Why The Deafening Media Silence On Suspected Bugging Of McIntyre Family?

Why The Deafening Media Silence On Suspected Bugging Of McIntyre Family?
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow
30 July 2014

Well over two months have passed since allegations surfaced that the home phones and internet connection of the McIntyre family in Drogheda, Co Louth may have been bugged and, in particular, that conversations between Carrie Twomey and members of the US embassy staff in Dublin were intercepted and their contents passed on to a journalist working for the Sunday World newspaper.

Since then there have been the following developments:

  • The Sunday World journalist’s source has been identified and, according to a well-placed informant, is believed to be the former IRA intelligence chief who, inter alia, masterminded the 2004 Northern Bank robbery, the theft of Special Branch secrets from Castlereagh RUC station in 2002 and organised the October 1996 bombing of Thiepval barracks, the Lisburn, Co Antrim HQ of the British Army. This figure now holds an position of influence in Sinn Fein and is a close confidante of SF President and Louth TD, Gerry Adams;
  • A complaint has been lodged with the Irish police, the Garda Siochana who are now investigating the alleged bugging;
  • Letters have been written by myself to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny asking him to monitor the Garda probe, to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, asking him to keep an eye on the affair and to John Kerry, US Secretary of State and Robert Menendez, US Senate Foreign Affairs chairman informing them of the allegation and in particular that US diplomatic staff were also bugged;
  • Both Kenny’s office and Micheal Martin’s offices have responded, the latter asking his NI spokesman Brendan Smith to take charge of the matter;
  • A question has been tabled about the affair in Dail Eireann by Brendan Smith. Initially directed at the Taoiseach it has now been steered towards the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald.

In addition there are rumors that the Provos have set up a dirty tricks unit specifically charged with handling the fallout from the Boston College affair, which includes a computer expert and the former IRA intelligence chief. A black propaganda unit has also allegedly been organised comprising a college lecturer, a former journalist and a figure once charged by the IRA with the task of vetting condemned informers’ confessions, whose task is to blacken the names of those involved in the Boston project. Just a rumour but one not without some substance.

Enough material there, one would have thought, to whet the appetite and interest of your average red-blooded journalist. After all, if true, the bugging could have been done on behalf of members of the next Irish government. If not, then how did the Sunday World acquire such intimate knowledge of the McIntyres’ affairs?

Except this is Ireland and apart from a smattering of coverage, like these two pieces in the Guardian which can be read here and here and a report in the BBC, the Irish media has by and large managed to completely ignore the story. And even the Guardian, the paper that bravely exposed the NSA’s dirty tricks and championed Wikileaks (at least initially), has gone silent about a potential scandal on its own doorstep that could plunge Ireland’s fastest growing political party into a Nixonian mire.

TRANSCRIPT: Boston Public Radio interviews Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney

Audio to be added

Boston Public Radio interviews Ed Moloney

Boston Public Radio
WGBH Radio 89.7FM
15 July 2014

Jim Braude (JB) and Margery Eagan (ME) interview journalist Ed Moloney (EM) the director of the Boston College oral history project about the impact of the fallout of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) subpoenas for the project’s archives.

(begins time stamp 0:30:40)

JB: We’re going to try to give you the latest developments and back story to the Boston College Belfast oral history project in maybe forty-five seconds or fewer.

For five years as you probably know BC collected interviews with those who were part of the sectarian violence that ruled Northern Ireland. These interviews were done with assurances given to the interviewees that everything would remain confidential.

But as you probably know in 2011, the federal government subpoenaed BC and ultimately the school handed over some of these interviews to the British authorities who are investigating the murder of a widowed mother of ten, Jean McConville, and ultimately resulted in the arrest of the leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, and threatened, according to many, a still fragile peace.

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen went to Belfast to follow-up on the repercussions of the oral history project run amok. Many of the participants feel that their lives are threatened. Kevin joined us last week fresh from his trip to Belfast.

And one of the arguments Cullen made was that BC, because of something called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the US and Britain, could have exercised political exemptions which would have enabled, according to Kevin, BC to resist the subpoena. The next day the Director of Public Relations from BC, Jack Dunn, joined us to dispute some of Cullen’s assertions.

And after that broadcast we heard from Ed Moloney. Ed’s the man who spearheaded and directed BC’s Belfast Project. He joins us possibly to set the record straight hopefully at least to better align it.

ED, welcome to Boston Public Radio – thanks for your time.

EM: My pleasure.

ME: Hi Ed, thanks for joining us. I just want to play a clip from Jack Dunn from Boston College who was on with us as Jim just said. And Jack Dunn said that the blame should be spread around for this terrible situation to many people including you. Let’s hear a piece of that sound:

(Audio clip played)

Jack Dunn:I think the blame for this should go to all those who were involved and the attempt by Mr. Moloney and Mr. McIntyre to deflect blame from themselves and put it on the hands of Boston College doesn’t hold up to the light of scrutiny.

(Audio clip ends)

ME: Do you think that’s an unfair statement, Ed Moloney?

EM:   I do. Yes, I do. Not surprisingly and not just because we’ve been on the receiving end of Jack Dunn’s tirades since this subpoena business started.

But there are valid reasons for thinking that we were misled by Boston College at a very crucial stage going into this project. When, if we had been treated properly and honestly, we would not have gone into this project…

JB: …Ed, let me be clear. Ed, if I can be clear. When you say misled…

EM: …Can I explain, please?

When we drew up the Donors contract, which is the contract that the interviewees would sign which guaranteed their confidentiality and said to them that they were the only people who would be allowed to open or read these interviews outside of Boston College until their deaths, I asked the Librarian at Boston College, Bob O’Neill, to run this wording past the college lawyer to make sure that we were in accordance with all our legal responsibility.

And I was given assurance that he would and that eventually that he did.

We have learned in the last few months or so, after three years of this subpoena fight, that in fact Bob O’Neill was lying to us. That he never ran the wording or the contract past the lawyers.

That the contract should have included wording which made it clear that there were legal limits as to confidentiality.

And I can assure you, and I’m talking on behalf not just of myself but also of Mr. McIntyre but also of Wilson MacArthur, who did the interviews for the Ulster Volunteer Force interviewees, that if that wording had been as it should have been put in as Bob O’Neill had a responsibility to ensure that it was put in we would not have participated in this project.

And we would not be sitting here today having this conversation. Sorry, now I interrupted you…

JB: …Oh, no, no, no. It’s fine. I’m glad as I was just going to ask you to explain and you did, Ed Moloney, who obviously was head of the project, you also contend – and we had this discussion in some depth with Jack Dunn when he was here last week – that Boston College didn’t fight hard enough, the subpoenas.

And for those who haven’t been paying attention to this: it was initiated by British authorities, went through the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and ultimately the subpoenas were issued.

Jack Dunn told us that he thought they fought as hard as they could. You’re not in the same place as he is, correct, sir?

EM: Oh, absolutely not.

I mean first of all when this whole thing started the signals from Boston College quite clearly, quite loudly were that they would have given up the interviews without any sort of legal fight.

I discovered the existence or the serving of the subpoena entirely by chance when a friend at Boston College rang me up to let me know that the subpoena had been served.

But also to warn me that I was not to endanger his privacy by revealing that I’d been told this by him because the atmosphere at the college was such that no one was going to know about the subpoenas except the college authorities which meant, essentially, that those who had been involved in the project, as well as the people who had given the interviews, would not know about these subpoenas except for this one phone call.

The first that we would have heard, I suspect, of the subpoenas, would have been when people were arrested in Belfast because I strongly suspect that Boston College was preparing to hand over these interviews until I got that phone call.

I then made repeated attempts to contact Nora Fields, who is one of the Boston College attorneys dealing with this, and was eventually told – and of course I only had one question to ask her really aside from asking: How on Earth this thing had happen? It wasn’t supposed to have happened.

But the main question after that would have been: Is Boston College going to fight?

The message I got back from her was that she did not want to speak to me. And that set the tone for the relationship between ourselves and Boston College ever since.

And it planted a very strong seed of suspicion in my mind in the minds of the other researchers that Boston College was getting ready to hand these interviews over. And because of that suspicion and to force Boston College’s hand I then leaked the story to The New York Times.

The New York Times had the story on the front page the very next day and within a few days Boston College had been obliged to hire a lawyer to resist and to fight the subpoenas.

But I wonder whether they would have ever taken on that lawyer if I had not taken the step of contacting The New York Times.

Then when we did get to the legal fight it went in front of Judge William Young at the federal district court in Boston. Boston College lost at that point.

Jack Dunn then announced to the world that Boston College would not be appealing – would not go to the First Circuit Court of Appeals – would not take it any higher than Judge Young.

Obviously what was open to Boston College was a route that went all the way to the Supreme Court if they could get there.

But no, they decided at that very early stage that they were going to give up.

We then, we who were the only ones who were really campaigning publicly, and this is against the background of Boston College trying to gag us, warning us that we’d be cut off from all flows of information if we continued going to the media with our campaign.

We created such a fuss that Boston College was obliged to go back into the fight.

Not to re-open the whole case but to fight on almost a technicality which was about the number of the interviews that had been handed over or were going to be handed over. Not the principle of handing over the interviews but the number of interviews that were to be handed over.

And Jack Dunn has dishonestly characterised that ever since as Boston College putting up a huge fight…

JB: …Well, let’s hear. I actually want people to hear. Actually if I can, Ed, I want to play what Jack said about that. We’re talking to Ed Moloney who was the director of BC’s Belfast Project.

Here is Dunn last week with us suggesting that BC did do everything it could do within the bounds of the law to protect the project.

Listen to him: (Audio clip played)

Jack Dunn: We fought a vigorous defence over two years and we won a significant court victory that protected some seventy-five to eighty interviews from being sent overseas.So Boston College did what it could legally. The criticism from Anthony McIntyre and project director Ed Moloney is that we didn’t do enough.

I think it’s a cultural divide, Margery. I think they don’t understand, particularly Anthony McIntyre who spent most of his life incarcerated in Northern Ireland, they don’t have respect for the legal system. We do. We engaged the legal system. The legal system rendered a verdict. We had to accept that verdict.But we won a significant court victory so the narrative that we didn’t do enough is specious.   (Audio clip ends)

ME: That was the voice of Jack Dunn. We spoke to him last week. He’s the representative of Boston College. Ed Moloney’s on the phone with us now. He’s the director of the Boston College Belfast Project.

Ed, it’s obvious that Boston College has taken a huge public relations hit in this whole situation. So what I don’t get is: What would be their motive? Why would they stonewall you like this? Why would they do what they did? You allege.

EM: Well, you’ll have to ask them that question. I cannot understand it for a moment.

I mean, one of the stories that I heard about the college president, Father Leahy, was that he had been a very strong critic of Cardinal Law over his handling of child sex allegations, paedophile allegations, related to the clergy in the Boston Diocese.

And that he had said that Cardinal Law should have listened to his heart and not to his lawyers so much.

Well in this case I think if Father Leahy had listened more to his heart and not to his lawyers we would not be in this situation now.

I think Father Leahy, if he had decided to fight this all the way, had mobilised all the resources that Boston College could have mobilised: all their alumni, all their political contacts, all their contacts throughout the rest of American academia – to make a real principled stand and fight as hard as you could all the way up to the Supreme Court to try to protect these interviewees who had taken a huge risk in giving Boston College a very valuable archive, an historically valuable archive and have been rewarded in this shameful fashion.

I think now Father Leahy would be a hero amongst American academia.

And instead, Boston College has been soiled by this affair not least by their utter failure to stand up for the rights of people who participate in research projects. This is an affair that’s going to have enormously negative implications for American academic research generally.

I mean who in their right mind now who let’s say is involved in a controversial episode in political life is going to take part in a research project such as this, an oral history project such as the one that we ran at Boston College, in any American university knowing that this is the way that you’re likely be treated at the end of the day?

ME: The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen offered a theory that we did this because of Britain’s help with us during the Iraq war – that they are our ally in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is there any credence to that do you think?

EM: I think there probably is.

I think a lot of people were struck by the fact that when Gerry Adams was being questioned by the PSNI at Antrim police station about the kidnapping and abduction and murder of Jean McConville, Abu Hamza was appearing in a New York federal district court charged with Al Qaeda-linked offences. And he had been extradited from the United Kingdom at the request of the US and I think you probably are seeing this working out.

But it’s an unthinking working out of this relationship, a quid pro quo relationship, because what the impact and the effect of the American decision to submit to these British requests is to undermine a peace process which was one of the very few diplomatic triumphs for peacemaking and peaceful negotiation undertaken by the United States in the last fifteen or twenty years.

It’s having a very negative effect. I think we can see that in the way that attitudes are hardening in Northern Ireland.

It’s becoming almost impossible now to get agreement on dealing with the past because a lot of Unionists, hardline Unionists, are rubbing their hands with glee and anticipation at the prospect of more dirt and prosecutions affecting the leadership of Sinn Féin, people who they are obliged to share power with and who they don’t like sharing power with and it’s having this very, very negative effect.

And that’s only happening because the American government is going along with this.

And whoever took these decisions in the Department of Justice just did not do minimum research into this.

