Two Men’s War in Ireland and my guest is Ed Moloney. Associated Press said at the time said: groundbreaking new book on Northern Ireland conflict. And we’d have to agree with them on that because the book is basically concentrates on two people who volunteered and who actually, you knew both of them, well you interviewed both of them? And in fact, both of them, and I’ll have to say particularly in David Ervine, was very forthcoming and played a very significant role in moving towards the…in making the peace… making it happen. We couldn’t say the same about Gerry Hughes other than (EM interjects: about Brendan Hughes.) I’m sorry, Brendan Hughes, other than that he played a very significant role during that period. And I’m not too sure, when he was on his deathbed whether he felt that having a peace process in Northern Ireland was better than nothing. We know that he had severe disagreement with Gerry Adams.

EM: Yeah. He did, he did, he did, Brendan Hughes, I think, is a fascinating figure and, incidentally, one of the reasons why we wanted to have the two guys together is that their lives crossed over at crucial times.

For example, Brendan Hughes was the military commander of the operation on Bloody Friday in Belfast in which you had these huge number of bombs, 20-30 bombs, going off in a very short period of time, a lot of people killed, a disaster for the IRA, as he recognises himself. It was that same event, or same series of bombs, that persuaded David Ervine to join the UVF to hit back at the Catholics he regarded as being responsible. So their lives did overlap in all sorts of ways but just to make it clear about Brendan Hughes: certainly he and Gerry Adams had their differences and I think at the start of this interview I compared them to Harry Boland and Michael Collins, with Gerry Adams playing the Michael Collins and Brendan Hughes playing the Harry Boland figure except there is no Kitty O’ Shea in this story except, if you want to regard the Provisional IRA as their surrogate O’Shea, Kitty O’Shea, for the purposes of this story. Certainly the IRA was very much central to Brendan Hughes’ life.

While he certainly opposed and criticised the peace process strategy as being not what they fought for and not worth all the killing that they had done, by the end, long before he died, he had, and in his interviews he makes this very clear, absolutely opposed to the use of violence anymore because it was just futile. So he was not a dissident in the sense that the dissident Republicans in Ireland at the moment who are opposed to Gerry Adams are also planting bombs, or at least attempting to plant bombs and shoot British soldiers. Brendan Hughes had come to the view that those days have gone and they were useless and it waste of time continuing that. But that did not stop him having a critique of Gerry Adams.

And I think what’s important about their story is that it’s a very human story. Here you have these two very central figures in the IRA: Gerry Adams, whatever one says or thinks about him, he’s gonna go down in Irish History as like a major, central figure of which there will be endless books written when he dies, there’s absolutely no doubt about that, and all sorts of speculations about this, that and the other. On the other hand you have Brendan Hughes a very talented, very popular, very able IRA operator, very shrewd political operator. And a very brave person as the hunger strikes demonstrates.

AF: And the creator and instigator of the hunger strike.

EM: That’s right. And you had these two guys who were as close together as two peas in a pod and they fell out; extraordinary human story which is worth telling. It’s got nothing to do with dissidents. It’s got to do with human nature. It’s got to do with history. It’s got to do with this awful period that we’ve gone through in Ireland and it tells you something so valuable and insightful about what was going on at that time.

AF: Now, let’s get back to the crux of the problem because the more as time goes by the peace process in Northern Ireland, at best, when we can say all we have to say about what an amazing, how much progress has been made (and alot has been made), but it is and will be fragile for quite some time to come.

EM: You have evidence of that this week. You have Peter Robinson, who is threatening to resign and to call a General Election if the prisons in Northern Ireland lose their title Her Majesty’s Gaol, or Her Majesty’s Prison Maghaberry, Her Majesty’s Prison Maze or whatever it happens to be. And it shows you just how superficial a lot of the peace actually is. You really wouldn’t need a great deal to start causing significant problems for it. And the reason why Peter Robinson is taking that stand is that he knows that within his own party, with his own organisation, there are strong hardliners who will oppose those sorts of changes. And he daren’t do so otherwise he’s going to lose his own support.

You wouldn’t need much imagination to conjure up a similar situation in which the Sinn Fein side are put under some equal sort of pressure on an equivalent type of issue in which strains and stresses could very well show themselves in a quite disruptive way. So it is. The fragility is still there, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.

AF: And I think some of the concerns from many throughout Irish-America who feel that they have spent a lot of their time, effort and money through the years in getting Northern Ireland to where it is today, and however fragile the situation is there are the moment, that you actually do not need Boston College getting subpoenaed. We don’t need a book from Ed Moloney, which, even though at the behest of both gentlemen, you interviewed them, you gave them…because somewhere in there there might be something there that could, indeed, lead to a horrific outcome in terms of, let’s call it what it is: we do know that Brendan Hughes and his affiliation and association with Gerry Adams and that very tight relationship that they have, some of the Oral History given by Brendan Hughes could be very detri- mental to the main history we’ll remember in Gerry Adams. Therefore, let’s do what we can, let’s blame Boston College for having it in the first place. Let’s blame Ed Moloney for playing his role in that. Let’s just find somebody here because if this does go through and if the challenges to the subpoenas which have been served, if that goes wrong, there won’t be any peace in Northern Ireland, it could scuttle all that.

EM: First of all, there is absolutely no connection between this book and the subpoenas. The subpoenas are not looking for Brendan Hughes’ interviews because they’re actually out in the public domain, even though they have been mentioned in the documents, they’re there already. The reasons why the subpoenas are being served and being sought by the PSNI and by the US Department of Justice is because of an interview that another person, called Dolours Price, gave to a newspaper in Belfast back in February, 2010. As a result of that, and as a result of journalistic activity which I’ve written about at length and which I won’t bore your listeners with except to say it was of the most unethical sort, as a result of that, it became known that Dolours Price had given interviews to Boston College. And then an assumption was made that the same things that she said in her interviews to The Irish News, which were reproduced in another newspaper called The Sunday Life, were also in her interviews with Boston College when no one knows at all what she has said. So there is no connection at all between that book and these subpoenas. They arrived out of an entirely different set of circumstances, having to do with an entirely different person, who also happened to be interviewed by Boston College, but whose interviews have remain secret and are not known.

AF: Now, is there any doubt in your mind, at all, that the Oral History and that those interviews in Boston College were leaked, could have been leaked, could have maybe (been) copied?

EM: Absolutely not.

AF: Well you ought to know.

EM: Absolutely no chance. First of all there was only one tape made of each interview and they were immediately sent by courier to Boston College. And there they are stored in The Burns Library on the campus and they’re stored under the most extraordinary security, (AF interjects: Right.) with TV cameras and all that sort of stuff. And no one can get hold of them. No one can leak these interviews without it being known, because it’s all there and accounted for.

AF: And if there’s one thing Boston College is good for…(EM interrupts.)

EM: Hang on. Hang on. We know that Dolours Price was interviewed on tape by The Irish News. The Police, the PSNI haven’t gone searching for her tape.

AF: Why not?

EM: You better go and ask them because they didn’t go near The Irish News.

AF: But why did the PSNI show little or no interest in any of this going back to 1972?

EM: That’s a different question, Adrian, that’s a different question, indeed, entirely.

AF: Alright.

EM: What we have here is the situation where the PSNI knew that there were these interviews in Belfast for The Irish News which were then reproduced in The Sunday Life. The Sunday Life lied about where they got their information from. The said they got the information from Boston College. They didn’t. They got it from The Irish News tape. As a result of that, instead of the police, PSNI in Belfast, just doing a very simple checking job with The Irish News and The Sunday Life, they sat on their backsides for thirteen months and then decided to serve subpoenas against Boston College. They didn’t bother to go and ask either The Irish News or The Sunday Life: Do you have these tapes? Where did you get them? What did they say? Can we listen to them? They just assumed that they came from Boston College.

Now the other issue that you mentioned there about the incident at the center of this, Jean McConville: Yes, you’re absolutely right. She disappeared in 1972 and for the next thirty years or so the authorities in Belfast were happy to regard her disappearance as just that: a missing person. They had not even classified her as a murder.

AF: As in fact there were many others.

EM: As there were many others. In fact, the Police Ombudsman issued a report which is extremely critical of both the British Army, which actually also played a role in this business, and the RUC, for their treatment of the McConville family and for the utter disregard they had for her family’s interest and the fact that she had been murdered. And also one has to say as well, that there’s no doubt in my mind, that if one was to burrow into the intelligence files at PSNI headquarters in Belfast, you would find out that the PSNI and their predecessors, the RUC, have known all the details of this killing for many, many, many years. I’d bet the mortgage on that. They know all this stuff.

AF: So, maybe then are we disillusioned then when we look at the PSNI from here and say, well, thank God, that the old guard is gone and that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is much more trustworthy today. And in fact, they are doing fine with their quotas, they’re trying to recruit Catholics, and have it more accountable and they have an Ombudsman, and all the rest of it, but first of all….

