Good Morning Ulster Interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney Transcript
BBC Radio Ulster
Hosted by Karen Patterson (KP)
Tuesday 3 January 2012
Karen Patterson (KP): 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.
But an Appeals Court decision has temporarily prevented the US officials from handing the documents over to British authorities. Ed Moloney was one of the chief researchers on the project and one of those behind the appeal. I asked him for the latest.
Ed Moloney (EM): The reality is that the archives and interviews and transcripts are frozen. The last moves in the process was that some of them were passed from the Judge to the US Attorney’s Office the next day. (The process) should have been for them to be passed over to the PSNI. But, because our intervention in the courts was successful, that process has been suspended. And if we are successful in the various legal strategies that are now going to unfold then that process could actually be reversed and the transcripts and interviews could be returned to Boston College. We won’t know of that for some while yet.
KP: Our understanding is that the DA’s office has received thirteen (13) transcripts of the interviews with Delours Price plus three (3) DVDs of interviews conducted by yourself which were not part of The Belfast Project. How hopeful are you that the current legal action which you are embarking upon will prevent the handing of those documents over to British authorities?
EM: Well, pretty hopeful. We’ve got a good set of lawyers that’ve come up with some very good arguments. The next stage is that the US government has to, it’s not the DA, there’s not a District Attorney, it’s the United States Attorney, the federal attorney, this is the Obama Department of Justice doing this. That’s where the process is at the moment. It can be reversed. We are obviously hopeful we will do our best to make sure this thing gets stopped and reversed.
KP: What are your lawyers’ arguments currently?
EM: They go from the clear threats that exist to the interviewers through to the very real potential damage that could be caused to the peace process through to quite technical matters about the treaties that were negotiated between the United States and the United Kingdom governments which cover this matter, one of which is associated with the extradition treaty that no one could be extradited from the United States to Northern Ireland for offences that were committed prior to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. And our lawyers are arguing that the associated treaty relating to legal documents passed at the same time is covered by the same spirit. In other words, that if you cannot extradite Mr. X from the United States to Northern Ireland for offences committed prior to April, 1998, then neither can you extradite any evidence against him.
KP: Who is driving all of this, as far as you’re concerned? And we’re talking about British authorities wanting to secure the tapes. Who exactly are we talking about?
EM: We seem to be talking about a small group of detectives inside the PSNI The information that we’re getting is that the British government does not want to “own” this. There is no political input and no political approval. It was not initiated at any sort of political level inside the Northern Ireland Office or the British government. We have been told by people who have been in conversation with them that senior officers in the PSNI have taken more or less the same attitude. So this seems to be coming from somewhere within the PSNI; it has a life of its own. It’s one of these bureaucratic procedures. I think it’s pretty clear that there is no political ownership. In fact, quite the reverse; that there’s a wish that this thing would go away.
KP: How would you characterise your relationship with Boston College now?
EM: It’s not good. We are angry at a number of levels. This project would never have been initiated, I would never have given it my approval, and the interviewers, both on the Republican and the Loyalist side, would never have taken part unless they really believed that the assurances that we got from Boston College, that we were legally safe doing this, were in fact soundly based. Nor would we have gone ahead with it if we felt that Boston College would not have fought any attempt, once the subpoenas were served, and it became clear that the promises or assurances that we’d been given on the legal safety of the archive were not well-grounded by Boston College. We assumed and hoped that they would fight this all the way up the legal chain, right as far as you can go, up to the Supreme Court, if necessary. Even in the last two weeks or so, when the initial judgement, before our appeal, went against us, even then the Judge in that case said there are points of law here that really need to be further explored and he invited Boston College to appeal. Now when a Judge tells you to appeal you really should. Relations are not good and they haven’t been for some time; it’s one of the reasons why we secured our own legal representation, we did that several months ago, and it’s a measure of the sense to which all of us, me in particular, feel responsibility for this. That we are determined, no matter what Boston College is going to do, we are determined to fight this all the way. And if whoever has initiated this action inside the policing structure persists in any sort of attempt to bring criminal charges, then let me tell them right now: they can expect absolutely no cooperation from me or the interviewers. We will not be assisting the police in anything that happens should we lose this case.
KP: Ed Moloney speaking to me just before we started the programme.
Ends: 8:20 AM (GMT)