Radio Free Eireann: Interview with Anthony McIntyre and Carrie Twomey

WBAI Radio New York City USA
Radio Free Eireann
Saturday, 21 January 2012

Begins: 1:25 PM EST

John McDonagh (JM)and Sandy Boyer (SB)interview Carrie Twomey (CT) in their New York studio and Anthony McIntyre (AM) via telephone from Ireland about The Belfast Project, the controversy over the PSNI subpoena to Boston College and about Carrie’s trip to the United States. RFE’s Engineer Liza Butler (LB) comments.

Sandy Boyer (SB): Welcome back to Radio Free Eireann, WBAI 99.5 FM in New York. We’re talking to Anthony McIntyre, who is the lead researcher on The Belfast Project, which we’ve have been talking about, the unique Oral History of The Troubles, that focused on the actual experiences of people in the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force, the people on the front lines. And Anthony was absolutely uniquely qualified to be the lead researcher. He is a veteran of the IRA. He served eighteen years in Long Kesh; four years on the blanket. And after he got out, he went to Queen’s University Belfast and did his PhD and wrote his thesis on The Provisional IRA. So Anthony, thanks for being with us.

Anthony McIntyre (AM): Thank you for having me on, Sandy.

SB: Anthony, tell us, what is The Belfast Project? We sometimes just jump into and forget that some of our listeners don’t know all about it.

AM: The Belfast Project is a collection of oral Histories of Republicans and Loyalists who are familiar with or have involvement in the Northern conflict. Under the auspices of Boston College, The John J. Burns Library in Boston College, these former activists agreed to share their experience and their knowledge so that the future generations would have an insight into the minds behind conflict, what causes people to become involved in conflict, and that hopefully at some point, it would be of major use to society, policy makers and conflict resolution activists.

SB: And Anthony, these are the records that now, the US government have threatened to have turned over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

AM: Very much so. And the Police Service of Northern Ireland who have been involved in cover-ups. Even as late as yesterday we had the acquittal of Colin Duffy, a long time Republican, for the involvement in killing two soldiers a number of years ago. Colin Duffy was acquitted by the Judge and found not guilty. Colin Duffy now alleges that the PSNI set him up by placing a contaminated sample of his DNA in relation to a car and a latex glove. So, there’s a lot of suspicion hanging around the PSNI. And they have been involved in covering up RUC Special Branch, British Army, killings and other nefarious activities in the Northern conflict. Elements within the PSNI have decided that they will use this opportunity presented to them as a means to exact retribution and revenge on people for the past and also try and legitimise their version of the past so that the official narrative of becomes inseparable from their narrative: that the police were right, had no part in the conflict and that the Republicans and everybody else was wrong.

SB: And Anthony, and how did you select people to be the interviewed? We only know a few of the names. We know just two people on the Republican side and two people on the Loyalist side who have actually come forward as a result of this. How were these people selected? Was there a political agenda for this?

AM: No. People were selected because of their willingness to share their knowledge; they weren’t selected for their biases. People say at times, one of the sort of Sinn Fein criticisms of the project without knowing anything about it, is that it was anti-Gerry Adams. They don’t know the people that were involved, they don’t know the questions that were asked, they don’t know the answers that were givem, they’re going on what they have seen so far in the public mind, I’m sorry, in public discourse. The Boston College project, as it was called The Belfast Project, was a project in raising knowledge for the purpose of providing awareness about Republicanism, the history of Republicanism. It was not seeking people who would be critical of Gerry Adams. Now having said that, any researcher involved in a project, for example, if Bill Clinton was to deny and continuously denied that he was ever President of America, then anybody who is going to say well, I mean, quite obviously Bill was President of America, that’s always going to be of an interest to a researcher. And I suppose in that sense, Adams’ constant denying that he was ever a member of the IRA, will always allow people and to some extent rile people, like Brendan Hughes, who were completely disappointed in Adams’ denials, in Adams’ shame about ever having been a member of the IRA, that they wanted to put the record straight. And when this happens, we have critics and detractors saying there you go, it’s anti-Gerry Adams. It’s about producing knowledge, increasing the level of knowledge, allowing people to know more rather than less.

