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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

MR. ZACHARY SCHRAG
Delighted to be here.

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

MR. KEVIN CULLEN
Thanks Kojo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NNAMDI
When bombs are going off everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CULLEN
Thank you, Kojo.

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

SCHRAG
Thank you.

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.

The Arrest of Gerry Adams

The arrest of Gerry Adams
Sráid Marx
An Irish Marxist Blog
May 4, 2014

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When Gerry Adams was arrested for the murder in 1972 of mother-of- ten Jean McConville Sinn Féin claimed it was “political policing. The arrest of a high profile political leader during an election could hardly be anything else.  That the intention to question him was notified by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to the highest levels of government in advance and that this government tells us it is keeping Washington informed is simply confirmation.

Yet when it comes to explaining what this political policing amounts to, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness claims lamely that the arrest is due to a “small cabal” of police officers, “an embittered rump of the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary)”.  McGuinness claims that other police sources have described these people as the “dark side”.

So it’s not really political policing but a “rump” that presumably can be dealt with.

Yet Sinn Féin hasn’t asked for this but just a vague wish that the episode is “resolved in a satisfactory way”.  Meanwhile the party will continue to “support the reformers who have made a massive contribution to policing” while saying that if it “does not work out the way that it should” the party will review the situation “in the context of continuing with a positive and constructive role in a vitally important peace process”.

However the press conference at which all this was said was really about a threat to reverse its previous political support for the PSNI, an event that would precipitate yet another crisis in the never-ending peace process.

But how can Sinn Féin complain of political policing when it supports this policing?  How can it issue vague hopes that everything turns out ok when it also claims that policing is accountable?  Why is it threatening to withdraw support (in a very vague and indirect way) when it can hold the police to account for its actions?  Why doesn’t it just do that?

Graffiti has gone up in West Belfast attacking “Boston College Touts” (informers), i.e. those who gave their accounts of their own and Adams’ involvement in the IRA and its abduction of Jean McConville to the American institution , the acquisition of which may be the basis of his arrest.

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Yet how can these people be touts when Sinn Féin supports the PSNI and has called for everyone to give the police whatever information they have on the actions of republicans (i.e. the dissidents)?  The hypocrisy involved is as staggering as it is completely unselfconscious.

McGuinness claims that “Sinn Féin’s negotiations strategy succeeded in achieving new policing arrangements, but we always knew that there remained within the PSNI an embittered rump of the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary).”  Yet it never made any qualification when it announced its original support for the PSNI.

Does this mean it only supports part of the PSNI or only partly support the PSNI?  Which part? How is everyone else supposed to know which part to support?  How would it and everyone else partly support the PSNI?

How can such a situation exist when Sinn Fein is in government?  How could the brilliant negotiators of Sinn Fein agree to a deal to support the police without getting a guarantee its leader would not be lifted for allegations made years ago?

Why is Sinn Féin making such an issue of Adams’ arrest when it never threatened to withdraw support from the PSNI when the PSNI spent months allowing loyalist crowds, led by the UVF, to disrupt everyone else trying to get home during the flags protests?

Why did it not threaten to withdraw support when these illegal parades were allowed by the PSNI, in fact the PSNI met with organisers to arrange them, and not do so when these parades attacked the small Catholic area of the Short Strand?  Only this week a judge found the PSNI (all of it, its leadership included and not just some “rump”) guilty of failing to enforce the law when it came to illegal loyalist parades.

Again these last few weeks drunken loyalist paramilitary mobs have taken down legal election posters and put up their own flags on main roads in Belfast,  right in front of police stations, while the PSNI has told local residents on no account to take them down.  Is it only Sinn Féin’s leaders who must be protected from the “dark side”?

And why indeed should Adams be protected?  He denies any responsibility for Jean McConville’s killing but then he also denies ever being in the IRA.  Other former IRA members, with unimpeachable republican credentials, have admitted their involvement and claimed Adams was in on it.

As the recently deceased IRA member Dolours Price put it “I wanted very much to put Gerry Adams where he belonged and where he had been. We had worked so closely with him, on many occasions and taken orders from him on many occasions and then to deny us, particularly after we had been through such a harrowing experience in prison … we were offended that he chose to deny us as much as he chose to deny his belonging to the IRA. To deny it is to offend those of us who partook in what we partook in.”

The message on the hill overlooking Belfast calls for the truth about the British Army murders of 11 people in Ballymurphy in August 1971, an enquiry into which has just been rejected by the British Government, but the same demand can apply to Adams.

But bad as these questions are for Sinn Féin none of them get anywhere near the biggest problem it has.   And this problem is that Adams would not have been arrested if the British Government had not given it the ok.  The political policing of which Sinn Féin speaks is not the actions of a “small rump” but the actions of a state.

That Sinn Féin should peddle the line of ‘sources’ within the PSNI that what is involved are the actions of “dark forces” against the reformers, “the many progressive and open-minded elements” of the PSNI that McGuinness hallucinates, is to swallow the old good-cop bad-cop tactic that old IRA men must have been warned about if caught or arrested.  That this is now the line of Sinn Féin shows how far it has travelled and so low it has sunk.

Swallowing and parroting this means buying into the designs of the British state just as much as swallowing the good cop line gives you the bad cop result.  What this means has been signalled by the British Government.