EM: That’s a question that arises out of something like this because you not only have the PSNI going down this road knowing where it’s likely to lead, knowing that it will end up in a situation where fingers will be pointed at Gerry Adams in the legal sense. You also have, contemporaneously, you have the British government, and now the political leadership is involved in this particular part of the story at least, turning down attempts to having a proper investigation into Pat Finucane’s killing. And when everyone knows that all the intelligence agencies of the day: the RUC, the Special Branch, MI5 and British Military Intelligence, under the guise of an organisation called the Force Research Unit, were up to their eyeballs in Pat Finucane’s death. They knew beforehand and they did nothing afterwards about it.

AF: And, in fact, to some degree, with the passage of time, we have a new Prime Minister who came into England and before he opened his mouth, took his jacket off, apologised for all the atrocities and for all the…and that was supposed to cover the collusion. It was well known, this was not something that there was a fierce amount of denial in as we go through the years. So, can you then give us your opinion as to why, again, if the situation with the peace process in Northern Ireland is as fragile as we know it is and if everything rides on this, and bear in mind the British government and the successive government have an awful lot to lose, they’ve invested. Why the hell would anybody risk this? And could you explain to us how somebody in the PSNI in Northern Ireland can push a button and have that rubber stamped in Whitehall and have subpoenas issued here in the United States to Boston College? I mean, is somebody, that sounds like…

EM: Well, no I think the exactly same procedures probably apply here, If someone in the FBI says there’s a guy hiding out in North London and we want him extradited, let’s get a subpoena. They don’t have to go to Eric Holder to say: can we please issue an extradition warrant issue for this guy who’s hiding out in North London? They just go through normal procedures. There’s a bureaucratic machinery for this type of thing. And I suspect…(AF interrupts)

AF: What the profile of this person? Is it a rogue?

EM: Well, we don’t know. We don’t know.

AF: Could it be, excuse the western Ireland expression, could it be a gombeen, could it be someone who doesn’t get the?….(EM interrupts)

EM: Adrian, your guess is as good as mine. There may be a multitude of motives involved here with the PSNI people, the detectives involved. Some of them may be ambitious. Gosh, I’ve solved a forty year old murder, I’ll be a hero. There may be other motives involved, I don’t know. But one thing I absolutely do know, without fear of contradiction is that each and every single one of those detectives knows where this story ends. And knows what the political consequences of the story are. And that’s why I’m saying when it comes to the motivations behind this. you would be a fool to dismiss the possibility that there are elements there in the PSNI who are saying this is our chance to kick one in Adams’ rear end.

AF: Now, Boston College: they’re in the soup. And, in fact, your own involvement in providing and encouraging and facilitating Boston College lands you in the soup as well. It doesn’t help in your case that Scotland Yard thought that you a good candidate to lock up.

EM: I consider it a badge of honour that Scotland Yard wants to put me in gaol for not betraying the source. That’s what we do as journalists, Adrian. We do not betray sources. And I’m not gonna betray any source at Boston College on this either on this.

AF: Right.

EM: And if that qualifies me for being in a rogues’ gallery then I’ll be happy to be there. You can be sure of one thing: I will not be cooperating with anyone on the criminal side of this investigation if it goes that far.

AF: And it is the understandable because depending again, ink is cheaper by the barrel, you know what I’m saying? Well, Moloney must have something to hide because he wouldn’t have to spend a penny. All he has to do is leave it to Boston College who can well afford to pay for, hopefully, the dismissal of these subpoenas which had been served on them. In fact, would be more likely, as an accredited college…

EM: Are you saying that I should not play a role in this legal case? Is that what you’re saying? That I should leave it to Boston College? Is that what you’re saying?

AF: No. I say that’s what alot of people are saying.

EM: They’re saying I should just stand aside and do nothing?

AF: You should wait. Absolutely you should wait on the sidelines there and if Boston College goes down you’re gonna go down with them.

EM: I’m tempted to say a lot of things. (AF laughs) And this is not the time for them.

AF: (quips) Now this is the old Ed Moloney I know.

EM: The time will come when these things can be spoken of in a more open fashion.

AF: Right.

EM: Let me just say this: Boston College has got its own legal strategy. It’s not a strategy that I would approve of. And we decided, myself and other people involved in the project, decided that to protect our own self-interest and, more importantly, to protect the interviewees, the people who had taken the risk of giving us interviews on both the Republican side and the Loyalist side, that we had to go out and see what we could do legally to supplement what Boston College were doing. And I’ll tell you what, I’m very glad that we did because we discovered an ace of a lawyer, Eamonn Dornan over in Brooklyn.

AF: Absolutely.

EM: Who’s come up with a fantastic legal strategy. And not only that, but this, the legal strategy has enabled us Irish-America to mobilise politically around this topic; something that Boston College was not prepared to do.

AF: Well you wouldn’t expect them to do because basically that’s not their…

EM: No, of course not. They’re a college.

AF: It’s not their ah..

EM: Therefore we’re able to do that. We’re able to do something that they’re not capable of, or willing or able to do.

AF: You are doing something that will be of benefit to all at the end of the day because it’s not just your particular involvement in getting Oral History. I’m a tremendous advocate, however recently that might be, because I didn’t think much or I didn’t know that there was much interest in gathering Oral History in so many colleges throughout… and it is, it”s something for a college to do. Everywhere from Columbia University right through NYU through Notre Dame to Boston College. I think that what we don’t need there is to have the long arm of the law come in and say: by the way, we’d like to hear what you said. That’s not what the purpose of this and it should not be.

EM: That’s why this, this whole business affects much more than just Boston College, it affects much more than the peace process, it affects much more than Ed Moloney or anyone else who was involved in the project. It also affects, in a potentially very adverse way, that whole very wonderful live, living, proud tradition of Oral History in the United States of America; one of the aspects of history that this country is really famous for, you know?

If this succeeds, it’s going to have a chilling effect on Oral Historians throughout the fifty states because they’re going to say: If I go out and interview X about the riots that took place during the Occupy Wall Street protests last week, if I go to Oakland and I interview the people who witnessed this or witnessed that during the OWS riots there. Are the cops going to be knocking on my door demanding that I hand over my material? And the inclination of most historians, not wanting to entertain that sort of problem, why bring that sort of stuff on yourself? Rather than do that will not go out and do those interviews which means all of that history will be lost.

Now you could replicate that in all sorts of spheres of activities, Occupy Wall Street is just one example, but all the way through to racial politics and what have you, trade union politics in this country could all be very badly and adversely affected by this stupid, clumsy move by the PSNI.

AF: Friends, you’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA. My guest, Ed Moloney. The book is Voices From the Grave and the website if you want to get information?

EM: Yes, the website. We have a website that is devoted to this issue of the subpoenas and it’s called bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com.

AF: Okay and you’ll find that, friends, on our website, too; you’ll be able to access that. Again you’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA.

(Sign off) Program ends.

Activists Continue Efforts to Quash Belfast Subpoena

Activists Continue Efforts to Quash Belfast Subpoena
University Remains Engaged in Legal Battle Over Records
By Daniel Tonkovich, Heights Editor
The Heights
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011 00:11

Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the subpoena of the Belfast Project.

Irish activist groups are continuing their measures outside the court system to quash the subpoena of Boston College’s Belfast Project archives as the University continues its long legal battle to challenge the order.

Last week, a five-member delegation met with Owen Paterson, secretary of state of Northern Ireland, during a visit to New York. According to a report from the Irish Echo, the group discussed the ongoing controversy surrounding the issuance of the sealed subpoenas by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) seeking to obtain confidential oral histories related to a period known as “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland that lasted from 1969-1998. The subpoenaed Belfast Project archives are under the custody of the Burns Library.

The delegation noted the possible political motivations behind the subpoenas, as well as the impact the forced release of the tapes could have on future oral history projects.

Delegates included Thomas J. Burke, Jr., national president of the Irish American Unity Conference; James Cullen of the Brehon Law Society; Ned McGinley, past national president of The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic fraternal organization which seeks as part of its mission for a peaceful and just solution to the issues that divide Ireland; Domhnall O’Cathain, president of the Irish American Bar Association; and Stephen McCabe, past president of the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County and the Irish Parades Emergency Committee.

Burke and the Irish American Unity Conference have been active in their appeals to government officials in both the U.S. and Northern Ireland to quash the subpoena. The organization has also issued pleas for intervention to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. McCabe was part of a delegation in October that met with officials in Senator John Kerry’s office.

After the recent meeting with Patterson, his office said he would consider the concerns raised by the group regarding the subpoena. Efforts to contact delegation members and Patterson’s office for further comment were unsuccessful.