SB: And Anthony, what would be the consequences if these records were turned over to the PSNI?

AM: Well, in my view there are a number of consequences. In terms of personal safety I think that the danger to myself and to my family would increase significantly. And the reason I say that, is that for a long time, I have sailed close to the wind in my criticisms of the Sinn Fein leadership in my journalism, my clarifications of certain issues and exposing certain things that the Sinn Fein leadership didn’t want exposed. But, the, at certain times I have felt threatened, I had been threatened, myself and my wife were threatened in house by the Provisional IRA leadership. But this occasion is a game changer. Because the, when my research is being sought as a means for prosecuting people then I think that that greatly increases the level of risk to myself. It also increases the level of risk to the research participants because they will fall foul, in my view, of some of their former comrades. Now, we have at the moment key figures associated with Sinn Fein and the Provisional Republican Movement labelling participants and myself as informers, touts. Danny Morrison, for example, the former Sinn Fein Director of Publicity and, in a sense, the, and still an undercover Director of Publicity, has accused me on his website of being an informer. He wrote an article called The Making of a Tout. The tout, the term, in Ireland, would be equivalent to the term rat in sort of New York Mafia circles. So I think in that sense there’s an increased risk to both me and the research participants. And we should also bear in mind that Professor Tom Hachey of Boston College was advised by the US Consulate in Belfast not to travel to Stormont while he was on a visit to Belfast because it had information of some sort that he may be under threat and there was a possibility of harm befalling him. Thirdly, I think there’s a serious impact on journalism and Oral History projects and academic projects. We are now being told that, basically, that the only people who are able to investigate fully are now the cops, as if the cops have this agenda of chasing after, they’re the good guys chasing after the bad guys and they don’t have other agendas. And I think that’s a very dangerous situation because the task of the university and the journalist is to produce knowledge. And if they’re going to render off limits certain knowledge because it’s illegal then I think society is the big loser in that. And I also think that it has serious potential for inducing instability in the North of Ireland because, when I try and assess the PSNI motives here, I do believe that the PSNI is out to try and cause problems for the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, and probably as a result of what they feel Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price had to say about Mr. Adams. And I suspect that the PSNI are hoping, because there is a situation in the North at the moment where the courts are prepared to use accomplice evidence, I think that the PSNI are hoping that perhaps one of the interviewees will feel so concerned, so spooked, that they just might agree to give evidence against Mr. Adams. In that case it would be very difficult for the British Police Service of Northern Ireland not to haul Mr. Adams before a court. There is also the very strong possibility that they are intent on pursuing a civil action. And a civil action would be similar to the civil action pursued against people who were accused of being involved in the Omagh bomb back in 1998. Now if that happened that would be a major, serious embarrassment to the Sinn Fein leader; either of those scenarios would be a major embarrassment. And we can see the tensions that would rise, we can see the loss of confidence in the criminal justice system in the police in the prosecution service. And we can see the serious potential for widespread polarisation to a greater degree than exists at present within Northern society.

SB: You’re listening to Radio Free Eireann WBAI New York. We’ve been talking to Anthony McIntyre, the lead researcher for The Belfast Project, Oral History of the Northern Ireland Troubles. With us in the studio is Carrie Twomey, who is married to Anthony. Carrie, thanks for being with us.

Carrie Twomey (CT): Thank you, Sandy. Hi, Anthony.

AM: Hi, Carrie.

SB: And Carrie, what would your experience be? How would you feel if these records were turned over?

CT: Extremely threatened. I feel that my husband’s currently being set-up for assassination by the comments that are being made about this project in certain circles. And I feel that our family’s safety and the safety of the participants in this project are at risk. It’s a terrible feeling.

SB: Thanks Carrie. Of course, you are an American citizen and your children are American citizens.

