Irish Radio Network, USA – Adrian Flannelly Show
November 19, 2011
Program: Ed Moloney is a highly respected journalist and author of 3 riveting books dealing with the Northern Ireland Troubles. His latest, “Voices from the Grave”, includes interview material provided by Boston College Oral History IRA/UVF project collected in the 1990s. Now, U.S Feds, at the behest of the UK, have issued subpoenas on Boston College for confidential interviews of IRA members. This issue is causing widespread anger and opposition in the American Irish community.
Listen to the archived show here: http://media01.ultratek.com:81/player.php?clid=5&mid=1092
Adrian Flannelly (AF) interviews Ed Moloney (EM)
Adrian Flannelly (AF): You’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA. Over the last few weeks on this program here, we haven’t often planned this way, but as I have done through the decades, I try to keep our listeners informed about Northern Ireland, about what is happening, and I always…and I think my next guest, my guest of this week, Ed Moloney, will vouch for the fact that for decades, this last one has been used to disseminate information about Northern Ireland. Matter of fact, as most of you know, I’m broadcasting for forty years. I think going back close to three decades ago, there is a journalist who’s covering Northern Ireland and somebody who, before Wikipedia and before the internet, one would have to keep any eye out for articles and for news items from my guest, Ed Moloney, and we generally found you where ever you were back in those days through the 80’s and 90’s, Ed Moloney, because you’re the man on the spot. I welcome you back to our studios and to our microphones.
Ed Moloney (EM): Thank you, Adrian, that’s a very flattering introduction. I don’t know whether I live up to that but it’s more than welcome, thank you.
AF: Well, you’re our primary source for information on our program and indeed, if we go back to that particular period of time, most of my listeners would have been interested primarily in the Nationalist community, in the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, and so I would like you to kind of, we’re going to take the chronology of that period, we do know that things started to heat up after Bloody Sunday, which was, that was 1968, 72, is it? (EM interjects: January, 1972.). That was the beginning, even though there was a lot of unrest before then, but that was the beginning of what appeared to, I’d say to Irish-Americans, as an outright war in Northern Ireland as opposed to decades of unrest, and so the war was on and Irish-America became involved, reacted to what was happening. And there were very few, and perhaps I’m only speaking because of Irish media, but there were very few who we could identify, excuse the parochialism, “on the other side”, who would have anything to do with us here. Yet you were, as a journalist, you were able to follow and speak with, and you’ve received many awards through the years for journalism, you were able to bring us a clear picture of what was happening at that time.
EM: Well, that’s very kind of you and as I said, very, very flattered with that description of my talents and career record and I’m very grateful for it. But yes, indeed, I have covered Northern Ireland perhaps for far too many years now, but through most of The Troubles, and some of the worst years of The Troubles, I was covering for either Hibernia Magazine, Magill Magazine, The Irish Times, The Sunday Tribune and more recently, I’ve been sort of freelancing and living here in Riverdale, in NY. But you know I’ve had links here with Irish-America through my wife and her family obviously, for most of those years, and on more than one occasion I’ve had reasons to be very thankful to the Irish-American community.
Some people who listen to your program will doubtless remember ten years ago, I was in a situation very similar to the one I’m facing now in which the authorities in Britain, in the form of Scotland Yard, had served a subpoena on me to hand over my notes on the assassination of Patrick Finucane, who everyone knows is a Northern Ireland Belfast-based lawyer who was murdered in very shady, shadowy circumstances. And I had interviewed a Loyalist, a member of the Ulster Defence Association, the group that actually killed Pat Finucane. And he had told me that he had been working for the Special Branch at the time of Pat Finucane’s murder, that he was the UDA Quartermaster that supplied the unit that killed Pat Finucane with weapons. That he told his RUC/Special Branch handlers beforehand that this was going to happen and also afterwards, he told them where the guns were and who had them and what have you, and on none of those occasions did the police make any effort to intervene or to catch those who were responsible. And I’d interviewed him. And he was then, suddenly, he was charged with the murder of Pat Finucane, which was as obscene as you can possibly get because here was the guy who had actually provided the authorities with the information that could have saved Pat Finucane’s life and here he was being charged. And they served a subpoena on me with the threat that I would go to gaol unless I handed over my notes. And I have to say that but for Irish-America, but for American journalism but for the Irish-American community here I probably would have lost that case and would have had to make a very serious decision about going to gaol or not.