Many Irish-American advocacy organizations in the U.S. continue to take active roles through political channels to quash the subpoena while BC and Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist who directed the Belfast Project, and Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA member who interviewed Republicans for the project, challenge the order through the legal system – each on different grounds. BC maintains that a release of the types would violate an agreement made with the interviewed to not release the tapes until their deaths and that a release of the archives could damage the fragile peace process in Northern Ireland.

The Moloney and McIntyre challenge argues that the use of the tapes for any prosecution of actions committed during “the Troubles” is a direct violation of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. The Agreement assures that offenses occurring prior to the 1998 agreement would not be reopened for trial.

For the advocacy groups, the sealed subpoena appears politically motivated, and should the tapes be released, result in possible damage the peace process.

“Does [the U.S. Attorney General's office] want to be doing the bidding and favors for a police department in Ireland that is more known for corruption and lawlessness than it is known for law enforcement,” said Michael Cummings, board member of the national board of the Irish American Unity Conference, in a recent interview on the “Adrian Flannelly Show” on Irish Radio Network USA in reference to the subpoena issued by the PSNI.

“That awareness is why we have been doing meetings and callings with people like Senator Kerry’s office … Responding to the subpoena is possibly undermining the [peace] process.”

“Our role is to keep our elected officials informed and in the know about what is happening in Northern Ireland because it is not always how it appears,” said John Foley, a Boston attorney who was also a member of the delegation that briefed Kerry officials, during the same Flannelly interview.

“This is an anonymous subpoena. No names are attached. I think it is more likely another PSNI stunt and witch hunt and [the U.S. Attorney's Office is] being used as foils for the powers that be inside PSNI.”

Fight British Request for Boston College Records

Fight British Request for Boston College Records
ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS
BREHON LAW SOCIETY
IRISH AMERICAN UNITY CONFERENCE
Irish American News
17 November 2011

A MOGUL, A PRESIDENT & A KING SOUGHT TO FIGHT BRITISH REQUEST FOR BOSTON COLLEGE RECORDS

November 17, New York City – A coalition of the largest and most active Irish-American groups have solicited the aid of Motion Picture Association head, former Senator Christopher Dodd, former President Bill Clinton, and Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, in their fight against the unprecedented request of the British government to conduct a fishing expedition of the Oral History records held in the Burns Archives of Boston College.

The College is fighting the subpoena for these records which was issued by Attorney General Holder pursuant to the U. S.-U. K. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

“Our careful consideration of this action by Her Majesty’s Government,” stated Ned McGinley, former National President of the AOH, “has concluded that those OPPOSED to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement are the principal beneficiaries of this unprecedented corruption of the purpose of the MLAT.”

Jim Cullen, a member of the legal team that met with Senator Kerry’s staff on this concern, observed: “Even as the litigation follows its course, we are united in our belief that the subpoena should be withdrawn for reasons permitted in the language of the Treaty documents i. e. to respond to the request would be detrimental to public policy supporting the peace process and in contradiction to America’s legal principles and justice values.”

Cullen noted the British refusal to publicly disclose information on their security services role in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and the assassination of Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson should give pause to Attorney General Holder‘s enforcement of the subpoena.

“We have in these three individuals — Dodd, King, and Clinton — key players in the process leading to the Belfast Agreement,” concluded Tom Fox of the IAUC, who remain interested in assuring that the work of justice is pivotal to peace.

“In this instance, elements within the RUC/PSNI have attempted to politicize the legal process in an apparent attempt to interfere in the elections of a sovereign nation. No good can come from this maneuver and it should be stopped.”

Boston College: Pushing Holder

Boston College: Pushing Holder
Cliopatria – History News Network
Chris Bray

It’s been political all along, so it’s finally becoming political.

While the District Court in Boston has taken no action since October 5 regarding the federal government’s effort to subpoena archival material about paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland (background is here), the heart of the fight is no longer in the courtroom. I’m still working on details, but the outline is clear: Members of Congress are becoming concerned about the subpoenas directed at Boston College, and are beginning to express those concerns to the Department of Justice.

The emerging change in political climate is the result of the work being done by three Irish-American organizations: the Irish American Unity Conference, the Brehon Law Society, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. At the bottom of this post, for example, is a letter sent last month to Attorney General Eric Holder (which is also available on the IAUC website). Irish-American activists have met with members of Congress, and have been trying to get meetings at the State Department and in the White House.

It’s working. This is information at fourth-hand, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, but Senator John Kerry recently called Holder to express his concerns about the subpoenas, asking the attorney general to re-evaluate the harm they might do to the peace in Northern Ireland. Holder’s initial reaction was, apparently, that the courts would figure it out. But Kerry pressed for a better answer, telling him that this use of the US-UK MLAT contradicted the assurances he was given when he voted for the treaty, and Holder promised to take a fresh look at the question.

I can’t figure out exactly how serious that promise was, because I’ve only been able to talk to someone who talked to someone who talked to someone who talked to Kerry. I asked the DOJ press office if they could confirm that Kerry and Holder had discussed the subpoenas. Their complete answer: “Thanks for reaching out but we would decline to comment.”

But Kerry’s office gave a more interesting answer. Whitney Smith, Kerry’s press secretary, said she “can’t confirm private meetings,” but also offered this statement: “Senator Kerry and his staff have sought information and been kept up to date on the subpoenas issued to Boston College. Obviously this is a sensitive issue, and while it is an issue for the courts, Senator Kerry has urged all parties involved to carefully consider any actions that could affect the peace process.”

That’s a non-denial that confirms the basic details: Kerry is watching, and urging “all parties” to think hard about the effect their choices will have on the ground in Northern Ireland. Other members of Congress are also looking closer at the subpoenas, and I expect to have more detail shortly.

The Department of Justice has made a mistake, and will be hearing about it more and more in the coming days.

More soon.

I’ve redacted home addresses and personal phone numbers at the end of the letter below, but it’s otherwise as written.

IAUC Letter to Eric Holder

Boston College: The Role Of The Irish News and Sunday Life

Boston College: The Role Of The Irish News and Sunday Life
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow

The Irish history website, TheWildGeese.com has been hosting a debate between myself and Noel Doran, the editor of the Irish News in Belfast over who was ultimately responsible for the issuing of  subpoenas by the PSNI in conjunction with the US Department of Justice seeking oral history material stored at Boston College, Massachusetts.

(Many thanks are due to The Wild Geese, incidentally, for performing this valuable function)

The first subpoena demanded that interviews with the former IRA bomber Dolours Price be handed over to detectives from the PSNI and a second, later subpoena sought any others that deal with the disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972 that were collected by the college as part of a Troubles-based oral history project. (The PSNI also wanted Brendan Hughes’ interviews but these were already in the public domain and published in the book Voices From The Grave)

As the former director of the Belfast Project, as it was called, which collected the Boston College interviews, it has been my contention that the subpoenas would never have been issued, and the oral history archive would have remained secure & undisturbed, but for the actions of two reporters at the Irish News and Sunday Life.

In February, 2010 an Irish News reporter, Allison Morris taped an interview with Dolours Price at her home in Dublin about her alleged role in a number of IRA ‘disappearances’ carried out in 1972. As a result of family objections, largely because of Dolours Price’s troubled psychological condition at the time, the article that eventually appeared was toned down; “the juicy bits”, as one family member described them, were largely left out.

If matters had been left at that, everything would have been fine. But it is my strong belief that the tape was then passed on to another journalist, Ciaran Barnes of the Sunday Life, a small Belfast tabloid, and it was this that caused the trouble. Three days later Barnes’ article, a sensationalised account of Dolours Price’s alleged role in the disappearance of Jean McConville and others appeared in the Sunday Life. The story, he claimed, was based on tape recordings that he had listened to.

In May 2011, a few days after the US Department of Justice served subpoenas on Boston College, the Regional Press (i.e. provincial newspapers) awards ceremony was held in London. Hosted by the Society of Editors, the three NI-based players in the Boston College drama, Irish News editor Noel Doran, Irish News reporter Allison Morris and Sunday Life reporter Ciaran Barnes all won prizes. Here Barnes accepts the Specialist Writer of the Year award.

The problem was that he had written the story in such a way as to strongly suggest that the tapes he listened to had come from the archive stored at Boston College. Since I knew this was nonsense, that it simply could not have happened, I concluded that Barnes did this to deflect attention away from the real source, the tape recording made by Allison Morris of the Irish News.

Barnes’ alleged access to the Boston College archive was cited by the US Attorney in Massachusetts as justification for serving the subpoenas. Her implied logic went like this: since we had apparently broken the seal of confidentiality given to Dolours Price by handing the interview over to Barnes we could no longer use that defence and must therefore surrender the material.