Recent speeches by Teresa Villiers, the NI Secretary of State, have glossed over the refusal of the Unionists to accept the deal offered by US diplomat Richard Haas, and supported by the British state itself,  and have conciliated their intransigent line, which itself is a play to extreme loyalism.  So the crimes of the state, never investigated with any seriousness it has been revealed, are even more to be airbrushed out of existence and instead it is the crimes of the “terrorists” which must be centre stage.  The role of state forces in sponsoring these terrorist gangs will of course also be occluded.

So the past will more and more become the one imagined by unionism.  Parades? Well the Parades Commission has given every evidence that its restrictions on loyal orders can be ignored with impunity.  Getting a form of words that ends with the same result might not be difficult given even a minimal willingness of loyalism to engage with Catholic residents whose neighbourhoods they parade in.  Flegs? Well we have noted the PSNI’s preference to let drunken loyalist mobs put up whatever symbols of intimidation they want.

That about completes the Haas agenda but even these do not signal the end game and this too is coming more into focus in a statement of Villiers.

In a speech widely reported, but the reporting of which missed its most significant element, Villiers anticipated the rewriting of the political deal on which Sinn Féin can claim success.  She foresees the “evolution” of the power-sharing institutions towards them having an opposition.

The whole point however of these institutions is that no one is in opposition, in particular nationalists are not put into opposition by unionists who have not demonstrated any capacity to act in other than a sectarian fashion.

It’s put in the usual honeyed words:

“The third way in which politics could be moved forward here is through the evolution of the devolved institutions.

Let me be clear, power sharing and inclusivity are enshrined in the Belfast Agreement and the government is not going to undermine any of those principles.

. . . Yet at the same time nobody can plausibly argue that the institutions must be set in stone for all time.

Political institutions the world over adapt and change.

As the founding father of modern Conservatism – the Irishman Edmund Burke – once put it:

‘A state without the means of change is without means of preservation.’

And there are inherent weaknesses in a system in which it is very difficult to remove one’s rulers by voting and to choose a viable alternative.

That’s why this government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power sharing and inclusivity.

But we also believe that if or how this happens really has to be primarily for parties in the Assembly to take forward, not least because it is so firmly within the Assembly’s competence to deal with those matters that might characterise an opposition, such as speaking rights, financial assistance and committee chairmanships.”

So at the moment the British Government would be quite happy for the Stormont regime to have parties outside Government if this was accepted by these parties, if it was voluntary.  No longer is this anathema, no longer is such a suggestion the antithesis of what the new arrangements are about.  Now this is both a viable and even preferred destination.

But of course it has to be voluntary.  Since having the nationalists in opposition is the primary objective of unionism such a policy stance is not so much a disinterested, absent-minded meandering on possible future directions as an incentive for unionism to get nationalists, or at least Sinn Féin, out of Government, “voluntarily”.

This is not actually the preferred British solution but it is testimony to how far it will go to keep unionism inside the existing deal that it floats ideas that while mollifying unionism actually increase instability.

That it only undermines the deal more and more by emboldening unionism and feeding its triumphalist agenda demonstrates only the continuing contradictions within the imperialist settlement – continuation of a sectarian state and sectarian political arrangements while hoping that this sectarianism can be made innocuous or at least reduced to an acceptable level, just as there used to be an “acceptable level of violence.”

So the incentive for unionism is to continue not to work the existing institutions while seeming to maintain a modicum of good faith, obstruct and provoke Sinn Féin as much as it can without damaging itself and hope that the sheer impossibility of Sinn Féin putting up with its obvious powerlessness gets the right reaction.

Unfortunately for them it is perfectly obvious that Sinn Féin will cling to the Stormont regime like grim death with no humiliation too embarrassing and no rebuke too severe for it to walk away. Sinn Féin will hold on to the appearance of power even when this appearance has gone.

But if clinging to the trappings of office becomes the main objective the point of actually having it – making changes – grows ever less important.  Being in office in the North is important for Sinn Féin getting into office in the South and it believes that it being in office in both Irish states on the centenary of 1916 will be a powerful symbol.

Indeed it will.  It will symbolise that the party has realised its strategy but that this strategy is ultimately a failure.  A Sinn Féin in government in both partitioned states will still leave both partitioned states in place.  Sinn Féin will simply sit over both.  Should it stay in office the sight of it doing so will prove no more remarkable than the sight of Sinn Féin toasting the Queen of Great Britain.

How quickly can illusions be shattered.  Fresh from congratulating themselves and being congratulated by the chattering classes for its wearing of white tails and standing for “God save the Queen” the acceptance of the privileges of the British monarchy is rammed home by her state exercising its powers as it sees fit.

Why toasting the symbol of oppression should lessen this oppression or limit its exercise can nowhere be explained by Sinn Féin.  When one swallows the toast there can be little complaint when one has to swallow a whole lot more.

Whatever the outcome of Adams’ arrest the whole exercise is a brutal demonstration of Sinn Féin failure and it will cost it in the long run.  The grounds for creation of an alternative are clearer but unfortunately there is no sign yet that any such alternative is arising or has some progressive working class content.