So there’s a very special place in my heart for Irish-America because they came to my rescue then and I have to say that this time as well. There are lots of people who have rallied around recognising the importance of the action that the authorities are trying to take against Boston College and the seriousness of it, the seriousness partly for American academic life, partly for the very proud and long tradition of Oral History that exists in this country, a tradition that can boast people like Studs Terkel and Mark Baker as being its most eminent proponents, as well as those who (are) actually involved in the archive, either those who were interviewed or those who did the interviewing, all have a great deal at stake in this. And once again, Irish-America has come to the assistance. We have a very good lawyer, Eamonn Dornan, we have Jim Cullen, who’s working with us, we have people in the Irish-American Unity Conference, we have The Brehon Law Society, we have the AOH, they’re all recognising the importance of this. And also of course there’s the added ingredient that they all know that there are implications for the peace process back in Belfast if this case were to be lost. So once again, Irish-America had rallied to the flag as it were.
AF: Okay. And once again, as I would know quite well myself, having over the decades, it doesn’t take too many to have a movement that starts somewhere and has a tendency to grow, for those who would like to take and place the blame during this period of time and take that and said: Look, this has to have something to do, this Boston College and the Oral History and Boston College, this was something that was started by Moloney, he wrote a book last year and it turns out that your book, Voices From the Grave, had indeed created a tremendous amount of interest, not only among those who are trying to/would like to understand about the conflicts in Northern Ireland, but this a book from a journalist who’s spent decades covering Northern Ireland and actually you take, and your book focuses on two people, two well-known people from opposite sides of the political war. Both of them, no stranger to violence, and both of them indeed very much responsible for the turning around of a life of violence to become part of the peace process, The Belfast Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, and whatever. There are those who are now saying had you not started in Boston College, had you not, had you’d just simply ignored the fact that Boston College not only, that you didn’t have to kick in there or that Boston College wanted an Oral History, you had indeed, you yourself, as a respected journalist, to be a director of that project and therefore, at this juncture, when Boston College is now, has been served subpoenas, has been subpoenaed here at the behest of the British government, we’d have to say, whether that’s directly or indirectly and you can respond to that in a moment, and then somehow your book comes out based on your own very reliable information, you knew these, both of these gentlemen, and that so two and two adds up and sure enough we have five and that’s why the entire peace process in Northern Ireland might be in jeopardy and God knows since the subpoenas are coming from, you know, unknown sources somehow this Moloney guy’s in the middle of it and if he minded his own business everything would be absolutely fine, thank you.
EM: Well, I don’t know where to start with that one. (both laugh) First of all, I don’t think that it is the British government that’s behind this. I think it’s elements within the Police Service of Northern Ireland. They are the ones who initiated the process for serving these subpoenas. It’s one of these bureaucratic processes that once you’ve pressed the button the machinery starts working. And as far as I know there was no political input into the decision making at all it’s virtually an automatic process that just whirls into action and away you go and out the other end comes these subpoenas. Which by dint of a treaty between the the Americans and the British and the Americans have a duty and a responsibility to serve. And I think that’s what’s really happening. So I think if you’re looking for questions about motives, I don’t think it’s the British because the British don’t want to damage this peace process. The peace process is far too valuable for them.
And not only that, the politicians who’ve have been running the Northern Ireland Office on behalf of the British government in recent years are big fans of the Boston College archive. And indeed, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Patterson, at one stage wanted to model his Truth Process, truth seeking process, something which is designed to deal with the past and put it behind us, very much like the South Africans did with their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He wanted to set up an Oral History archive very similar to the one we had going in Boston College. That’s point number one.
Point number two, let me explain the background to the Boston College initiative: it was born out of the peace process directly in the sense that post the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, it became clear that even though all the dots hadn’t been put over the i’s and the t’s remained to be crossed and there was still a lot of argument and negociation to be done, the conflict was essentially over. And this was a conflict that was, in terms of Irish History, one of the longest lasting, bloodiest and, in terms of its effect, long-lasting that there has been in recent Irish History. I mean, it really has been a massive, cataclysmic event. The death toll in Northern Ireland would be equivalent to the death toll in the American Civil War, 600,000, you know, if you if you were to translate it proportionately. There wasn’t a person or family in Northern Ireland really who wasn’t affected one way or another or in Ireland as a whole, so it was a huge, huge conflict.