The US Attorney’s claim is baseless, however. Ciaran Barnes was never allowed to hear Boston College’s interviews and neither he nor the US Attorney & the PSNI know whether Barnes’ article in any way reflected what Dolours Price had really said in her Boston College interview. Instead his information came from Allison Morris’ tape, something that we have concluded in the weeks and months since the subpoenas were served. Establishing the truth of this would demonstrate that the subpoenas were unjustified and unwarranted and should therefore be withdrawn. That is why I raised the issue when The Wild Geese asked to interview me about the Boston College affair.

Understandably, Noel Doran, the Irish News editor disputes all this and made his views clear in a response published by the Wild Geese. I recently answered him in a posting which can be read here.

Because of limitations on wordage imposed by The Wild Geese I wasn’t able to answer all of Noel Doran’s points on that site and confined myself to two major elements of his defence. I said I would answer the other issues here.

One complaint he made was that I had not run my allegations past him first. That would have been appropriate if I was a disinterested, uninvolved reporter assigned by a news desk to write the story up in a ‘he says/they say’ way. But I am not that reporter. Instead I am the injured party in a far-reaching dispute with other parties over events whose consequences are serious not just for those involved but for the long and proud tradition of oral history in the United States.

A pertinent analogy would be that of Sharon Bialek, the former National Restaurant Association staffer who recently accused Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain of sexual harrassment. If Noel Doran’s logic was followed in that instance then she should have checked with Cain before going public. (“Can I just clarify something Herman before the press conference? When you pulled my head down to your crotch were you looking for a blow job or just inviting me to admire the exquisite artwork on your new leather belt?”) I think not. I make my case, Noel Doran makes his and let the readers judge.

That was one reason why I suggested to The Wild Geese that they get a response both from the Irish News and the Sunday Life. Since I had a dog in the fight, I was not the one to do that. For whatever reason Allison Morris apparently did not respond while the Sunday Life said the paper was not prepared to discuss Ciaran Barnes’ sources for its Dolours Price story.

Noel Doran also disputes the account given to us by members of the Price family and describes at some length his interaction with Dolours Price’s sister, Marian.

Since Marian Price is currently being held on remand at Maghaberry jail and may not be able to read much less respond to this debate, it is rather pointless going back and forth without her input. Suffice it to say that we stand over our version of events.

Noel Doran’s article on The Wild Geese was not the only response from the Irish News on this matter. On October 19th, Allison Morris finally broke her silence and penned this article for her newspaper.

I emailed Noel Doran asking for the right of reply which he granted but with the proviso that my article had to be limited to 500 words. In contrast, Allison Morris’ piece was some 750 words long and limiting my response meant that I was not able to answer every point that she made.

For instance, she wrote that researcher Anthony McIntyre had interviewed people, “most of whom were actively damaged souls dissatisfied with the direction taken by Sinn Fein”. How does she know this? Has she been granted access to the entire archive and read/listened to all the interviews? Of course not. She does not and cannot know who has been interviewed, what they said or what their views were about the Sinn Fein strategy.

Her logic is fatally flawed: because Brendan Hughes was critical of his old colleague Gerry Adams it follows that everyone else interviewed by Boston College must be similarly inclined. Nor does she know who was or was not “damaged” – as nor do I – as she put it. And what does she mean by “damaged” anyway? Is she suggesting that we only sought out people psychologically scarred by the Troubles? If so she should produce the evidence.

I am naturally limited by what I can say about all this but since it is a canard that has gained some currency – not least because of Sinn Fein’s displeasure and anger at Brendan Hughes’ interviews – I feel it is legitimate and necessary to point out that this is not a Provisional IRA archive but a republican archive and its reach stretches across the full spectrum of that tradition’s ideology during the length of the Troubles. After all more than the Provos were involved on the Nationalist side of the conflict.

The only criteria that were applied were these: Was the person willing to give an interview and would they tell the truth, as best as could be ascertained? I can tell you that it was not an easy task persuading people to talk about their paramilitary pasts and that in itself severely limited the size of the pool within which we could fish. As to whether the truth was being told, that is always difficult to judge. But some lies are so obvious, like “I was never in the IRA, only in Sinn Fein”, or “The Official IRA ceased to exist in 1972”, or “The INLA never traded guns or intelligence with Loyalists” that they announced themselves and excluded their tellers from our sort of exercise.

She also suggested that it was Brendan Hughes’ interview which led to the subpoenas being issued when she knows full well it was the Sunday Life story, based on her tapes, which did that.

Despite being denied the space to answer all these points I nonetheless sent Noel Doran the following 500 word article:

Oct 23 – In her weekly column (October 19th), written to answer allegations I made concerning her tape-recorded interview with Dolours Price and its role in the serving of subpoenas on Boston College, your correspondent Allison Morris failed to list, much less answer them. Your readers deserve to know what they were so I will rehearse them here.

At the time of the interview, Dolours Price was under the care of a psychiatric hospital in Dublin and taking strong medication, key facts notably absent from Allison Morris’ column. Dolours was unwell and her family believed that the interview should never have been authorised nor its contents divulged. They even asked Allison Morris to leave her home during the interview but she did not do so.

Allison Morris now claims that the interview was not used and instead her article was based on a separate statement from Dolours Price that she would go to the Disappeared Commission. This is Jesuitical hair-splitting and mendacious since a casual reading of her piece shows that it was based on much more.

If her article was not based on her interview then Allison Morris needs to explain why the chairman of the judges of the Society of Editors praised her “three-page interview with London bomber Dolours Price”, for which he awarded her the Daily/Sunday reporter of the year prize last May.

What happened after the interview was unforgivable. Allison Morris’ tape was passed on to the Sunday Life which wrote the story so that it appeared the reporter had gained access to Dolours Price’s interviews with Boston College when no such thing had happened or would ever have been permitted.

This claimed breach of confidentiality served to justify the subpoenas presented by the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts which said in its affidavit to the federal court: “….the reporter (Ciaran Barnes) was permitted to listen to portions of Ms Price’s Boston College interviews”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe the Sunday Life wrote its report in this way to hide the real origin of its story, viz Allison Morris’ tape.

Behaviour like this is staggeringly unethical. Its potential consequences, not least for the future of oral history in the US as well as for all those concerned, are unthinkable.

Alison Morris’ astonishing and unsettling disclosure that the PSNI approached the Irish News only after the subpoenas were served, when our responding affidavits highlighted the above facts, begs obvious questions: was the PSNI monstrously incompetent or just giving preferential treatment to NI’s premier Catholic daily paper?

To deflect from her misdeeds, Ms Morris accused me of hypocrisy, of “having…..published a book based on testimony from equally damaged souls”. This is a reference to Brendan Hughes. Whatever his problems, he was not a psychiatric patient on medication. He wanted his account published. That became possible when he died and the pledge of confidentiality was lifted. We treated Brendan Hughes with scrupulous probity. Can Allison Morris say she behaved similarly towards Dolours Price?

The article never appeared. I received the following email from Noel Doran explaining his reasons for not publishing it:

Hi Ed,

As I said in my last email to you, we would be happy to provide you with a right of reply to the Allison Morris column of October 19. What you have actually offered is a list of separate allegations which, as I have already demonstrated through my detailed factual statement to TheWildGeese.com, are almost all false. If you wish to challenge other decisions taken by the Sunday Life, the PSNI or the Society of Editors, you should contact them directly. We remain ready to give you the opportunity to respond to the points Allison put forward, but, for legal reasons alone, no responsible newspaper could consider publishing your initial contribution. If you wish to revise it, let me know.

Noel Doran.

I then wrote the following letter to the Irish News hoping that it would see the light of day in the paper’s columns. It never did.

Dear Sir,

On October 18th, I received the following email from your correspondent, Allison Morris:

“Ed,

In my regular Irish News column due to be published tomorrow, I will be responding to allegations made by yourself during a recent interview with TheWildGeese.com regarding my conduct. A rebuttal has also been submitted to The Wild Geese by Irish News editor Noel Doran for publication.

Regards

Allison Morris”

Your readers should know that my interview with the Wild Geese website concerned the role of the Irish News and Allison Morris in the subpoenas served against Boston College by the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts on behalf of the PSNI seeking interviews with former paramilitary activists archived there.

Allison Morris’ article duly appeared but she evaded most of what was in my Wild Geese interview and instead ploughed a different field, for instance claiming that Boston College interviewers had chosen as subjects only people who were opposed to the peace process, something she has absolutely no way of knowing. I asked for the right of reply which the editor granted me and I duly sent the article in for publication.

However in an email to me from the editor of the Irish News yesterday I was told that I can only have right of reply to those of my allegations that Allison chose to write about along with spurious additional assertions on her part and nothing else, and that since she chose to ignore the bulk of what I said in that Wild Geese interview that none of my article can therefore appear in the Irish News. This is a novel way of approaching such matters. Person A makes 10 allegations against person B who replies by writing an article in Northern Ireland’s largest Catholic newspaper but answers only 1 of those allegations. Person A asks to respond to that article, is told that he can but only if he ignores the other nine allegations which haven’t been answered and this, person A is told, settles the matter. In another field of activity they might call this kangaroo justice.

