Dealing with the Future by Dealing with the Past: Chief Constable

Chief Constable’s speech at British-Irish Association conference
George Hamilton
PSNI
06 Sep 2014

DEALING WITH THE FUTURE BY DEALING WITH THE PAST

Introduction

When President Obama visited us in June 2013 he said these words “You set the example for those who are seeking peace. You are their blueprint to follow. You are the proof of what is possible.”   (President Obama Speech, Waterfront Hall, Belfast 17/06/13)

It is often easy to forget the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland.

This year’s conference theme is on the Future – and I thank you for the opportunity to be part of your discussion this afternoon. But of course any talk of the future must also facilitate discussion on our past: because to talk about the future, we must be ready to talk about our past.

Obama’s words were a huge compliment; but also a huge challenge.

To live up to such an accolade, requires constant, tireless and selfless work.  It requires us to face up to the difficult issues; to respond to the needs of our society.

There are many areas that remain unresolved; but it is the past more than any other, which “continues to confound the sense that Northern Ireland has left the troubles behind.”     (Peace Monitoring Report, 2012)   

The extent to which the legacy of the past has implications for both the present and the future cannot be underestimated.  Time has passed and huge progress has been made; but for many, the pain is still real and still raw.

A policing role in dealing with the past

I have the privilege of being the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, at a time when the community, together with civic and political leaders, including those gathered here today, are being challenged to take the next steps towards securing a safe, confident and peaceful society.

As Chief Constable, my role is to deliver a Police Service that is fit for purpose; our job is to keep people safe.   Today, however as Chief Constable, I also find myself with a significant role to play in trying to deal with the past.

It was not a role referred to in the Patten Report; yet the past has a very significant impact on both the operational side of policing and the way in which we are perceived by the community. It is a role that presents very real dilemmas and is coming under increasing financial, legal and ethical challenge. In recent weeks, the financial challenges have been brought into starker focus. The status quo is now simply not an option.

I want to talk about first of all -

HET

3260 people lost their lives between 1969 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Many of the cases remain unresolved.

The very cold reality is that the older a case, the harder it is to prosecute. While some cases will lend themselves to further progress through the judicial system, with forensic science providing the greatest opportunities; judicial closure is increasingly unlikely in the majority of cases. Memories have faded; witnesses and suspects may have died. The hurt however will not have faded and many families still have questions they want answered.

Understanding that something had to be done, and in the absence of others taking responsibility for dealing more holistically with the past, the PSNI formed the Historical Enquiries Team in 2005. HET, as it became known, was a genuine and unique attempt by policing to provide a process through which to address over thirty years of unresolved deaths. Its creator, Sir Hugh Orde, was clear from the outset that it could not be a stand alone solution to dealing with Northern Ireland’s past. However, no broader solution to the past was ever agreed and in the intervening years, the continually evolving HET project was left in unclear territory, somewhere between truth recovery and serious case review. This lack of clarity could only lead to problems and the work of HET remains on hold following the publication of last year’s challenging HMIC report following the work of Professor Patricia Lundy.

Landscape of legal processes

The absence of a holistic approach to dealing with our past has left a landscape of legal processes to address the pain caused by Northern Ireland’s troubled history. These include police investigations, which PSNI have a responsibility for, coronial inquests, public inquiries, Police Ombudsman investigations and the Criminal Cases Review Commission; all of which PSNI has legislative responsibilities to in terms of disclosure.

There are new requirements for review, re-investigation and disclosure on an almost weekly basis.

It is not just the sheer numbers of cases, but the complexity of the processes and the resources required. The pace at which we can deliver on the growing demand has become an increasing public confidence issue.

It takes significant time and resource to bring a case before the courts. The officers and staff that work on these historic investigations are the same officers and staff that I rely on to investigate murder and other serious crime in the present day. The caseloads that they balance are significant, and they must prioritise their work accordingly. The inevitable delays only serve to add more pain to families who await answers over the deaths of their loved ones.

