Carrie Twomey: Release Of Irish Archives Would Put My Husband’s Life In Jeopardy

Carrie Twomey: Release Of Irish Archives Would Put My Husband’s Life In Jeopardy
The Emily Rooney Show
WGBH
January 24, 2012

Over some three decades,more than 3,000 people died as a result of the troubles in Northern Ireland. It was an insidious conflict that pitted Catholics against Protestants, Republicans against Loyalists, neighbor against neighbor. Now, 12 years after the Good Friday Agreement finally brought peace, a legal case involving Boston College is threatening to revive a past that some would prefer to leave behind. During the peace process, Boston College collected interviews with former Irish paramilitaries for historical posterity. In exchange, BC pledged to keep the interviews sealed until all involved had died. But the British government now believes some of those interviews may shed light on 40-year-old unsolved murder case — and US prosecutors are demanding access on their behalf. Today, a federal judge will hear arguments on whether Boston College should be forced to divulge some of those interviews.

Guest:
Carrie Twomey, is the US citizen wife of Dr. Anthony McIntyre, who is the main researcher of the Oral History project at Boston College. She says such therelease could revive old vendettas and potentially put people’s lives in danger.

The Emily Rooney Show

WGBH Radio Boston MA

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Emily Rooney (ER) interviews Carrie Twomey (CT) via telephone about today’s hearing in Boston concerning the subpoena sent to Boston College on behalf of the PSNI in Northern Ireland for the contents of the archive known as The Belfast Project.

Emily Rooney (ER): Good Afternoon. You’re listening to The Emily Rooney Show. Well, some three decades, over some three decades, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was an insidious conflict that pitted Catholics against Protestants, Republicans against Loyalists, neighbor against neighbor. Now, twelve years after the Good Friday Agreement finally brought peace, a legal case involving Boston College is threatening to revive a past that some would prefer to leave in the past. During the peace process, Boston College collected interviews with former Irish paramilitaries for historical posterity. In exchange, BC pledged to keep the interviews sealed until everyone involved had died. But the British government now believes some of those interviews may shed light on a 40-year-old unsolved murder case and US prosecutors are demanding access on behalf of the British government. Today, a federal judge will hear those arguments on whether Boston College should be forced to divulge some of those interviews. With me now by telephone is Carrie Twomey, who says such a release could revive old vendettas and potentially put people s lives in danger, including her husband’s. Carrie Twomey is calling actually from the Boston office of Senator Kerry this morning. Welcome, Carrie.

Carrie Twomey (CT): Thank you very much, Emily.

ER: We should put this in perspective and kind of explain who your husband is: he is now a journalist, Dr. Anthony McIntyre, and he conducted some of these interviews that Boston College now has that the British government wants. But he was also a member of the IRA. He served eighteen years in prison in Northern Ireland for those activities, came out of prison, earned a doctorate, specialised in History and he helped conduct those interviews for Boston College because he had alot of credibility; he knew what he was talking about…he was a member of the IRA as I said earlier. So you feel now that if those interviews, any portion of those interviews, maybe even specifically the ones involving the investigation into that forty year old murder case, could put him in danger among other people.

CT: Yes. Because what is happening with the subpoena and if the subpoena is successful, is that what was an historical archive, what was gathered for history and posterity, as you said, will be turned into criminal evidence. And already my husband is being characterized, as are the people who participated in this project, as informers, by certain circles. And the penalty for informing is death. And that is because the British authorities are attempting to use the archive as criminal evidence to bring criminal charges against people; a very, very dangerous situation to be in. And this is why I’m here in The States right now. I am an American citizen so are our two children. And our lives are in danger for this. I am also trying to bring the human face and the reality that this is going to affect people’s lives…for the participants in this project; both on the Loyalist and Republican side. It’s important that we have this history for the future and that we have this history so that people can understand how things happened and why they happened and not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

ER: You can. On the other hand, Carrie, there’s this very dramatic photograph on page B-2 of The Boston Globe today of Helen McKendry. She’s holding a family photograph which shows her mother, Jean McConville. Jean was a mother of ten; she was murdered in 1972. And police in Belfast, and now the United States government is involved, is saying those interviews could be helpful in solving a murder that was, that’s never been solved. And of course, Helen McKendry would like to know who killed her mother.