If they had spent ten minutes on the internet researching the case of Jean McConville they would have realised that the police who started this hunt for the Boston College archive were fully aware that at the end of the day the road that they went down would lead to the door of Gerry Adams and that would have very calamitous, potentially calamitous, consequences for the peace process. They must have known that but why didn’t the American government, why didn’t the DOJ, why didn’t Carmen Ortiz discover these things?

JB: Ed Moloney, last question from me: Our first involvement with this topic on the radio was when we were talking to Tom O’Neill, son of (former Senator) Tip O’Neill. And Tom’s deeply involved in Boston College.

During that conversation, Anthony McIntyre, who’s name we’ve mentioned and with whom you’ve worked, and his wife, Carrie Twomey, called us from Northern Ireland during the discussion.

And Carrie Twomey specifically said, as did many of the people with whom Kevin Cullen met when he was in Belfast a couple of weeks ago, that they really feared for their lives because of the release of these documents.

Do you think those fears are well-founded?

EM: Oh, absolutely! There’s no doubt in my mind that the people who have been exposed as a result of these subpoenas are under a threat of death.

I mean, it is the rule inside the IRA – and make no mistake the IRA still exists as an organisation – it is a rule inside the IRA that if you are caught betraying the organisation’s secrets then you are liable to be killed under the justice system that the IRA upholds. And that’s not something that one can take very lightly.

And I’m not suggesting for a moment that someone’s going to knock on Anthony McIntyre’s door and put a bullet in his head. But he could be walking down the street one day when someone pushes him into the path of an oncoming car. That’s the sort of danger that we’re facing as well as the direct danger and threat of violence.

So yes, I am taking it very, very seriously indeed. And everyone who knows the situation in Northern Ireland knows how vindictive the leadership of this organisation can be in these circumstances.

Don’t forget these tapes have led to the arrest and embarrassment of one of their iconic leaders. You cannot treat these things lightly.

JB: Ed, I said it was the last question – this one really is the last question as we only have a couple of seconds. Dunn, when he was here said everybody shares some of the blame. BC – and I’m paraphrasing – BC made some mistakes, too. Obviously you don’t think “some” is not the appropriate adjective there.

Do you take any responsibility personally at all for the mess, any share of the mess that this thing’s evolved into?

EM: The thing I regret above all else was leaving research of the legal situation entirely to the Boston College end.

I think that was a mistake because it left us open. We were too trusting. We took people’s word and the consequences of that is what we’re living with now I’m afraid.

JB: Ed Moloney, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

EM:   Okay.

ME: Thank you for being with us. Ed Moloney was the director of the Belfast Project.

(ends time stamp 0:48:00)


TRANSCRIPT: Boston Public Radio interviews Boston College Spokesman Jack Dunn

Boston Public Radio interviews Jack Dunn
Boston Public Radio
WGBH Boston, MA
10 July 2014


Jim Braude (JB) and Margery Eagan (ME) interview Jack Dunn (JD) the Director of Public Relations for Boston College about the impact of the fallout from Boston College tapes subpoenas.

(begins time stamp 1:37:45)

JB: For five years as part of an ambitious oral history project Boston College collected more than forty interviews with former militants who were part of the sectarian violence that ravaged Northern Ireland.

These interviews were done with assurances from those who did them that everything would remain confidential. But in 2011, the federal government subpoenaed BC telling them to hand over some of these interviews to British authorities who were investigating the murder Jean McConville.

Ultimately, BC decided to return everything to the people who participated in the project. This however has not put an end to anything.

The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen who was with us yesterday, went to Belfast to follow-up on the repercussion of the oral history project run amok. Many of the participants feel their lives are threatened.

Today joining us for a different angle on the same story is Jack Dunn. Jack is the Director of News and Public Affairs at Boston College. Jack, it’s good to see you.

JD: Thank you for having me.

ME: We’d like to point out how wonderful it is that Jack would come in from his vacation on Cape Cod to come up and talk to us about this.

You know Jack Dunn, the Belfast Project was a great idea, seemed like a great idea to get these histories. But then of course you were subpoenaed by the Department of Justice, Boston College was, to turn the information over although the people that ran the project gave these confidentiality assurances to the people that they interviewed.

Why did you do it? Reporters all the time get subpoenaed by the government to turn in sources. They don’t do it. Why did Boston College do it?

JD: Because academic institutions don’t have the same protections that journalists have and this case has underscored that.

I think it’s astounding that the narrative has been established that Boston College somehow was forced to comply with the subpoena. We’re an academic institution and number one: We don’t burn academic records as Anthony McIntyre has suggested. We don’t burn research. We don’t destroy…

JB: …Anthony McIntyre, one the the leaders of the project. And by the way he and his wife, we’ll hear from them in a minute, called in from Northern Ireland a couple of months ago when we were discussing this. But go ahead, Jack, I’m sorry.

JD: We were faced with two federal subpoenas.

We fought a vigorous defence over two years and we won a significant court victory that protected some seventy-five to eighty interviews from being sent overseas.

So Boston College did what it could legally. The criticism from Anthony McIntyre and project director Ed Moloney is that we didn’t do enough.

I think it’s a cultural divide, Margery. I think they don’t understand, particularly Anthony McIntyre who spent most of his life incarcerated in Northern Ireland, they don’t have respect for the legal system. We do. We engaged the legal system. The legal system rendered a verdict. We had to accept that verdict.

But we won a significant court victory so the narrative that we didn’t do enough is specious.

ME: But one thing on that: There is no reporter shield law in Massachusetts, some states have them lots of states don’t. There’s no federal shield law either.

So many reporters, I mean some of my colleagues when faced with a subpoena from the government have said: Well, I’m not going to give up my source. I’m going to go to gaol.

JB: James Risen from The New York Times who was with us a couple of months ago in the same situation…

ME: Right. An almost inevitably the government backs down. You chose not to back down at Boston College.

JD: We chose to fight the court – to fight through the courts.

We attempted to quash both sets of subpoenas and we fought a vigorous two year defence that won a significant court victory.

In fact, the Department of Justice was furious that Judge William Young of the federal court here in Boston even heard this case. They said that given the MLAT treaty, the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, a college had no right to infringe upon that treaty claiming that it had some degree of academic freedom that it was trying to preserve.

So we won a victory for academic research. It wasn’t a full victory but it was a significant victory for the enterprise of academic research.

JB: (quips) You know Margery and I, as I’m sure you know, Jack Dunn, are experts on treaty law. I’m sure you’ve a …(all laugh)

Yesterday when Kevin Cullen was here he brought something to our attention and frankly I wasn’t aware of it and obviously I’m kidding and you may be…I’m sure you are…

He said that this treaty that you’re describing has political exemptions – that if there are political prosecutions.

And he says the potential prosecution of Gerry Adams, who obviously was arrested and interviewed for a handful of days, arrested by Northern Ireland’s standards – not formally charged with a crime – interviewed for days that that clearly in his mind would have been a political prosecution and you could have claimed the exemption which would have caused you to have been able to resist this subpoena.

One: Did you? And if you didn’t why didn’t you?

JD: That’s Kevin’s contention. I have great respect for Kevin. I think in terms of American journalists he’s the most versed on Irish affairs.

The MLAT Treaty, the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that exists between the United States and Great Britain, is on criminal activity and the treaty was invoked because of the horrific abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of ten who was…

JB: …widowed mother of ten.

JD: …Sure. Who was taken right in front of her kids from her home in Belfast, brought across the border, shot in the back of the head and buried in a beach.

So it was the MLAT treaty on criminal activity, this particular horrific crime, that was invoked. So while Kevin claims, and I’m sure he’s right that there’s a political exemption, there was no exemption for the criminal activity of the murder of Jean McConville.

JB: Let’s just get back to the line of questioning that Margery was involved in a minute ago: Taking everything you’ve said in response as legit, were there internal discussion about non-compliance?

You fought as hard as you could. As you say, you believe you protected as much as one possibly could – whatever you said, seventy-five percent.

Were there discussions with the president and others saying: Hey, listen, even though we’ve done as much as we can legally, we have to protect academic research. This could do great damage not just to us but to whole notion of oral histories and that sort of thing. Other people in the future might be more resistant – maybe after Iraq or Afghanistan or something else – may be more resistant to participating in something like this.

Were there those discussions?

JD: There were. We considered every opportunity, every option and we determined that this was our best course of action.

Simultaneously, we worked with the State Department to try to secure some relief from the State Department, from the United States government, because the United States government had invested so much in this peace process.

But ultimately, given the climate post-9/11, there seemed to be no desire in Washington to appear to be coddling terrorist activity and the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force are terrorist organisations.

So there was no sense in Washington that people wanted to help.

The courts did what they could. We did the best possible…we did as well as we could on behalf of oral history by fighting through the courts and that was the best outcome we thought we could achieve.

JB: You know, one of the things we discussed with Kevin and obviously going home – you read the piece and you’ve discussed the piece when he went to Belfast about the fear that some people lived through…I mentioned that when Tommy O’Neill, is he currently on the Board of BC? (Ed Note: The Board of Trustees for Boston College)

JD: He’s a “Trustee Associate”.

JB: “Trustee Associate” at BC. We were talking to Tommy O’Neill about this. After we hung up with him a couple of months ago actually Anthony McIntyre and as I said and his wife, Carrie Twomey called in.

Here’s what Twomey said, the wife, question put as to whether or not they feel that their lives have been put in danger by information Here’s what Carrie Twomey, the wife, said that their lives have been put in danger by disclosure of this information:

(Audio clip played)

Carrie Twomey: When graffiti such as “Informer Republican Boston College Touts” goes on the walls of the Falls Road which has happened this morning – Yes, we are at risk. And it’s not just us, my family, my husband and my children that are at risk it is all the people that participated very bravely in this project. (Audio clip ends)

JB: I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know what the word “tout” ’til Kevin explained it to us – it’s a snitch is what we talk about.

JB: Yes.

JB: When you hear that, even again if you think you’ve done everything you can, what do you and your colleagues at BC feel when there are people who legitimately feel their lives are at risk because of this?

JD: The reality of this case is that the project director, Ed Moloney, signed a contract with the Burns Librarian at Boston College to conduct this archive project in which the contract stated specifically that confidentiality would be limited to the extent that American law would allow.

As part of the court records one can easily find the facts that Bob O’Neill sent to Ed Moloney saying I cannot guarantee, for example, that this would withstand a federal subpoena if one were to be issued.

The reality that Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Moloney don’t share is that no one thought it would come to this.

Given the investment of the Irish government, the British government and the American government in forging the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 no one thought that the Police Service of Northern Ireland would ever take this step.

JB: Yeah, but the guy from your own library is quoted in one of the earlier stories by Peter Schworm saying it wasn’t even run by the lawyers at BC. You have some regret about that I assume?

JD: There were mistakes that were made but the biggest mistake from our perspective was that Anthony McIntyre gave assurances of confidentiality to the interviewees that he was in no position to make. That it an issue that hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves. It’s important…

JB: …By the way McIntyre, I think, disagrees with you. Here is McIntyre when he called us about the issue whether or not he was promised complete secrecy. Here’s Anthony McIntyre:

(Audio clip played)

Anthony McIntyre: (They were very,very) clear that there were no circumstances under which this material could be handed over without the approval of the interviewee. There was no room for ambiguity on this. (Audio clip ends)

JB: Is he wrong?

JD: He’s absolutely wrong. And it’s important to note that it was Anthony McIntyre who spoke with the IRA interviewees. No one from Boston College ever spoke with any of the interviewees. I don’t even know who they are.

JB: But they worked for you…

JD: No, they didn’t. McIntyre was hired by project director Ed Moloney to conduct interviews…

JB: …Yeah, but it’s a BC project, Jack, I mean it isn’t like there’s…

JD: …True. I agree. And I’m not trying to….people at Boston College who were involved made their share of mistakes.

But it was clearly the mistake of the project director and Anthony McIntyre who gave assurances of confidentiality that they were in no position to give.

ME: You know Jack Dunn from Boston College, you’re the spokesman for Boston College you’re I guess we could call it somewhat in the PR business and you think about optics and how things look. Suppose it had been different? Suppose…Father Leahy is still the president of Boston College?

JD: Yes.

ME: Suppose Father Leahy had gotten on the steps up there in Chestnut Hill and said:

We have a very fragile peace process in Northern Ireland. If we release this information people’s lives will be at stake, the process that we spent decades trying to achieve could totally fall apart. I’m standing here on behalf of Boston College. I will go to gaol rather than turn these over.

The President of Boston College with the political power of the Irish in Massachusetts, the Irish in Boston, the Democrats…

What do you think would have happened? I know what would have happened.

The Department of Justice would have backed down.

Just like the government backed down in almost every situation I can think of when a reporter said “I will go to gaol” because the government looks like a big bully.

And I guess, maybe not Leahy – maybe you could have gone to gaol – but you know what I mean?

What would have happened if BC had dug in its heels and made that statement and said: We are protecting the citizens of the peace process and the citizens who gave their confidential information whose lives are at stake?

JD: Again, we sought through diplomatic channels to achieve that end.

I don’t think it needed to be as public and dramatic as you stated. We sought through diplomatic channels to achieve that end but there is no appetite in Washington right now to appear to be coddling terrorist activity of any form and that’s the and that’s the reality in Washington post-9/11.

JB: Was one of the diplomatic channels John Kerry?

JD: I don’t think it’s fair for me to say specifically who it involved but I think it’s easy…John Kerry has a connection to Boston College and so he is one of many people that the college reached out to to seek their assistance.