Delays are also a significant issue in disclosure, as evidenced by recent media coverage of delays in PSNI disclosing material to some of the ongoing legacy inquests. There is little public understanding of the PSNI’s duties in this established legal process. Disclosure is an unwieldy and complex exercise, involving the review of large volume of documentation and balancing competing legal obligations.

Review, investigation and disclosure on historic cases are professional duties that no police officer would seek to avoid. However, the legacy of the troubles means that the level of historical cases for which the PSNI has responsibility is on a scale which no other Police Service in these islands has to respond to.

The Policing dilemma: prioritising finite resources between yesterday and today

I want to be clear – the PSNI are committed to fulfilling a role in responding to Northern Ireland’s troubled past, not least because we are legally obliged to do so, but because dealing with the past is essential to a safe, confident and peaceful future.

But as Chief Constable, I have to balance this commitment with the very real demands of keeping people safe in the present day. It would be both unfair and irresponsible not to make clear the significant strain that the current piecemeal approach to our history is placing on the organisation I have responsibility for leading. The strain is being felt both in terms of operational resources and, significantly, in terms of public confidence.

I am on the record as saying that I want to fulfil our duties in the professional manner that victims deserve. But even if I had infinite financial resources, I could not service the current demand at the rate that is required because we have a limited number of officers and staff with the specialist skills and knowledge required for investigation and disclosure.

And the reality is that I do not have infinite resources. In fact, I face a rapidly reducing budget, with the level of cuts now so deep that there will be a substantial impact on our service delivery. Our priority must be to keep people safe in the present day.

How should policing be defined in Northern Ireland?

Section 32 of the Police Act NI requires I and my organisation to protect life, preserve order, prevent crime and secure justice. Fulfilling these duties on behalf of the community means dismantling the international criminal gangs trafficking human beings within our community; protecting the vulnerable behind closed doors, from crimes such as domestic violence or child abuse; responding to the economic threat posed by cyber and financial crime; and providing visible neighbourhood policing in our community.

It is also a fact that a small, but dangerous number of violent dissident republicans continue to plan attacks on police. While I can say with confidence that PSNI’s desire to keep people safe is greater than the terrorist desire to do harm; there is no doubt that the threat places a substantial financial and human burden on the delivery of policing in Northern Ireland.

We have thankfully had a relatively peaceful summer; but heightened community tensions over flags, parades and protests mean that the PSNI, for now, must be ready to prevent and respond to serious public order scenarios. As Chief Constable, I wonder how much progress we might make in ending such community tensions if we were able to deal with our troubled past; and plan for a shared future? The 2014 Peace Monitoring Report summarised the situation well by concluding that police have been “the shock absorbers for failures elsewhere.”  (Peace Monitoring Report 2014)

There is no doubt that policing, and indeed the criminal justice system, are being left to “absorb the shock” of the past.    In the absence of a more holistic solution the Police Service is left in a lonely position, caught between legal obligations; financial constraints; and public expectation.

Over recent years we have been striving to manage these difficult decisions. But the options I have around budgets have become extremely limited. Every choice I make has a consequence. If I put resources into one area of policing; I must take it from another. As Chief Constable, my immediate obligations must be to keeping people safe today. So, while we will continue to meet our legal obligations, there will now be change in how PSNI responds to the demands of the past and the pace at which we can service the demand.

These are hugely sensitive issues; and there is a massive risk to public confidence in policing.

Is it right that the Police Service should bear the brunt of a broader failure to deal with the past?

Where next?

There is a sense of urgency attached. Money will drive the change whether we want it or not. But, if we are courageous enough, the change can be harnessed as an opportunity to make a difference for those who have been hurt by the past. Achieving such change lies well beyond the remit of policing, although we will play our part. It requires all of us to be selfless; to go beyond our comfort zones; and have challenging conversations, such as the one initiated by the Attorney General almost a year ago.

Are the processes of current criminal law really capable of healing the hurt, establishing truth and answering questions regarding the conflict?

In the sixteen years since the Good Friday Agreement, while we have failed to agree a more holistic approach to the past, there has been significant work conducted quietly and diligently by the likes of Healing Through Remembering, the WAVE Trauma Centre and many more Groups.