And here it was coming to an end. And the problem was, well one of the many problems was it was a conflict that had lasted thirty years by that stage. And a lot of the people who’d been involved in the conflict were getting old and some of them were already beginning to die. (AF interjects: and some of them dead and gone.) And some of them dead and gone. I had in my mind for a long time, and I’ve always been a big History buff, I would always pass on materials, files that I would get, documents that I would get to The Linen Hall Library in Belfast, which has got a special collection devoted to The Troubles, the ephemera of Northern Ireland Troubles. And I’d always had this in my mind that it would be a very good idea if we could somehow replicate something that the Irish government did back in the 40’s and 50’s, which was a project to interview people who had been involved in the Anglo-Irish War. They were able to do it. Well, first of all, the Anglo-Irish War only lasted a few years and then you had the Civil War and then you had a period of peace. By the time the Irish government got round to doing it, something like thirty years, twenty-thirty years had passed between the worst of the violence and them starting their project. And people were still alive and passions had cooled. In Northern Ireland we didn’t have that luxury because as I said, The Troubles had lasted for thirty years already and people were already dying who had been involved in the conflict. If we didn’t collect their stories…these stories were going to be lost forever because if you waited for another thirty years or twenty years as the Irish government had, you would definitely would be dead and you would lose a very, very important part of the story.
And it is important to gather these peoples’ stories. We know the stories of the politicians, we know what John Hume did, we know what the Irish government did, we know what Ian Paisley did, you know all those histories are straightforward. But the history of those people who actually went out and did the bombing and the shooting and the killing, awful as those events were, nonetheless were extremely important. What were their motives? What drove them? What persuaded them to do this? How did they feel? How did they go about it? How did they feel at the end? Was it worth it? All of those sort of important questions were all there and unless someone made an attempt to answer them then they would be lost.
And at the time that I was thinking that, it just so happened that a friend of mine, Paul Bew, who is a Professor of Politics at Queen’s University, had a year at Boston College as a visiting Professor. They had come up with the idea that they wanted to start some sort of collection. I think their original ideas may have been something based on The Linen Hall Ephemera Collection. But that had already been done. And I suggested to Paul that this may be one project that we could do. We then had a whole series of discussions with Boston College and the net result of that was we started the archive. Now what was the purpose of the archive? The purpose of the archives was to interview as many people as we possibly could as soon as we got the money in place from all aspects of The Troubles.
We started off with the Republican side and notice I’m using the word “Republican”, not Provisional IRA. It’s a Republican archive. And the Republican struggle in Northern Ireland consisted of much more than the Provos. There was the Official IRA, the INLA, the IRSP and a whole number of other smaller groups; we set out to interview as many of those as possible. So this is not a Provisional IRA archive. Let me hit that one on the head straightaway.
Secondly, we wanted to do the same thing with the major Loyalist groups. Now at that time there were two Loyalist groups in Northern Ireland: the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association. The UDA was in the middle of a nasty, horrible feud about drugs and prostitution and criminality and was literally falling to pieces. It ceased to be a coherent group. The only really coherent Loyalist group still around was the UVF so we decided we would start a project with them.
We also, incidentally, started a project on the Royal Ulster Constabulary and this is not very well known. We wanted the RUC to be involved. And indeed there were also plans, at one stage, to include those who were in the Ulster Defence Regiment and also the British Army. We wanted to interview as many people involved in the conflict from every side as possible. Now, as things turned out, the money became very tight. We got the RUC part of the archive up and going but it turned out the interviewer wasn’t really up to the job so we had to put that on hold and then the money did run out.
So that was the basis of the Boston College archive. It was an idea that was going to, hopefully, end up with collecting as many stories as we could possibly get and don’t forget, (it’s) been very, very difficult and it was very difficult to persuade people to talk candidly and honestly about these things but we set out to try to do that as much as we could. That was the original idea.
Now, let me come to this book. Let me first of all explain the arrangements that were made with interviewees, these people that we asked to sit down in front of a microphone and have their stories and recollections recorded on tape for posterity. The very minimum deal that was offered to people was that nothing would be revealed until their death. And that was satisfactory for most people but some people wanted more than that and I’m not going to go into any great details about that. But some of them asked for a longer period than that and they were granted that. Secondly, there was no…
AF: And by the way might I add to that? That that is not an unusual request for Oral History.
EM: No, I think it’s fairly standard. In fact, let me explain how we got that. (AF interjects: Go ahead.) We got that from a Columbia University Oral History project here in New York, we actually used their plan, their best game, as ours; we adopted it entirely; and that is where we got that particular idea but we were flexible enough to allow people to impose longer and stricter conditions if they wanted to. At the same time, if people who we interviewed decided that they wanted to make their story public, anyway, there’s nothing we could do to stop them. It’s their life story. We don’t own it. When they died, that material became the possession of Boston College. It didn’t automatically mean that we would make it public and it didn’t automatically mean that we would publish anything based on it. The reason why this book came out, it’s based upon two people. One of them was Brendan Hughes who was, if you’d like, Harry Boland to Gerry Adams’ Michael Collins. The two of them were inseparable colleagues and comrades during most of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
AF: And Hughes was born in ’48, wasn’t he?