ME: And you think when we talk about terrorists in 2014 – I don’t think we’re talking about the IRA in the 1970’s in Ireland. Do you think they’re all lumped together?

JD: I do.

That was our sense when seeking assistance from Washington that there was no appetite to protect any form of terrorism.

JB: Jack, last thing from me and then you can return to vacation: Here’s a piece from Kevin’s column on Sunday – I guess it was reporting of the prior Sunday – “Boston College meanwhile, did more than any American university to engage both the political and civil society on both sides of the Irish border.”

I think there’s a consensus well beyond Kevin there’s no American university that’s been more important in the history of The Troubles and beyond.

“BC has hosted” …..This is Kevin still… “BC has hosted hundreds of politicians, journalists, civil servants, and peacemakers from Northern Ireland over the years. But, in all this bitter recrimination the Boston brand has suffered in Ireland.”

So again, even if you think as you said – we made some mistakes, everybody did, we did the best we could under the circumstances – how do you, the president, how do people react to that? I mean that’s real that there is…He has the great line from Anthony McIntyre…the horrible line from Anthony McIntyre at the end of his piece saying: I can’t even listen to More Than a Feeling by Boston, the band, because I don’t want anything with “Boston”.

I mean there is some…a negative impact in a place I know you all care a lot about about BC.

JD: The history of Boston College has been inextricably linked with Ireland and Northern Ireland. We were heavily involved in securing the Good Friday Agreement.

In fact our conflict negotiators, one of our Jesuit priests, was involved in bringing the sides to the table, our political scientists worked closely to help form the new government by telling people how to share power.

So we have been heavily involved in that and I think our reputation is solid. People understand that we hired individuals who weren’t the best fit for us to conduct a project to reside in our library to provide a resource for historians.

Mistakes were made. Things happened that people didn’t think would happen.

So if the BC brand has suffered then we’ll re-double our efforts to improve that brand and to do the work that we’ve always done moving forward that puts BC in the spotlight as being America’s leading university in Ireland.

But again, I think the blame for this should go to all those who were involved and the attempt by Mr. Moloney and Mr. McIntyre to deflect blame from themselves and put it on the hands of Boston College doesn’t hold up to the light of scrutiny.

ME: Jack Dunn, thank you for coming. I’m sure this has been a fun couple of days talking about this especially during your vacation and I appreciate it very much your coming in.

JD: Thanks for having me.

ME: Jack Dunn is the Director of News and Public Affairs at Boston College.

Kinda makes you miss Ted Kennedy, doesn’t it, Jim?

JB: Boy, does it ever!

(ends time stamp 1:52:00)

TRANSCRIPT: Boston Public Radio interview with Kevin Cullen

Boston Public Radio interview with Kevin Cullen
9 July 2014

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen talked about his recent trip to Belfast and the simmering tensions in that city over an oral history project at Boston College.

Starts 1:28.05

Jim Braude (JB) and Margery Eagan (ME) interview Kevin Cullen (KC), The Boston Globe columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of the book, Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, about the effects the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s subpoenas for the Boston College tapes have had in Ireland – not only on individuals but on the peace process itself.


JB: It’s a complicated geo-political who-done-it that could have been plucked straight out of John le Carré’s imagination: A political leader celebrated for brokering peace among political foes gets arrested for a murder that happened over forty years ago and the arrest is based on information that was supposed to remain under lock and key.

That’s the real life story of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams but this is just the beginning of a story that is still unfolding and reverberating from the Boston College campus all the way to Belfast.

The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen picks up where we and most other media have left off. He’s been in Belfast reporting on how the Boston College oral history project betrayed a promise of secrecy and in turn has threatened a very vulnerable process. Kevin good to see you.

KC: Good to see both of you.

ME: Well, thanks so much for coming in, Kevin. As Jim just said the information here was all supposed to be under lock and key. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

So tell people that haven’t followed this story what The Belfast Project is – what the idea was.

KC: It happened Margery in sort of the heady days after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 effectively ended what the Irish in their penchant for understatement called “The Troubles” – the war in Northern Ireland.

And BC was very influential in the peace process. They went out of their way to host people from Northern Ireland – both civil society but also paramilitaries.

I remember when the Loyalists called – the Protestant paramilitaries – called off their armed struggle in 1994 the very first place six of them came to talk about it in America was Boston College. So Boston College has always been invested in the peace process and very much involved in Ireland.

So somebody at BC had the bright idea: Hey, why don’t we start an oral history project?

And what we’ll do is take the oral histories of people that fought the war – the combatants – both on the Republican side, that would have been the Irish Republican Army, and on the Loyalist side in this case, the Ulster Volunteer Force. So in that respect it was sort of a noble and inspired idea.

And I can tell you that knowing people at BC and listening to them explain themselves they never believed for a minute that what they compiled would then be sought by people in law enforcement.

Now I personally think that’s extremely naive knowing the political nature of policing.

Policing in Northern Ireland was always what the issue was.

I mean when the war, as we would call it, really broke out in the late 60’s it was because civil rights demonstrators on the Catholic/Nationalist side were literally beaten off the streets by police.

If the police had done their job it never would have happened.

So policing is still political. It’s very political.

When Ed Moloney, who BC hired to direct the project, wrote a book and more or less told the world: Hey! By the way we have all these interviews with these guys…

And in this case, Brendan Hughes – who is now dead, said that Gerry Adams ordered the abduction, murder and secret burial of a woman named Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten – that was see ya later!

Then the cops – it was only a matter of time before the cops went after them as far as I’m concerned.

JM: Before we get back to the naievté of BC and what they should do, Kevin Cullen, what representations did BC make to the participants in this project about the confidentiality, about the secrecy of the documents, the interviews – all that sort of thing?

KC: If you look at the actual agreements I think BC did not promise more than it could deliver in some respects.

The problem is it got lost in translation over the Atlantic Ocean.

Everybody who spoke to them, and I just was in Belfast and interviewed a number of people who gave oral histories, they were absolutely guaranteed. There were, absolutely.

In their minds, nothing would ever pry this out of the hands of BC until they were dead. And then if you look at the papers, and Boston College has shown them I mean Jack Dunn has waved it for everyone to see.

JB: Spokesperson for BC..

KC: He said that: Look here, it says that BC will protect it as far as American law will allow.

But this is also where we really get into muddy ground here, Jim.

Because the police – and then the British authorities – contacted the Justice Department citing a treaty that the UK and the US signed saying that if we have information for them in criminal matters that we will turn it over to them and vice versa. It’s a two-way street.

But there is a political exception in there.

It makes clear, this treaty says if they are political offences or there could be political ramifications then either government could opt out.

And clearly this was political. There was politics all over this.

When the leader of the largest Nationalist party in Ireland is the target of a criminal investigation – that is political – by any definition.

So I don’t think this thing should have been turned over.

ME: So the reason this all is in the news right now – and I assume part of the reason you went over to Belfast to do this great story you did about the repercussions in Belfast – is because in May the leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, was arrested. Now what was that about?

KC: He was arrested. In the UK and in Ireland in those jurisdictions arrest is not what we think of it.

When you’re arrested in America you are charged. It’s one in the same.

In Ireland and the UK when you’re arrested you’re arrested for questioning.

And he was held for four days of detention. He says he was interviewed thirty-three separate times over a period of ninety-six hours and that they kept coming back – everything that they talked to him about was based on things that was told to BC researchers.

So Gerry Adams came out of there and very publicly rubbished the Boston College project, said that Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre were biased, that the history they compiled was biased because they were opposed to Adams and the way he handled it.

And Adams has some legitimate points frankly on that thing.

But the other thing – and I really did pick this up when I was in Belfast talking to all these old IRA veterans – they were saying: Hey! Wait a minute. When people say this is not a legitimate history it is – it’s our history – and we are not in with the Sinn Féin leadership – no one will tell our story – so it is important that we put down what we say we experienced and what we thought of the whole conflict.

And frankly most of these guys, which I think is the other interesting thing, they’re not saying: Oh, we gave up too easy and we compromised.

These guys are saying: The war was not worth it for what we settled for.

If you’re an Irish Republican you can’t call yourself an Irish Republican and recognise the partition of your country – it’s just mutually exclusive. And so they have legitimate points of views, too.

The thing that I did…and the whole idea…it was Mark Morrow’s idea, the editor…not my idea to go over there…just said see what the feel is on the ground and what I sensed is people in some respects are very afraid.

JB: What’s a “tout”?

KC: A tout is just the local idiom for “informer”.

And it is a very loaded term in that culture and that’s what happened…I think you’ve probably seen the photographs of it…

ME: …Yes.

KC: …that right after Gerry Adams was arrested people started painted on the gable walls – either a whitewash or a black on a white wall – and it said: “Boston College Touts”. Now that’s a very loaded term.

And believe me, it’s directed at Anthony McIntyre. It’s directed at a guy like Tommy Gorman, an IRA veteran who was publicly identified as giving an interview. It’s directed at Ricky O’Rawe.

It’s directed at a number of guys that gave interviews. As they told me they are afraid because when you get called a tout in Ireland you very often end up dead.

JB: You know speaking of Anthony McIntyre we were discussing this whole project with a former board member actually – I don’t know if he’s still on the board (Ed Note: The Board of Trustees for Boston College) – Tommy O’Neill – a couple of months ago on the radio and Anthony McIntyre and his wife, Carrie Twomey, actually called us from Northern Ireland and he did say to us that he feared for his life.

Here’s what else he said: This is Anthony McIntyre describing how BC, in his opinion, failed to protect the archives from the British authorities:

(Audio sound bite from the interview is played)

Anthony McIntyre: What the Boston College staff needed to do was to protect an endangered archive by getting it out of its custody immediately and sending it over to my custody whereby I would insure its protection….So Boston College left an endangered archive on its campus, vulnerable to the second subpoena, and so it did not do what it could have done.

(Audio sound bite ends)

JB: You know speaking of what Anthony McIntyre just said, Kevin Cullen from The Boston Globe: “sending it over to my custody”. They didn’t do it when McIntyre would have liked it to have been done. They did it after the cat was out of the bag.

You open your piece this week with this beautiful story of this guy who gets a FedEx package. Tell that story for us please and what he does with it.

KC: That’s Ricky. Ricky O’Rawe. Ricky was actually one of the “blanketmen” in the IRA; when they were demanding political status they refused to wear prison uniforms – they wrapped themselves in a blanket.

Ricky was also the spokesman for the hunger strikers in 1981 and was very close to Bobby Sands, the first hunger striker who died.

Ricky got his stuff back when BC said we’ll give it back if you want it. He goes: Send it back!

So it went to his lawyer’s office. He picked it up. He didn’t know quite what to do with it and then he said: Am I going to hold it? Am I gonna give it to my kids?

And then when the police announced, under I think under political pressure, they wanted everything – not just stuff related to Jean McConville – they wanted everything in the file – the whole archive – that’s when Ricky said he opened a bottle of fine Bordeaux, he goes: I lit a nice fire and then he goes: it was a nice Bordeaux it was a nice fire, too.

JB: Very, very good!

KC: A funny thing – I didn’t put this in the story – but I said before I said…because he told me the story, I said: You know Ricky if I put that in the paper you could be found in contempt of court. He goes: I am in contempt of that court!

ME: Is Ricky, who had his nice fire – is he assured this is the only copy of these tapes? That’s what I was thinking to myself.

KC: That’s a good question, Margery.

ME: You know, he burned them and hoping they’re done but…

KC: That’s a good question. He was mad, too, because his stuff – he said he knew nothing about the McConville case because he was in Ballymurphy and that was done by the Lower Falls unit – that would be Company D in the Lower Falls for the IRA – so he didn’t know anything about it.

So he didn’t know why his stuff was turned over to the court in the first place. So Judge Young has seen Ricky’s stuff.

ME: We’re talking with The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen who has written this fantastic piece about the reaction in Belfast to this whole…the arrest of Gerry Adams back in May and the allegations that he was involved in the murder of Jean McConville.

Kevin, tell people about Jean McConville. You didn’t get into this in your story but this is a really horrifying story – what happened to her.

KC: It might be the most – one of the most horrific, I mean there were more than thirty-five hundred people killed in what we call “The Troubles” and hers is one of the most disturbing.

It was 1972.

1972 was actually the bloodiest year of The Troubles – more than five hundred people were killed and we’re talking about a place roughly the size of Connecticut with about 1.5 million people. And she was accused of being an informer. It’s very, very murky.

She was a Protestant. She married a Catholic guy and so she was suspect in that – she would have been seen as a “Prod” or one of “them” – and that was all suspicious.

So anyway she was abducted…she was dragged from her…in front of her kids…

ME: …And the husband was dead already.

KC: …Yeah. He had died the year before.

ME: So she was the only support of these ten children.

KC: That’s it! And they described…I mean I talked to one of her sons who described that they were literally holding on to her leg as the IRA guys were dragging her out of the house. And those kids were scattered – like so many orphans – all over the place and had very tough lives after that.

Now obviously what was unusual about the Jean McConville case is that in…you know, Jim asked about ”touts”…

And touts were, informers were very, very publicly humiliated and executed and left in the side of the road for people to see.

But I think somebody in the IRA decided killing a widowed mother of ten might look a little bad.