This work in turn contributed to the substantial report by Eames Bradley; which itself contributed to the more recent Haass proposals. The results of all this work indicate that, while we seem to understand the need for change, there is no sign of political consensus on how to make progress.

I fully accept that reaching agreement on such a challenging issue is not easy. But, to continue to ignore, hesitate or procrastinate on the past will have unpredictable and far reaching consequences. If our own politicians cannot reach consensus on the issue, then it would seem appropriate and necessary to seek and accept much more “hands on” support from the British and Irish Governments; and indeed other interested and influential observers of our peace process.

The status quo is simply not an option. My view is that action is needed if policing, and indeed our peace process, is not to be dragged backward. We must strive for something better. We owe it to all of those who have suffered; and we owe it to the children and young people of today who have the right to a safe, confident and peaceful future.

In closing, I will quote Hannah Nelson, the school girl, who welcomed President Obama on his 2013 visit to Northern Ireland: “We should not let the past pull us apart and stop us from moving forward… Our past. Our future. It is all about time… It is in the present time that we need to be responsible, accountable people; and live to make a better future for ourselves.”  ( Hannah Nelson, Waterfront Hall, Belfast 17/06/13)

A Parody of a Satire of a Farce

A Parody of a Satire of a Farce
Chris Bray
Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ivor Bell was back in court this week, where his lawyer asked the judge to throw out the increasingly weak and stale charges against him. Here’s how the Belfast Telegraph explains the judge’s response:

“But after being told prosecutors want another eight weeks to consult with police, District Judge Fiona Bagnall indicated that the defence application should wait until full papers are served.”

Ivor Bell was arrested in March. Now, in September, prosecutors in Northern Ireland can’t make a decision about whether or not to pursue his prosecution, because they need some time to consult with the police on the case.

If six months of consultation hasn’t been enough, another two isn’t going to help. Give it up, folks.

Jean McConville murder: IRA suspect’s lawyer slams Boston College ‘evidence’

Jean McConville murder: IRA suspect’s lawyer slams Boston College ‘evidence’
Former IRA negotiator Ivor Bell’s lawyer blasts tapes used to charge his client in Northern Ireland as a ‘complete sham’
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
The Guardian
Thursday 4 September 2014

The use of the controversial Boston College tapes to charge a former IRA negotiator with the murder of a mother of 10 has been branded a “complete sham”.

A lawyer for Ivor Bell demanded that the case against his client should be thrown out.

The Crown alleges that Bell is Mr Z on two taped interviews for the Belfast Project in which it is claimed he spoke about the circumstances of how widow Jean McConville was dragged from her children at gunpoint, driven across the Irish border and then murdered.

The 1972 disappearance of McConville resulted in Gerry Adams’ arrest earlier this year. The Police Service of Northern Ireland questioned the Sinn Féin president over allegations that he gave the order for the woman to be kidnapped, killed and then buried in secret – a claim Adams has always denied.

Bell, 77, from the Andersonstown district of Belfast, was arrested in March and charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

The case against him rests on two interviews given to the Belfast Project. Among those who gave testimony to the project was the late IRA Belfast commander, Brendan Hughes, whose interview included the allegations against Adams.

Bell – who is on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, saying he was not even in the city at the time.

As the IRA veteran appeared before Belfast magistrates’ court on Thursday for an update in the case, his lawyer sought a direction from the Public Prosecution Service to discontinue the case.

Peter Corrigan, defending, claimed the level of disclosure violated an international treaty between the US and the UK.

In a scathing attack on the research initiative, he argued that it was unreliable. “Boston College carried out no safeguards in relation to obtaining the interviews. At first instance the court must be satisfied that the evidence has been lawfully obtained. It’s our case that the Boston College project was a complete sham.”

District Judge Fiona Bagnall indicated that the defence application should wait until full papers were served.

Adjourning proceedings until 30 October, Judge Bagnall said: “I would urge the prosecution to endeavour to prepare this case as quickly as possible.”

