Transcript: RTE Radio One ‘This Week’ – Fran McNulty Interviews Anthony McIntyre
RTE Radio One
Sunday 8 January 2010
Fran McNulty (FM) interviews Anthony McIntyre (AM) about the The Belfast Project and the subpoena sent to Boston College. Brendan Hughes (BH) is heard in this interview via his tape.
Fran McNulty (FM): Up until last week, the Treasure Room in The Thomas Burns Library at Boston College was the location where transcripts and recordings of interviews with former Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries involved in The Troubles were kept. But, Boston College has handed the archive over to a judge in the United States after federal prosecutors subpoenaed the material on behalf of British authorities. It’s understood the legal bit is linked to a PSNI investigation and work recently undertaken by the Historical Enquiries Team in the North, thought to be focused on the disappearance of Jean McConville. The archive came to attention in recent years when the testimony of deceased IRA Operations Officer Brendan Hughes was broadcast after his death, on the Voices From (the beyond) the Grave Program.
Brendan Hughes (BH): (clip from his interview) …in 1973, Gerry was OC (Officer Commanding) of Belfast Brigade, I was Operations Officer. We met every day; planned what operations were going to take place and the next step in the war. That’s what we were doing the day we were arrested.
FM: In the interviews, Hughes detailed his IRA activities, and as you’ve been hearing there, claimed that the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, was a commanding officer in the IRA; a claim Mr. Adams has consistently denied. More recently, IRA activist Dolours Price did an interview with a Belfast newspaper in which she made similar claims. Her interview and admission that she took part in the Boston College project has opened a can of worms. But a Stay in handing the materials onto British authorities has been put in place after those responsible for conducting the interviews, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, took a court action aimed at blocking the move. The men have broken their silence today. They’ve told this program Boston College has put the lives of those who took part in the interviews at risk.
Anthony McIntyre is a former IRA Volunteer, he spent eighteen years in Long Kesh, four years on The Blanket Protest. He interviewed most of the Republican participants for The Belfast Project, including Brendan Hughes. Many of those interviewed spoke in detail about their activities during The Troubles. I spoke with Mr. McIntyre at his home on Friday afternoon. We began by discussing the undertaking he was given, that the interviews would not be released until after the deaths of the interviewees.
Anthony McIntyre (AM): The assurances from Boston College were very firm. In 2000, when the project was first mentioned, I asked specifically, what would be the arrangements? I was told by the Boston College representative, whom I met in Belfast, that under no circumstances would they accept archival material into their library to form part of their archive if there was any possibility, the remotest possibility, of legal repercussions, for those who had donated their interviews. And they were very specific about this. The Loyalist researcher also asked them the same thing. And he was told it was firewalled against any legal incursion from the British.
FM: Did you have that in writing? Did you have legal assurances?
AM: We had a contract in writing, a Donation Agreement, which was given to the people concerned, the people who were doing the interviews, which explicitly stated that they, at all times, would be in control of the release of the information and only they, and no one else, could release it prior to the death.
FM: What’s your view of the action by Boston College in recent weeks to hand over the material to the court in the first instance?
AM: I’m deeply disappointed. I think it puts me in an invidious situation. I think it puts my sources in an invidious situation. I think Boston College were ethically obligated to protect to the very, very end, the researchers, the project director and the interviewees. Boston College failed to do that. Boston College retreated from the field at the end of round one. And they left myself and Ed Moloney fighting desperately to gain entrance, intervention, to the courts, and the reason at the moment that the stuff has not been handed over is because of the action that myself and Ed Moloney have taken while Boston College have left the field. I’m deeply disappointed at Boston College’s lack of fortitude, lack of resolve in this matter.
FM: How concerned are you, given the nature of what’s in that archive, we’ve already seen some of the material come out from Brendan Hughes, the Price interviews and others. How concerned are you because you know the detail of what’s in in those interviews?
AM: Well, I wish my memory was that good that I did know the details, So many interviews that I can no longer remember the detail, in any great detail. But, yes, you’re right. I have a firm knowledge of the seriousness and the depth of the interviews. I’m deeply concerned. I’m concerned for my sources, the people who made the interviews from Ireland. I have to take the researcher’s risk but I am concerned for my children in case a device is thrown through the window or some attempt is made to exact retribution or revenge. And the reason being is that it’s difficult enough, but not terrible, when some of this material is released for the purposes of informing the public of a certain perspective, for example, in the Brendan Hughes case. It changes the game entirely when the research material that I collated is going to be used by the British, assisted by Boston College, for the purposes of prosecution. I think that’s a highly dangerous situation that has left me deeply apprehensive both for myself and for the people that I worked with, my sources in this.
FM: Do you fear for your safety?