 

Rep. King: ‘I have every reason to believe Gerry Adams’

Rep. King: ‘I have every reason to believe Gerry Adams’
By Niall Stanage
The Hill
05/01/14 08:32 PM EDT

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) sprang to the defense of Irish politician Gerry Adams Thursday, as Adams was held in police custody in Northern Ireland in connection with a 1972 murder.

Since 1983, Adams has been the leader of Sinn Fein, a party that for many years served as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.). He is being questioned, but has not been charged, in relation to the killing of widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

Adams has strenuously denied any involvement in the murder — and King says he takes the Sinn Fein leader at his word.

“I have every reason based on his past record to believe Gerry Adams,” King told The Hill. “I have known him since the early ‘80s and he has never told me something that turned out to be untrue.”

King added that his faith in Adams was also rooted in observing the Irish Republican leader during the tortuous years of negotiation that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the accord responsible for largely ending three decades of violence.

“In my dealings with Bill Clinton, George Mitchell [the former Senate majority leader who chaired the peace negotiations] and even [former British prime minister] Tony Blair, they always said that the one guy who could be counted on to deliver what he said he could deliver was Adams,” King said. “He never lied to them, he never misled.”

Adams does, however, deny ever having been a member of the I.R.A., a claim that is viewed with deep skepticism across the political spectrum in Ireland.

The I.R.A. took McConville from her home in a staunchly Irish nationalist area of West Belfast in December 1972. The guerrilla group claimed that she was an informer for the British, though this has always been denied by her family. McConville was shot dead. Her body was buried in the Republic of Ireland and lay undiscovered until 2003.

The investigation into her killing has only picked up pace recently. The catalysts for that appear to have been allegations against Adams from two former comrades who later split with him, believing the political strategy he pursued was too accommodationist with the British.

Brendan Hughes, a onetime I.R.A. commander in Belfast, and Dolours Price, one of the organization’s most prominent women, alleged that Adams authorized McConville’s killing. Hughes died in February 2008 and Price died in January 2013. Allies of Adams contend that the two had axes to grind.

King is clearly on the pro-Adams side of that question, also suggesting the arrest had been timed to hinder Sinn Fein’s performance in local and European elections that will take place this month.

“This has been around for years, with these allegations. Why they [law enforcement in Northern Ireland] decided to push it now, at this stage, with elections a few weeks off…” King said.

Referring to Hughes by his commonly-used nickname, the New York congressman added, “As I understand it, these allegations are based off what Darkie Hughes and Dolours Price said… I’m not arguing [Adams’] case for him, but the fact is that these two people hated him because of his role in the peace process.”

Throughout his career, King has sometimes received criticism because of his sympathies for Irish republicanism. Back in 1982, King told a pro-I.R.A rally in Long Island, N.Y., that, “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.” His defenders say he played a helpful role during the crucial early stages of the Irish peace process.

The Hill contacted four lawmakers who have been known for their engagement in Irish issues, but King was the only one who agreed to speak about Adams directly. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) issued a statement noting that Adams had met with police voluntarily, adding that “I have also condemned the killing of Jean McConville in the strongest possible terms.”

A spokeswoman for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y) said he was unavailable. The office of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) did not respond to requests for comment.

Adams in DC: Confirmed, and Still Ignored

Adams in DC: Confirmed, and Still Ignored
Chris Bray
Friday, May 30, 2014

A news story on the website of RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, confirms that Gerry Adams discussed his arrest with American officials during his visit to Washington. While the PSNI pursues new subpoenas, the RTE headline tells the whole story: “Adams arrest discussed at Washington briefing.”

An email to Adams’ office this morning produced a list of officials who met with Adams: In addition to a sizable group of Congressmen — gendered term intended, because he somehow only met with men — Adams met with some moderately well-placed officials at the State Department. The White House took relatively little notice of the meeting, sticking Adams with an official from the Office of the Vice-President. Imagine flying four thousand miles and then finding yourself in a meeting with the vice-president’s staff.

In any event, yes: Gerry Adams was in a foot race with the PSNI, talking to U.S. government officials about his arrest and the foolishness of the police investigation at exactly the moment the police are trying to get new subpoenas of the Boston College archival material that they hope to use against him.

Besides RTE, which news organizations noticed the presence in the capital of a foreign official engaged in a lobbying effort against a criminal investigation that the United States is helping with? Take a look:

adams blackout

When I picture the American news media, I imagine a little ring of saliva around the spot on the desk where they put their heads during nap time.

Adams in Washington DC: Blackout

Blackout
Chris Bray
29 May 2014

Gerry Adams is in Washington, D.C. today, “briefing senior political figures and the Obama administration on the current difficulties within the peace process.” He is, in other words, lobbying one of the governments that’s supposedly trying to put him in prison. Taking the mutual legal assistance treaty process and the PSNI investigation at face value, Adams is trying to talk a murder investigation off the rails — to use politics against the police. Of course, taking that investigation at face value is…problematic, and the more likely reality is that an Irish politician is employing diplomacy this morning against a nasty piece of British politics.

Still, the drama in the moment is extraordinary: The same month he walked away from four days of police interrogation over a murder, a prominent politician is in the country where the supposed evidence against him was found, publicly announcing his intent to meet with officials in the government that helped to get him arrested. It’s as if a murder suspect in New York City walked out of the interrogation room, smiled, buttoned up the cuffs of his shirt, and sauntered over to City Hall to have coffee with the mayor, patting a detective on the head as he left the precinct.