So what they decided to do was they shot her and then they buried her on a beach in County Louth on the Irish Republic side of the border because I guess somebody in the IRA decided this would just look too bad if we are blamed for this murder.

And so the IRA actively promoted the myth that she had just run off to England with somebody – that she couldn’t take the stress of having ten kids and no husband. They did not find her body until 2003. And like I said it’s always been one of the most horrific deaths of The Troubles.

That said, the police did absolutely nothing to solve that murder.

They never interviewed anybody. They never opened a file. They never did anything.

It’s only when the Boston College tapes became aware somebody in the police said: Hey! We can go after Adams.

Now I’ve always questioned: What’s the evidentiary value? This stuff was not given with warning. It was not taken under oath. It’s just people telling stories. And there’s no way to verify most of this information – it’s just “he says she says”.

Adams says the people that have been publicly identified as saying he was involved in the murder of Jean McConville, one being Brendan Hughes, “The Dark”, who was a very famous IRA guy and very close to Adams actually during their time in the IRA, and then Dolours Price, who has also died, she claims that she actually when to get to drive Jean McConville to her interrogators who killed her.

So Adams says these are just political enemies, people that fell out with him and they figured the best way they could get back at him is to try and pin a murder on him. So that’s what he says.

JB: We’re talking to Kevin Cullen who has written a wonderful piece in The Globe about what he’s calling “The New Troubles”. You know, staying the the Adams thing for a minute…

ME: …Before we leave that story I just want to tell one quick story because I happened to be over in Dublin when Adams was arrested and you saw the children interviewed constantly on television – Jean McConville’s surviving children.

And one of the things they talked about which shows the level of terror: that some of their neighbours, they claim anyway, where they lived, were involved in abducting their mother but because they were so afraid for their own lives – some of the people were hooded and masked and some of them weren’t – they never told who those neighbours were because they were afraid they’d be killed if they did.

KC: I’ve heard Michael McConville say that.

JB: You know Kevin, for those of us naive enough to think that this was over – a couple of things come to mind.

One, I think you wrote, I think it was you who wrote at the time of the Adams’ arrest, whatever an arrest means – you described a couple of minutes ago – there were questions: If it turns out they legitimately – the police there – legitimately thought this was worth investigating forty years after the fact, why was only one side’s leaders…

KC: Correct.

JB: I assume that is the talk.

KC: Oh, yeah!

JB: Is why Adams and why not people on the other side of this conflict.

KC: Exactly! Like I said I think that’s why the police launched this “we want the whole thing” – because they were being criticised as being very selective in their prosecution.

JB: But that hasn’t changed…

KC: No, it hasn’t in the sense that the idea – and I put it in my story – while the police want these BC records they are refusing to turn over their own records to the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland who is trying to investigate at least sixty cases of police and military collusion in the murder of what would be mostly Catholics/Nationalists.

One, which really intrigued me, one of those sixty murders the Ombudsman wants is of an RUC man, a police officer, and there’s allegations that his own people set him up to be killed by the IRA.

It’s very explosive stuff but the cops won’t turn that stuff over.

The other thing, Jim, about this whole thing it just shows that we are in a post-conflict society and they don’t know truth and reconciliation.

They don’t know how to get there. They don’t know how to find truth.

The sad part is I think the BC thing was a very idealistic idea to get this out there and then thirty or forty years historians would see this stuff. Unfortunately, people found out about it and it became this political football that will not go away.

JB: Well let me continue my naiveté – beyond the lives of the individuals who feel threatened as touts or whatever it is, you write: “Some worry the personal disputes, and fear of potential prosecutions, that the BC interviews have given rise to could do serious damage to Northern Ireland’s hard-won, much-admired, but still-evolving and ever-fragile peace process.”

So the trickle-down or trickle-up or trickle-sideways implications of this disclosure are huge – well beyond the lives of the individuals.

KC: And the dissent groups there are basically riddled with informers themselves – the police do a fairly good job on them.

But you know what they’ve been trying to do in recruiting kids who know nothing about this stuff – to get fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year old kids who are just angry – and they don’t like growing up with – they’ve been recruiting them on the grounds that: Hey, nothing has changed. The Brits are still lying to us.

And say Adams is charged with this crime and is brought to trial I can guarantee you there’s going to be real political fallout – there’s going to be problems – there’s going to be more people going to the dissident groups because they’ll be able to say: See! Nothing has changed.

And it also allows the dissidents to go back at Sinn Féin and say: You guys bought this hook, line and sinker from the Brits. Nothing has changed. They go after us. They don’t go after their own people that do things wrong. So there’s an awful lot at stake here.

Now there is another case involved: Ivor Bell, who was an IRA Commander, who actually had a big falling out with Gerry Adams in the mid-80’s and was more or less drummed out of the IRA.

He has been arrested and is still facing trial for his involvement and the allegation in court was he was charged based on evidence that was included in the BC archive.

So this is serious stuff.

JB: You know as the only non-Irishman in the studio at the moment and not a life-long Bostonian like you guys…well, you’re a Fall River kid who became a Bostonian…

KC: …Same thing.

JB: I have to say I’m pretty proud of the role as you described it Boston played in this whole thing but you end your story about saying how tarnished the reputation of Boston…

You quote Anthony McIntyre – you were talking about him saying he was listening to the radio and the song More Than a Feeling by Boston, the group, came up. He said it used to be one of my favourite songs but when it came on the other day I was like: Screw it. I hate it. I don’t like anything that has “Boston” in it.

What is the spillover in terms of Boston’s reputation?

KC: I think first of all BC always had a very good reputation particularly in The North but also in the Republic of Ireland as a “player” – as a force for good – as an honest broker – whatever you want to call it.

And there’s no doubt that that image has been tarnished.

Everywhere I went in Ireland people asked me the same question: Why did BC give up the records? Why didn’t they fight?

JB: What was your answer to them?

KC: My answer is: I don’t know. Because I mean, Jack Dunn and other people at BC have publicly stated they couldn’t be in violation of a court order.

But our great friend, Harvey Silverglate, has made it very clear that why couldn’t Father Leahy or somebody at BC come out on the stairs and say: You will get these things over my dead body and if you want to put me in gaol – put me in gaol.

JB: Speaking of that by the way – let me read Harvey’s quote which I think was quite great, I dunno, a month or two ago – he says – he talks about it – if an academic institution’s going to get involved in this – he says:

“it is better that an academic institution not agree to exert control over them.” (If you’re not going to protect them.) And then his line, his takeaway, is: “that should be left to individuals willing to risk the consequences of adhering to conscience.” – which is pretty heavy.

ME: Like a reporter in a way with a source, right?

KC: Marjery, you and I both know that – Manna from Heaven! Imagine if we got thrown in the can?

ME: No. I can’t. I can’t! (all laugh)

KC: No, seriously! (quips) First of all, you know it’s not that bad down at Nashua Street anymore…

ME: Oh, jeez…speak for yourself!

KC: No, but say I got throw in the can. I’d be a hero. I’d be celebrated. I’d probably get a bonus. (quips) Well no, I probably wouldn’t get a bonus – but then again…(all laugh)

No, seriously people would say – and there’s no doubt I would go to the can – I mean I’ve been brought in – it’s never got to the push to shove – but I’ve had cops coming after my notes before on murders and stuff…

JB: So speculate about why….

KC: …I don’t know. Like I said I think it’s cultural like Harvey says. I think people in academia aren’t willing to go that extra mile whereas I think journalists not only are willing to do it they would welcome it because it would be – you’d stand up for your principles and say: I am not a gatherer of information for a law enforcement agency!

JB: Well how about then Carmen Ortiz – you mentioned this political exemption a couple of minutes ago to this treaty – so the police there contact the United States government saying we want this information. Based on your interpretation of this treaty, Kevin…

KC: They should have said “no”. They could have.

JB: Ortiz could have said – either – what’s his name…

KC: …Holder. It was Holder’s call.

JB: Eric Holder or then in turn, Ortiz, could say we’re not issuing these subpoenas.

Why didn’t they do that?

KC: I can only speculate that after ten years of standing with us in Iraq and Afghanistan we basically – somebody in Washington said: we owe the Brits this.

I do not think they looked at this very closely.

As other people have written and as I’ve have suggested in some columns, we’re actually undermining American diplomacy by doing this.

The Americans spent billions of dollars and untold political capital – poor George Mitchell had to live there for God’s sake for about five years and get this thing done. And frankly it’s been something that – it started with the Clinton Administration but Bush did a good job with it, too. They’ve stayed right with it.

Richard Haass, who is Bush’s person, is still deeply involved and is still trying to help them get past some of the legacy issues.

And yet we, our own government, basically facilitates something like this that can undermine what we just spent a generation accomplishing. It makes no sense to me and I can only speculate that it was the people who made the decision made it on: They’re our allies – they want it – we’ll give it.

One thing I think is also interesting – when John Kerry was Senator John Kerry he thought this was a terrible idea…

ME: …The BC? The Project?

KC: This whole going after the files…

ME: …Oh, going after the files, okay.

KC: He was opposed to it.

He publicly…I actually wrote a column quoting John saying: This is wrong. It undermines American diplomacy.

Then John Kerry becomes Secretary of State – nada!

JB: Has he said nothing?

KC: He hasn’t said anything about it.

ME: Well, you’ve partially already answered my last question but I’ll ask you anyway: Because so many people in Ireland as you well know are worried about the peace being broken and there being a return to what there was – let’s hope not – many years ago but is there any sort of “higher authority” kind of trying to mediate things and intervene so that the peace…?

KC: Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan from Harvard. She’s over there, too. They have been, for the last year, have been trying to help the people in Northern Ireland confront their legacy issues which also involve triumphalist marching which we’re going to see in the next week…

ME: …Triumphalist marching?

KC: The Orangemen. That’s The Orange Order. It’s a fraternal organisation. Protestants.

They want to march through neighbourhoods where they’re not welcome basically.

And that’s an issue – and Nationalists say they have the right to say “no” – Orangemen say they have the right to march what they call the Queen’s Highway.

It’s an issue that won’t go away.

And I can guarantee you…what day is it? In a week they’ll be stories all over the place. You guys will have it on the NPR News of fights and all kinds of crap breaking out in Northern Ireland. It’s an annual ritual of sort of tribalism that hasn’t gone away.

I know Haass is very – I haven’t talked to him personally, but I’ve talked to somebody just last week who works with him – and said he’s utterly frustrated that the Irish can’t seem to get beyond these issues.

Now you have to remember that Northern Ireland is still incredibly segregated – ninety percent of people live in neighbourhoods where everybody is just like them. I mean, it sounds like America now that I come to think of it!

But it’s actually…no…it’s more segregated even than in America and the peace process has done nothing to address that.

When the Good Friday Agreement was signed about five percent of kids in Northern Ireland went to integrated schools – that number has not moved one iota in fifteen years.

JB: Kevin, great to see you. Terrific piece! Thanks for your time.

ME: Okay. Not very optimistic there, Kevin. I hope things work out better.

Kevin Cullen is a columnist from The Boston Globe. His latest book along with Shelley Murphy, and this is a great book – you and Shelley did an awesome job, Kevin Cullen – I loved it! – is Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice. Thanks again for being with us, Kevin. (ends 1:52:20)

CHRIS BRAY: PSNI Theatre of Shadows

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Chris Bray
Friday, July 11, 2014

In October 2012, news stories announced that the Police Service of Northern Ireland would be pursuing subpoenas of tapes and notes from interviews with former IRA member Dolours Price. The PSNI had already gone after Dolours Price interviews archived at Boston College, but this new effort was to be directed at the newspaper and TV journalists who had interviewed Price about the BC subpoenas. In the crosshairs: CBS News and the Sunday Telegraph.

More than a year and a half later, there is no evidence that those subpoenas ever arrived. When Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams emerged from his four-day interrogation at the PSNI’s Antrim station, he said that police had confronted him with material from the Boston College interviews; he made no mention of CBS or Telegraph materials. And my own tedious search of Pacer, the federal court case management website, turns up no evidence of subpoenas served on CBS News headquarters in New York.

To be sure, we can’t see very far into the underlying events, and it’s not clear what kind of contest may have taken place over this threat of subpoenas directed against journalists. I’ve been asking journalists and public affairs staff at CBS News and the Telegraph if they received subpoenas, or discussed the possibility of subpoenas with the PSNI, but those questions have gone entirely unanswered. Liz Young, the public affairs director at the PSNI, offered this careful non-answer to my questions: “Given that investigations are ongoing we are not in the position to either deny or confirm that a subpoena was sought and no inference should be taken from this.” So the conclusion has to balance the likely with the wholly unknown: It appears that the PSNI threatened journalists with subpoenas, but then didn’t follow through, and it’s not possible at this point to know why the threatened subpoenas apparently didn’t arrive.

Now: Spot the pattern. In May of this year, a new round of news stories announced that the PSNI would be seeking new subpoenas to secure every Belfast Project interview archived at Boston College. Again, no one is answering questions, but there’s no sign that those subpoenas have arrived.