EM: Born in 1948, died in 2008 (AF interjects: the same year as Gerry Adams) same year as Gerry Adams. They were exact contemporaries, and very close comrades and friends for most of their lives. They did have a falling out over the peace process, but nevertheless they were inseparable. And there’s that famous iconic photograph of Brendan Hughes and Gerry Adams in Long Kesh with the arms draped over each others shoulders and clearly you look at that and say these two guys were as close as could possible be. In jail they bunked together in the sense that their beds were next to each other. They shared everything in terms of their thoughts and their ideas; they were extremely close.
His account was extraordinarily valuable. When Brendan Hughes was interviewed he initially wanted his story to be told and published before he died. Now it was only with great difficulty that we dissuaded him not to do that because it would created huge amounts of difficulties for himself and all sorts of other people if he did that. But he did insist that once he died he wanted his story published. The only reason we published this book was because Brendan Hughes, as an interviewee, wanted this to be published. And because he was our source, we had made a promise to our source, we fulfilled that promise and the book was published.
And the other person, David Ervine, died roughly about the same time (AF interjects: and he was actually five years younger, he was born in ’53.) Yes, he was a bit younger. The idea was if we put out a book just about Brendan Hughes it was going to be very unbalanced because it was just one side of the conflict. (AF interjects: Of course.) And so we got the go-ahead to balance Brendan Hughes’ account with David Ervine’s account.
So for those people who imagine there was some sort of conspiracy involved in the planning and publishing of this book, I’m extremely sorry to disappoint them. This was actually a dying man’s wish which we, as the people who interviewed him, had an obligation to fulfill, as we would anyone else.
All those other people who’ve been interviewed in the course of the archive, some of them have actually gone ahead and published their stories anyhow, even though they are very much alive. Richard O’Rawe, who wrote his book about the hunger strikes in 1981, very much against my advice, because I said to him you’re going cause yourself an awful lot of problems here, Richard, if you go ahead and publish this. He wanted to do it. We couldn’t stop him. It’s his life story. Even though we were going to lose a very valuable interview or set of interviews for the archive, he went ahead and did that.
So each person had, well first of all, the opportunity to impose their own conditions if they wanted to, impose extra conditions. Like Brendan Hughes wanted his book out; he wanted his story out as soon as he was dead. He wanted it before he was dead and we persuaded him not to. And instead he settled for the book being published in the wake of his passing. And that’s exactly what happened.
AF: Many of the activists in Northern Ireland were guests on this program through the years and if there is an Oral History somewhere in our own archives I think that would be quite valuable in terms of living as they lived. You have to imagine that these were, none of them were pussyfooting around. These were hard-nosed leaders who felt, that actually, the only justice, definitely on the Republican/Nationalist side, the only justice that the British would ever understand would have to come out of the barrel of a gun. Now when we cross to the Loyalist side there may be lingering opinion that the David Ervines, and that the leaders at that time were very happy with and enjoyed the support of Britain and in fact, with a wink and a nod, felt they were in the driver’s seat, or if not in the driver’s seat definitely very close to that. You were close enough, and indeed we were, to know that there were no…nobody in Northern Ireland at that period of time, involved in any of those movements, had any great gra, love, for Britain in the first place. They definitely, on the Republican/Nationalist side, yes, they wanted to be a nation once again. But on the Loyalist side, they definitely didn’t want to become part of a nation that, according to them, didn’t and wouldn’t do anything. So, could you help us separate the loyalties there from the perception that we had over here? That if you were a Protestant and if you had Loyalist leanings, then obviously, you were a friend of the Brits and they were gonna take care of you and, on the other hand, if you were a Catholic and Republican, well then the might of the British Empire was gonna be down on top of you no matter what you did.
EM: Except it is more complicated than that. You look at the violence history and see have seen its instances. 1912, for example, in which the Protestants took up arms against the British government, or at least threatened to take up arms against the British government. I think what that tells you about the Loyalists, and I think it’s almost impossible to understand the phenomenon of Northern Protestants and Northern Loyalists unless you grasp this, and that is, and it’s something that comes from their Scottish roots and their Presbyterian roots, in a sense. It is this notion that their loyalty is conditional, it’s not unconditional. Americans would have unconditional loyalty to the Stars and Stripes and to their Constitution and what have you. Northern Ireland Protestants only have conditional Loyalty to the Crown and what they mean by that is that we will be loyal to Britain only as long as Britain is loyal to us.