AM: I very much fear for my safety, how could one not fear for their safety? But I also fear for the safety of my sources. I fear for my safety in this siuation and as I said earlier, I fear for my wife and children. This house, after Brendan Hughes’ book was serialised in The Sunday Times in 2010, there was an attack on the house next door and we felt at the time that it was a case of mistaken identity. There were death threats appearing in the newspapers, there was journalists picking up stuff on the ground. So I felt generally uneasy about it. But this time around the game has changed. I think that Boston College and their actions, the British police and their actions, have immeasurably increased the level of risk to myself and my family.
FM: You had to have to known, though, that this was always a danger you faced in going around collecting these stories from the type of people you did.
AM: I knew there was a danger while the material that I had collected was in my possesion in Belfast. I was always concerned about that. I always felt absolutely safe once it was deposited at Boston College. I had no reason whatsoever to be fearful once it was at Boston College, given the needs of the guarantees that Boston had given to us and told us, told myself and the researcher on the Loyalist side of the project, that it was impenetrable; could not be opened up by legal incursion from the British.
FM: What about yourself and Ed Moloney now? You obviously feel let down. Do you have any hint of regret that you ever took this on?
AM: We very much regret that we took it on, on the grounds that, while the exercise was a very valid exercise, Boston College was obviously the wrong institution with which to do it. And we regret it simply because of the danger that it has put our sources in. And so you cannot but regret, in that situation, the way it has turned out, we have to regret it. We defend the integrity of the project, we simply cannot defend the institution.
FM: You have a Stay on the documents. The court action you’ve taken in Massachusetts effectively means that there’s a Stay on the documents that the college has now given to the court, been handed on to Historical Enquiries Team. If that Stay should not succeed, what’s your next step?
AM: Our next step is to ensure that neither myself nor Ed Moloney assist the British authorities, the PSNI, the Historical Enquiries Team in any aspect of an investigation. If that means that we go to prison as a result of defying them by not cooperating in any way, we are quite prepared to do so.
FM: So if a call for assistance comes to your door?
AM: I’d be in prison. I will never assist them. There is not a chance that I will do what Boston College did and abandon my sources. There may be not much that I can now do to enhance the security of my sources given the way Boston College has behaved and given the worthlessness of the assurances and the confidentiality guarantees that they gave. Under no circumstances will I be assisting. I will face prison or whatever I have to face but I will not be assisting. There will be no possibility that either I, or Ed Moloney, will assist the British or the PSNI as we are obligated at all times to protect our sources from any damage that may result from information that revealed to us and we will be honouring that protection in spirit and letter.
FM: Have you spoken to any of your sources since all of this was revealed?
AM: I have spoken to the sources but I will not identify them.
FM: What’s their view now?
AM: Their view is that Boston College shafted ourselves. They feel badly let down. They feel that Boston College had a duty of care which it has abandoned.
FM: Do any of them feel left down by you because ultimately, you took the story from them, you gave them assurances?
AM: No one has conveyed that feeling to me up to now, no.
FM: Do you yourself though, deep down, feel like you took the ultimate responsibility as an interviewer, as a researcher, as a journalist, whatever term you want to use? You gave an assurance of confidentiality and that assurance has not been followed through.
AM: I feel very bad that I gave the assurances that Boston College allowed me to give. I only gave assurances that Boston College allowed me, I didn’t give any assurances over and above that. But I feel bad that Boston College has put me in a position whereby I have been left unable to protect my sources. I feel quite bad about that.
FM: What’s your biggest concern at this point in his time?
AM: My biggest concern is that my sources will be prosecuted; that their lives and security will be endangered. And that I myself will be endangered and my family will be endangered.
FM: Do you have any concern at all for, the sort of, you talked alot about truth and what’s contained in the archive, that alot of that truth will not now be known to the families of victims, to people who were involved in The Troubles?
AM: I have a major concern about that, yes. But at the moment my concern is at the human level my major concern is about the interviewees. On a wider level yes, I’m very much concerned that this will, effectively, not just in Ireland but in all conflict zones, this will effectively put a damper on people coming forward. It holds negative consequences for future truth recovery. If, for example, all the information in these archives is made available it will be a drop in the ocean compared to what a genuine truth recovery process could bring out.
FM: Anthony McIntyre, the man who interviewed Republican paramilitaries for the Boston College archives, speaking to me at his home on Friday. While Boston College has defended its actions, a representative of the college, Jack Dunn, spoke to me earlier from Massachusetts about the institute’s handling of the affair. I began by asking Mr. Dunn for his reaction to the concerns expressed by Anthony McIntyre.