But then here’s the fucking incredible part: The American news media isn’t covering the visit at all. As I write this on Thursday morning, Adams has been in the country for about 24 hours, and no American news source that I can find has even mentioned his presence. He got to D.C. last night: nothing. Silence. Try your own search terms, but here are the results of a Google News search for “Gerry Adams Washington DC,” narrowed to the last 24 hours:

no gerry

Why is this not news? Adams is here to kill the PSNI’s new request for subpoenas, full stop. He’s here to prevent the complete disclosure of an entire archive full of detailed and extensive interviews about paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The stakes are plainly very high, for both Adams and Northern Ireland as a whole, and Adams will be urging the U.S. government to take a step that will put it sharply at odds with one of its closest allies. It’s a dramatic narrative and an important piece of policy news at the same time, crossing multiple beats: diplomacy, law enforcement, Irish politics, the state of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Reporters, who is Gerry Adams meeting with? Does he have a meeting at the Department of Justice?

How is it that this aggressive piece of high stakes diplomacy is drawing no attention at all?

TRANSCRIPT: The Fall Out from the Boston College Tapes Continues

The Fall Out from the Boston College Tapes Continues
The Adrian Flannelly Show
Irish Radio Network USA
May 24, 2014

Northern Ireland’s Police Service has initiated steps to demand from Boston College the remainder of the 46 confidential oral histories conducted with members of the IRA and loyalist militias involved in the decades long war as part of the school’s Belfast Project. In meantime, an article that appeared in Ireland’s Sunday World online news edition claims that Anthony McIntyre — who was the main researcher of the Oral History project at Boston College- and his wife US citizen Carrie Twomey are now seeking political asylum –- Carrie Twomey denies any of this and claims that somebody was listening in to her telephone conversations with the US Embassy in Ireland.

Click here to listen

Adrian Flannelly (AF) interviews Carrie Twomey (CT) via telephone from Ireland about allegations made in a recent Irish tabloid about her and her husband Anthony McIntyre, the lead researcher for the Boston College tapes.

AF: We’re going to go to Ireland and we will catch up with Carrie Twomey who is the wife of Anthony McIntyre. Anthony McIntyre was indeed the – correct me if I’m wrong here – first of all Good Morning, to you. Well, it’s Good Morning in New York and Good Afternoon to you, Carrie.

CT: Good Morning. Good Morning. And Good Afternoon. And thank you for having me today.

AF: I just want to check a few things with you. Your husband, Anthony McIntyre, was hired by Boston College to conduct interviews for the Boston College oral archive.

Is that pretty much it?

CT: Yes. Boston College contracted Ed Moloney as project director for what they called The Belfast Project which was meant to be an oral history archive of people that were involved in The Troubles.

It was based on the idea of the Bureau of Military History where they had also done archived interviews and recorded the history of what went on.

And Anthony was hired to conduct the interviews. Which he did. He conducted interviews – many hours of interviews with twenty-six people.

He was hired because first of all he has his PhD. His PhD is in the history of the Provisional IRA and the formation of it and he is academically trained.

And he is also a former IRA Volunteer who did eighteen years in Long Kesh. He was there during the blanket protest – he was four years on the blanket and no-wash protest and he was there during the hunger strikes.

And he would have the experience and the knowledge and the training to conduct an oral history very much in the vein of what we now see being published in the third volume of Ernie O’Malley’s oral history of the IRA from the 20′s and whatnot.

It’s an honoured tradition that he’s following in.

AF: A story, maybe even two stories carried by The Sunday World tabloid, which is a very popular paper in Ireland, in the northern edition they have carried some allegations which you don’t agree with including the fact – well, you can tell us the fact – but the amount of money paid to Anthony and then an add-on to that that you were being paid as his assistant.

Can you straighten that out for us?

CT: Yes. There have been a number of allegations floating both in cyberspace and commentary and specifically published in The Sunday World tabloid about Anthony’s role in the project.

And our safety is very much at risk – graffiti is sprayed up and down on the walls of the Falls Road: “Boston College Touts” – “In-Former Republicans” and so there’s an issue being made of how much money Anthony made or was paid or was paid to conduct these interviews which amount to twenty-five grand a year.

AF: That’s twenty-five thousand pounds?

CT: Yeah. That’s not a lot of money. He did not make any money from the book because he had nothing to do with the book – he was not involved in it.

He did not make any money from the documentary because he was again not involved in it.

I was never hired nor worked on the Boston project as is being alleged.

Number One: I understood at the time that the project was being conducted the issue of how sensitive the material was and it was in my own interest, safety-wise, to have nothing to do with it – to not know anything about it.

And Number Two: There was never a position there anyway! I never worked on the Boston project.

I became involved in the campaign to stop the subpoenas but that’s not a paid position. I’m not hired by anybody. I’m doing this because I love my husband and I want to protect my family.

It’s just a lot of scary stuff happening and The Sunday World – they carried an article labeling Mr. Ivor Bell an informer, a “tout”.

He’s a seventy-seven year old man that’s charged with aiding and abetting and he’s the only person who has been charged in relation to the Boston tapes being subpoenaed…well, the McConville case I should say.