And what that translates to in politics is a figure like Ian Paisley, who most outsiders cannot understand. Here is this man, we’re talking about the earlier Ian Paisley, not the tamed one of more recent years. Look at Ian Paisley in the early years. And here is this man who is waving the Union Jack and he’s screaming insults at the British government for selling them out. Well, he’s understandable if you grasp that notion that people like him and the tradition that he represents say: Yeah, we’re British, but only as long as the Brits support our interests. And their interests were seen very much in terms of their physical occupation of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Which is that they saw themselves as people very much like, if the comparison isn’t over-stretched, with the white Afrikaners in South Africa, colonizing this land which was full of savages. They took the black savages’ land, they made the place civilized.
This is the way they would look at their place in Irish society and the Catholics of Northern Ireland take the place of the black savages in South Africa. They see themselves very much as people who have taken land and who live under the constant threat that not only is this land going to be taken back from them at some time but that revenge is going to be wreaked upon them for that. And that instills in them all sorts of notions of fear and dislike and antagonism towards their Catholic neighbors.
And that’s all a result of, if you like, Britain’s involvement or England’s involvement in Ireland because how did these people get into Ireland in the first place? They were planted there in the 17th century by the British in order to make Ireland less of a threat to England. That’s the origin, I think, of this very confused philosophy and ideology known as Loyalism. But we’re still living with the consequences of that.
People like David Ervine I think very strongly reflects that sort of thinking that: Yes, okay, we are British, but only as long as the British are meeting our needs and our requirements. If they don’t meet our requirements and if we think they’re selling us out, we’ll turn against them as they did during the course of The Troubles. Shots were fired on many, many occasions by UDA and UVF gunmen at British troops. And also back in history, you’ve seen examples of Loyalists taking up arms against the British.
AF: The book, friends, is Voices From the Grave Two Men’s War in Ireland and my guest is Ed Moloney. Associated Press said at the time said: groundbreaking new book on Northern Ireland conflict. And we’d have to agree with them on that because the book is basically concentrates on two people who volunteered and who actually, you knew both of them, well you interviewed both of them? And in fact, both of them, and I’ll have to say particularly in David Ervine, was very forthcoming and played a very significant role in moving towards the…in making the peace… making it happen. We couldn’t say the same about Gerry Hughes other than (EM interjects: about Brendan Hughes.) I’m sorry, Brendan Hughes, other than that he played a very significant role during that period. And I’m not too sure, when he was on his deathbed whether he felt that having a peace process in Northern Ireland was better than nothing. We know that he had severe disagreement with Gerry Adams.
EM: Yeah. He did, he did, he did, Brendan Hughes, I think, is a fascinating figure and, incidentally, one of the reasons why we wanted to have the two guys together is that their lives crossed over at crucial times.
For example, Brendan Hughes was the military commander of the operation on Bloody Friday in Belfast in which you had these huge number of bombs, 20-30 bombs, going off in a very short period of time, a lot of people killed, a disaster for the IRA, as he recognises himself. It was that same event, or same series of bombs, that persuaded David Ervine to join the UVF to hit back at the Catholics he regarded as being responsible. So their lives did overlap in all sorts of ways but just to make it clear about Brendan Hughes: certainly he and Gerry Adams had their differences and I think at the start of this interview I compared them to Harry Boland and Michael Collins, with Gerry Adams playing the Michael Collins and Brendan Hughes playing the Harry Boland figure except there is no Kitty O’ Shea in this story except, if you want to regard the Provisional IRA as their surrogate O’Shea, Kitty O’Shea, for the purposes of this story. Certainly the IRA was very much central to Brendan Hughes’ life.
While he certainly opposed and criticised the peace process strategy as being not what they fought for and not worth all the killing that they had done, by the end, long before he died, he had, and in his interviews he makes this very clear, absolutely opposed to the use of violence anymore because it was just futile. So he was not a dissident in the sense that the dissident Republicans in Ireland at the moment who are opposed to Gerry Adams are also planting bombs, or at least attempting to plant bombs and shoot British soldiers. Brendan Hughes had come to the view that those days have gone and they were useless and it waste of time continuing that. But that did not stop him having a critique of Gerry Adams.
