O’Malley Confirmation Hearing: Astoundingly Obtuse U.S. Policy Vision

Astoundingly Obtuse U.S. Policy Vision
Chris Bray
Thursday, July 17, 2014

Several news sources covered the July 15 confirmation hearing of St. Louis lawyer Kevin O’Malley, who was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to be the new U.S. ambassador to Ireland. But none fully caught the implications of his unfortunate answer to a question from Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, regarding the ongoing PSNI effort to seek subpoenas of confidential Belfast Project interviews archived at Boston College.

Kaine asked if the PSNI was “re-litigating” the Good Friday Agreement. O’Malley’s answer can be seen on video here (fast forward to 1:20:00). Here’s what O’Malley said about further subpoenas:

“The Boston College study, which was a totally private, academic interest, here, the release of any more of the data in that I don’t believe will affect the peace process. I think that the accords are strong, I think there’s been now sixteen years of experience with them. So that the truth, or whatever is found in the Boston College study, will not cause anyone to repudiate the accords or go backwards.”

O’Malley went on to say that the arrest of Gerry Adams shows the need for the adoption of the Haass proposals, but the willful blindness of the first part of his answer negates any sense or value that the second part might have offered. The Boston College archives contain more than a hundred interviews with dozens of people who participated in loyalist and republican paramilitary organizations. Those interviews will necessarily contain detailed descriptions of serious violent action on both sides of the Troubles. And the State Department, represented here in the person of the soon-to-be-ambassador to Ireland, takes the position that the wholesale dumping of all of that sensitive material into the politics of Northern Ireland will have no affect on the peace process, because the peace is a virtually ancient and wholly secure sixteen years old. And then the second part of his answer acknowledges that no political framework has been established in Northern Ireland for managing questions about the past.

Compare the current view of this person nominated for a senior position in the State Department to the recent — and apparently repudiated — view once held by his soon-to-be-boss. John Kerry was certain in 2012 that a set of initial and relatively limited Boston College subpoenas were a threat to the peace process; now, apparently, not so much. Magic!

Ambassador-nominees are prepared for their confirmation hearings with a review of policy and a discussion of talking points. If Kevin O’Malley is telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the full release of all Belfast Project materials will have no effect on the peace process in Northern Ireland, he’s telling us the policy position of the U.S. government.

They are not paying attention.