And the article discussed the anger that’s felt and the graffiti and named a bunch a people and named people that weren’t even involved in the Boston project and made the allegations of Anthony having tonnes of money and myself also being employed.

All rubbish. All wrong. And all very worrying because it obviously stokes up the hate campaign that’s being directed against the people that participated in the project.

And I alerted the embassy to the heightened level of threat that we’re facing…

AF: Now okay….just wait. There’s one thing I want to straighten out now: you’re American. You have two children who are American citizens.

So the conversation in the area that I would like to address is what appears to be and obviously it’s not so that you were looking for asylum for your husband, Anthony, in the United States. Because that’s the thrust of the story in The Sunday World.

CT: Yes. And I have never made a visa application and never discussed asylum with the embassy in the main because the embassy, in my communications with the State Department, have made it explicitly clear that Anthony will never be allowed in the US.

There’s no point to make any application on anything because it’s not going to happen…

AF: Just tell us why. Just tell us why that is so.

CT: Because he has the conviction for an IRA murder so in the eyes of the government he was a terrorist. And post 9/11 especially – he’s just not allowed to come in.

I’ve known this for years so this is not anything new.

And I have been very upfront – I even think that we may have discussed it in the previous interviews that we’ve done – that I have been in contact with the embassy and the consulate raising the issue trying to get the subpoenas stopped because of the safety issue so that’s never been any secret.

But the claim that I am begging for asylum? No.

No. I know that asylum is not going to happen. It’s not on the table.

What I am begging for is for the US government to stop facilitating this British grab and criminalisation of Irish history because of the danger it poses to our family.

So I had sent them The Sunday World article about Mr. Bell, just because I document everything, alerting them to the heightened risks that we’re facing and then later had a phone conversation with the embassy in which I was very angry

AF: The American Embassy in Dublin or in Belfast?

CT: The American Embassy in Dublin – Yes – for which we still do not have an Ambassador.

And I was very angry because I just think that this is a situation that has – three years we have spent pointing out exactly where this is going. And for three years we have wanted an adult to step forward and stop the train wreck and everybody’s passed the buck – nothing’s been done and [they've all] allowed this to continue.

I don’t want my family or the participants in this project to be the collateral damage for the United States protecting the assets of the British. I am livid over that.

So I had this conversation and I followed it up with an email that documented the contents of the conversation with the embassy.

The conversation was on Wednesday. The email was on Thursday.

And on Sunday, The Sunday World tabloid ran with a story that I had been in touch with the US administration that week, that I had begged for asylum, that Anthony was mentally unwell, that I wanted to escape the nightmare, that I had worked for Boston College – again repeating about Anthony’s earnings…

I mean, just a scurrilous, scurrilous piece and very alarming because of the risk that it poses to our safety but extremely alarming because it means that my communications with the embassy are compromised either by surveillance, electronic – through the phone, the email -

Or there’s been a serious breech of protocol and illegal privacy violations.

And I have asked the State Department for a formal investigation into the matter. I have also lodged a complaint with the Garda because this is a very serious issue.

If it’s not my phone and my email or my family being monitored this is the US government’s communications that are compromised.

And I think that the Irish government should take this very seriously whatever way this works out. This needs to be investigated.

How does this end up in The Sunday World?

Because I didn’t call The Sunday World and The Sunday World certainly did not and still have yet to call me.

AF: You’ve have no communication with them, directly or indirectly.

CT: Pardon?

AF: You have had no communication with The Sunday World at all. Have they tried to talk to you?

CT: No. No, they have not. Since they’ve been running these stories they have not.

Now I know a fella that writes for The Sunday World and I have spoken to him, actually I just emailed him, asking for a copy of the article and that’s the only contact that I have had and that was after this.

But in terms of the reporter writing the story, the editor, anybody involved in the publication of the story? No. I have not had any contact with The Sunday World whatsoever.

AF: Do you agree, Carrie, do you agree that it was probably, that had it not been for the arrest of Gerry Adams in the lead-up to the elections, that there wouldn’t be a story here at all?

CT: Oh, I think that the arrest of Adams has definitely contributed to the atmosphere and the interest and the threat that we are living under right now – yes.

And I think that that’s why these malicious stories and untrue stories are being peddled around because of the arrest of Adams in particular.

I mean, you and I sat down how many years ago on this issue basically outlining where it would go if it wasn’t stopped?

And here we are where we knew where it would end up if it wasn’t stopped.

This is I think is the greatest act of British vandalisation of Irish history in recent times and they’re criminalising Irish history and I think that’s objectionable and we should be stopping it.

We have the right to tell our history – whatever perspective you’re coming from – and it should not be criminalised.

And that was always the fight: was to not to criminalise history. To resist the subpoenas based on the academic confidentiality that historians do not do the work of the police and…it’s just…

How much and how little has changed.

AF: Carrie Twomey, my guest, is the wife of Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews. There are a couple of things that I’d like to sort out.

There are rumours and insinuations that your husband, Anthony McIntyre, was not paid directly by Boston College at all. That in fact, the project director, Ed Moloney…

CT: (laughs)

AF: Okay, well…I guess you’re answering the question there.

CT: That’s the first that I’ve heard that!

AF: Okay…

CT: Yeah…that’s not true. He was paid by Boston College.

