Interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney
BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Programme
Hosted by Sarah Brett (SB) and Enda McClafferty
Ed Moloney interviewed by Freya McClements
8:16AM (GMT) Tuesday 3 January 2012
SB: The journalist Ed Moloney has told this programme that he will not cooperate with any future criminal prosecution should American authorities pass interviews he conducted with former IRA members to the PSNI. As we were hearing earlier, US officials have received interview transcripts which were conducted as part of an Oral History project organised by Boston College.
In them, Dolours Price allegedly implicates Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in the killing of Jean McConville. But an Appeals Court decision has temporarily prevented the US officials from handing the documents over to British authorities.
Our reporter, Freya McClements, spoke to the former Director of the Boston College project, writer and journalist, Ed Moloney.
Ed Moloney (EM): From the very outset Boston College gave us reason to believe that, first of all, that this material would be legally safe from any attempt by the authorities to get hold of it and it was on that basis that the two interviewers took part in this enterprise. They both sought and got personal assurances from key personnel at Boston College that this was the case. They’re not just disappointed but also very upset and angry that this has happened.
Freya McClements (FM): As you’ve mentioned guarantees were given to those who took part in the project that none of those material would be made public until their death. Obviously Delours Price is still alive, there is the potential that material in this could be made public. Do you feel it was misguided to give those guarantees? Was it a mistake?
EM: No, because we were given these assurances by Boston College and we wouldn’t have gone ahead with this project in the absence of those assurances. Boston College were the ones who set the project up, who drew up the legal side of the project and who gave us these assurances. I mean, what more can you do than ask for and get these sort of assurances? And you know, you have to have faith and trust in the people that you are dealing with and sadly, that faith and trust seems to have been misplaced in this respect.
FMcC: Did you personally give any guarantees to anybody who took part in this project that the material would be protected? That they would be protected?
EM: No. I took no part in the actual interviewing process. I was very much sort of “hands off”. It was the interviewers who were dealing face-to-face with the people who were being interviewed and therefore, it was they who needed to hear directly from Boston College that these assurances, both on the legal issue and also on the whole confidentiality issue, would be, were there and would be honoured. And it is they who’ve been let down as well as myself, obviously, because I brought them into the project on the same understandings and the same trust in Boston College.
FMcC: Do you feel responsible?
EM: I feel angry and obviously there is a sense of responsibility there, there’s no absolutely doubt about that because the college gave these guarantees to ourselves. We believed them. We had no reason and I had no reason to disbelieve them and I feel extremely let down and in that sense, yes, responsible and also very angry at being let down.
FMcC: Obviously, Boston College as well have said how disappointed they are in that. I wonder though, where does it leave the people who gave the interviews? Where does it leave Dolours Price and also, potentially, the other people who have given interviews?
EM: Well, I don’t know. That’s one of the legal issues in this that we are, as yet, unsure of and to what extent that this material can be used in any sort of proceedings that’s something that we’re not yet fully aware of. At this stage what we’re angry about is the fact that the confidentiality assurances and these promises about legal invulnerability were not made in truth. So that’s what we’re worried about at this stage. The next stage will be to get worried about what happens to anyone whose interviews are handed over but, I can assure you and your listeners as far as myself is concerned and the interviewers that there will be absolutely no cooperation on our part with the authorities if they decide to take any criminal action.
FMcC: So there will be absolutely no cooperation. Does that extend to withholding any information you may have?
EM: Absolutely. We gave promises to these people; we at least will honour those promises, of that you can be absolutely sure.
FMcC: Would you be concerned that this might be opening the floodgates in terms of other people who’ve given interviews?
EM: Well, what it means is that, whoever took this decision in the PSNI to institute these subpoenas, effectively are acting as censors of history because no one now will be willing to tell the truth about what happened in The Troubles. This kills off any truth telling process that I’ve always believed is an integral part of the peace process. You can’t really have a settled peace in Northern Ireland until the past is dealt with. Well, this is the signal by the authorities, certainly by an element inside the PSNI we believe, that as far as they’re concerned the history is possibly going to be settled possibly in the court rooms rather than anywhere else. That is a recipe for disaster for the peace process.
SB: Well, that was the former Director of the Boston College project, the writer and journalist Ed Moloney, speaking to our reporter, Feyda McClements.
We did ask Boston College for a response but we’ve yet to receive one. And we should point out that Gerry Adams has strenuously denied that he was involved in Jean McConville’s death.
Ends. 8:22AM GMT