CT: I have every sympathy for the McConville family and I would hate to see anybody else have to suffer what they have suffered. I don’t want my family to have to suffer the sames losses because of the danger that this poses. There’s a lot of people that want to get to the truth of what has happened to their loved ones. This kind of action is not going to get that truth; it’s going to stop people from coming forward. They’re trying to get the truth commission going. They’re trying to get it so that people who were involved in actions and were involved can tell their story, can get people’s histories validated. It’s a complete mess. While I have every sympathy for her, I just don’t think this is the way to go about it. And the McConville case specifically, is one where the details are very well known and they have been written about, specifically by Ed Moloney in The Secret History of the IRA, was very revealing as to the case of her mother. I don’t think these archives are going to be shedding much light for her.

ER: Now, your husband, Anthony McIntyre…did he? They’re actually seeking the Oral History tapes of someone named Dolours Price. Price is a former IRA Volunteer and Dolours Price told a newspaper that…she claims that former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams ordered McConville’s slaying and that this Oral History would prove that. Did your husband do the interview with Dolours Price?

CT: Yes. He interviewed Dolours Price but what the interview contains I don’t know, these are confidential, what his interview with Dolours contains. Now she did do an interview with a local newspaper in Belfast where she discussed this case and the police have never sought that. If you go on the web you can read the interview that she did and you can read the report in The Sunday Life newspaper that ties her to this case and ties Gerry Adams directly to this case and the police in Northern Ireland never attempted to obtain those records. Instead, they’ve gone for the historical archive which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

ER: Except for that’s something they know it exists rather than…

CT: They know it exists, it’s in the public domain. They’ve not bothered to obtain it and this is part of why we think that this is not a genuine criminal investigation; that this is a fishing expedition on behalf of British intelligence.

ER: On the other hand, the United States government is going along with it. Judge William Young is having his hearing this afternoon on the campus at Boston College! Just coincidentally. Because they have these hearings, these federal court hearings every now and then off-campus so they can involve students, they can listen and weight the data for themselves. And this case just happens to be being heard this afternoon at Boston College. You’re going to be there.

CT: You’re right about that that the US Attorney is bringing this case on behalf of the British. However, one of the goals that I have in being on this trip, and I’m calling here, as you said, from Senator Kerry’s office. This is causing a huge problem for American foreign policy. And we believe that the Department of Justice did not consult anybody else. They did not consult with the State Department. They did not look at the political implications of this. And specifically, in America’s self-interest as well as the foreign policy under three sitting Presidents towards Ireland and peace in Ireland when they went ahead with this. So I think that there’s some division there in terms of where the American government position is. And we’re pushing for a Congressional hearing into this and how this subpoena…who on the UK side signed off on it? Did they present it honestly with the veracity of the subpoena tested? And who on the US side failed to ask the right questions of the right people before they decided to proceed with this.

ER: Now where does Senator John Kerry stand on this?

CT: He has sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to look into this and he’s been very supportive of this issue. It’s a disaster for American foreign policy.

ER: Now, this afternoon…you’re not going to be able to speak. You’re just going to be there as kind of the face of the other side of this. Who is actually going to be testifying?

CT: Nobody is going to be testifying; this is basically the arguments are going to be presented by the lawyers. We have a number of affidavits submitted from a variety of people for our side. Jim Cotter is our lawyer; he’ll be arguing our case on that. It’s a simple hearing it’s not a full-fledged one. And we also have a hearing coming up in the appeals court in March based on our Motion for Stay which we obtained and stopped the hand-over of the materials to the British authorities.

ER: I mean, as a journalist myself and I were BC, I would certainly want to honour all of the promises I made to everybody who spoke to me for those archival purposes. But do you really think this would create a new vendetta, Carrie? I mean, all these years later, twelve years after the peace accords and most people probably want to move on. If this tape were to come forward do you really think you…your husband would be in danger?

CT: I would not be here in America on my credit card spending money I don’t have to come out here to lobby for my safety if I did not believe that my life, the life of my children and my husband and the people that participated in this project was not in danger. We are very clearly in danger. It’s a very frightening time. I am stressed out to the max over this. I’m traveling by myself across the country from DC to New York to Boston, trying raise this and trying to get some grown ups to step forward and do the right thing and get this stopped. It’s not just my family’s life that’s in danger. There’s alot of other people’s lives in danger. And if this spirals out of control, which it’s already doing, it’s already a train wreck. This can really put the peace at stake.

