“Narrative” – Boston College’s Jack Dunn and the Subpoena Case

A further response to the comments of Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn
Carrie Twomey
The Pensive Quill
29 July 2014

Carrie Twomey, wife of researcher Anthony McIntyre, with her second piece taking Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn to task over his comments in a recent WGBH radio interview.

Professional Public Relations Spokesperson Jack Dunn complains that Boston College’s “narrative” hasn’t been able to gain any traction with the media, and he doesn’t understand why. This isn’t the first time he has registered this complaint. The problem explains itself, though, doesn’t it?

Boston College’s handling of the subpoenaing of the Belfast Project oral history archives is not a “narrative”. The subpoenas are a real event in real people’s lives that have a very real, continuing, and frightening impact. What has happened is not a matter of “spin”, and that is where Boston College’s approach has failed the institution, the research and researchers, and the wider field of historical study in general. It is where powerful institutions always fail: when the instinct to protect an image overrides the morality of protecting what is really important – people, principle, integrity. 

Kevin Cullen’s work in the Boston Globe shows why Boston College’s “narrative” fails. Journalists, like historians, seek to get to the truth of things, via investigation, first-hand information, sources, and evidence. PR men, like Dunn, seek to skew perception via spin, guff, sleight-of-hand, and the assumption that they will never be challenged. Kevin Cullen, unlike anyone at Boston College, actually came to Ireland to speak to people involved with the project. He went to Belfast. He spent hours in our kitchen going over every aspect of the case he could think of. He is not the only reporter to have done this. 

Boston College’s Irish Institute, based in Dublin, is about 30 minutes down the road from our home, and a couple hours from Belfast. Not one representative from Boston College has appeared. I flew from Ireland to Boston to attend court hearings, one of which was held on the Boston College campus. No one from Boston College spoke with me, and when I approached Jack Dunn after the hearing he literally turned his back and refused even to acknowledge me. Instead of being able to introduce myself, and arrange to meet with him and the College administration while I was in Boston, I was escorted out of the building by security. In tears of frustration I shouted at his receding back that Boston College were cowards. 

Had Boston College really been interested in defending the oral history archives to the best of their abilities, I suspect we would have been treated quite differently. I doubt I would have been left to cold call Congress members on my own initiative and meet with Senate staff on my own, as I did. The consistent feedback I received from Washington DC – whether it was from the Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department, or Congress – was very different from the “narrative” presented by Jack Dunn in his interview with WGBH. Boston College was not to the fore in any political activity or lobbying to protect the archives; in fact they were conspicuous by their absence.

I would have loved to work with Boston College on the issue, as I believe we would have been stronger and more effective working together, especially with Boston College’s resources. As it was, everything we did was on our own, without any support whatsoever from the College. What has been protected has been hard fought and won by shaming Boston College into action they did not want to undertake, and still begrudge. 

That may not be Mr Dunn’s “narrative” – but it is the truth. And those that take the time and make the effort to investigate the case of the Boston College subpoenas know the difference.

Clash of Culture: Response to Boston College’s Jack Dunn

A response to the comments of Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn
Carrie Twomey
The Pensive Quill
27 July 2014

Carrie Twomey, the wife of researcher Anthony McIntyre, with the first of two pieces taking Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn to task over his comments in a recent WGBH radio interview

Jack Dunn unwittingly hit the nail on the head in his snide reference to my husband’s 18 years in Long Kesh as an IRA prisoner. He called the difference in approach to protecting the oral history archives of the IRA held at Boston College a clash of cultures. He couldn’t be more right.

Interrupted on his Cape Cod vacation to deal with responding to the fears of participants of the project, who now feel they are living under threat of death as documented by Kevin Cullen in the Boston Globe, he left his beach bonfire of marshmallows while in Belfast the bonfires of hate ignited effigies of Gerry Adams, images of Stormont, and Irish flags defaced with slogans like “Kill All Taigs [Catholics]”.

In Belfast, the government turns a blind eye to these displays, and ignores – in some cases even facilitates – the intimidation of the gunmen. It is left to the isolated few to raise their voices, resist, and call attention to the wrongs that need righted.

