Transcript: Radio Free Eireann interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney

WBAI Radio New York City USA
Radio Free Eireann
Saturday 7 January 2012

Audio of show – MP3 (available for 3 months)

John McDonagh (JM) and Brian Mor (BM) interviews Ed Moloney (EM).

John McDonagh (JM): And welcome back to Radio Free Eireann. I just want to say I was up in Boston there during the holidays and almost on a daily basis on the front page of The Boston Globe was a story about Boston College turning over audio tapes of Irish Republicans and Loyalists, but well, they weren’t turning over the Loyalists. And in the forefront of it looked like the Radio Free Eireann show; it was Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre, who were behind, well not behind, but who got the interviews. And with us on the line is Ed Moloney, he’s author of The Secret History of the IRA. Ed, before I talk to that, what do you think about yourself being mentioned in some of the secret papers that are being released by the British and the 26 county government where your name pops up during that time period in 1981 when you were covering the hunger strike?

Ed Moloney (EM): Yes, by this character, I forget his name, [Whiteway], or something like that, who is a Foreign Office guy? It’s not surprising. Incidentally, the company that I’m in there is something to be proud of Vincent Browne and Eamonn McCann and Gene Kerrigan, I proudly stand beside them as writers and journalists and be happily included in that group. But it just shows how myopic and stupid these people really are.

My own history of covering the hunger strike at that time was a very complicated one. There were all sorts of tensions and conflicts between myself and the Sinn Fein Press Office over what was really happening in the hunger strike. And the reality was so far different from what that idiot wrote, and so far different for McCann, and for Gene and also for Vincent Browne. And Norm was more skeptical of any sources, any official sources than Vincent Browne and while he certainly realised that you had to take the Provos seriously as a subject, he wasn’t naïve enough to believe everything that he was told. So it was just nonsense.

You read something like that and you say: no wonder The Troubles lasted for four decades if you have dough heads like that running the government.

JM: It just seems they want to tar you one way back then and now it seems that Danny Morrison, the hit man for Sinn Fein, is trying to tar you another way going on about….

EM: No actually, for exactly the same reasons. Because when I was covering the hunger strike back in 1981, I was like full of doubt about what Danny Morrison was telling us. I caught him out on all sorts of lies, not least, a lie about when the hunger strike was going to end.

The problem about people like Danny Morrison is that they want to have a monopoly on the narrative and dictate and decide what the facts of the story are, and it was no different then than it is now. And really what he’s objecting about is other people trying to tell the IRA story and he wants to tell his own story or his own version of the story of the IRA, which is very, very different than the reality. So, really it’s the same thing, you know?

JM: So Ed, that brings us up to now that what happened, I believe last Friday. We’ve been following this case all along. Has it ever been determined who exactly in the British government want these tapes? And who was the first ones to say we want these tapes from Boston College?

EM: It definitely is the PSNI and also seems to have originated with this unit that was set up two years back called the Historical Enquiries Team. They have this job of going back and looking at all the killings of The Troubles and trying to determine what happened and to tell the families. But, they also a brief to bring criminal charges if they can and I suspect this is what they’re about in this particular case.

This is a hornet’s nest that they’re opening up and I really don’t think they care or they know what the implications of pushing ahead with this are. But the implications are just going to be absolutely gigantic. The results and the consequences for the peace process could be very grave indeed. But they don’t seem to care.

One begins to suspect, the more you look into it, that the people who are behind this, in a real sense, may have a political agenda. And that’s very worrying. If I was in Sinn Fein I’d be very worried because this is the PSNI that they supported and here they are taking this opportunity effectively, to put their leader or leadership in the dock one way or another. And it’s going to cause havoc, there’s no doubt about it.

JM: Ed, that what are the other options? I know I’ve been reading/talking. I think you had suggested, maybe, that Boston College just erase all the tapes? I don’t know if that’s viable at this moment.

EM: They can’t do that now, John, because it’s a subject of subpoena. First of all, we got a subpoena which is largely to do with Dolours Price as the result of a very unfortunate interview that she gave to The Irish Press, or The Irish News back in February, 2010. And also they wanted Brendan Hughes’ tapes, which were already public, so what the hell. The problem is that we feared, and indeed we were told by Boston College’s own lawyer, this white-shoe character from Boston, that there was a very distinct possibility that these people could come back on a fishing expedition and go through the archive.

We contacted Boston College and said this is a very real likelihood, and you have to do something. You’ve made a promise to the interviewees to protect their confidentiality and therefore, their safety as much as possible. And therefore, we make a proposal here to move all this stuff back to Ireland and give it to Anthony McIntyre who will sit on it and hide it away down in the south of Ireland. It will be much more difficult for the British, for all sorts of reasons not least political, to get hold of it and he will happily go to gaol rather than give this thing up.

And Boston College refused to do that. Bang! A few weeks later, a couple of months later, the second set of subpoenas arrive and they cover virtually everything else, or everything to do with Jean McConville, and the thing is not there. We were urging that to happen a long time ago and what we’re saying now basically is: when this business is over, these people in Boston College don’t have any moral right and they are not a fit and proper place given the way that they’ve behaved in relation to this whole business, that they didn’t appeal, and that they refused to move this stuff to a place of safety, they’ve betrayed the interviewees to whom they gave their word and therefore they have to close down this archive and either give the interviews back or destroy them.