I am puzzled as to why the Irish News is behaving like this? If the Irish News has truly been maligned by my allegations and have an answer for them then you would lose absolutely nothing by publishing my right to reply article because, presumably, you would have an answer to all that I say. The fact that you will not give space to my article can lead people to only one conclusion.

Yours etc,

Ed Moloney

New York

A number of issues arise out of all this. One is the behaviour of the PSNI. TheIrish News and Sunday Life articles appeared in February 2010 but the PSNI made no move on the matter of Dolours Price until March 2011 when the procedure for serving subpoenas was initiated. In the prior thirteen months PSNI detectives had made no effort at all, as far as one can ascertain, to interview either Allison Morris or Ciaran Barnes or even to approach their newspapers. Even though the PSNI,  its predecessor, the RUC and even Scotland Yard have used subpoenas without compunction in the past and did so with considerable speed against other reporters & newspapers in Northern Ireland no such thing happened to the Irish News or the Sunday LifeWhy not?

Instead the only action taken was against Boston College. Only after the college responded to the subpoenas by pointing out that the college had not made its archive available to Ciaran Barnes and that his story was instead based upon Allison Morris’ tape-recorded interview, did detectives in the PSNI stir themselves to perform a task that should have been the first item on their to-do list. It took until June of this year, nearly a month after Boston College had delivered its affidavits and sixteen months after the Irish News and Sunday Life articles were published, for the PSNI to finally get round to questioning Allison Morris. By which time of course she was able to tell them that she had “not retained” the “material” for the story she wrote, i.e. her tape was now swimming with the fishes. Quelle surprise!

So here we have a situation in which the full powers and majesty of the US Department of Justice are being deployed against one of America’s premier colleges on behalf of a police force which didn’t perform even the minimum investigation before seeking its co-operation. They never asked simple questions like: ‘Did Ciaran Barnes really get hold of Dolours Price’s Boston College interview and if so, does he still have it?’, or ‘Are we absolutely sure she said what he claims she said?’ How extraordinary! How do Americans feel about being used in such a shoddy & incompetent way by a foreign police force?

Another issue is this. Whatever about the proprieties of interviewing Dolours Price while she was receiving psychiatric care, Noel Doran behaved properly by not running the full interview when he was made aware of her family’s concerns over her health (even if parts of Allison Morris’ article were clearly based on that interview).

He made a deal with her family which I cannot think he personally dishonoured or ever had any intention to dishonour. But someone did. The logic of events points in only one direction: a person with access to it, made Allison Morris’ tape available to Ciaran Barnes and by so doing betrayed the arrangement Noel Doran had made with the Price family and thus enabled the PSNI to issue subpoenas against Boston College. If I were in his shoes I would be very angry and would want to know exactly who that person was so I could take the appropriate action.

The final issue concerns Ciaran Barnes and the Sunday Life. I understand fully their reluctance to reveal the sources for their Dolours Price story. If I was them I would respond in the same way. But there is nothing to stop them from making it clear that Boston College was not their source, that no-one from the college or the Belfast Project assisted them and that they did not have access to Dolours Price’s interviews lodged at the college. That would not entail naming their source but in this way they could still emerge from this wretched affair with honour.

 

Irish Radio Network, USA: Audio interview with Advocacy Groups Fighting Subpoena

Irish Radio Network, USA – Adrian Flannelly Show
November 12, 2011

Program: Michael Cummings, National Board, Irish American Unity Conference and John Foley, prominent Boston Immigration Lawyer, speak with Adrian Flannelly about the fight against British subpoenas of the Boston College Oral History Project.

Download: Boston%20College%20Cummings%20n%20Foley.wma

Listen to the archived show here: http://media01.ultratek.com:81/player.php?clid=5&mid=1090

Adrian Flannelly (AF) interviews Mike Cummings (MC) and John Foley (JF)

Topic: The PSNI subpoenas for materials from The Belfast Project to Boston College

Adrian Flannelly (AF): Friends, you’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA. I have, well, we’re about to link up, hopefully, with two guests. One, when he’s at home, lives in Albany (NY) He’s Michael Cummings, a native of Springfield, MA; has been active in Irish-American organizations for over thirty years. He has been a member and continues to be a member of the national board of the Irish-American Unity Conference. Now he’s also served in varied capacities but primarily as Public Relations Officer for four national presidents of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and currently serves on their board. He’s also, for many who listen to this program, he’s been a regular contributor to our programs for the bulk of thirty years, three decades. Anyway, Mike, you’re very welcome to the program.

Michael Cummings (MC): Thank you. Glad to be with you.

AF: And I hear, actually, that you got out of the house this weekend and heading up to The Berkshires as we speak.

MC: Yes. I’m actually calling from The Cornell Inn in Lenox, MA in the Berkshires. We had to fight some sleet on the way but it’s just good to get away once in a while.

AF: Absolutely. Okay. I’m also delighted friends to link with Boston, MA and to welcome John Foley. John Foley, an immigration lawyer primarily (a) principal attorney. And he is the grandson of immigrants from Galway. (jests) You almost got it right another county, you’d have been okay there, John, if you’d moved up to Mayo, but anyway we can’t choose those things (laughs). (JF interjects: Close enough.) And to say an active member of The American Immigration Lawyers Association is an understatement. Dedicated to keeping current with the changing immigration rules, document requirements and indeed his client base is and has been… you’re supposed to be the prophet of Boston, MA when it comes to visas and making sure that everything is done and filed correctly. That would be a topic for another day (JF interjects: It will be. It will be, yeah.) because we don’t want to lose Mike Cummings because, his, again on a very serious note, there seems to be, with the exception of areas like Boston and New York, there seems to be less of an awareness of what the Feds’ subpoena to Boston College regarding their Oral History project, which is again now being subpoenaed and I think we’ll leave this one to Mike Cummings.

MC: Thank you, Adrian, I think we have some great people throughout the country, including people like John in Boston, who are starting this awareness campaign and we feel grateful that you have taken upon yourself to expand our audience a little larger even. The federal government, pursuant to a treaty with the United Kingdom has, as you stated, issued some subpoenas for documents or tapes that are in the custody of The Burns Archives at Boston College. There’s two views of this process that are ongoing, at least by activists like John and myself, and that is that there is a legal case going on in which Boston College is fighting the response to the subpoena, on grounds that a…on a number of grounds which John could probably elaborate on. And then there’s the broad view we think the view might be equally meritorious, at least for elected officials, and that is that does this government want to be doing the bidding and doing favors for a police department in Northern Ireland that is more known for its corruption and lawlessness than it’s been known for law enforcement. And that’s where this stands. We’re trying to reach out for people to talk to and write and visit with elected officials like Senator Kerry in MA and I understand John has an update on that from his meeting and calling with Senator Kerry’s office today or yesterday. And the principals in this battle, Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton; Secretary of State Clinton because she could say to the Attorney General Holder: Look, this peace process in Ireland is still getting underway and its got a long way to go but responding to this supoena is possibly undermining that process in a number of ways. And so if she were to explain that to Eric Holder that would give him one grounds for him not enforcing the subpoena. The other grounds of course is that the subpoena itself is not part of a bonafide criminal justice/criminal law investigation or would be repugnant to our system of law values and again, John could speak more to that, but we already know what Northern Ireland’s contribution is to law enforcement. So, with that kind of setting, as I understand it, Adrian, John’s got some news from the front both with from Gerry Adams in Boston and from Senator Kerry’s office .

AF: Alright, the that brings us again to welcome again John Foley. Yesterday was a big day in Boston. I know that The Irish Echo Bridges Conference took place there and that was attended by Gerry Adams and I am sure that the The Irish Echo lunch in Boston, whatever else was going on there, was in fact utilized to underline this elephant in the room because that’s what it’s turning out to be.

John Foley (JF): Well, it certainly is turning out to be an elephant in the room in fact, it was just out the window. If you could look out the window from the ballroom where the luncheon was held is The Moakley Federal Courthouse and that’s where this matter is being litigated right now. Mr. Adams was asked about the Boston College subpoena and I was a bit surprised, he said he wasn’t bothered by it at all. He said he understands that some consider him to be the target but he was more critical of Boston College than anyone. He said they needed to provide some answers and that they should have done a better job in setting up the project in the first place. He didn’t really seem to want to talk about the specifics of the subpoena issue, he really wanted to talk about that the role Irish-Americans could play. And it’s the same role that Mike and I are trying to play now and that’s to keep our elected officials informed and in-the-know about what is happening in Northern Ireland because it’s not always what it appears. What you get from Northern Ireland, specifically the police, PSNI or the RUC, as they were known, it’s not always what you think it might be.