In Boston, or at least in Boston College as explained by Mr Dunn, questioning the action of the governments is not needed nor even countenanced. Ironic that, in the birthplace of the American Revolution. But this is not just evidence of a clash of cultures between Boston and Belfast, resistance and compliance; the clash over the handling of the history of the Troubles is also very much a clash of the decisions of a powerful elite and the powerless people who have to live with the consequences of their arrogant and entitled ignorance.

Jack Dunn’s Ivory Tower is very far removed from the reality that led to the creation of the archives and the reality that needs those archives to both exist and be protected. It explains why he and those in the Boston College administration don’t seem to have a clue at the disaster they have wrought. And sadly, what we are experiencing in this case is not that different from what many on the powerless side of the widening gap between the realities of the Jack Dunns of this world and the rest of us go through every day.

The Belfast Project documented the lives of resisters – both Republican and Loyalist. No matter Boston College’s illustrious past of involvement in Ireland and its peace process – Jack Dunn has exposed how out of touch the College is with reality. Naively entrusting the voice of the powerless and a history of resistance into the hands of the powerful blasé was one of the biggest mistakes of all in this ongoing nightmare.

Boston College is quite content to adorn itself in Ireland’s Troubles as long as it brings prestige and lucrative funding. It makes a fortune off of the US State Department doing so, and used to refer to the Belfast Project as the ‘crown jewels’ of the Burns Library. But when it is time to pay the piper for the Wearing of the Green, Jack Dunn shows exactly what BC’s true colors are made out of: the blood red of Ireland’s past and the yellow streak of Benedict Arnold.

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
WGBH
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)

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

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.”

Vortex of violence ensnared innocents such as Irish priest

Vortex of violence ensnared innocents such as Irish priest
By James F. Burns
Special to The Sun
The Gainesville Sun
7 June 2014

“Father! Come quickly — a terrible road accident and a lad needs last rites.” A knock on the door had summoned the Rev. Eugene McCoy to a sacred task. The Irish priest left in such haste with the men at his door that he forgot his rosary beads.

McCoy became suspicious when the car ferrying him to the accident scene suddenly swerved off the main road and pulled up in front of a ramshackle mobile home in a remote location. Taken inside, he was led to a back bedroom when he found a distraught young man bound hand and foot on the bed.

The priest had been tricked — but for a holy purpose — into being part of a paramilitary execution. He begged for Eamon Molloy’s life but to no avail. Death sentences are seldom commuted by the Irish Republican Army.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is a master magician. At least, that was Ed Moloney’s allegation in his 2002 book “A Secret History of the IRA.” Adams could make people disappear. He also excelled as a tightrope walker, gingerly treading the line linking politics with paramilitary activity. He would even carry coffins at IRA funerals and said he supported the IRA — but was never a member, mind you, another Houdini-like escape.

And like every good magician, Adams didn’t like secrets leaking out. Snitches were snuffed. And then made to disappear. Someone high up in the IRA command structure — Adams’ republican critics have nicknamed him “Itwasntme” — suggested that dumping bodies in the street had lost its deterrent effect and could even be embarrassing. Presto, Jean McConville, mother of 10, disappeared — for 31 years. Likewise, no one seemed to know where Eamon Molloy was — for 24 years. And so on.

And then the story moves to County Louth, Ireland’s littlest county and one right smack on the border created by the 1920 partition of Ireland into the six-county British province of Northern Ireland and the 26-county Irish Republic. The IRA was waging a war to erase that border; IRA math said that 26 + 6 = 1, i.e., a united Ireland. Their primarily-Protestant opponents did a different math, pointing out that “6 into 26 won’t go,” emphasis on “won’t” and with their own loyalist paramilitaries as enforcers.

Inevitably, the vortex of violence spilled over the border, ensnaring innocents such as McCoy, a County Louth parish priest. Louth was an ideal location for launching IRA attacks, secretly burying bodies, safe houses and field-testing bombs.

The 1998 Northern Ireland peace agreement turned terrorism to truce for the most of the combatants but left a lot of legacy issues unresolved, such as unsolved murders and parade route and flag issues. But life went on, and efforts evolved to understand the three decades of chaos and killing.