And if fact, anybody who has an academic contract will recognise this: Every few months when the funding runs out and you’re coming to the end of the contract and you’re like oh! what are we going to do and you’re counting your pennies and then the funding always comes through on the last day and then you’re good for another six months – I mean – that was all Boston College and pretty ridiculous to think otherwise.

AF: Okay. Now was there another source of income for your family? You do have two children and you do live in Ireland and have lived in Ireland.

Was the payment from Boston College – was that pretty much the source of revenue for your household?

CT: Yes. We lived in Belfast at the time. My children were much younger then – in fact I think I only had one child at the start of the project.

And I was (and still am) a housewife. One of the benefits that I found as an American living in Ireland was that I could stay home with my children.

The cost of childcare – were I to be working as well as Anthony be working – I would have been paying to work basically because as many working mothers know – it’s extremely difficult for enough child care to cover your ability to freely work.

So we made the decision that I would be a full-time mom and stay at home.

Also the nature of the project itself and the hours that Anthony would be working were not a set kind of thing. It wasn’t like I knew he would be from nine to five and then I could take an evening job and he could mind the kid.

It wouldn’t work like that. He could be gone at any time and he could be gone overnight at any time. So I had to be the dedicated homebody and minding the child.

Which I did and nobody paid me for that. I think we may have gotten child benefits which, if I remember correctly but I would honestly have to check, it would have been maybe eleven quid a week or something – not a lot of money and Anthony was the sole breadwinner….

AF: …Just to put that in perspective: if that was eleven quid as you say a week that amounts to what? About fifteen dollars?

CT: I don’t know and I wouldn’t stand over the amount of it but it wasn’t a huge amount of child benefits, I mean it was….

AF: …And that you were entitled to regardless, right?

CT: Yes. I’m entitled to child benefit down here and that amounts to I think two hundred and sixty a month for the two children. And that’s my income so…not a lot of money.

AF: Carrie, I do want to ask you a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

CT: I grew up in southern California.

AF: And when did you meet Anthony?

CT: I had read a number of articles and letters that he had written in the Andersonstown News online and I had sent him an email because I appreciated his politics. It was a long email – you know – “keep your chin up” because I could see he was pushing a very hard road and an isolated road.

AF: You were a pen pal were you! Were you a pen pal?

CT: It was a very short period. Because I sent him this thing thinking: If someone in Los Angeles is thinking that you’re right then you can’t be all that wrong – because I understood the principles that he was talking about.

He didn’t read the email! (laughs) Because it was too long!

AF: Okay.

CT: So then they had started the Irish Republican Writers Group and made a website and there was an email link on the website that didn’t work. And I emailed him again and said: By the way, did you know that this link doesn’t work and if you need any help with your website let me know.

Because that email was just two lines he replied. And we started chit-chatting just on the politics of things.

At that point I knew that I wanted to come to Ireland. I never wanted to do the two week tour as I had such an interest in Irish history and recent Irish history that I knew I needed to either come to Ireland and understand it on a day-to-day level or just get a new hobby and move on in California.

My work situation opened up where I had the opportunity and I thought I don’t want to be sixty years old and wondering “what if”. So I packed my life into six suitcases and I had a friend in Drogheda (who is Godmother to my daughter) and she said: I have a spare room. And I came over.

And this was at the time when immigration was much more lax and I thought: Okay. I have three months and if I like it I’ll do what I can to secure legal status and if I don’t I’ll come home and continue on in my career. I was a union organiser at the time.

AF: When did you meet Ed Moloney then who is the, hired separately we have to assume – correct me on anything I’m saying – but he was hired separately as director of the Boston College oral project pertaining to the history of The Troubles.

So when did you meet with Ed Moloney?

CT: I would have met him…I remember distinctly the evening that Anthony and I had dinner in his home but I can’t remember exactly when it was – but it would have been sometime before the project began I would think.

Because he and Anthony had been friends and had known each other for some time. I arrived in 2000 and the project started in 2001.

So I would have met him sometime in the Summer but I didn’t have a lot of contact with him. He was a journalist and he was somebody that Anthony knew and that knew Anthony and they had a friendship.

AF: Carrie, what about the rumours that say that from the get-go that Ed Moloney and your husband, Anthony McIntyre, had agreed to derive income a book based on the tapes?

CT: I’d really like to know where that money is because we could use it right now! (laughs)

AF: That’s why I’m talking to you.

CT: My husband made no money from any book.

And in fact the one book that my husband did do, his own book, which was a compilation of essays that he had written for our website, The Blanket, and it was picked up by a small publisher based in New York, Ausubo Press, he was paid an advance of five hundred US dollars which amounted to two hundred and fifty sterling for that book. And we recently got our first royalty check because the advance had finally been paid off with the sales – and our first royalty check was five dollars.

That’s the money that my husband has made from books.

There was no, at least from our perspective, there was no desire to do any book at the start of the project because the whole point of the project was to be confidential. The archive was there to be for the future and the whole thing was the confidentiality and the protection and the secrecy of doing this because of the dangers it posed doing.

And we can see those dangers evident today in how many people are outraged that this project was even done.

I am strongly of the opinion that the more history the better – the better we understand history – that we should not be restricted to one viewpoint only of what has occurred. And everybody has the right to tell their history. So I was very supportive of Anthony doing this.

But it was never about books or money or what could be earned from it. It was about the ability to put voices to the record and that was what was important to my husband.