Meanwhile, the high-profile arrest of Gerry Adams resulted in nothing more than the four-day-long collapse of the PSNI’s souffle. Three years after the Grand Inquisition began, Adams is a free man, and would not seem to have much reason to worry. The other big event in the PSNI’s supposed murder investigation was the March arrest of former IRA leader Ivor Bell, long purported to have been chief of staff to Adams in the 1970s IRA in Belfast. Bell was charged with aiding and abetting McConville’s murder, not with committing it; as yet, the PSNI hasn’t charged a single person with actually kidnapping McConville or actually killing her. And Bell is also a free man, released on bail as the Public Prosecution Service tries to decide whether or not to bother taking the charges to trial. They do not seem to be in any particular hurry.

So the PSNI’s “investigation” into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville — an investigation opened 39 years after the event — has made more noise than progress: some arrests that led to the release of those arrested; an arrest, with weak and likely to be abandoned charges, of someone who isn’t alleged to have killed McConville; and a storm of threats and promises that have mostly seemed to evaporate.

The available evidence continues to support the argument that I’ve now been making for more than three years: The PSNI is putting on a show, not a murder investigation.

But then spot the other pattern: Many news stories reported the PSNI’s claim that it would subpoena CBS News and the Telegraph; none reported that the subpoenas didn’t arrive. Many news stories reported that the PSNI would be pursuing the whole Belfast Project archive at Boston College; no news stories have reported that those new subpoenas haven’t been served. Many news stories reported the dramatic arrests of Adams and Bell; few journalists appear to have noticed that the air has leaked out of those arrests.

In Indonesia, puppeteers perform Wayang Kulit, a theater of shadows in which images are projected on a screen by performers who stand behind it. The PSNI is the Dalang, the puppeteer, in the shadow play of the Jean McConville “investigation.” And the news media continues to treat the play as real life.

VIDEO: Back From Northern Ireland, Columnist Kevin Cullen’s Take On Lingering Troubles

Back From Northern Ireland, Columnist Kevin Cullen’s Take On Lingering Troubles
By WGBH News
9 July 2014

When Boston College announced in March that it was returning all records from an ill-fated oral history project, it was hoped that would be the end of it. But not in Northern Ireland, where memories are long and grudges smolder.

That’s what Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen saw firsthand during his recent trip to Belfast, and reported in this Sunday’s Boston Globe.

Emily Rooney (ER) interviews The Boston Globe columnist and co-author of the book, Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, Kevin Cullen (KC) about his recent trip to Belfast where he looked into the Boston College tapes being returned to the oral history project participants.

(begins time stamp 1:10)

ER: So what was the reaction when these documents showed up on doorsteps in Ireland? The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen is here fresh from his latest trip to Ireland.

First, this is a story with a lot of layers so I just want to go back at little bit to the origin.

A former journalist, Ed Moloney, got together with a former IRA guy, Anthony McIntyre, and he was going to conduct the interviews of former IRA people for Boston College. What was the intent?

KC: The idea was that in the heady days after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 which more or less ended The Troubles as we know them that they would get combatants together and interview them and have them explain why they did what they did and what they thought of what they did. And the idea was to preserve this for posterity.

What changed is that in 2010, Ed Moloney wrote a book in which he signaled that they had interviews, Boston College had interviews of these people and eventually the police said: We’re going to get this stuff.

They specifically wanted to get things on the Jean McConville murder. It was a horrible murder of a woman in 1972, a widowed mother of ten. And she was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

Now that was what the police initially went after. Now they say they want everything.

ER: So when you got there, we knew that these tapes were going to be returned.

They were subpoenaed and Boston College complied, essentially, even though they claim they tried to resist at first. You went over there.

What did you find was the reaction once these tapes started arriving?

KC: I talked to some people who did not want to be quoted on the record.

Some people are getting their tapes back. Some people don’t know what to do. I know one specific case, a guy named Ricky O’Rawe, he actually burned them.

I didn’t put this in the story because it just didn’t fit but I said: Ricky, if I put that in the paper you might be held in contempt of court.

ER: You did put it in.

KC: No, not this part. When I said that to Ricky I said: Are you sure?

I said that could be construed as contempt of court.

He said: I am in contempt of this court. He said: They shouldn’t have had my recollections. They were recorded for posterity not for the police and not for the British government to dissemble.

ER: So you saw this graffiti around Belfast that said: Boston College “Touts”.

What does that mean?

KC: A “tout” is the local idiom for informer.

And it’s probably the most provocative, loaded term in the local idiom. When you call somebody a “tout” there are generally consequences for it.

Throughout The Troubles touts were routinely found on roadsides with their heads in hoods, their hands tied behind their back and they were discarded. And they were put there as a message to other people to keep them from informing. So when you call somebody a tout in Northern Ireland you are, in some cases, putting a target on their back.

And so these fellows feel that they have been targeted. That people are calling them touts because they gave their recollections to BC.

ER: You just mentioned Ricky O’Rawe. He’s was one of the people. And how is he reacting now?

KC: First of all, he feels like he was betrayed. He feels like he went in there and did not expect this stuff to come out until he died. But he’s worried.

He is worried. And the interesting thing about that is what I found is that the BC situation is almost a microcosm of the problem in Northern Ireland in general.

They don’t know how to handle the legacy of The Troubles. And who gets to tell the story is very important.

One thing I did come away from it…everybody has trashed the whole BC project and it was biased because Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre don’t like Gerry Adams – which is true.

But the other thing I found, these IRA guys that gave their accounts, they feel that this is the only way their story gets out because they are not in the mainstream of Irish Republican thought anymore. They’re kind of pushed to the side because they opposed the way the peace came about.

They don’t want to go back to war. They don’t support any of the “dissidents” who are using violence now. But what they said is: What we fought for was not worth for what we settled for.

ER: You also talked to a guy named Tommy Gorman. What was his story?

KC: Tommy is sixty-nine years old. He’s a well-known IRA activist. He spent thirteen years in prison. He escaped from prison twice. He’s sort of what you would call an all-star IRA man in that milieu.

Now he has been totally ostracised by the mainstream Republican movement because he’s very critical of them. He thinks that settling for the compromise that they did, which is basically to recognise the partition of Ireland, and to engage in what he would say is the opposite of what an Irish Republican stood for, which is: you don’t support, you cannot ever tolerate the partition of the country.

And he also basically said: I fought for a socialist republic. This is not a socialist republic.

ER: Alright, so did either of these guys, Ricky O’Rawe or Tommy Gorman, feel like they’re going to be a target?

KC:   I literally asked Tommy Gorman. I said: Tommy, are you worried about getting arrested?

He said: No. I’m worried about getting shot.

And not by my erstwhile enemies but by my erstwhile comrades. That’s the sort of temperature that I felt on the ground there. There are people very concerned.

And I’ll tell you I talked to a lot of other guys – they don’t want to be identified because they’re afraid that they would be identified as touts – and like I said, that graffiti was up all over. I was surprised. There were six or seven separate ones that I saw – I probably missed some.

But it’s out there. And when people get called a tout in Northern Ireland that is literally putting a target on somebody’s back.

ER: It’s criminal that this has fallen apart.

But the journalist and the skeptic in me thinks: Somebody’s got to make duplicates of this stuff. The transcripts! Definitely there’s got to be duplicates because McIntyre was doing the transcripts and then sending them encrypted emails to Ed Moloney at BC. So he must have them. Somebody’s got them…

KC: I don’t know. I honestly can’t tell you about that, Emily.

But again, I’ll put it this way: If I was one of the interviewees I’d be very concerned about the possibility of duplicates. Whether the government still has things. Whether Judge Young still has copies of these things…who knows?


KC: It’s very hard to account for where all this stuff is.

Like I said: The sad thing is, I think, the whole project was well-intentioned and I think if it had stayed under seal for thirty-odd years or so it would have been a valuable contribution to history. But right now it’s sort of a blueprint of how not to do projects like this.

ER: I mean did the Irish police really believe the only way to go after this McConville murder, I mean it’s what? Forty years old? Was to open up these tapes because Gerry Adams had been a suspect in the past, it wasn’t like…

KC: …Oh, sure. The other thing I try to point out in the story is the hypocrisy of the police involved.

Because they go after Gerry Adams, who just so happens to be the leader of the largest Nationalist party in Northern Ireland, and they don’t go after anybody else.

I mean if you go through that archive I’d assume you find something that would implicate the police in collusion.

Now at the very moment that the police are demanding Boston College to give up their archive the police in Northern Ireland are refusing to turn over their own records to the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland who wants to investigate some sixty murders in which police and military officials from Britain were involved in extra-judicial killings in which all their informants -

It’s almost like the Whitey Bulger story – they had all of their informants involved in a lot of these cases.

And they were protecting informants. And informants were getting people killed.

So it’s a murky thing. And that’s the whole problem about Northern Ireland. They don’t know how to reconcile their past and they’re fighting over who gets to say it.

ER: But I mean, the larger community…are they still focused on this or have most people kind of moved past? They don’t want to start the war over?

KC: No. I do think if Gerry Adams is charged, I mean he was questioned but he was not charged, if he does face charges and nobody else faces charges as a result of this I think that’s a real political problem.

ER: Alright. Kevin Cullen, as always. (ends)

Belfast to Boston: Oral History Goes Awry

Belfast to Boston: Oral History Goes Awry
The Takeaway with John Hockenberry
WNYC and WGBH, Public Radio International
Thursday, July 10, 2014

(Transcript to be added later)

The Boston College oral history project begun in 2001 was an attempt to record and document for history’s sake the voices and the motivations of the men and women who fought during Northern Ireland’s 30 years of brutal sectarian strife. More than 40 former republican and loyalist paramilitaries shared the stories of their personal involvement in Northern Ireland’s so-called Troubles. They believed their interviews with the project’s researchers were confidential and would never be released without their permission or until they had died, but they were wrong.

Following a legal fight, Boston College relinquished some of its archive to authorities, and earlier this year the police in Northern Ireland used the contents as grounds to arrest Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in connection with a brutal murder dating back to 1972. Adams was eventually released without charge, but in Belfast the academic project has unintentionally opened old wounds with some former IRA members who participated being labeled “touts” or informers by their fellow republicans.

The Takeaway speaks with Boston Globe columnist, Kevin Cullen, about how Boston College’s well meaning attempt to promote truth and reconciliation backfired on the ground in Belfast. Jack Dunn, a spokesperson for Boston College, discusses his concerns about how BC’s experience might impact other oral history projects.

Related: BC exercise in idealism reopened old wounds

Guests: Kevin Cullen and Jack Dunn
Produced by: Elizabeth Ross

Old Wounds & Oral History: The Aftermath of the Belfast Project

Old Wounds & Oral History: The Aftermath of the Belfast Project
The Kojo Nnnamdi Show
Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014

Boston College’s “Belfast Project” aimed to compile first hand accounts of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, collecting the oral histories of 46 former combatants with the promise of confidentiality. But after British prosecutors compelled the college to hand over contents from the archive, and detained a prominent political leader for crimes allegedly committed in the 1970s, many observers are worried the tapes could destabilize the country’s peace agreement. We explore the debate in Belfast and within American academic institutions.

Zachary Schrag
Associate Professor, Department of History and Art History, George Mason University; Author, “Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009” (Johns Hopkins)

Kevin Cullen
Metro Columnist, The Boston Globe; co-author, “Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice

From WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to “The Kojo Nnamdi Show,” connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, we talk with journalist Louisa Lim about her new book, “The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Square Revisited.” But first, three decades of violent conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles that pitted the Nationalist Catholic Irish Republican Army or IRA against Protestant loyalists under the banner of the Ulster Volunteer Force or UVF, came to a tenuous end in 1998.

But the tensions and traumas of the time have remained close to the surface in Belfast, a fact driven home earlier this year when Gerry Adams, a long-time leader of Sinn Fein, the nationalist political party, closely linked the IRA, was arrested by police and questioned about the 1972 murder of a mother of 10. A move fueled by police in Northern Ireland, getting hold of information from an oral history project out of Boston College. An idea with altruistic goals but plagued with problems.

Here to bring us up to speed on the fallout and to help us understand the implications is Zachary Schrag. He’s a professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason College. His books include, “Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences,” and “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.” Zachary Schrag, thank you for joining us.

Delighted to be here.

Joining us by phone, from Boston, Mass., is Kevin Cullen. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and a Metro Columnist for The Boston Globe. He’s also co-author of “Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.” Kevin Cullen, thank you for joining us.

Thanks Kojo.

Kevin, Boston, which as you note, has long been seen as a moderate, so-to-speak, base of Irish-America. It may seem a natural home for a project, chronicling the troubles. What were the aims of this Boston College Project and who was behind it?

Well, first of all, it — the genesis of it was, sort of, in the heady days, right after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, ended the troubles as we knew them. And the idea was to create an oral archive to go and talk to the combatants, the people that fought and were willing to kill and were willing to die for what they believed in, at the time.

And so it was conceived that they would, you know, hire people on the ground, in Northern Ireland, who could get to these former combatants, interview them, record what they say and place it in an archive here at the Burns Library at Boston College, which is the biggest repository in the United States for Irish related issues. And the idea would be, it eventually, historians, journalists, people interested in this would read it after all — everybody that was involved in it had long since past. And that we might learn about the motivations, conflict and how conflict is resolved.

Unfortunately, there was a book published by the project director, Ed Moloney in 2010, which kind of signaled the fact that they had these interviews, they’re very specifically, the book was based on the interviews given by David Irvine, who was a leading loyalist, paramilitary, before he became a politician and Brendan Hughes who was known as the Dark. And he was a senior IRA man, very close to Gerry Adams at one time but then had a falling out with him over the direction of the peace process.