CT: Yes, that’s correct. There’s three American lives directly at risk because of the actions of the Department of Justice.

John McDonagh (JM): Carrie, the reason you’re in the studio, one of the reasons, is that Anthony McIntyre cannot get a visa to come into this country, even though he’s an author and had a book published here, the government has refused to let him in. You’re allowed in. What will you be doing now that you’re in The United States and what do you hope to accomplish?

CT: Well, I’ve hit the ground running and my first stop here was in DC. And I’ve been meeting with Congress people to raise this issue; both the immediate issue of the threat to the safety to my family and the Americans citizens within my family. But also the threat to the safety of the participants, and the huge implications this has for America’s foreign policy; both in terms of what’s it done under three sitting Presidents in the North of Ireland and its own self-interests in terms of the precedents that this could be setting. This has severe implications for American foreign policy. If they’re not going to pay attention to Ireland they need to pay attention to their own self-interests.

JM: What else will you be doing and where are you be going?

CT: I’ll be speaking tomorrow at the AOH event. I’m very grateful to Timmy Myles for facilitating that. I had met with Brian O’Dwyer yesterday and himself and Mike Carroll were very, very helpful in securing other meetings with members of Congress. I am finding a very, very welcome and supportive reception here which I am so, so grateful for. The support of Irish-America has been key in the momentum that is now going in getting this stopped. We’re on track for a Congressional hearing being organized, that’s what we’re hoping to get, if the Department of Justice does not withdraw this. There are serious questions to be asked of how this got to this point.

JM: Now Carrie, we have a lot of listeners state-wide, broadcasting from the Empire State Building, but also through the internet. How can people get in touch with you, particularly any people out there who have hooks with their Congressmen and can get Carrie meetings, how can people get in touch with you and get something set up?

CT: There’s two immediate two ways they can get in touch. They can go on Anthony’s website, The Pensive Quill, which is: thepensivequill.am and they can from there they can go to his Facebook page and send him a direct message on Facebook. That would be one very quick way to get to him and he can get to me while I’m on the road. Another way is our bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com website, which gives you everything you’d want to know about this Boston College case: from court documents, all the news media, background information and we have a Twitter account there. You can send me a direct message on and I will be able to reply to you immediately.

SB: Carrie, of course, one thing people can do to support you and the case is to go to The Black Thorn tomorrow. And people, we need to get our political representatives to really pressure the Justice Department to withdraw this case. It should never been filed. It’s now got to be dropped. If people want to contact Senator Schumer, who is very influential and represents most, many, many of our listeners, how can they do that?

CT: We would welcome people to contact Senator Schumer. Exactly, that’s a very good suggestion. And they can call his offices at 202-224-6542 (repeats number) and ask him to have the Department of Justice withdraw this subpoena. We understand that the State Department is very unhappy about this. This is the Department of Justice doing this on their own. We would appreciate President Obama, who just recently visited Ireland, telling Eric Holder this needs to stop and you need to withdraw this. So any help, any pressure that can be put on is most welcome.

JM: Now Anthony, maybe you can walk us through the process. The start of this process, when contracts are being signed, who owns these tapes? Now, did you own them at any stage? Does the person that does the interview…do they own it at any stage? Can they request it back? Does Boston College own it all outright? I mean, where, who actually owns these tapes and can anyone apply to get them back? Like people who took part in it, like you saying I did the interviews I want them back. They guy that was interviewed, I want my tapes back. Because We already know Loyalists now have come forward and they’re demanding their tapes back. So, who actually controls these tapes?