AF: Now of the interviews which your husband, Anthony McIntyre, conducted to what degree – we’re talking about were most or all of those interviews strictly with the Nationalists – those who were involved in the IRA – or were there others?

CT: The archive itself was meant to expand as it went along.

It started with Anthony doing the interviews with the Republicans and then another researcher/interviewer, Wilson McArthur, was brought along to do the same thing in the Loyalist community. And…

AF: …Was there any communication, for instance, with Anthony and the other interviewer?

CT: There would be in terms of organisational communications i.e.: here’s Tom Hachey and Bob O’Neill coming over to Ireland – everybody needs to meet and discuss the project.

Not in terms of: discuss the contents of the interviews or who was being interviewed. But in terms of: where’s the funding at, are the contracts being renewed, how’s the procedure for the transport of the archive. You know, organisational matters.

But Anthony would have no idea and nothing to do with what Wilson’s work was and Wilson likewise would have had no idea or nothing to do with what Anthony was doing.

And I also want to point out in terms of the confidentiality of the project and how paramount it was and how much it was believed at the time of the project that the confidentiality guarantee was there is that my husband was one of the people who himself was interviewed.

Now he didn’t interview himself – he was interviewed by an academic. But he would not expose anybody that he was asking to also participate in the archive to any risks that he himself did not expose himself to.

So he also contributed his history and his oral history archive to the archive. That really I think says it all in terms of what the belief at the start of this project was.

AF: Carrie, we’re running out of time. I want to thank you for joining us this morning and indeed straightening out some of the confusing reports that we get.

CT: I appreciate your having me and I am always willing to speak to anybody.

If The Irish Voice or The Irish Echo, I’ve spoken with Ray before, if anybody has any questions on anything I am more than happy to clarify.

We don’t have to agree on any of the politics but the facts are easy to ascertain and I’m quite happy to help and assist in any way that I can.

And we do have the bostoncollegesubpeona.wordpress.com or if you search for Boston College subpoena news. I update it regularly. It has everything: contracts, court documents, the recent…

AF: ..Okay.

CT: …Sorry, I don’t mean to go on but we’re available (to check facts).

AF: Very good. Okay. We’ve got to leave it at that, Carrie Twomey, thank you for joining us on Irish Radio Network USA. And friends you are listening to Irish Radio Network and our guest there, Carrie Twomey.

(ends)

 

Surveillance claims over Boston College tapes reported to Irish police

Surveillance claims over Boston College tapes reported to Irish police

Wife of ex-IRA prisoner involved in recordings has asked Garda to investigate phone and email spying allegations

Henry McDonald, Ireland Correspondent
The Guardian
Friday 23 May 2014

The wife of an ex-IRA prisoner who was the key researcher involved with the controversial Boston College archive tapes has complained to the Irish police that her phone and email communications are being spied on.

Carrie Twomey told the Guardian on Friday night she wants the Garda Síochána to investigate her claims that her family are being subjected to electronic surveillance.

Her husband Anthony McIntyre recorded and collated the recorded testimonies of dozens of former IRA activists, some of whom have claimed on tape that Gerry Adams ordered the death and secret disappearance of mother of ten Jean McConville in 1972.

The Sinn Féin president has always denied any involvement in the kidnapping, killing and covert burial of the widow, who the IRA accused of being a British Army informer.

Since Adams was arrested earlier this month and questioned for four days by detectives about the McConville murder, McIntyre and the founder of the Boston College-Belfast Project, Ed Moloney, have come under sustained verbal attacks. Sinn Féin councillors and their supporters have labelled them “Boston College Touts” – a euphemism for informers.

Twomey said she was certain that her phone calls and emails had been subject to “illegal privacy violations” in recent weeks.

The blogger and writer said a recent communication between herself and the US embassy in Dublin had been compromised and its contents leaked to a Sunday newspaper in Belfast.

“I haven’t a clue who precisely is carrying out the surveillance – it might be the NSA in the States, GCHQ in Britain or even the Provisional IRA’s spying department. But whoever is doing it this is an offence in Irish law and I want the Garda to take it seriously. “

She added that the alleged surveillance was linked to the recent announcement that the Police Service of Northern Ireland wanted to seize all of the Boston College-Belfast Project tapes, even those not related to the McConville murder, which the police currently hold in Belfast.

Ed Moloney has urged the US government to resist police demands that all of the remaining tapes detailing paramilitary testimonies be sent to Belfast.

Moloney said that to allow a raid on “an American college’s private archive will be to undermine a peace deal that was in no small way the product of careful American diplomacy and peace building. The United States has the power to invoke vital foreign policy interests in order to reject this PSNI action.”

The author of a critically acclaimed history of the IRA added: “I also called upon Boston College to vigorously resist this action and to rally the rest of American academia in the cause of research confidentiality.”

Participants in the Belfast Project, both former IRA members and ex loyalist paramilitaries, are currently involved in legal action to take back their tapes. Many of the loyalists want the material destroyed fearing future arrests over past Troubles-related crimes. All of those who took part agreed to do so on the condition that the tapes would not be released until they were dead.

If the PSNI seizes all of the Boston College archive material it could lead to dozens of veteran IRA and loyalist paramilitaries being arrested.