The Urgent Search for Justice in a 1972 Murder, Cont

The Urgent Search for Justice in a 1972 Murder, Cont.
Chris Bray
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ivor Bell was arrested in March. It’s now September, and his prosecution has not gone forward. When, if ever, will he brought back into court? Six months, no action, dead silence.

Gerry Adams was arrested at the end of April. It’s now September, and no decision has been announced regarding the possibility he’ll be charged in Jean McConville’s 1972 kidnapping and murder.

At about the same time, Helen McKendry said publicly that she knew who had kidnapped her mother, and said she would go to the police to name names. It is now September, and we have no public indication that the PSNI has acted upon, or even received, the information that McKendry said she was about to bring to them.

Someone at the PSNI leaked the news, back in May, that the police would be returning to the archives at Boston College for new subpoenas of the entire Belfast Project. It’s now September, and there are no publicly available signs that those subpoenas were ever served.

The investigation into the murder of Jean McConville has stalled or evaporated. It’s time for the PSNI and the PPS to either take action or provide some explanation. What has been the point of all this?

Do it or give it up, publicly and explicitly. It’s time.

 

CHRIS BRAY: PSNI Theatre of Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urgent Murder Investigation (cont.)

Urgent Murder Investigation (cont.)
Chris Bray
23 June 2014

On May 22, BBC News reported that detectives in the Police Service of Northern Ireland had decided to pursue new and very broad subpoenas of the Belfast Project archives at Boston College. The BBC reported that news in the present tense, writing that the PSNI “is seeking” all of that archival material.

Today is June 23, and more than a month has passed. Neither the Department of Justice nor Boston College will answer questions from me, anymore, and the PSNI never did in the first place. It’s possible that the PSNI is actively pursuing subpoenas, and it’s possible that the DOJ is actively preparing those subpoenas. But I searched Pacer, today — that’s the case management system for the federal courts, where case documentation can be accessed and downloaded — and I can find no sign that new subpoenas have been prepared or served.

Time will tell, but I wondered last month if the PSNI was wagging its dick at critics, in a fit of pique, with a piece of public theater that was designed to produce fear and worry rather than real investigative gains. How often do you see police departments announcing in the newspaper who they’re going to raid next week?

In any event, the other shoe does not appear to have dropped, or at least not yet. Let us hope that some politicians and criminal justice bureaucrats have come to their senses.

Justice on the Cheap at the Cost of History

Justice on the Cheap at the Cost of History
Thing Discovered to Be What It Is
Chris Bray
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The legal justice system in Northern Ireland is now discovering something that they might always have known, if they had ever bothered to ask.

Lawyers for Ivor Bell, who stands accused of long-ago IRA membership and complicity in the events leading to the 1972 murder of Belfast widow Jean McConville, have argued before a judge that the oral history interviews being used against their client are subjective and unreliable. They are. Indeed, they must necessarily be all of the things Bell’s lawyers say they are. Oral history interviews are valuable to historians precisely because they are entirely subjective, the personally framed stories that people tell about themselves. Subjectivity and unreliable narration aren’t a failure of the form; they’re an inevitable feature.

In Los Angeles, locked in the archives at the University of California, researchers can find the massive transcript of a long series of interviews conducted with Jack Tenney, a California state legislator during the communist-hunting years of the McCarthy era in the United States. For years, Tenney chaired a committee that found communists under every rock in Hollywood, and nearly every rock everywhere else. “You can no more coexist with communism,” Tenney said, “than you can coexist with a nest of rattlesnakes.”

There was just one problem for California’s leading slayer of far-left monsters: He had been a well-known and longtime activist on the political left. He spent the rest of his life trying to forget that inconvenient past.