And in that book, Brendan Hughes implicated Gerry Adams in the murder and the abduction-murder and secret burial of Jean McConville. Eventually, the police and the — I think, the timing of all this is very questionable. The police decided they wanted that evidence, they thought that that could help them solving the murder of Jean McConville, 40 years after it happened. And that — thus began the, sort of, tug-of-war, pitting the issues of academic freedom, criminal investigation and, frankly, the political prosecution of cases of the past.

A lot of what this comes down to is, the Boston College Project, I think, was well intentioned. It hoped that it could somehow contribute to the understanding of conflict and hopefully, you know, promote resolution of conflict and maybe even the prevention of conflict. Instead it has become a political football and you have the case, I think, very disturbing case, of an American academic institution being used as a proxy investigative arm of a foreign government.

But one technicality here, if you will, and that is, Gerry Adams, it is my understanding, was in favor of the project but he was not in favor of the individuals to whom it was entrusted because he felt that they would bring a bias view to their presentation.

That’s true, he believes, as do many people in the Republican leadership, that Ed Moloney, the journalist, who was the project director and Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner, who did the research, who did the actual interviews of these people, they believed that they are bias, that they are opposed, that they have been on the record as being hostile to Adams and the rest of the leadership of the Republican movement. As Adams sees it, there’s no way that these guys would not ask leading questions. They would not — they would shape the research to get to a — get to a point where they want it to be.

The one thing I found interesting, when I was in Belfast, last week, in talking to some of the people that gave their interviews, yeah, they openly acknowledge that they don’t agree with Adams and the direction he took the Republican movement. But they said, that’s irrelevant to their history. The way they view it, if BC did not record their history, they would never — know one would know what they think because they fall outside the mainstream of Republican thought, these days.

So they are, sort of — they’re not dissidents in the sense they endorse the dissident groups that are carrying on violence now, but they’re certainly dissidents in the sense that they don’t agree with what the Republican leadership settled for. And they feel as though it’s very important that their side of the conflict is recorded for history.

Well, it was recorded for history but as Zachary Schrag, in most coverage, we’ve heard this collection at BT — BC, referred to as an oral history project. But that description may be it glosses over a very important fact, and that is, that the people conducting these interviews that were mentioned earlier, were not oral historians. Why is that important?

Right. So this was a project designed to document history but it was not a project run, for example, by the Boston College History Department. And, in fact, the history department at Boston College has been rather public in its dismay that it was not brought in. The interviewers at Moloney is journalist, the other interviewers, I believe, both have doctorates in political science, clearly these are related fields. But it does not necessarily flow that they were aware of the training in methods of oral history that go back several decades, since the historians started picking up tape recorders.

And this is not to say that historians have a lot of experience with subpoenas. We do have presidents where political scientists and sociologists have their interviewed subpoenaed and had people been more aware of this, then maybe they would’ve taken more precautions. But I do think it would’ve been possibly helpful to have more historians involved in the process, talking it over. As it is, neither the interviewers nor the Boston College librarians were able, between them, to work out all the implications of their plans.

Among oral historians, you just implied by saying what the Boston College History Departments responses, but among oral historians, this case has been closely watched. And you say, that some people are trying to distance themselves from the BC project, why?

Well, in an interview with the chronicle of higher education, Mary Marshall Clark of Columbia University, who’s certainly one of the leading oral history experts, repeatedly said this was not an oral history project. And, I think, what she meant by that was that there are, again, methods developed over the decades to try to avoid this kind of situation where promises are made and not kept. For a long time, oral historians have tried to offer narrators the option of sealing parts of their interviews, so that if there’s something that they think should be part of the historical record but are not quite ready to go public with, right then, it can be sealed for a matter of decades.

Now, again, we’ve not had a lot of experience in the profession with actually subpoenas coming in and so even if a bunch of expert archivists and historians had gotten together on this, it’s not entirely clear to me that they would’ve been able to come up with workable safeguards to allow this project to go forward.

If you have questions or comments for it, you can call us at 800-433-8850. What do you make of this BC project and the unintended consequences that it has had, 800-433-8850? You can send email to kojo@wamu.org or send us a tweet @kojoshow. Kevin Cullen, in the last decade, Belfast has changed dramatically in some ways and stayed much the same in others. What did you find in both respects on your recent visit?

Well, I mean, I’ve been going there for almost 30 years. So I kind of knew it in the bad old days and certainly from a cosmetic point of view, Belfast is shiny and new. I was so struck by the Fitzwilliam Hotel, which is just shear plate-glass window. And that would’ve been sheer folly to have that thing up in the ’70s and ’80s.

When bombs are going off everywhere.

Yeah. It just was — I mean, I actually — some of the richest people I met in Ireland, over the years in the North of Ireland, were glaziers because they’re very busy during that stuff. But it — the, sort of, underlying problems in that society, particularly, one of segregation, has not changed much in the year since the Good Friday Agreement. In fact, the, sort of, ironically named Peace Lines, they put walls up to separate working class republican nationalist areas from working class loyalist areas.

They’ve actually increased in numbers since the Peace Agreement. They’re many — I think, there are probably three or four dozen of them that have gone up in the intervening years. You know, it — when the Peace Agreement was signed in 1998, about five percent of kids in Northern Ireland went to integrated schools. That number has not changed one iota in the intervening years. So there’s sort of a — here in America, you know, in the Brown vs. Board of Education case, our Supreme Court made it very clear that separate but equal was not acceptable in the United States, under our Constitution.

But in fact, that is exactly how the society functions in Northern Ireland now. It is separate but equal. You know, there’s equal funding given to Catholic schools and state schools, which for all intensive purposes are Protestant schools. And the other thing that I really picked up on the ground, in there, is you know, when people talk about, you know, the North of Ireland, is this sort of, textbook case of how attractable conflicts can be resolved. That’s true as far as getting to say yes, in 1998.

But they really struggled since then to figure out how to deal with the legacy issues, to deal with the past. And I think the BC dilemma or conundrum, whatever you want to call it, debacle, fits into — with this micro — it’s a microcosm of the society not being able to confront, unlike, say, in South Africa where they had a very formalized truth and reconciliation process. They don’t have one in Northern Ireland and it shows. So you’ve had Peace Mail investigation, say, it’s a bloody Sunday and to different individual killings and controversy’s.

And then you have the BC thing with, sort of, this attempt at, well let’s put it out there and maybe historians will make sense of it down the road. And obviously that went to pot. But I think, it also, the reason it happened is that the Irish have not been able to figure out who gets to decide what their legacy is and who tells that story. And really, the stuff that I picked up on the ground, this was — this was really, even though it is a problem in the loyalist community, it’s much — a much bigger problem in the Republican community because there are Republicans fighting over who gets to tell the story.

And it’s obviously Sinn Fein is the mainstream, the political power. And then you have these people that have fallen away from that group and who actually resent that group. And so, that’s why the arms struggle of Irish Republicanism has been replaced by a legacy struggle.

Gotta take a short break. When we come back, we’ll continue this conversation on Boston Colleges oral history project and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But you can still call us at 800-433-8850. What kind of rigor and standards do you think should be applied to oral history projects, 800-433-8850? You can send email to kojo@wamu.org, I’m Kojo Nnamdi.

Welcome back to our conversation on the Boston College oral history project and the troubles in Northern Ireland. We’re talking with Kevin Cullen. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a metro columnist for the Boston Globe. He’s co-author of “Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.” He joins us by phone. Joining us in studio is Zachary Schrag. He’s a professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University whose books include “Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences,” and “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.”

Kevin, Gerry Adams’ address in May may have made international headlines but with conflicts raging around the world, it has since faded for many but not all. What kind of ripple effect is it having in Belfast?

Well, I think people are curious to see if in fact this is just, you know, a political show to drag him in before the elections. Frankly if it was an attempt by police to embarrass him, it had the opposite effect. Sinn Fein’s vote was surprisingly much better than expected, both in local and European elections, both north and south. So there is always that sort of tendency when the British authorities — or in this case, you know, the Police Service of Northern Ireland — when they are seen to do something that is seen as unfair, that will help Sinn Fein, not hurt it.

That said, I think people are sitting back and saying, are they going to charge him? And if in fact they do charge him, I think there could be a serious effect on the peace process if only it will allow the people that are trying to kind of radicalize a new generation to take up arms. They would — their hand would be strengthened. They would be able to go to young people in Northern Ireland and say, hey look at this the Sinners did everything the Brits asked them to do and look what the Brits are still doing to them. And they’re not — there’s a real level of hypocrisy that I’ve heard people talk about.

You know, the police agency that is demanding access to the entire oral history archive at Boston College refuse to submit their own records to the police ombudsman’s office which is trying to conduct an independent review of at least 60 cases in which police offices and British military officials were accused of extrajudicial killings during the troubles.

So, you know, you talk to people on the ground there, both in Republican and Loyalist camps, they say, oh yeah, the cops want to come after us but they won’t go after themselves. And so there’s a lot of frustration at that level.

Do have to mention the presence of the British, which is what Brendan in Vienna, Va. would like to remind us of. Brendan, your turn.

Kojo, thank you. You have a fascinating program today. I’m a George Mason University history graduate and Irish American, so a great show today. Yes, wanted to comment on the fact that in the introduction you mentioned a conflict between the Loyalist paramilitaries and the IRA. Just want to add that a man combatant would be the British Army in Northern Ireland who the IRA would certainly argue that they were in conflict with as part of a national liberation struggle to unite Ireland.

And also wanted to comment on the — since you mentioned the Loyalist paramilitaries on the collusion between the British government, the British Army and the Loyalist paramilitary. And I’ll take my comments off the air.

Thank you very much for your call. Kevin, the violence may have subsided but you note that language remains loaded in Northern Ireland. And sharing even an intensely personal story from the time can be dangerous. Explain to us what a tout is and what can happen to someone labeled as one.

A tout is the local slang for an informer. And it is probably the most provocative loaded term anywhere in the North of Ireland. And throughout the troubles, you know, touts would turn up with hoods over their heads, their hands tied behind their back and at least one bullet in their head. And it was obviously the most ignominious end for anybody in those circumstances.

And Irish history is replete with, you know, the whole — the specter of the informer hangs over so much of Irish rebellion down through the centuries. And so after Gerry Adams was arrested in May, graffiti appears all over parts of Belfast. And it said, Boston College touts, the implication being anybody who took part in the Boston College project was touting because they were talking about IRA operations.

Now I spoke specifically with two people who had been identified publically as having given interviews to BC. One is Ricky O’Rawe who was actually the spokesman for the hunger strikers in 1981. He was one of the blanket men who refused to wear prison uniforms when he was doing his time for IRA activity. Other fellow I talked to is Tommy Gorman, another IRA veteran I think spent about 13 years in prison for IRA activity, Escaped from prison twice.

They saw that as a direct threat on their lives. They believe that there are people, the erstwhile comrades who would consider themselves justified in killing them because the touted. That’s the way it’s being seen. And again, in the story I told — and this is — I didn’t even know about the story and, I mean, I had — I’m in Northern Ireland pretty regularly, but I somehow missed this one.

A few years ago a guy named Gerry Bradley who was a member of the IRA in North Belfast, he wrote his own book and he did not vet it. He did not send the manuscript for vetting with the Republican leadership. And after his book came out — and Jerry — in an interview he gave he said, you know, I didn’t name anybody. This was my story and I didn’t submit it for — I’m not going to have my story censored. And very shortly after the book came out, it appeared on the walls in the (word?) which is the neighborhood where Jerry lived. And he was accused of being a tout. And he eventually left his neighborhood and was despairing and he killed himself.

So there are real implications for this word and it’s thrown around kind of willy-nilly in circumstances like this. There are people pointing fingers at each other and publically accusing each other of being touts. And again, that is a word that carries enormous consequence in the North of Ireland.

Zachary Schrag, these tapes contain narrators implicating other in acts of violence, which raises all kinds of murky questions about slander, about liable. What recourse, if any, do those who took part in the project likely have?

Well, unfortunately there’s not good law right now. So Boston College has sent back the interviews to those it can. And Mr. Cullen’s article describes one set of interviews being burned by the person who gave it. In the long term we do have federal protections for some kinds of research, if you’re doing health research, for example, with sex workers or drug users who you know they commit crimes but you’re trying to do public health research, you can get protections from subpoena for that.

If you want to research criminals and are willing to burn the tapes afterwards, you can get shield law protections from the Department of Justice for that. But what we don’t have in U.S. federal law are broader protections where people doing this kind of research could really guarantee that the materials would not be released under subpoena. And until we have that we can’t get the kind of reconciliation that Mr. Cullen talked about.

As a journalist on a live broadcast, I ask a guest a question, you answer it. That answer’s out there for everyone to hear, maybe read at a later date, whether it’s tomorrow, five, ten years from now. But oral history works on a very different set of assumptions and procedures with a very different end in mind. The saying goes that journalists write the first draft of history, so what needs to happen to create a final or more definitive draft?

Well, ideally in an oral history project you go to a narrator, go back and forth multiple times, you do a recorded interview, you transcribe it, the narrator reads it, maybe adds some things, takes out some things. And what you’re trying to do is to get a polished finished narrative that the narrator thinks really represents his or her experiences in position. And that will last as an archive. It’s almost like writing a memoir only without limiting it to the relatively few people who have the time and money and resources to actually publish a memoir.