AF: Is it possible though, John, then I’ll ask you Mike, is it possible that because the very strong suspicion is that the primary reason for these subpoenas in the first place is that the British, in their infinite wisdom, are of the opinion that there could be a direct connection to Gerry Adams as a result of this 1972 atrocity and that that it puts Gerry Adams perhaps in somewhat of a defensive position and say “Eh, I’m not worried about it”. John?

JF: Extremely unlikely. I mean, the event happened in Ireland it didn’t happen here. There’s no new information here. And if they really felt that then they should come forward as investigators and put their name on the line and tell us who they are and what they’re looking for. This is an anonymous subpoena, no names are attached, and, you know, I think it’s more likely yet another PSNI stunt/witch hunt and we, the US government, are being used as the foils of the powers-that-be inside PSNI.

MC: Yes, John and Adrian, I wanted to say that view, I think, is the more prominent one because if the Northern Ireland police were in any way interested in investigating cases in 1972 they would have done so and would have had a file on it; the individual involved was allegedly a British informer. So there might not have been any great interest in pursuing an investigation. But when Jim Cullen, an attorney in New York who’s been in the vanguard of challenging them on this issue, his conversations with principals over there have indicated that they didn’t know where the subpoena came from, they had nothing in their file on the individual case involved and his suspicion which he believes bears fruit almost everywhere you turn is that the rogue elements still remnant in the RUC and PSNI managed to get this through. Now the interesting part is that when Owen Paterson visited New York last week, he seemed to be somewhat unaware of the subpoena and even suggested that he, meaning the United Kingdom, did not have anything to do with it. Although, as I understand it and maybe John could correct me, the subpoena pursuant to, the request pursuant to subpoena, no, the request pursuant to MLAT treaty, has to emanate from the Home Secretary’s Office to the United States. And so someone in Whitehall and the Home Secretary’s Office put their rubber stamp of approval on this and put it on its merry way to Attorney General Holder. So once again we’ve got the British talking out of both sides of their mouth and I don’t know who to believe or we don’t know who to believe.

AF: I know. And Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, was a guest on our program here and again it was, for somebody who seemed to be extraordinarily well informed about every other aspect, this whole subpoena thing seemed like…(referring to Paterson’s reaction) I don’t know, maybe you’re talking to the wrong guy? But how can… if we don’t even know where the subpoena is coming from, if there are no names attached, wouldn’t you image that, let me see if I can alienate Boston College here now before we get too deeply into this, well, wouldn’t Boston College from the getgo say “Excuse me, this is not how we do business”.

JF: Well Boston College is in an interesting position. Boston College, for more than thirty years, has tried to play the role of impartial third party when it concerns Northern Ireland. They’ve invited both sides to its campus and they have come and they have been able to meet on its campus and they’ve been able to speak to one another face-to-face which they weren’t able to do, you know, in Northern Ireland. So BC is very proud of that role and I think in the long run they’re going to play a very significant role in the peace process. But right now they’re in a bit of a bind. The two ways out of this: one would be the legal way through the court and the other way is the political way. And what we can do here as Irish-Americans is go the political route. And so with that in mind a number of Irish-Americans from Boston met with Senator John Kerry and his staff. And we asked Senator Kerry because he’s the Chairman, the current Chairman, of the US Foreign Relations Committee, to contact the Attorney General and the Secretary of State concerning this anonymous subpoena that has been served on BC. We know that Senator Kerry spoke with the Attorney General this past Thursday. And according to Kerry’s staff, Holder said the judicial process should be allowed to play itself out and that BC should make its case in court. But then Senator Kerry pointed out the specific language that was added to the treaty by the Foreign Relations Committee concerning issues coming out of Northern Ireland and the specific promises that were made to the Foreign Relations Committee members by the British government when the treaty was being negotiated. Kerry was one of those Senators as was former Senator Dodd from CT and Vice-President Biden when he was in the Senate. So Kerry also pointed out the negative effect this unnecessary controversy would have on the ongoing struggle for peace in the North. So the Attorney General, Mr. Holder, agreed to review, to “circle back” was the term that he used, and he agreed that he would look at the situation again with Senator Kerry’s concerns in mind. So we’re somewhat optimistic that Senator Kerry’s conversation with the Attorney General might make a difference and we expect him to speak within the next week or so and we’re hoping that the Attorney General will recognize that the powers that be, whether they be in London or Belfast, didn’t follow all of the required steps and he will squash, or terminate, the subpoena and put this matter to bed once and for all.

AF: That would be great if we had any good reason to believe, you know, that perhaps that wouldn’t happen in which case we’d say “well, too bad that didn’t work out”.

JF: Well if it doesn’t work out then we take it to the next level. I mean this matter isn’t going to go away. If we can’t get it resolved politically then it’s going to be resolved in… the first battleground is gonna be the Moakley Courthouse here in Boston. This is a matter that affects a lot of things including research by colleges and confidentiality agreements (AF interjects: Oral History) and international relations. So if it can’t be resolved politically this is…it’s a bump in the road for BC but it’s a bump in the road that might put everybody in front of the US Supreme Court in the years ahead.

AF: Wow. Can we go back to Mike Cummings because on more than one occasion, the Ancient Order of Hibernians has had reason to take issue with Boston College. What was the feeling at the time, if we go back to 1972, of the events that took place that are actually, let’s talk about, the interviews themselves, the establishment of Oral History and what the Ancient Order of Hibernians thought about it at the time or if they were even consulted?

MC: I don’t believe they were consulted in fact, what you alluded to earlier and John has confirmed with the position of Gerry Adams vis-a-vis Boston College is that there is some suspicion by some people that the two principal research people in the archives project, the specific project, are very anti-Republican or at least very anti-Sinn Fein and personalities in Sinn Fein, and by doing this Oral History project were, in a way, giving some expression to that view; but I’m not on the national board of the AOH anymore, Adrian, I am on the national board of the IAUC. But Ned McGinley and Dan Dennehy, whom you know, have been parts of several meetings, in fact we were with Senator Schumer’s state director, a guy named Martin Brennan, and he, Jim Cullen and Dan and myself were explaining that the only people who seem to benefit, if this subpoena is enforced and responded to, the only people who seem to benefit are the dissidents; the dissidents of the rogue elements in the police and the dissidents against the peace process in the Republican community. So why would we want to possibly contribute to that in any way?

AF: Why, if we go back…was Boston College out front in terms of developing Oral History with respect to the conflict in Northern Ireland, were they the first?

MC: John might be better at that.

JF: Yeah, let me take a bite at that one. This has been a project that BC has been involved in for many years. I don’t know the exact date, but they didn’t tell anybody, they were doing it on their own and what their goal was was to create an archive so that future generations could look back on this war from all sides, from the Republican side and the Loyalist side. And what they did was they gave all of these individuals an agreement that it would remain confidential until after their death. In fact, they’ve already published the first book about the archives, it was Voices From the Grave. And it was, you know, a Republican and a Loyalist that passed away and it went through their history of the entire event. So Boston College never looked for publicity on this, they looked as this as one of their ongoing steps to play a role in Northern Ireland and to be an impartial third party speaking to both sides. They consider themselves a victim in this and they consider themselves the kind of a victim of a dirty trick, if you will, by elements inside Northern Ireland. They’re very reluctant to point fingers but having said that, they have a fantastic Rolodex; they’ve been in Northern Ireland, you know, for decades, they’ve been working there for decades and they’re doing their best, quietly, to make this matter go away.

MC: If I could put a footnote on that, Adrian. Notre Dame has a pretty good Irish archives as well and an AOH archives as well but they never saw fit to invite Margaret Thatcher for an award which, of course, Boston College Alumni did.

AF: (jests) By the way, John Dewey takes credit for that, and for a lot of others things, but anyway, that one in particular. (all laugh)

MC: We had a good Cardinal at the time who, just by questioning the motives, we are talking Jesuits here, the motives of those who invited Margaret Thatcher, they quickly started backtracking on the invitation.

AF: Oh, I know, do we ever know. Let me ask you, John, I’d say on this one, about the reaction of Boston College when they got the subpoenas, that the level of interest seemed to be very specifically for cherry-picked evidence. For instance, if there was a subpoena, one might expect that if they were going to Boston College where this was not just an Oral History of the IRA or IRA activity but in fact of all sides involved would that not have said well, wait a minute, why are you cherry-picking here? And where does that leave us with our Oral History and our files as we go forward?

JF: Well let me tell you, first of all, when they first received the first subpoena and there’s been more than one, when they received the first one, they responded by giving them some information about the interviews for the individuals who had already passed away because the confidentiality agreement obviously ended upon death. And then they pushed back on the matter that is still confidential. And so what the folks in Northern Ireland did is they sent a second, broader subpoena but it deals only with matters only on the Republican side, nothing about the many atrocities that took place on the other side. So it’s on it’s face it’s one-sided and clearly it’s a witch hunt. But Boston College’s problem is that they still have to respond. The US Attorney is in charge of obtaining this information and Boston College has to answer the subpoena. And until that subpoena goes away, Boston College, you know, still has a court fight on it’s hands and as I said, if they don’t get the result they want in the District Court, I foresee it climbing the ladder and eventually ending up in front of the US Supreme Court.