The oral history interviews archived at UCLA endlessly reveal the depth of Tenney’s later self-deception, as the interviewer leads him through a series of events and asks for his explanation. His membership in the leftist National Lawyers Guild? Well, see, he was sitting in his office when this young man came by and asked for two dollars for some new organization, and Tenney was distracted, so he fumbled for his wallet and paid the initiation fee, not knowing what he was joining. He was later spotted at an NLG convention, wearing a delegate’s ribbon on his lapel, because he had checked into the hotel on business without knowing the Guild was meeting there. Then he bumped into some very, very distant acquaintances, who insisted on giving him a ribbon as a friendly gesture, and he didn’t want to offend them, so….

Tenney’s interviews go on like this for hundreds of pages, revealing a man at war with his own life and trying to talk his way out of his past. The interviews are, in other words, oral history: True in parts, false in parts, often deeply revealing in both. The way a person lies about his own life tells you as much about who he is as the parts that are factually accurate.

The Belfast Project, the oral history interviews of Northern Ireland paramilitary fighters conducted under the aegis of Boston College, could have been a project of enormous value for historians. It would not have been valuable because every word in every interview was true, and no historian would have approached the interviews on those terms. The richness of the project would have been found in its collisions between verifiable fact and proven deception, in the way people told their own stories about the politics of a violent past. The collection would have been an extraordinary resource, but will now be taken apart and destroyed, piece by piece.

That needless act of destruction is taking place because of the breathtaking naivete and laziness of the PSNI’s hapless and self-interested detectives, who believed they could make up for a forty-year investigative failure by going to the Burns Library and checking out a set of interviews that someone else bothered to conduct. Police in Northern Ireland apparently believed they could seize a set of academic interviews, type a few pieces into a report for prosecutors, and deliver some justice on the cheap.

Few authorities have ever been more wrong, or more avoidably foolish. Oral history interviews are not police documents. It was stupid to believe they could be.

Ivor Bell: ‘Boston Project ‘full of inaccuracies’ says lawyer

Ivor Bell: ‘Boston Project ‘full of inaccuracies’ says lawyer
BBC News
6 June 2014

Ivor Bell denies aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville

The Boston College project, used to charge an alleged former IRA commander with aiding the murder of Jean McConville is full of inaccuracies, a court in Belfast has heard.

Mr Bell, 77, from Ramoan Gardens, Belfast, is charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

The prosecution case is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at Boston College.

His lawyer said some material disclosed violated an international treaty.

Defence lawyer Peter Corrigan said the Public Prosecution Service should now decide the evidence does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution.

Jean McConville, 37, became known as one of the Disappeared.

She was kidnapped in front of her children and accused of having been an informer. That claim was later dismissed following an official investigation.

She was held at one or more houses before being shot. Her body was recovered on a beach in County Louth in August 2003.

Several former paramilitaries were interviewed about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Mr Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

The veteran republican – who is currently on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

On Friday, Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that his file would be allocated to a prosecutor within four weeks.

But his lawyer said significant developments about the Boston study raised serious issues about the material being used against his client.

“It’s very clear it was an intellectual, academic project, but was riddled with inaccuracies, unreliable and subjective,” he contended.

“Any material gleaned from that does not match the rigorous standards required for a criminal (case).

“The PPS (Public Prosecution Service) should take a view that this evidence is unreliable, has not been evaluated properly and should not be the basis of a criminal prosecution.”

Turning to the international treaty used to obtain the tapes, he argued that a US court ordered that only material related to the Jean McConville case was to be disclosed to the PSNI.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told Mr Bell was questioned for “numerous days” about interviewee Z.

“Throughout that interview, material from the start of the Troubles right up to the late 1980s was put in contravention of an international treaty direction,” Mr Corrigan said.

“The American court directed in good faith certain materials and only those materials.

“That has been violated and it has a serious implication on how this court approaches the evidence and an abuse of the process.”

Responding to his request for the PPS to carry out a review and provide an update, Judge Bagnall pointed out that a decision had yet to be taken on the prosecution.

Mr Corrigan also confirmed his client plans to rely on an alibi defence.

“The defendant has put forward an account of where he was at the material time and he requested during interviews that the police obtain all military and police logs and records to verify the assertion that he wasn’t in Belfast,” he said.

Chris Bray: BC, NBC, and the PSNI

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

They’re too late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)