Jack Dunn (JD): Well, Mr. McIntyre is entitled to his opinions, his views are his own. And I’m not here to get in a public squabble with him regarding his opinions. I think he has mischaracterised completely this process and my sole attempt here is to set the record straight. We entered into this agreement as a university which has great ties to the Republic of Ireland and to Northern Ireland, and is America’s leading university on Irish studies, to be a repository of materials on The Troubles that would benefit scholars and historians. So our intention in agreeing to be the repository of these materials was to provide a historical benefit. And like Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Moloney, we wish that that could have been maintained. Unfortunately, two subpoenas were given to Boston College by the US Attorney’s Office, on behalf of British law enforcement, we fought those subpoenas in court. And unfortunately, the judge here in the District Court, federal court in Boston, has denied our Motion to Quash the subpoenas and has ordered Boston College to turn over materials relevant to…
FM: But you could have challenged but you decided not to. Why?
JD: For very good reason. Because the judge, Judge William Young, has asked us to turn over materials relevant to the Dolours Price interviews. Interviews which were made public by interviews that Dolours Price chose to give herself in Ireland. And as a result, we realised we had no legal option but to follow that subpoena. And our hope is that the Judge, who is reviewing in camera the remaining interviews of the twenty-four former IRA members, may make a determination that that material does not need to be turned over. That is our hope.
FM: And if he doesn’t do so, and the information is in turn, turned over, you do know the consequences of same. Are you aware of the consequences outlined by Anthony McIntyre?
JD: I have to say that the government refuted his contention that they were at risk when they quashed the subpoena so that issue in the American court has been decided by the American courts. They feel his argument is specious, again, that’s the court making that determination.
FM: Right. That’s said, yes. Professor Thomas Hatchey of The Irish Institute in Boston College said in an affidavit to the court that the Consul General in Belfast of the United States even advised him not to travel to Stormont for an event in October because he felt that being such a public venue, for the time being, as his safety could be at risk in the present environment
JD: Yes. I think that affidavit that you’ve described is accurate.
FM: A senior professor in your own college has expressed the view that an officer of the United States government has told him not to travel to the North because he could be at risk because of it. Is not that strength enough of a case for you to take a further challenge?
JD: I think that our good friends in Ireland seem to lack a fundamental understanding of the American legal process. We fought the fight and the fight was lost. And our hope is that the second round of the fight may prove differently. I think what hasn’t been stated here is that when this agreement was reached, an agreement was signed between BC and Ed Moloney that stated that each interviewee is to be given a contract guaranteeing confidentiality to the extent that American law allows. That seems to be forgotten by Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Moloney. That they were told to tell the interviewees that the confidentiality would be given to the extent that American law allows.
FM: Why then, in the agreement for donations, or the Donations Agreements, as they are referred to, which were drawn up by Boston College on Boston College headed paper, was that not referred to? I’ll quote what the Agreement for Donations says:
Point Three: access to the tapes and transcripts shall be restricted until after my death except in those cases where I have provided prior written approval for their use following consultation with The Burns Librarian.
At no point in the agreement is US law or any pre-condition or caveat entered.
JD: The agreement between Moloney and McIntyre is bound by an earlier agreement, Agreement “A”, which states each interviewee is to be given a contract guaranteeing confidentiality to the extent American law allows.
FM: Yet Boston College issue a very clear agreement in which it didn’t mention US law or any other caveat.
JD: That’s not true, I have the agreement, I’m reading from it. Each interviewee is to be given a contract guaranteeing confidentiality to the extent American law allows. And the agreement between Moloney and McIntyre is governed by the earlier agreement, referenced accordingly. We can agree to disagree on that.
We have fought the fight. We were forced to turn over the materials on Dolours Price and we hope that the remaining interview materials can be retained as confidential. We got Judge William Young to set a legal precedent by agreeing to review the materials in camera as opposed to the request by the United States government that all of the materials be turned over instantly to British authorities in accordance with the treaty agreements between the United States and Great Britain. So we got the Judge to review these materials in camera. And upon reviewing the Dolours Price materials, he decided that they were relevant and demanded that they be turned over to British authorities.
So we didn’t fight that (on) appeal because our hope is that the remaining twenty-four interviews that the Judge is reviewing in camera will not have to be turned over. That’s the best legal outcome that we have at our disposal.
FM: The potential damage to projects of this kind, worldwide, as a result of this, is quite hard to measure, isn’t it?
JD: That’s why we have fought this fight for the sake of academic research and for the sake of the enterprise of Oral History. Unfortunately the courts, which have the final say in the matter, have ruled differently. So we hope that the remaining materials can be preserved for the sake of Oral History, for the sake of providing historians and scholars with an accurate record of The Troubles. That is our hope moving forward.
FM: Boston College spokesperson, Jack Dunn, speaking to me earlier from the United States.