AF: Okay, the short cut, if we go back to Mike Cummings, the short cut would appear to be, and tell me whether this is wishful thinking more than realistic, is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is no stranger to Northern Ireland and to the peace process, that taking the Attorney General Holder to one side, and then perhaps getting again a pretty strong and clear message from Senator John Kerry, that maybe that might be something? What is the process for withdrawing?

JF: Can I jump on that one? I think the answer is common sense. Adults have to come into the room and say: folks, this makes no sense. We’re reacting to this anonymous subpoena that asks for information that dates back before the Good Friday Agreement when we had agreed we weren’t gonna do that. So, squash the subpoena, send it back, tell them to try again or to go home.

AF: Could we also…is it of benefit in this case here to say well, wait a minute, if the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland seems to little or nothing about this, then let us just assume, based on that, that this is coming from London, that this is not actually coming from the PSNI, Police Service of Northern Ireland, or is that only muddying the waters further?

MC: Well, it’s.. I think that it is muddying it further, you’re right. It’s clear that the treaty process provides for the request to be submitted through Whitehall and London but it originally emanated from the PSNI in Northern Ireland. I think your point earlier that, why cherry-pick this one, I mean, when you consider under the Good Friday Agreement that there are murders of Catholics in large numbers even going back to that time period, the McGurk fire killing, I think it was fifteen people involved, the Ballymurphy was eleven people involved; there’s no rush to investigate those crimes. But all of a sudden they pick this particular case out and make it a test case, if you will, John might known better about that than me, but we can only figure out that this is their first attempt to use the treaty in this manner. And if we leave with nothing else (with) the people who are listening, if they could get on the phone and write a letter, ask to meet with the any of the US Senators, Senator Schumer, Senator Kerry and other members of the Foreign Relations Committee as well as communicate their views to Secretary of State Clinton and Eric Holder, we can put this process on hold, and as John said, essentially tell the British have another go at it with somebody else.

JF: That’s right and that’s the way we resolve this. We as Irish-Americans still do have an active role to play. What we need to do is simply send simple emails, we can get their addresses, they’re online, they’re very easy to communicate with. Just say I’m familiar with the BC subpoena request, totally against it, please don’t let this happen. It’s as simple as that. Irish-Americans still have a role to play in Northern Ireland. We play it here because Irish-Americans can still reach across the Atlantic and have a very influential role and this is another way. We have to stay involved and stay on top of what’s going on over there and our voices have to be heard.

AF: It’s also, of course, maybe an ideal time to bring this to the attention of Irish- Americans in particular who feel that they’ve already “given at the office” so to speak, in playing such a significant role in getting the peace process to where it is and in fact it might not be any harm, at this stage of the game to say well, considering that the British government has now totally rejected the Finucane case and an independent inquiry into that, and are pretty much dictating that they have appointed somebody of impeccable character to review the Finucane case, that it would appear that none of this is going to be helpful in the rather shaky peace process in Northern Ireland, going back to Mike Cummings again, this is fodder for dissidents on every which side.

MC: It occurred to me as there’s a news report out in the last week or so I think, the President, the current President of Ireland or the past President, I don’t know when they actually swear in office but, (AF interjects: yesterday, yep). Was it yesterday? Okay. Well, she was citing the fact that the peace process was one of her lasting legacies, that she hoped would be one of her lasting legacies. And I think that’s what you’ve touched upon is that the American contribution to this, and I mean Americans from all over, and elected officials all over, who have voted for The Ireland Fund, and have spent their time and energy acting as true negotiators, not like the British mediation. It’s a lasting legacy for her if this peace process hangs together and these examples, the Finucane issue, the subpoena issue, and the failure to respond to anything on Dublin-Monaghan bombings, these show that sinister part of Britain is still not convinced that we can play any part in the peace process and I hope Irish-Americans and Americans of all stripes and colors do as we suggest and let their elected officials know.

AF: Can we go to The Irish Echo Bridges Conferences yesterday and…what other issues? What were the issues which, say, Gerry Adams would have addressed, if we take this, you know, thorn of an issue out of it, what was his read on Northern Ireland? On say, the PSNI? Was there positive?

JF: There was alot of positive. Most of the entire conference was all positive in fact, there was very little negative. The bulk of the negative you have to lay at the hands of the people inside PSNI. His big thing was doing business, you know? There were a number of people there who had hotels in the North, who were bringing tours over and vice-versa. There were elected officials from both countries so it was extremely positive and the ties between the two countries are obviously very, very strong. Another issue that came up that was somewhat sticky had to do with the Finucane inquiry. And as Mr. Adams pointed out, this was a treaty between the United Kingdom and the government of Ireland; that this matter would be thoroughly and openly investigated. This is a breach of a treaty and how are we going to hold them accountable for it? Yes, Mr. Finucane was murdered a long time ago but they still haven’t revealed, you know, all that they know about it and we need them to do that. Mr. Adams’ big message was: Irish-America has played a big role in the past, we need you to continue to play a big role because while the shooting may be over, things certainly are not settled over there and there are alot of issues that Irish-Americans can have a role in.

AF: I think it would also be appropriate for those of us who will, you know, start those emails and the telephone campaign to basically point out what Ireland, what Northern Ireland particular, needs now, is more investment. They are relishing and benefiting from a massive increase in tourism, and again, particularly in Northern Ireland. And there’s nothing that come out of this which will endear Irish-Americans other than to again send a very negative message and one which became obvious when the first subpoena was issued in the first place. Again, go back to the cherry-picking: if you’re going to go back to 1972, you can’t slide over the Finucane case and then assume that the Good Friday Agreement was all positive and intended to be for the good of Northern Ireland today.

MC: President Bush, when he sent the protocols to the United Kingdom with a cover letter, he indicated that nothing in this treaty prevents the United States from derogating, which essentially means it can overlook or withdraw from certain provisions if it’s against its own public policy or against the criminal justice values of the United States. To bring a current case forward, keeping Gerry McGeough in prison for no reason that anybody is aware of, and certainly those other cases that you’ve mentioned: the Finucane, McGurk and Ballymurphy. Those are all violations of our sense of justice, our sense of true law enforcement. So Eric Holder has all the tools he needs to take this subpoena and tell the British what they can do with it. I guess it’s basically our subpoena but it’s in response to their request. And with enough interest expressed by people listening and the word of mouth, I think we have certainly laid the foundation. The three presidents of the most active Irish-American organizations, Seamus Boyle of the AOH, Tom Burke of the Irish-American Unity Conference and Mr. Dunne of The Brehon Law Society have all sent letters to Holder and to Secretary Clinton so they certainly can’t be told they they.. can’t tell anyone he’s not aware of the issue, and I think with Senator Kerry’s call there’s even going to be more pressure to slow this process down, take a second look and hopefully, do the right thing as John says.

AF: What we can say though is, that just because of the very nature of subpoenas and the time that elapses that this is not taken care of. It is a live issue. And people who are interested in the situation today and the goodwill Irish-America has shown Northern Ireland it would be a helluva thing if we let this one slip into where it becomes irreversible or with extreme negativity which will stir up everything again. That’s why I thank both of you for joining us here today. In particular, Mike Cummings, listen: getting the silent treatment from the wife is not the worst thing in the world, is it? (all laugh)

MC: Yes, I agree with you. There’s an upside and a downside, you’re right. (all laugh)

AF: Yeah. Time heals everything, right John? (laughs)

JF: Exactly. (all laugh)

AF: Mike Cummings, thank you very much. And of course to John Foley, the principal of Foley Law Offices in Boston, MA. Watch this spot. Write these letters friends, because this is not going to go away and it can turn sour if we contribute to that by doing nothing. You’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA.

(Sign Off). Program ends.

Former Head of Boston College Belfast Project Reasserts That ‘Irish News’ Reports Led to Controversial Subpoenas

Former Head of Boston College Belfast Project Reasserts That ‘Irish News’ Reports Led to Controversial Subpoenas
The Wild Geese
Thursday, November 10, 2011

We recently received a statement from Ed Moloney, former director of Boston College’s Belfast Project, responding to a letter that we posted October 20 from Irish News Editor Noel Doran. In posts within Hell’s Kitchen, Moloney and Doran offered differing accounts of Irish News staffers’ actions during and after their information gathering at the County Dublin home of former Provisional IRA senior operative Dolours Price. The exchange between Moloney and Doran was spurred by comments Moloney made during a Q&A we published October 8, which focused on Boston College’s widely praised oral-history project. The project has compiled eyewitness accounts of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland from combatants on both sides of the divide, in return for assurances that the contents would not be revealed until an interviewee’s passing. In portions of our interview, Moloney attempted to provide background to authorities’ pursuit of two oral histories gathered by Boston College, including that of Price. Boston College is currently fighting to quash subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office demanding access to these oral histories. Speculation in news accounts about the subpoenas, whose supporting materials are sealed, suggests these federal officials are acting either on behalf of British counterparts or the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We publish here Moloney’s reply to Doran’s earlier letter.
__________________________________________________________

To the Editor:

For reasons of space limitation, I am going to deal here with the two main aspects of Noel Doran’s statement (WG’s Hell’s Kitchen Blog, Oct. 20, 2011). In due course I will deal with the other issues at greater length at The Broken Elbow.