Twomey said: “These claims now circulating are a direct result of a phone conversation I had with the embassy on Wednesday 14 May, 2014 and subsequent email correspondence sent Thursday 15 May, 2014, in which I highlighted the heightened risk to our safety and the safety of the participants in the project as a result of Sinn Féin’s orchestration.

“That contents/aspects of our communication, however inaccurately spun, appeared days later in a Sunday tabloid is a matter of serious concern, not least because of the privacy violations and increased risk it indicates.

“I have requested from the [US] State Department a formal investigation into how information that I had raised our safety with the embassy last week ended up in the papers. Either our phone/email is compromised, or the embassy’s communications are, and/or there has been a serious breach of protocol and illegal privacy violations have occurred.”

 

Gerry Adams: Arrested by Northern Ireland’s past

Gerry Adams: Arrested by Northern Ireland’s past
Kevin Rooney
Spiked Online
2 May 2014

Northern Irish politicians have allowed the ghosts of war to rule the present.

It was 11 in December 1972 when Jean McConville was taken from her home down the road from where I lived in West Belfast. It was not until 1999 that the Provisional IRA admitted responsibility for her killing and informed the authorities where the body was buried.

You would hardly know it from the current media coverage of McConville’s killing, following the arrest of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in connection with it this week, but McConville’s disappearance was not the stand-out event of 1972. There was a lot going on in West Belfast. Just a few years before McConville disappeared, the British state had sent the Army into Northern Ireland to occupy our streets and quell the growing civil-rights uprising. In 1971, the British had introduced internment without trial for those same civil-rights activists who were defying bans on demonstrations. And in the same year as McConville’s disappearance, on Bloody Sunday, the Army shot dead 14 unarmed people who had taken to the streets with thousands of others to protest against internment. And there was more. About 500 people died on all sides in the Irish war in 1972 and, in the weeks running up to McConville’s disappearance, 11 people were shot dead by British paratroops in the streets around Ballymurphy where I lived. There were also numerous republicans and Catholic civilians assassinated by British soldiers acting on information from touts (informants). Indeed, the IRA killed McConville because they believed she was a tout.

I would apologise for the quick history lesson were it not for the fact that Adams’ arrest seems to have prompted a rather more selective retelling of that period, with journalists and commentators presenting this event as a uniquely brutal and heinous crime carried out by cold-blooded murderers. It was not; it was part of a war.

The reason you will not hear anyone else present this wider context is that in Northern Ireland today a social and political history of the Irish war has been replaced by a victims’ history of that war. We now rarely talk about the fundamental conflict at the heart of this long war – the struggle of Irish nationalists for a united Ireland against the British state determined to maintain the union with Britain. So fundamental was this political principle that people on both sides were willing to kill and be killed for it. Both the IRA and the British Army continued to fight for many years knowing full well that innocents would die, that normal peacetime values would be perverted, and that things never tolerated in peacetime would be justified by both sides. The IRA stated clearly that informers were legitimate targets; in 1981, the then UK prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, allowed 10 men to die on hunger strike rather than concede the principle that they were political prisoners.

But today, few are prepared to provide the context, or to explain the wartime backdrop against which the killings and the bombings took place. Instead, we talk about the legacy of pain and hurt left by individual deaths. We talk of the need for closure and catharsis, and of the rights of victims. Therapeutic politics has usurped politics proper, and anyone daring to suggest we should leave the past behind and ‘move on’ is lambasted by Northern Ireland’s victims’ commissioner. Our political news programmes, like Today and Newsnight, replace political actors with family members and the spokespeople for victims’ groups. And when politicians do appear, they talk about victims’ rights rather than politics.

But the victim culture embraced by all shades of political opinion presents problems for all. Sinn Féin has virtually transformed itself into the party of victims in recent years; it must often have felt that this approach had finally given nationalists the equality they failed to achieve through an armed struggle. After all, if all suffering is equal, then the nationalist community can certainly claim its fair share of grief.

However, as Gerry Adams languishes in a police cell, he should reflect on the way that he and his party have been hoist by their own petard. He was only too happy to turn the complex political struggles of the past into a tale of victims and victimisers when it benefited him; now this strategy appears to have bitten him.

The British and Irish governments clearly want to move on and are prepared to issue limited apologies and make symbolic gestures and compromises. But the constant dredging up of the past is preventing the progress they seek. The next 10 years in Northern Ireland look set to be dominated by backward-looking commemorations and investigations into past crimes that are likely to be bitter and divisive.

I am not interested in re-fighting the war in Ireland through the lens of the victims. No one listening to the children of Jean McConville telling their story can feel anything other than pity and sympathy. It was a terrible tragedy and it wrecked their lives. But it does not follow that those who suffered during this period of history should get to block progress and keep us in the past. Victim culture is essentially undemocratic. This was demonstrated recently when a campaign by one victim’s family resulted in two Sinn Féin politicians being barred from holding office because of their past IRA activity.

While it might be necessary to accept that we may not see a united Ireland in our lifetimes, we can at least ensure that we do not spend the next 10 years obsessing over each tragic act from a long, drawn-out conflict. Revelling in this mawkish and divisive raking over of the past will do no one in Ireland any good – least of all the victims. We should instead learn the lessons of the war and work together to create a progressive and less divided political future.

Kevin Rooney is a writer and based in London.