The problem, again, is that if there are going to be people coming into that process, either through subpoena, Freedom of Information Act requests, which is a problem for those of us who work at public universities, then that bond between interviewer and narrator is broken. And the narrator can’t be as candid as he or she would like. And you have to limit things to what’s on the record.

Fortunately for most oral history projects that’s fine. Most oral history projects are not about unsolved murders but it’s still unfortunate that we have this kind of project hanging over us and perhaps deterring future research.

Kevin Cullen, the nature of truth and memory issues of ownership of a story, who gets to write the history, all central to this current conflict. As a journalist who’s covered both international conflicts and written about the havoc wreaked by Whitey Bulger in Boston, what do you make of the chilling effect that remains in this case and so many decades after the fact?

Well, all I can tell you is the people that I interviewed who gave interviews said they would never in a million years have agreed to do it if they thought their stuff could come up before they died. They really — now, you know, we can go back and forth of whether BC was clear enough on this, whether the project director and the interviewers were clear enough on it to the people. But there’s no doubt in my mind talking to these people that they thought it was not going to come out until they were dead.

And so will it have a chilling effect? I would think it would have to. I would think any time you approach somebody and asked them to detail what is essentially the violation of laws or committing crimes, even if they would justify it as, you know, an act of war, an act of, you know, natural self determination, they would be — I would think they would be very cautious. They would point to this case. UI think it’s, you know, unmistakably true that this is a test case, that this has set a precedent. And I would say it set a very, very bad precedent. I think it’s bad for oral history. I think it’s bad for conflict resolution.

Because I remember, you know, there are guys on the Loyalist side I talked to, they really thought they were doing a public service. They thought they were helping people down the road. If people could see why they did what they did and also explain why they stopped when they stopped that lessons — valuable lessons about conflict and conflict resolution would be imparted. And now they feel that was all for naught. And as Plum Smith, one of the leading Loyalists puts it, he says, I don’t think anybody would ever sit down and give a candid account in a case like this again.

Well, Kevin, Northern Ireland’s peace process did not end with a Good Friday agreement or the 2006 amendment to it. Gerry Adams as part of a Sinn Fein delegation sat down with Prime Minister David Cameron last week. Where, in your — looking in your crystal ball, do you see the continued process going next?

Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s likely that we would go back to armed conflict. I mean, there are dissident groups on the ground, at least on the Republican side, who believe that they have the right to engage in armed struggle. That said, I think those days are really gone.

The other part of this is obviously that you can always reignite issues in Ireland with — if people are seen to be treated unfairly. And that’s why potential prosecutions that arise from this, I think, could have a dramatically detrimental effect on the peace process. But I think the other thing is, this issue of the past and dealing with it, I think it’s something that this society hasn’t really taken formal steps to handle with. The piecemeal nature of truth recollection or truth recovery I think has actually had a negative effect.

And unfortunately, you know, there is no Mandela in Northern Ireland. There is no archbishop Tutu. There is no person that you could point to as sort of being the arbiter of how we’re going to handle this. I mean, Richard Haass from the United States government is actually over there, and Megan O’Sullivan from Harvard. And they’ve been trying to help the Irish deal with their legacy issues. How do they deal with the past? How do Unionists celebrate their traditions without offending Nationalists and vice versa?

So I think this is something that’s going to go on. We’re in a post-conflict situation in Northern Ireland. And I think it’s that old truism. Sometimes it’s harder to keep the peace than to make the peace. And there are a lot of, a lot of struggles that this society has in front of it. And hopefully they will get through it.

And I’m afraid we’re just about out of time. Kevin Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a metro columnist for the Boston Globe, co-author of “Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.” Kevin, thank you for joining us.

Thank you, Kojo.

Zachary Schrag is a professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University. His books include “Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences,” and “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.” Zachary Schrag, thank you for joining us.

Thank you.

The ‘Boston College Tapes’ Document Northern Ireland’s Murderous Past

The ‘Boston College Tapes’ Document Northern Ireland’s Murderous Past
By Huw Nesbitt
7 July 2014

On the 21st July 1972 the Provisional IRA detonated 19 bombs across Belfast in the space of an hour. Known as Bloody Friday, the attacks claimed the lives of nine people and injured 130 others. At the time, it was one of the most violent acts that had happened during the Troubles. If you were the one that planned it, you’d probably want to keep quiet, right?

Three decades later, the man who claimed to have done so felt differently. Speaking to researchers behind the “Boston College Tapes” who were compiling an oral history of the Troubles, Brendan Hughes, former Officer Commanding of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade admitted to being in charge.

Part of the reason for him doing so was that his interviewers – academics based at Boston University between 2001 and 2006 – had been given cast iron guarantees from their institution that testimonies from their work would not be published until after their subjects – republican and loyalist paramilitaries – were dead and that the police and politicians would never be allowed access to them. The promise didn’t quite work out.

In 2011, the British government tried to get access to 85 tapes, including Hughes’s interview, with the assistance of the US Department of Justice. They were looking for an interview that purportedly implicated Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, by the IRA. Three years later they were successful. In April Gerry Adams was arrested on the basis of this evidence. He was later released without charge.

I spoke to one of the three men behind these tapes, Anthony McIntyre, himself a former commander in the IRA. Speaking from his home in the Republic of Ireland, he told me more about his background, and why, as a former Provo, he decided to create an archive of people admitting to committing grizzly acts of political violence in the first place.

VICE: Hi Anthony. Stupid question, but why did you join the IRA in the first place?
I joined in 1973 when I turned 16. I’m from South Belfast and I didn’t come from a republican background, but I romanticised the movement nonetheless. Growing up, you’d see people being arrested or shot in the street. If a foreign army did the same in London, what people who lived there do?

Your activity landed you imprisoned in Long Kesh for 18 years, four years of which were on blanket protest, alongside the 1981 hunger strike. What did you do?
I was convicted of shooting a member of the Loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1976 for which I was given a life sentence. When it happened I was the leader of the IRA in South Belfast, and I’d been given impetus to shoot this man under the auspices of senior command because our intelligence believed he was an armed member of the UVF.

What was it like in Long Kesh?
It was tough. It was a battle against the prison administration. We were locked in cells 24 hours a day, 365 days a year without reading material except the bible, which was used as toilet and cigarette paper. During that time, the hunger strikes confirmed my hatred for the British, but I’ve since also learned of disputed evidence suggesting Sinn Fein had the opportunity to broker a deal, which I’m inclined to believe.

When were you released from prison?
I was released in 1992 when they were releasing life sentence prisoners. Ten months later I started a PhD in history at Queen’s University in Belfast. I’d already completed a degree via the Open University while still in prison after punitive measures had eased. I also did some freelance journalism and wrote about how the republican project had disintegrated.

In an article you wrote in 2009, you said that Sinn Fein’s subsequent endorsement of the 1993 Downing Street Declaration, which affirmed the right of Northern Ireland to self-determination, marked the “capitulation” of republicanism. This declaration arguably led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which you have endorsed. Aren’t these two positions inconsistent?
It was a republican capitulation, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – the IRA surrendered in 1916 as well, don’t forget. I no longer believe there’s any justification for an armed campaign, but I’m not going to pretend that the Good Friday Agreement was a victory for republicanism. It was a serious defeat. What the British government did was strategically include republicans but exclude republicanism. Today, it seems to me that all Sinn Fein have done is chase office, when what they should have done is stayed out such institutions and pursued their radical position through lobbying and protest – not by becoming the people they previously opposed, and not through armed conflict.

The Boston College project began in 2001, three years after Good Friday. Why did it start?
It just needed to be done. It felt like the armed conflict was over, even though the IRA was yet to announce it, which they did in 2005. It seemed a good time to capture these people’s stories before they died and a dominant “official” history could suppress the multiplicity of narratives that these voices represent.

How did you select interviewees?
Many of the people I interviewed I knew or had previous experience of. Nonetheless, whether they were pro or anti-Sinn Fein, what mattered was that I could trust them not to tell anyone about the project, particularly members of Sinn Fein’s leadership.

Who did you imagine would listen to these tapes?
I hoped that whoever got access to them would use them to create a reconstruction of republicanism so as to examine its motives. Each interview we did was embargoed until after the interviewee had died, and we were given a cast iron guarantee by Boston College that they would not hand over the tapes – a guarantee that turned out to be worth fuck all.

And Gerry Adams got arrested because of that broken guarantee. How do you feel about that?
It’s not a good feeling. It causes me great anguish that people have been arrested, because this was not what the project was about. The project was about gathering historical evidence, not prosecution evidence. I did not want to make a political intervention. Whether other people wanted to use it for that purpose is another matter. I didn’t want to use it to have a go at Gerry Adams.

Surely you must have been aware that there was a risk of this material to be used in this way?
I wasn’t, no, absolutely not. Why would I have done them in the first place if this was the case?

Sinn Fein has claimed these tapes were compiled in order to get people in trouble. What’s your response?
The argument that it was “maliciously compiled” would have to show that there was some intellectual dishonesty, and that we prompted people to say things that weren’t true to maliciously present Gerry Adams as a member of the IRA.

So you didn’t do that?
No. I reject the idea that people were chosen simply because they would have a go at Gerry Adams. I don’t see the historical value of doing that. Perhaps there was a structural tendency to get people who were not sympathetic to Sinn Fein, but I don’t believe that undermines their testimony, because Sinn Fein should not be allowed to determine what the truth is.

The Good Friday Agreement drew a line under crimes committed during the Troubles by treating them as acts of war, but some of the wounds haven’t healed and crimes are unsolved. Do you think this will ever be resolved?
I don’t, no. There’s never going to be a way of appeasing everyone. I don’t see how it can be done. All I think you can do is recover as many narratives as possible so that historians can arrive at judgments. But a more just society has to be based on the future, because ultimately the dead don’t vote.

What do you hope happens in Northern Ireland? Are you still a republican?
To me, republicanism is over, but can I see a future for republicans if they behave in a rational manner and pursue justice and politics. Unfortunately, there are still people who think that political violence is the way forward, but for me it’s an absolute waste.

Okay. Thanks for speaking, Anthony.

In Belfast, the gunmen, the shadows, the damage done: BC exercise in idealism reopened old wounds

The gunmen, the shadows, the damage done: BC exercise in idealism reopened old wounds

With a promise of secrecy, Boston College recorded for history the voices of The Troubles in Ireland. But, the promise now broken, the aftershocks in Belfast are testing a fragile peace.

By Kevin Cullen
Boston Globe
July 06, 2014

WATCH VIDEO: ‘Belfast Project’ goes awry

BELFAST — Ricky O’Rawe picked up the package at his lawyer’s office downtown the first week of May.

It was a FedEx package, with a Chestnut Hill return address.

When he got back to his house on the Glen Road in West Belfast, O’Rawe opened the package and stared at its contents: transcripts, CDs, tapes. It was his story, the oral history he had given to Boston College, about his life in the Irish Republican Army.

The BC oral history project was envisioned as a treasure trove for historians to use in the future, as they seek to chronicle and comprehend the motivations of people who fought and killed and died here. But once hints about its controversial contents leaked out, it was police detectives, not academics, who began clamoring for the research.

O’Rawe was trying to figure out what to do with the returned materials when the police in Northern Ireland made the decision for him. On May 22, after the police announced they were seeking the entire Boston College archive, 60-year-old Ricky O’Rawe walked into his study, the walls lined with sepia-tinged photos of old comrades who died in the three decades of war that the Irish, with their propensity for understatement, call The Troubles.

He lit a fire and opened a bottle of Bordeaux. Then he threw his legacy, his story, his willingness to kill and be killed, onto the fire and watched it burn.

“It was a fine Bordeaux,” Ricky O’Rawe said. “It was a fine fire.”

If only it were as easy to get rid of the past in a country where some say there is no future, only history repeating, over and over again.

Here in Belfast, the BC archive, an academic exercise gone awry, has had the opposite of its intended, altruistic effect. An attempt to promote a kind of truth and reconciliation process in the North — a process never endorsed by or formalized by either government or civil society — the Boston College project has instead, at ground level in Belfast and beyond, engendered the sort of paranoia, furtive whispering, and fevered accusations that got people killed here for years.

It’s the new Troubles, a microcosm of the old, where individuals talk again of bloody conflict, this time over collective memories and the interpretation of what they all lived through. Some worry the personal disputes, and fear of potential prosecutions, that the BC interviews have given rise to could do serious damage to Northern Ireland’s hard-won, much-admired, but still-evolving and ever-fragile peace process.

. . .

Belfast is shiny now. New hotels on and off Great Victoria Street glisten with the sort of glass windows that would have been reckless folly back in the days when bomb blasts were a daily occurrence. The white noise of hovering British army helicopters has given way to a vibrant nightlife, fueled by Queens University students who spill into town from a South Belfast campus that used to be a citadel back in the bad old days.

But in the neighborhoods where those who fought the war reside, in the still-grim housing estates, in the less salubrious pubs where grudges and pints are nursed, progress is not measured by bigger pay packets. Debates about the point or the pointlessness of the war go on, sometimes heatedly.