Firstly, Noel Doran maintains that the Irish News articles of February 18th, 2010 at the heart of this saga were not based on Allison Morris’ tape-recorded interview with Dolours Price, but on a separate statement she provided, saying that she was planning to speak to the ‘disappeared commission’ about a number of so-called ‘disappearances’ that she was allegedly involved with in the early 1970‘s. In other words there was no interview or if there was it was not the basis for the articles that appeared under Allison Morris’ byline.

As he put it in his response in TheWildGeese.com, “It is verging on the bizarre that Moloney could describe our coverage of this date as an interview when it did not include a single quotation from Dolours Price. …”

The first problem with this explanation is that the information contained in the articles, about Dolours Price’s alleged role in the disappearances of IRA victims in the early 1970s, for instance, had to come from her interview with Allison Morris.

Throughout the piece, illustrated by photographs of Dolours Price taken during the interview by an Irish News photographer, there are the clear and unmistakable signs of direct quotes being turned into reported speech. For instance: “She is believed to possess previously undisclosed information about at least four Disappeared victims,” or, in relation to disappeared victim Jean McConville: “Ms. Price (59) is believed to have been one of the IRA members involved in transporting Mrs. McConville, an alleged informer, to the Republic.” When a journalist writes that “A is believed to … etc.,” it means, “This is what A told me but I cannot quote them because a) that is our agreement, and b) if I was to break that agreement my source will be in trouble — and so will I.”

Allison Morris won two journalistic prizes in large part for her three-page spread on Dolours Price. The first, in May this year, was from the Society of Regional British Editors, which was in no doubt about what they really were. The chairman of the judges, Peter Sands, praised her “three-page interview with London bomber Dolours Price.” If presenting Allison Morris’ articles as not being based on the interview was so important, why did the Irish News not make this clear to the society at the time rather than only now when the charge of unethical behavior has been made?

The most damning evidence against Noel Doran’s claims comes from his own newspaper’s report of the second award, UK Regional Reporter of the Year, given by the National Union of Journalists. A report of the award appeared in the Irish News under the byline of Maeve Connolly on June 30th, 2010.

Connolly wrote:

“Judges, who admitted they were pitted against a number of ‘strong entries’ in the category, said that Allison had ‘illustrated the value of old-fashioned journalism, including door knocking and cultivating contacts.’ Allison scooped the overall reporter award for her investigations into ‘new’ Disappeared IRA victims and an interview with Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price.” (My emphasis.)

The report continued:

“Dolours Price spoke about her time with the IRA, involvement in the disappearance of Mr. Lynskey and knowledge of the disappearance of two other west Belfast men, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. Judges said they were ‘greatly impressed by Allison’s lengthy, detailed, revealing and intensely human investigation into the disappeared victims of IRA violence.”

That is “spoke,” as in “was interviewed.”

Noel Doran said “it was verging on the bizarre” that I described his paper’s coverage of Dolours Price as “an interview.” Would he use the same adjective about his own newspaper’s reporting of the same?

The claim that Allison Morris’ February 18th, 2010 article was not based on her interview with Dolours Price was one of two props supporting Noel Doran’s assertion that the Irish News played no role in the events that led to the serving of subpoenas against Boston College. That prop has now been kicked away.

The second prop is his claim that he is “completely satisfied” that Allison Morris’ recording of her interview of Price was not passed on to Sunday Life. It was that newspaper’s sensational rehash of the interview that led directly to the subpoenas served on Boston College by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts on behalf of the PSNI.

This issue is at the heart of the Boston College affair.

On the following aspects of the affair there is no disagreement or challenge:

  • The Irish News article on Dolours Price appeared on February 18th, 2010, and the Sunday Life article, under the byline of Ciaran Barnes, appeared just three days later, on February 21st, 2010. A remarkable coincidence.
  • Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes are friends and former colleagues who worked together on the Andersonstown News and Daily Ireland before their current jobs.
  • Allison Morris spoke to and interviewed Dolours Price but Ciaran Barnes did not. Barnes wrote in his piece only of “listening” to recordings of the former IRA bomber. If he had spoken to her and taped her himself, he would surely have said so.
  • Allison Morris electronically recorded the interview.
  • Ciaran Barnes wrote his Sunday Life article in such a way as to make it appear that he had been given access to Dolours Price’s interview lodged in the Boston College archive. The authority for this is no less than the U.S. Attorney’s office, which wrote in an affidavit (Page 4) to the federal court: “… the reporter (Ciaran Barnes) was permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price’s Boston College interviews.”
  • Ciaran Barnes was not given access to any interviews by Dolours Price held at Boston College, and these are held under conditions of strict security (see Pages 3, 4).
  • No one involved in the Belfast Project at Boston College, not least myself and my researcher Anthony McIntyre had any contact then or since with Ciaran Barnes about Dolours Price. Speaking for myself, I did not even know that Ciaran Barnes existed before this affair.

A telling question emerges: How did Ciaran Barnes know that Dolours Price had given an interview to Boston College? Dolours Price didn’t tell him because she never spoke to him and no one involved in the Belfast Project at Boston College did either. That only leaves Allison Morris and the Irish News as the source.

If Allison Morris and Noel Doran had not known about Dolours Price’s interviews with Boston College, then surely they would have said so by now. It would have jumped out at them as they read my interview in TheWildGeese.com, and a loud, indignant denial that they were Barnes’ source for this vital piece of information would have been their first response. But they didn’t say a word.

Like the dog that did not bark in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries, it is their silence on this issue that really points the finger. The only sound that can be heard is the other prop supporting Noel Doran’s defense crumbling into dust.

Ed Moloney
Former Director
Belfast Oral History Project
Boston College

Irish Americans meet Paterson in NY

Irish Americans meet Paterson in NY
Irish Echo
NEWS & VIEWS
NOVEMBER 9TH, 2011

A delegation of “concerned Irish Americans” held talks in New York with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

The five member delegation, according to a statement, “expressed concern and disappointment” at the British government’s recent announcement that a full public and open inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was off the table and would be replaced “by yet another review of the case by a solicitor chosen by the British authorities.”

Also discussed was the ongoing controversy surrounding the issuance of subpoenas to Boston College seeking to obtain oral histories given to the college under a promise of confidentiality.

The delegation pointed out the possible political motivations behind the subpoenas, as well as the potential harm to oral history projects, and to confidentiality promises given by the media to sources.

The group additionally expressed unhappiness with the performance of Al Hutchinson as the police ombudsman in Northern Ireland, this following upon the “acclaimed tenure” of his predecessor, Nuala O’Loan.

“The need for someone in her image as the next ombudsman was stressed after Mr. Hutchinson steps down at year’s end,” the delegation statement said.

It added that Patterson had assured the delegation that the review in the Finucane case would be fair and above board. Regarding the Boston College and the ombudsman questions, he had indicated that the concerns expressed would be considered when decisions were made.

The delegation was made up of Thomas J. Burke, Jr., national president of The Irish American Unity Conference, James Cullen of the Brehon Law Society, Ned McGinley, past national president of The Ancient Order of Hibernians, Domhnall O’Cathain, president of the Irish American Bar Association, and Stephen McCabe, past president of the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County and the Irish Parades Emergency Committee.


Previously:

King briefed on BC case
Irish Echo
NEWS & VIEWS
OCTOBER 26TH, 2011

Details of the Boston College archives case, set to go to court in Massachusetts, were outlined to New York congressman Peter King last week in a briefing carried out by Ned McGinley, past AOH national president and Steve McCabe of The Brehon Law Society and Irish Parades Emergency Committee.

Representative King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, was briefed on the background of the situation and brought up to date on developments.

Said McGinley and McCabe after the meeting: “It was pointed out (to Rep. King) that not only are there broad implications for the ongoing and sometimes fragile peace process in the north of Ireland, but that important issues have been raised about the stifling of oral history programs in academia, and First Amendment issues regarding confidentiality promised by journalists.

“That this would set a bad precedent was pointed out to Mr. King, who showed great interest and expressed concern.”

Meanwhile, Thomas J. Burke, Jr., national president of The Irish American Unity Conference, has written to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling her attention to the BC case and requesting her assistance.