ER: I’m just trying to get a handle on this on why you feel people would blame your husband?. He’s a now journalist now, he’s an archivist, he’s an historian. He’s getting on record for posterity what happened over all those decades, in the sixties, and seventies and eighties? Why would they blame him for that?

CT: Because there’s a lot of people that don’t want the truth of history to come out. This is part of why the archives were confidential until death and were made for history rather than for the present. There’s alot of people that don’t want the truth of the past to come out. Right now there’s a huge controversy over the 1981 Hunger Strike. Because the truth of what has happened was: in 1981, the blanket men and the hunger strikers broke Thatcher and she offered a substantial offer in July where the prisoners were going to accept it and the outside leadership over-ruled them and six hunger strikers died. This has been a controversy raging for the last few years. But, because of the release of the 1981 papers from the British government and because the conduit between the Thatcher government and the IRA at the time, Brendan Duddy, he delivered the messages of the negociations between the two, he released his diary with all the notes of his conversations. All this stuff has become public and it’s shown some very disturbing aspects of the Hunger Strike: that six hunger strikers did not need to die, that Thatcher had been broken and an offer made. This sort of thing people don’t want coming out because it causes problems.

ER: But eventually these things will all come out, as you know. BC only promised to hold these things in posterity until all the parties involved, that would include the interviews and interviewees, were dead. So that, not looking in the future but eventually, that will be the case. Why couldn’t that start…?

CT: It should for the future to deal with. It should be for the future to….

ER: But why would that spark a new vendetta then?

CT: Well, ideally, the peace will be even further embedded and things will be further resolved and we won’t have the instability that we have now.

ER: What do you think the real motivation is here on the part of the British government?

CT: I think that there’s a rogue element of former RUC officers that are looking for retribution and they’re going after people from the past. They’re thinking they can get vengeance on this or some sort of retribution. I think that they are looking to get Gerry Adams. I believe that they are hoping that they can get this material released as criminal evidence and they’re not counting…they probably don’t even want the criminal case to win, they haven’t even brought charges against Dolours, for example. But if this evidence gets released they’re going to use it in a civil case against Gerry Adams just like the Omagh….(ER interrupts)

ER: They had their opportunity to get Gerry Adams what, what was it? In the eighties, sometime? I can’t remember exactly when that was?

CT: There’s different layers and elements to the British government and British interests. I think that this slipped through the cracks. From what we’ve been told from Secretary of State Owen Patterson, who’s had a number of conversations with people and said publicly in the press that he was completely embarrassed by this. This has been treated as a purely criminal matter and the politicians that normally would oversee this thing just has their eyes off the game.

ER: By the way, just for people listening…the woman who was killed, Jean McConville, the mother of ten in Belfast, killed in 1972. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has been accused of ordering that… For what reason? What would have been the motivation?

CT: It was believed that she was an informer. She had been caught as an informer on one occasion and she was told not to continue in that sort of activity and apparently she did continue in that activity and the IRA treated her as they do informers.

ER: I see.

CT: But the difference in her case is because she was a mother of ten, Gerry Adams ordered her to be disappeared rather than to be treated as informers normally are which is left at the side of a road as a message to others for not be informers.

ER: Alright, Carrie Twomey…good luck this afternoon over at Boston College. Thanks for joining us today.

CT: Thank you very much, Emily.

ER: And Carrie, as we were saying, is the US citizen wife of Dr. Anthony McIntyre, who used to be a member of the IRA and he conducted alot of those interviews that are now being held in archives at Boston University (Editor’s Note: Boston College). The United States government, on behalf of the British government, is trying to make some of those, at least, public because it involves this forty year old murder case, and they’re hoping that it would solve it if some of those tapes were released. Alright, you’re listening to The Emily Rooney Show up next…a conversation about how and why taxes have become a fundamental issue in the GOP presidential race. You’re listening to The Emily Rooney Show from 89.7 WGBH Boston Public Radio.

(Play-out music: The Dropkick Murphys: Shipping Up to Boston) (Interview ends)