For more than 30 years, as The Troubles raged, the weapons of choice here in the north of Ireland were bombs and bullets. Now they’re words, some spoken in confidence, others sprayed on gabled walls.

The words spoken in confidence were given by 46 former combatants to researchers hired by Boston College. The so-called Belfast Project aimed to compile an oral history of the men and some women who fought for the Catholic and nationalist IRA that wanted a united Ireland, and those men from the Protestant loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, that wanted to maintain the union with the United Kingdom.

The former bombers and gunmen were promised that whatever they said would remain under lock and key, at BC’s Burns Library, until they gave their permission to release it, or until they died.

It was an inspired idea, hatched in the heady days immediately following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which effectively ended The Troubles, an idealistic time when, as the great poet and native son Seamus Heaney put it, hope and history rhymed.

But it turned out to be a promise BC either wouldn’t or couldn’t keep. When police here launched a legal effort to seize specific portions of the BC archive three years ago, and the college reluctantly complied, the IRA and UVF men who gave interviews wished they had listened to Heaney’s earlier admonition when, at the height of the murderous tumult, he wrote, “Whatever you say, say nothing.”

The words sprayed on walls, meanwhile, almost hiss the most provocative word in the local vocabulary: tout.

In Northern Ireland, tout is the local slang for someone who informs against his comrades to the authorities. It is a word loaded with venom and lethal history. In a country where there is conspicuous respect for the dead, touts were treated with the least dignity. They were dispatched unceremoniously with shots to the head, their heads hooded, their hands tied behind their backs, their bodies discarded in roadside ditches, like animals that had the misfortune of being hit by a car.

Two months ago, after disclosures from the oral history project led to the arrest and questioning of the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in the horrific 1972 abduction, murder, and secret burial of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10, the words “Boston College Touts” were whitewashed on a half-dozen walls across West Belfast, long the IRA heartland.

It was not an idle, schoolyard insult. It never has been in a land where careless words routinely led to shallow graves.

As someone who has been publicly identified as one of those who gave interviews to BC, Tommy Gorman knows that word — tout — is aimed at him. It alternately infuriates and worries him. Gorman spent 13 years in prison for IRA activity. He escaped from prison twice, evincing a level of defiance and resistance that should have ensured him a place in Irish republican folklore. Instead, some of his former comrades level at him the worst accusation a republican can throw at another.

“I never said a word about other IRA volunteers,” he said, putting his coffee down in a pub in the Andersonstown section of West Belfast. “I gave Boston College a personal remembrance of a bloody time in our history. That’s it.”

Gorman, 69, believes his real crime was to break with the IRA and Sinn Féin leadership over the direction of the peace process. He says Adams and the rest of the leadership compromised too much for too little. He has said loudly and clearly that settling for a seat in a local government that upholds the partition of Ireland, and a system squarely fixed against the interests of the working class, rendered The Troubles, and the death and sacrifice accompanying it, an appalling waste.

“We were willing to kill people,” Gorman said. “We were willing to die. What has transpired is not worth a drop of anyone’s blood, whether it was a British soldier, an IRA volunteer, or an innocent civilian. I fought against the Brits. I’m going to fight against them [Sinn Féin], too. When you step out of line, they call you a tout.”

I asked Tommy Gorman if he is worried about getting arrested.

“No,” he replied flatly, “I’m worried about getting shot. Not by my erstwhile enemies but by my erstwhile comrades. They’d get away with it, too, because they’re in the pockets of the Brits.”

After he was released without charge following four days of questioning, Gerry Adams rubbished the Boston College project as a well-intentioned but naive effort that has been hijacked and exploited by the very people who liked it better when Northern Ireland was at war.

He said BC’s decision to entrust the project to journalist Ed Moloney, who wrote a book that was hostile to Adams, and Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner turned BC researcher who has also been openly critical of Adams, was flawed and guaranteed to produce an oral history that was disproportionately biased against Adams and the Sinn Féin and IRA leadership.

“Everyone has the right to record their history,” Adams said in a statement, “but not at the expense of the lives of others.”

Adams has led Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA, since 1983, but he has always denied being a member of the IRA, a denial that infuriates some of his former comrades. He was widely credited with persuading the IRA to put aside its violent campaign, to disarm and disband, and to commit itself to a united Ireland achieved through peaceful means. He and many others see the police interest in him and the McConville case as politically motivated, and he and others have warned that politically motivated policing could seriously undermine the peace process.

But if the police wanted to hurt Adams and Sinn Féin, his arrest in May seemed to have the opposite effect. Sinn Féin did better in the local and European elections, north and south, than expected.

In early May, Adams praised BC’s offer to return the oral histories to those who gave them, “before the securocrats who cannot live with the peace seek to seize the rest of the archive and do mischief.”

A few weeks later, police here did just that, announcing a legal bid to seize the whole archive. That move came after police were widely criticized for being interested only in allegations against Adams, while ignoring potential crimes by loyalists or British government agents, who routinely helped loyalists target nationalists for assassination throughout The Troubles.

While the police are steadfastly pursuing BC’s files, they are less enthusiastic about turning over their own for scrutiny. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has refused to turn over files sought by the police ombudsman’s office about cases in which either police or the British military were accused of engaging or being complicit in some 60 extrajudicial killings.

. . .

Boston College, through its spokesman, Jack Dunn, agrees with Adams’ assessment about the lack of diversity of opinion in the oral history. Kevin O’Neill, a professor of history at BC who read a transcript of one of the interviews, said the line of McIntyre’s questioning suggested a clear perspective rather than an objective approach.

Sitting at his kitchen table in Drogheda, a town in the Irish Republic situated between Dublin and Belfast, McIntyre, who spent 18 years in prison for IRA activity before getting his PhD in Irish history at Queens, scoffs at that criticism. First, he says, those criticizing the diversity of opinion don’t know who was interviewed. Only a handful have been identified, all of them openly critical of Adams, some convinced he ordered Jean McConville’s murder.

But, even if most of those or even all of those interviewed disagreed with the peace strategy Adams pursued, McIntyre’s American-born wife, Carrie Twomey, asks, “So what?”

“It would still be a valuable history,” she said. “It’s a perspective you won’t get in the official history.”

Tommy Gorman, an IRA veteran, agrees.

“The Shinners’ view of history is the established view,” he says, using the nickname for members and supporters of Sinn Féin. “Ours is the challenging view.”

Adams vehemently denies any involvement in McConville’s murder and says the allegations against him are from former comrades turned enemies. He emerged from his four-day detention saying that his police interrogators based their queries on what was contained in the BC archive. He said he was interviewed 33 times during his 92 hours in custody. “For all I know, I can still face charges,” he said upon his release. “One presumes they would have made a charge against me. But they offered no evidence against me whatsoever.”

Moloney and McIntyre dismiss Adams’ complaints, even as they remain indignant that BC capitulated so quickly to demands from the US Justice Department for portions of the archive, at the request of their British law enforcement counterparts.

Carrie Twomey, meanwhile, worries about the safety of her husband, not to mention herself and their son and daughter.

“When you call someone a tout in Ireland,” she says, “it has consequences.”

Indeed, it has. In 2005, after it emerged that Denis Donaldson, the former chief of staff for Sinn Féin in the local assembly, was an informant for British intelligence, his name and “tout” went up on the walls. He was shot to death in a cottage in Donegal where he had gone to live in disgrace.

An even more sobering story was that of Gerry “Whitey” Bradley, an IRA veteran from North Belfast. Five years ago, he wrote a book about his life in the IRA. But he refused to submit the manuscript to the leadership of the republican movement, as is expected, because he didn’t want it censored. Bradley said it was his story, not others’, to tell. He said he went out of his way not to implicate or name people who went on IRA operations with him.

As Bradley envisioned it, his story was almost a mini-version of the BC project, one man’s story. He thought it portrayed the IRA in a good light.

“The last thing I wanted to do was hurt people,” he told the Irish Republican News in 2009.

“As far as my story is concerned, it’s my story, what I went through, and what hundreds and thousands of people my age went through. It talks about the unsung heroes and their identities are kept to the minimum. . . . It explains to the outside world why we did this, why we dedicated our lives. I stepped out of the ranks to get this book out. I stepped out of line to do this. I don’t believe in censorship. I believe everybody has a right to their opinion.”

But not everybody believed Whitey Bradley had a right to his. Soon after the book was published, Bradley’s name and the word tout were whitewashed on walls in his Ardoyne neighborhood. He was shunned. He soon left Ardoyne.

“He was humiliated,” says Gerard “Hodgie” Hodgins, a former IRA prisoner who spent 20 days on hunger strike in 1981 before the IRA called it off. “He was a soldier. Not a politician.”

Overwhelmed by his ostracization and in poor health, Whitey Bradley drove to Carrickfergus Castle, a medieval edifice once controlled by English colonizers, and killed himself.

On the loyalist side of the divide here, there is also consternation, and deep worry, about what the police might do with the oral histories provided by former UVF gunmen. William “Plum” Smith, a former loyalist paramilitary, now works to reintegrate loyalist prisoners into the community. He gave BC an interview, hoping his experience would help others embroiled in conflict find a way toward reconciliation. He is appalled it is having the opposite effect.

Smith thinks the police seeking, and BC giving up, the tapes has ruined the possibility of any thoughtful effort to draw lessons and heal wounds from such a sustained period of violence and conflict. Smith doesn’t think anyone engaged in armed conflict will risk arrest, or worse, to help the “recovered truth” process.

Plum Smith and another leading loyalist, Winston “Winkie” Rea, called on BC to destroy the archive, but BC chose to offer to return the interviews to those who gave them.

While worried speculation and some angry finger-pointing is taking place in loyalist communities, the fallout in republican circles is far more poisonous and far more ominous.

That could be because the armed struggle of the IRA has morphed into an arm-twisting struggle over who gets to claim the republican mantle, however tattered it may be. It is a fresh manifestation of that repeating pattern, the past forever muscling into the present. Irish history is replete with examples of revolutionary movements putting aside their weapons to take up the reins of democratic power. In each instance, a rump of republican resistance refused to do so, remaining outside the mainstream and the establishment, fighting on. Eamon de Valera, for example, led the rebels who refused to go along with the compromise with the British that created the Irish Free State in 1922; when de Valera came in from the cold and took power in the fledgling Irish Republic, he turned out to be harsher against the IRA rump he once led than the British were.

None of those identified as taking part in the Boston College project support the armed dissident groups, such as the Real IRA, who continue to use violence to seek their holy grail: a united socialist republic encompassing the entire island of Ireland.

Ricky O’Rawe is one who believes violence is futile now. In hindsight, he believes it was futile all along. O’Rawe’s falling out with Adams and the rest of the republican leadership can be traced to the 1981 hunger strikes, when Bobby Sands became the first of 10 men to starve themselves to death while demanding they be treated as political prisoners.

O’Rawe, who was in prison at the time and served as the hunger strikers’ spokesman, was one of the so-called IRA blanket men, who refused to wear prison uniforms and instead wrapped themselves in blankets. In 2005, he wrote an explosive book that accused Adams and IRA leaders of letting six of the 10 hunger strikers die, rather than accept a compromise with the British government. Adams and other republican leaders insisted O’Rawe was bitter and delusional. Many others believe O’Rawe, noting that the prospect of IRA men being seen as martyrs willing to die for principle gave the republican movement its biggest propaganda coup during a long and dirty war.

“What you’re seeing today, in the recrimination over the Boston College project, is really just a wider example of the whole intolerance for dissent within the republican movement,” O’Rawe said. “The irony is, I agree with the peace. I just disagree with the party. I think the war was an act of folly. It couldn’t be won. It took someone like Adams — Machiavellian, devious, determined, able to talk out of both sides of his mouth — to end this act of folly. I give him full credit for that. I’m glad he gave up the guns. I just disagree with the Stalinism, the idea that you can’t disagree with the leadership.”

. . .

At one level, the fallout from the BC project demonstrates that Northern Ireland is no longer the place it was. Disputes that used to get settled with a gun have, so far, been confined to bitter words and to people retaining lawyers.

O’Rawe has sued Boston College for breach of contract, contending he was misled into believing his account would not be used against him in a court of law. O’Rawe doesn’t understand why BC turned over his tapes because he said he knew nothing about the McConville case. He was in a different IRA unit than the one that abducted McConville.

“I knew [nothing at] all about Jean McConville,” he said. “It was D Company, in the Lower Falls, that did that. I was in Ballymurphy,” farther up and off the Falls in West Belfast.

One of the great, sad ironies in this whole debacle is that Boston in general and Boston College in particular had been regarded fondly in many parts of Northern Ireland as having played a largely positive role in the peace process. Boston was always seen as the moderate base of Irish-America, less in thrall to extremists, more focused on finding middle ground, even as it welcomed former revolutionaries from both sides of the divide who said they were determined to use peaceful means to achieve political ends.

BC, meanwhile, did more than any American university to engage both the political and civil society on both sides of the Irish border. BC has hosted hundreds of politicians, journalists, civil servants, and peacemakers from Northern Ireland over the years. But, in all this bitter recrimination, the Boston brand has suffered in Ireland.

Last week, Anthony McIntyre was listening to the radio when the song “More Than a Feeling,” by Boston, came on.

“It used to be one of my favorite songs,” he said. “But when it came on the other day, I was, like, ‘Screw it. I hate it now.’ I don’t like anything that has Boston in it now.”