Called to Account

Called to Account
Chris Bray

A librarian and a professor claimed half of the royalties from a book based on a research project they had nominally overseen, saying they would use the cash for the support of further research at their university. Then they took the money for themselves, and they didn’t tell the university they’d done it. Years later, lost in the dark, the university made an outrageous attack on an outside researcher it had hired for the same project: the university’s spokesman publicly denigrated the researcher for making money on the book that resulted from the project, without mentioning that the professor and the librarian had done the same. He made that false claim because he didn’t know it was false, since the professor and the librarian had never mentioned that they profited from the book (and because the exceptionally reckless spokesman was making a serious personal attack based only on his uninformed assumptions).


On Sunday, a radio show on RTE — the Irish national broadcaster — examined a particularly cheap shot that Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn had taken on Ed Moloney, the Irish journalist who ran BC’s Belfast Project as a contractor. In an earlier RTE interview, since pulled from RTE’s website, Dunn claimed that Moloney wrote a bookusing material from a sensitive archival collection because his personal greed had made him reckless:

“I think, quite frankly, Mr. Moloney was so excited for this project and, quite frankly, so eager to write a book from which he would profit that he refused to ignore the obvious statements that were made to him, including the contract that he signed, expressing the limitations of confidentiality.”

What Dunn didn’t mention is that Moloney only made half the royalties from the book, because he had split it with two people at Boston College: Professor Thomas Hachey, the executive director of the university’s Center for Irish Programs, and Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill, pictured here with Hachey in a story about the Belfast Project.

On Sunday, the RTE ran a new interview with Dunn, which included this exchange:

FM: When you [were] referring to Ed Moloney profiting from the publication of this particular book in interviews both with RTE and with The Boston College Heights, why did you choose not to reveal the fact that Boston College staff members had, in fact, shared the profits as well?

JD: I wasn’t aware that they had. I found that out yesterday in a conversation with Bob Hachey, with, excuse me, with Bob O’Neill.


Listen to the RTE story here, and read a transcript here.

Having attacked Moloney for making money from the book he wrote using no-longer-confidential material from a collection that is still largely embargoed, Dunn also discovered in his Sunday interview that his own earlier claims hadn’t been intended as an attack on Moloney’s greed: “Mr. Moloney profited from the book and then he shared profits with it with Professor Hachey and Burns’ Librarian Bob O’Neill. The issue has never been that Mr. Moloney profited from the book; he wrote it, he should profit from it. And he chose to share that with two individuals. That’s not the issue.”

Just one question for Jack Dunn: If it’s not the issue, why did you raise the point in the first place, explicitly framed by a reference to the “profit” that had supposedly caused the author to write the book?

But the story behind the money from Moloney’s book is more remarkable than this desperate cloud of recent nonsense from BC’s persistently unprofessional spokesman. Remember that the Belfast Project ran from 2001 to 2006, sponsored by Boston College, and hired researchers in Northern Ireland to collect interviews with former members of paramilitary organizations that had fought on both sides during the Troubles. Moloney was the research director, running the program under the aegis of Hachey’s Center for Irish programs, and O’Neill archived the result (though he would later tell a federal court that he had no idea what any of the project materials contained). Interviews were protected from release during the lifetime of interviewees, although some interviews of living interviewees have now been subpoenaed. When two interviewees died, Moloney — the author of several earlier books on Northern Ireland — used the archival materials from those two interviewees as the basis of a new book.

Now. In a Feb. 9, 2009 email to Neil Belton, an editor at Faber & Faber (which published Voices from the Grave), with Moloney CC’ed, Hachey wrote that he and O’Neill

…would be entirely supportive of a three way split of future royalties in which Ed might very well get half, with the Burns and the Center splitting the balance (Bob could use the income for existing claims on his budget from this project, while I would use any Center revenue as seed money for the victims study if we are successful in getting the Independent Consultative Group to endorse our application). But that is some time away and in the meantime we ( Bob and I ) would be amenable to whatever formula is agreed upon. I am certain that there will be no dissent about how to share potential revenue from subsidiary rights as Bob and I are anxious to fully compensate Ed for what has been his tireless and productive efforts, and we are only interested in having some smaller part of an income stream to the Burns Library, and to the B.C. Irish Programs Center, in order possibly to help to support enterprises of this kind, and the Burns Visting Scholar fund. (emphasis added)

So the money Hachey and O’Neill would receive would be for “theBurns and the Center,” to fund “enterprises of this kind” and to support visiting scholars.

Then Ed Moloney got his first royalty check, and asked for bank account information so he could arrange a wire transfer of the half he had promised to Boston College. In a series of Jan. 6, 2011 email messages, Robert O’Neill first wrote back, “My account information is as follows: Bank of America Routing No.011000138; Account No. [redacted],” then added, “The account is in the name of Robert K. and Helen A. O’Neill, though Robert will suffice, as I do not want to involve Helen in any tax liabilities. The mailing address on the checks is P.O. Box 6625, Holliston, MA 01746.” (emphasis added)

In a similar series of email messages on Jan. 10 and 11, Hachey also provided account information so that Moloney could arrange a wire transfer of royalty money, writing, “the name(s) on the account to which our [redacted] account number corresponds is Thomas E. and Jane B. Hachey.” (again, emphasis added)

Ed Moloney has kept those email messages, and he has kept the wire transfer records, all of which he has given to me. He sent all of that to me precisely because the spokesman for Boston College decided to attack him for making money from his book; no attack, no reply. The same goes for the RTE story on Sunday. Jack Dunn’s mouth shook this story out of the dark, where it would otherwise have remained.

Finally, for now: Replying to RTE’s story on Sunday with a written statement, Hachey claimed a share of the royalties from Moloney’s book on the premise that he and O’Neill had served as “general editors of the publication” who “naturally do receive compensation for our work as would editors over any such.”

Unclear on the duties of “general editors,” I asked Moloney if Hachey and O’Neill had performed any editing duties on his book. His emailed answer: “absolutely none – i sent them chapters as i finished them seeking comment and never got a single one back.”

Quite a picture.

More to come.