JM: Right. Now it’s being reported that some of the Loyalists want their tapes back, particularly two members of The Red Hand Commandos. What is the process for that? Was there anything written to say, like, if you get a bit jittery as the years go on that you might not want the tapes released…

EM: Legally, these interviews are the property of the person who gave them, gave the interviews. They only go into Boston College’s full possession when that person dies. So when Brendan Hughes died and David Ervine died, then their interviews became the sole property of Boston College. Up until that point in time, before their deaths, they were still legally owned by both Brendan Hughes and David Ervine. And, therefore, if they had asked for them back they’d have to give them back.

Boston College has weaved them, even to the extent…the second subpoena wanted material to do with Jean McConville, and this process of asking for the UVF interviews back, the Loyalists’ interviews back, started a while back, a long while back, because I urged the Loyalist researcher to do this. And Boston College refused on the grounds that it was covered by the second subpoena. Who in God’s name ever suggested that the UVF had anything to do with the disappearance of Jean McConville? They should have stood up said: these interviews have nothing to do with this subpoena, we’re returning them, but they wouldn’t. And why wouldn’t they? Because their attitude towards the US Attorney and the US government, Department of Justice, in this whole matter has been: that whenever the government turns to them and says: Boston College, we want you to jump, Boston College turned around and said how high?

JM: You’re listening to Radio Free Eireann and we’re talking about this major legal battle that’s going on up in Boston. We were hoping to have on Anthony McIntyre. Even though Sandy Boyer is not here his magic is still working. We do not have the proper number for Anthony McIntyre. Also with us on the line is our own Brian Mor, Bernie, you want to jump in here?

Brian Mor (BM): (Brian discusses with John a microphone problem)

BM: Well, I was going to ask you, this must be very serious if Sinn Fein is trotting out Danny Morrison this early in the game to more or less write articles in The Irish People, or, no The Irish Voice, about this whole procedure.

EM: Yes. They have trotted him out but he’s sort of like faded away a bit in more recent weeks, for whatever reason. Why that is I don’t know. It’s like when Martin McGuinness was standing for the presidency of Ireland he went out almost immediately and was on every show and then suddenly he was dropped or didn’t appear. Goodness knows what’s going on, maybe something is happening internally that Danny Morrison reminds people of another period, another age, which they don’t want to be reminded of? But I’ve no idea.

JM: We were hoping to have Anthony on but one of the major problems that’s going on now is that Anthony McIntyre and his wife are receiving death threats. When he was living in Belfast they picketed his house. And how they can flip this around! By Anthony McIntyre doing an interview, now people have put out books, Gerry Adams’ books came out, he had two books but I think they’re in the fiction section, Martin McGuinness has a book out. Everyone is telling their side of the story so when Anthony McIntyre goes out and does interviews, they’re trying to flip it around and say he’s an informer by doing the interviews! I mean, it is so bizarre. Why is it that Anthony McIntyre is catching the wrath when all he did was interview people?

EM: It’s because of the way that he’s approached this. He was hired on my advice as was the Loyalists’ researcher, for their academic qualifications and for the fact that I know they would go at this subject in a very proper way. Trying to discover: What happened at certain times? What happened in certain incidents? What personal life stories there were to be told? Why were people motivated into joining this or that organisation? How the thing worked? All these very valuable, revealing insightful aspects of an Oral History. And he would do it in a very proper way. And he has done it in a very proper way and the archives are something to be proud of because it covers all the Republican groups and it covers all sorts of areas, geographical areas, and all sorts of generations, younger and much, much older Republicans. It’s an insight into a cross-section of Republicanism which would be, normally, very valuable, but I think it’s going to be lost now.

But because in the course of that, you come across facts and accounts of various stories such as the hunger strikes, such as the early 1970’s, which don’t accord to the interests of those who would like to be in charge of telling the story, then you get condemned. And that’s exactly what has happened to him.

In other words, really, what this is about is a struggle over the truth. The real objection to what he has done and what I have done is been that we’ve gone out to try to find out what really took place and what really happened. Whereas other people would rather have a narrative which starts along the lines of: certain people were never members of the IRA and therefore they couldn’t have been involved in XY&Z. If you want to go down that road, that’s not history that’s fiction instead. That’s why they have attacked him.

JM: Alright, Ed, finally: What type of support are you getting from civil rights organisations or college and where do we stand now with the tapes and Boston College and the court case?

EM: We’re getting an awful lot of very good support from Irish America who understands just what this is really all about and how bad it is and also that there’s terrible double standards going on here. Because at the same time that they are trying to dig up all this stuff. I think, in some ways, there’s a vendetta against Gerry Adams by some of these people. That they are refusing, the government is refusing to hold an investigation, a proper inquiry, into the killing of Pat Finucane. And why? Because the evidence is there, a lot of it very compelling that intelligence agencies and security agencies were involved in that killing; either by knowing about and not doing anything about it or covering up afterwards, or whatever in all sorts of ways, shapes and forms. So the hypocrisy is there and I think that has angered a lot of Irish-American groups.

The response from US academic life, I’m afraid, has been disappointing. This is a country now, and I’m very conscious of it, which is a security state and people are terrified of their government and terrified of crossing it. And that’s being reflected in the rather tepid response of academia. As to where it is now, we have a Stay on this thing happening and we have an appeal in. Even though Boston College have retreated from the field and abandoned the field, we are carrying on because we gave our word to the interviewees that we would not let them down and we are not going to let them down.

Nor will we under any circumstances, and I’ve made this public so many times this week, under no circumstances will any of us offer or accept any attempt to make us cooperate in any criminal investigations or proceedings that follow from this. So it’s in Stay, we are appealing it and the fight continues. And hopefully we will have a successful outcome.

JM: Well, Ed, we hope for that, too. We’ll be covering it on Radio Free Eireann and thank you for coming on.

EM: No problem, Bye-bye.

(Interview Ends)