And I think what’s important about their story is that it’s a very human story. Here you have these two very central figures in the IRA: Gerry Adams, whatever one says or thinks about him, he’s gonna go down in Irish History as like a major, central figure of which there will be endless books written when he dies, there’s absolutely no doubt about that, and all sorts of speculations about this, that and the other. On the other hand you have Brendan Hughes a very talented, very popular, very able IRA operator, very shrewd political operator. And a very brave person as the hunger strikes demonstrates.
AF: And the creator and instigator of the hunger strike.
EM: That’s right. And you had these two guys who were as close together as two peas in a pod and they fell out; extraordinary human story which is worth telling. It’s got nothing to do with dissidents. It’s got to do with human nature. It’s got to do with history. It’s got to do with this awful period that we’ve gone through in Ireland and it tells you something so valuable and insightful about what was going on at that time.
AF: Now, let’s get back to the crux of the problem because the more as time goes by the peace process in Northern Ireland, at best, when we can say all we have to say about what an amazing, how much progress has been made (and alot has been made), but it is and will be fragile for quite some time to come.
EM: You have evidence of that this week. You have Peter Robinson, who is threatening to resign and to call a General Election if the prisons in Northern Ireland lose their title Her Majesty’s Gaol, or Her Majesty’s Prison Maghaberry, Her Majesty’s Prison Maze or whatever it happens to be. And it shows you just how superficial a lot of the peace actually is. You really wouldn’t need a great deal to start causing significant problems for it. And the reason why Peter Robinson is taking that stand is that he knows that within his own party, with his own organisation, there are strong hardliners who will oppose those sorts of changes. And he daren’t do so otherwise he’s going to lose his own support.
You wouldn’t need much imagination to conjure up a similar situation in which the Sinn Fein side are put under some equal sort of pressure on an equivalent type of issue in which strains and stresses could very well show themselves in a quite disruptive way. So it is. The fragility is still there, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
AF: And I think some of the concerns from many throughout Irish-America who feel that they have spent a lot of their time, effort and money through the years in getting Northern Ireland to where it is today, and however fragile the situation is there are the moment, that you actually do not need Boston College getting subpoenaed. We don’t need a book from Ed Moloney, which, even though at the behest of both gentlemen, you interviewed them, you gave them…because somewhere in there there might be something there that could, indeed, lead to a horrific outcome in terms of, let’s call it what it is: we do know that Brendan Hughes and his affiliation and association with Gerry Adams and that very tight relationship that they have, some of the Oral History given by Brendan Hughes could be very detri- mental to the main history we’ll remember in Gerry Adams. Therefore, let’s do what we can, let’s blame Boston College for having it in the first place. Let’s blame Ed Moloney for playing his role in that. Let’s just find somebody here because if this does go through and if the challenges to the subpoenas which have been served, if that goes wrong, there won’t be any peace in Northern Ireland, it could scuttle all that.
EM: First of all, there is absolutely no connection between this book and the subpoenas. The subpoenas are not looking for Brendan Hughes’ interviews because they’re actually out in the public domain, even though they have been mentioned in the documents, they’re there already. The reasons why the subpoenas are being served and being sought by the PSNI and by the US Department of Justice is because of an interview that another person, called Dolours Price, gave to a newspaper in Belfast back in February, 2010. As a result of that, and as a result of journalistic activity which I’ve written about at length and which I won’t bore your listeners with except to say it was of the most unethical sort, as a result of that, it became known that Dolours Price had given interviews to Boston College. And then an assumption was made that the same things that she said in her interviews to The Irish News, which were reproduced in another newspaper called The Sunday Life, were also in her interviews with Boston College when no one knows at all what she has said. So there is no connection at all between that book and these subpoenas. They arrived out of an entirely different set of circumstances, having to do with an entirely different person, who also happened to be interviewed by Boston College, but whose interviews have remain secret and are not known.
AF: Now, is there any doubt in your mind, at all, that the Oral History and that those interviews in Boston College were leaked, could have been leaked, could have maybe (been) copied?
EM: Absolutely not.
AF: Well you ought to know.
EM: Absolutely no chance. First of all there was only one tape made of each interview and they were immediately sent by courier to Boston College. And there they are stored in The Burns Library on the campus and they’re stored under the most extraordinary security, (AF interjects: Right.) with TV cameras and all that sort of stuff. And no one can get hold of them. No one can leak these interviews without it being known, because it’s all there and accounted for.
AF: And if there’s one thing Boston College is good for…(EM interrupts.)
