BC tapes: PSNI accused of Adams witch hunt
By Brian Fitzpatrick
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, who is at the center of a storm over a Boston College oral history project.
In a move viewed by many as an attempt by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to discredit or even prosecute Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz last week filed a second set of subpoenas requesting access to Boston College’s oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The college had tried to quash an initial subpoena from the US attorney’s office regarding the tapes, which include 30 to 50 oral histories from republican and loyalist paramilitaries which were gathered as the Troubles came to an end, under the strict condition that the recordings would not be released until the interviewees had passed away.
Prosecutors first asked a judge some months ago to order that the college hand over taped interviews given by Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, two former IRA members who had in the past accused Adams of running a secret IRA cell which conducted the kidnappings and disappearances of at least nine people during the early 1970s. Adams famously denies ever being an IRA member.
Now, however, US authorities acting on behalf of an unnamed body presumed to be the PSNI, are demanding access to some 26 interviews given to BC by former IRA members in the project undertaken by Anthony McIntyre, himself a former IRA operative. The investigation is focused on the case of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 who in 1972 was abducted, killed and buried on a beach in the Republic by the IRA, having been suspected of informing to British authorities. Her remains weren’t uncovered until 2003.
Significantly, prosecutors aren’t looking for access to interviews given by loyalist paramilitaries for the same project, which has led some to express the belief that the partisan nature of the investigation could have serious consequences for the peace process.
“From the beginning, Boston College has opposed the subpoenas on the grounds that the premature release of the tapes would threaten the safety of the participants, the enterprise of oral history and the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland,” said Jack Dunn of Boston College in a statement emailed to The Irish Emigrant.
“The latest subpoena…will continue to fuel speculation that the sealed request from authorities in the UK is politically motivated.” Dunn concluded.
After his passing in 2008, parts of Brendan Hughes’ testimony were published in Ed Moloney’s book Voices from the Grave. BC has already handed over certain materials relating to Hughes to the court, but with Price still alive, the college had expressed concerns for her safety should they hand over her recordings.
The original “Motion for an Order to Compel”, seen by The Irish Emigrant, states that, “the Respondents made promises they could not keep – that they would conceal evidence of murder and other crimes until the perpetrators were in their graves…there is no academic privilege which shields the material from disclosure.”
In an op-ed submission to the Boston Globe, however, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre said they feel there is more to the tale than is being admitted.
“[The subpoenas] originate from a small number of PSNI detectives who can hardly be surprised if their motives are questioned,” they said. “After all, the murder at the center of this case was largely ignored by the police for the best part of 40 years.”
Referring to Adams’ election to Dáil Éireann as a TD (member of the Irish parliament) for Co. Louth, which was soon followed by the original subpoena, they said:
“In that election, Gerry Adams was elected to the Dublin parliament and is well-placed to lead his party into government next time. Only then did the PSNI crank into action. Was that just a coincidence?”