One post-peace project was Boston College’s collection of oral histories — confessions, if you will — by both IRA and loyalist terrorists, a valuable resource for future research. The 46 participants were supposedly given an iron-clad guarantee that their taped testimony would remain sealed until after their deaths.

But U.S. law was “treaty-trumped” in court by a bilateral agreement with the U.K., allowing release of some tapes for criminal investigation of Jean McConville’s murder. And the deaths of two terrorists had already allowed Ed Moloney to convert their tapes into another book laden with more accusations against Gerry “Itwasntme” Adams.

Sorrow knows no border, grief no religion, pain no politics — which is to say that all families, all friends, who have had their loved ones murdered during the Troubles deserve sympathy and support. The recent 40th anniversary of the dastardly loyalist bombings of Dublin and Monaghan that claimed 33 lives, including a mother and her two infant daughters, bears witness to the heartbreak on both sides of the border, both sides of the sectarian divide.

And who could not feel compassion for poor Father McCoy, caught up in a killing he could not stop. And there’s the final Irish irony of this sad tale. Resolved to administering last rites to Eamon Molloy, he realized that he had indeed forgotten his rosary beads in the hasty departure from home.

In a mix of the sacred with the sordid, one of the IRA men reached into his pocket and handed the priest his own rosary beads. Was it the same hand that then pulled the trigger?

James F. Burns, a retired University of Florida professor, formerly taught at Boston College and also stayed in County Louth with his family while on sabbatical in the British Isles.

Chris Bray: BC, NBC, and the PSNI

The PSNI Arrives on Tuesday for a Monday Lunch
Chris Bray
Friday, May 30, 2014

They’re too late.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland recently announced that they intended to make a broader MLAT request for every interview from the Boston College oral history collection they first began to mine in 2011. But Boston College also announced that it intended to return interviews to the former members of Northern Ireland paramilitary organizations interviewed for the university’s Belfast Project. For a while, it appeared that the PSNI’s announcement trumped BC’s announcement: The news that more subpoenas were on the way would prevent the return of interviews.

For at least one Belfast Project interviewee, however, that’s not what happened. Whether or not the PSNI gets the U.S. Department of Justice to subpoena the Boston College archives again, some of the interviews are out of their hands forever. They have already gone home.

Take a look at this remarkable set of documents that was posted on Pacer, the federal court system’s document website, on Thursday:
NBC O’Rawe from PACER

Of particular interest are pages 3 and 4 of the PDF file, a May 1, 2014 letter from Jeffrey Swope, Boston College’s outside lawyer for matters involving the Belfast Project, to Kevin Winters, the Belfast-based solicitor who represents former IRA member and Belfast Project interviewee Richard O’Rawe. Swope details a long list of documents and audiotapes that he is returning to O’Rawe through the offices of KRW Law, Winters’ Belfast law firm. They are all of O’Rawe’s interviews — tapes and transcripts — except the ones that the PSNI already received on account of the 2011 subpoenas. Also returned: O’Rawe’s complete correspondence with the Belfast Project. There’s nothing left but the material that police already have.

I don’t know if material from other interviewees has already been sent back to them. Boston College and Jeffrey Swope have long since stopped responding to questions from me, and other people who would know about the return of interviews are either not responding to messages or not saying. (And I wouldn’t respond to the questions I’m asking them, either, if our positions were reversed.) But if Boston College began returning interviews, there’s no reason for them to have returned interviews to Richard O’Rawe but not to other interviewees, some of whom have been asking for the return of their interview material since shortly after the 2011 subpoenas arrived.

Bottom line: At least one interviewee has beat the PSNI to the archive, and maybe more. (Interviews that are unlikely to have been returned, and that are unlikely to ever be returned, are those for which Boston College has lost identifying material. So the PSNI may still be able to get its hands on interviews with unidentifiable research subjects, the legal value of which will be limited.)

Meanwhile, the political floor is beginning to give way beneath the PSNI’s effort to treat the Troubles as ordinary crime.

The likelihood of a successful PSNI / DOJ return to the Belfast Project archives is rapidly fading.