EM: Hang on. Hang on. We know that Dolours Price was interviewed on tape by The Irish News. The Police, the PSNI haven’t gone searching for her tape.
AF: Why not?
EM: You better go and ask them because they didn’t go near The Irish News.
AF: But why did the PSNI show little or no interest in any of this going back to 1972?
EM: That’s a different question, Adrian, that’s a different question, indeed, entirely.
EM: What we have here is the situation where the PSNI knew that there were these interviews in Belfast for The Irish News which were then reproduced in The Sunday Life. The Sunday Life lied about where they got their information from. The said they got the information from Boston College. They didn’t. They got it from The Irish News tape. As a result of that, instead of the police, PSNI in Belfast, just doing a very simple checking job with The Irish News and The Sunday Life, they sat on their backsides for thirteen months and then decided to serve subpoenas against Boston College. They didn’t bother to go and ask either The Irish News or The Sunday Life: Do you have these tapes? Where did you get them? What did they say? Can we listen to them? They just assumed that they came from Boston College.
Now the other issue that you mentioned there about the incident at the center of this, Jean McConville: Yes, you’re absolutely right. She disappeared in 1972 and for the next thirty years or so the authorities in Belfast were happy to regard her disappearance as just that: a missing person. They had not even classified her as a murder.
AF: As in fact there were many others.
EM: As there were many others. In fact, the Police Ombudsman issued a report which is extremely critical of both the British Army, which actually also played a role in this business, and the RUC, for their treatment of the McConville family and for the utter disregard they had for her family’s interest and the fact that she had been murdered. And also one has to say as well, that there’s no doubt in my mind, that if one was to burrow into the intelligence files at PSNI headquarters in Belfast, you would find out that the PSNI and their predecessors, the RUC, have known all the details of this killing for many, many, many years. I’d bet the mortgage on that. They know all this stuff.
AF: So, maybe then are we disillusioned then when we look at the PSNI from here and say, well, thank God, that the old guard is gone and that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is much more trustworthy today. And in fact, they are doing fine with their quotas, they’re trying to recruit Catholics, and have it more accountable and they have an Ombudsman, and all the rest of it, but first of all….
EM: That’s a question that arises out of something like this because you not only have the PSNI going down this road knowing where it’s likely to lead, knowing that it will end up in a situation where fingers will be pointed at Gerry Adams in the legal sense. You also have, contemporaneously, you have the British government, and now the political leadership is involved in this particular part of the story at least, turning down attempts to having a proper investigation into Pat Finucane’s killing. And when everyone knows that all the intelligence agencies of the day: the RUC, the Special Branch, MI5 and British Military Intelligence, under the guise of an organisation called the Force Research Unit, were up to their eyeballs in Pat Finucane’s death. They knew beforehand and they did nothing afterwards about it.
AF: And, in fact, to some degree, with the passage of time, we have a new Prime Minister who came into England and before he opened his mouth, took his jacket off, apologised for all the atrocities and for all the…and that was supposed to cover the collusion. It was well known, this was not something that there was a fierce amount of denial in as we go through the years. So, can you then give us your opinion as to why, again, if the situation with the peace process in Northern Ireland is as fragile as we know it is and if everything rides on this, and bear in mind the British government and the successive government have an awful lot to lose, they’ve invested. Why the hell would anybody risk this? And could you explain to us how somebody in the PSNI in Northern Ireland can push a button and have that rubber stamped in Whitehall and have subpoenas issued here in the United States to Boston College? I mean, is somebody, that sounds like…
EM: Well, no I think the exactly same procedures probably apply here, If someone in the FBI says there’s a guy hiding out in North London and we want him extradited, let’s get a subpoena. They don’t have to go to Eric Holder to say: can we please issue an extradition warrant issue for this guy who’s hiding out in North London? They just go through normal procedures. There’s a bureaucratic machinery for this type of thing. And I suspect…(AF interrupts)
AF: What the profile of this person? Is it a rogue?
EM: Well, we don’t know. We don’t know.
AF: Could it be, excuse the western Ireland expression, could it be a gombeen, could it be someone who doesn’t get the?….(EM interrupts)
EM: Adrian, your guess is as good as mine. There may be a multitude of motives involved here with the PSNI people, the detectives involved. Some of them may be ambitious. Gosh, I’ve solved a forty year old murder, I’ll be a hero. There may be other motives involved, I don’t know. But one thing I absolutely do know, without fear of contradiction is that each and every single one of those detectives knows where this story ends. And knows what the political consequences of the story are. And that’s why I’m saying when it comes to the motivations behind this. you would be a fool to dismiss the possibility that there are elements there in the PSNI who are saying this is our chance to kick one in Adams’ rear end.
AF: Now, Boston College: they’re in the soup. And, in fact, your own involvement in providing and encouraging and facilitating Boston College lands you in the soup as well. It doesn’t help in your case that Scotland Yard thought that you a good candidate to lock up.
EM: I consider it a badge of honour that Scotland Yard wants to put me in gaol for not betraying the source. That’s what we do as journalists, Adrian. We do not betray sources. And I’m not gonna betray any source at Boston College on this either on this.
EM: And if that qualifies me for being in a rogues’ gallery then I’ll be happy to be there. You can be sure of one thing: I will not be cooperating with anyone on the criminal side of this investigation if it goes that far.
AF: And it is the understandable because depending again, ink is cheaper by the barrel, you know what I’m saying? Well, Moloney must have something to hide because he wouldn’t have to spend a penny. All he has to do is leave it to Boston College who can well afford to pay for, hopefully, the dismissal of these subpoenas which had been served on them. In fact, would be more likely, as an accredited college…
EM: Are you saying that I should not play a role in this legal case? Is that what you’re saying? That I should leave it to Boston College? Is that what you’re saying?
AF: No. I say that’s what alot of people are saying.
EM: They’re saying I should just stand aside and do nothing?
AF: You should wait. Absolutely you should wait on the sidelines there and if Boston College goes down you’re gonna go down with them.
EM: I’m tempted to say a lot of things. (AF laughs) And this is not the time for them.
AF: (quips) Now this is the old Ed Moloney I know.
EM: The time will come when these things can be spoken of in a more open fashion.
EM: Let me just say this: Boston College has got its own legal strategy. It’s not a strategy that I would approve of. And we decided, myself and other people involved in the project, decided that to protect our own self-interest and, more importantly, to protect the interviewees, the people who had taken the risk of giving us interviews on both the Republican side and the Loyalist side, that we had to go out and see what we could do legally to supplement what Boston College were doing. And I’ll tell you what, I’m very glad that we did because we discovered an ace of a lawyer, Eamonn Dornan over in Brooklyn.
EM: Who’s come up with a fantastic legal strategy. And not only that, but this, the legal strategy has enabled us Irish-America to mobilise politically around this topic; something that Boston College was not prepared to do.
AF: Well you wouldn’t expect them to do because basically that’s not their…
EM: No, of course not. They’re a college.
AF: It’s not their ah..
EM: Therefore we’re able to do that. We’re able to do something that they’re not capable of, or willing or able to do.
AF: You are doing something that will be of benefit to all at the end of the day because it’s not just your particular involvement in getting Oral History. I’m a tremendous advocate, however recently that might be, because I didn’t think much or I didn’t know that there was much interest in gathering Oral History in so many colleges throughout… and it is, it”s something for a college to do. Everywhere from Columbia University right through NYU through Notre Dame to Boston College. I think that what we don’t need there is to have the long arm of the law come in and say: by the way, we’d like to hear what you said. That’s not what the purpose of this and it should not be.
EM: That’s why this, this whole business affects much more than just Boston College, it affects much more than the peace process, it affects much more than Ed Moloney or anyone else who was involved in the project. It also affects, in a potentially very adverse way, that whole very wonderful live, living, proud tradition of Oral History in the United States of America; one of the aspects of history that this country is really famous for, you know?
If this succeeds, it’s going to have a chilling effect on Oral Historians throughout the fifty states because they’re going to say: If I go out and interview X about the riots that took place during the Occupy Wall Street protests last week, if I go to Oakland and I interview the people who witnessed this or witnessed that during the OWS riots there. Are the cops going to be knocking on my door demanding that I hand over my material? And the inclination of most historians, not wanting to entertain that sort of problem, why bring that sort of stuff on yourself? Rather than do that will not go out and do those interviews which means all of that history will be lost.
Now you could replicate that in all sorts of spheres of activities, Occupy Wall Street is just one example, but all the way through to racial politics and what have you, trade union politics in this country could all be very badly and adversely affected by this stupid, clumsy move by the PSNI.
AF: Friends, you’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA. My guest, Ed Moloney. The book is Voices From the Grave and the website if you want to get information?
EM: Yes, the website. We have a website that is devoted to this issue of the subpoenas and it’s called bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com.
AF: Okay and you’ll find that, friends, on our website, too; you’ll be able to access that. Again you’re listening to Irish Radio Network USA.
(Sign off) Program ends.