AM: In my view I would be pretty certain that Boston College, unfortunately, control the tapes because it’s written into the contract that Boston College have the copyrights. The copyrights are signed over to Boston College and the stipulation was that, in spite of that, nothing could be released until the demise of the research participant or if the research participant gave permission to have the tapes released premature to their death. And I think that. I mean, a lot of this is probably, when they talk about the American law, to the extent that American law allows, I think you know that while Boston College insisted that referred to confidentiality I would argue that at the time, it also referred to the question of copyright. Because I know that when Brendan Hughes was signing his own contract, his Donation Contract, he made it very, very clear that he wanted to put restrictions on the ability of Boston College to own, exclusively, own that material. He insisted that he would have the right to use that material if he wished to write a book. And Brendan was always insistent about writing a book. Now, the Loyalist have asked for their tapes back. Some of them have put in a request and have been refused. I, myself and Ed Moloney requested, after the first subpoena, that Boston College give back or move, we asked that they move all the material out of Boston College and to my custodianship so that if the PSNI were to serve a subpoena on me I’d have simply refused to comply with it and take whatever the consequences were. So, I mean the way, it may have to be settled legally but at the moment Boston College would insist that they own the tapes. And that any request that myself and Ed made was refused outright; and the same with the Loyalists, they also refused that. You have to bear in mind, that they refused our request, the request from myself and Ed Moloney, prior to any of the material that we were requesting be moved out of Boston College, prior to that being subject to subpoena,this was before the subpoena, the second subpoena arrived.

SB: And Anthony, unfortunately, Boston College has given every indication that they are very, very willing to hand this material over to the court to possibly go over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. But you and Ed Moloney, who was the director of this project, have taken your own court case which is now in the court of appeals. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

AM: Well Unfortunately, Sandy, Boston College, despite the undertakings that it gave to protect the interviews come what may, has folded, after round one. Despite American law, which Boston College are championing in their discourse, despite American law, Boston, allowing Boston College to appeal, Boston College declined to appeal. Now If Boston College had its way and its actions were to be followed and the standards that it has set were to be followed the tapes of Dolours Price at any rate would be in Belfast and in the hands of the PSNI at the moment. What is stopping the PSNI getting those tapes, at the minute, is an action, independent, by myself and Ed Moloney, with the assistance and guidance of two outstanding lawyers, Eamonn Dornan and James Cotter, and that, not Boston College, is preventing the PSNI getting their hands on those tapes.

CT: Anthony, I was thinking last night that Boston College is pretty much like the Italian ship captain that run the ship of research into the ground and jumped off and abandoned the research and the participants in order to save their own skin.

AM: Well as I’ve often said, if Boston College had been in charge of America, if the Trustees of Boston College had been in charge of America at the time of Pearl Harbour all the Americans would be talking Japanese, by now. And it’s so, so sad how this college have pulled out of the fight. There’s an obligation on a college to protect its researchers – And they knew exactly what the research was about – To protect its researchers and to protect its research participants. And Boston College has failed to do this.

SB: While we have you in the studio here, Carrie, tell us about who you’ve met and who you’re planning to meet in Boston; you’re going to Boston next?

CT: I’m going to attend the hearing because I want to make it clear that this about people’s lives. This isn’t just about the papers in the archive which are, of course, valuable and important, but these papers are based on real people and their lives. I won’t be, obviously, giving testimony at the hearing, but I will make my presence felt.

JM: When is that?

CT: That’s on Tuesday, the 24th, in Boston.

JM: Do you know what court house? Because you know, we have people listening up there. People can go down. I just got an email from Mike Cummings, stating that he is going down there along with the head of the AOH, to be at the hearing. Can anybody show up for this hearing?

CT: As I understand it, yes, but I think they should just check with the court before they go down, just to be sure. Irish-America’s going to be having a big showing there with the Irish-American Unity Conference, The Brehon Society, the AOH. This is very, very good. This has re-energised the Irish-American community and we’re very, very happy to see everybody coming together and fighting this together. It’s extremely important that everybody’s doing so, so this is very good.

SB: And Carrie, just so people know, this Judge has not been very friendly, that’s holding this hearing, so even if he rules against us, this case is going to go on.

CT: We will take it all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to. We are not going to roll over. We are fighting, We are in this to win this. We are fighting this to the every end.

JM: Well, I mean, you’re fighting, particularly, as Anthony said before, the RUC would like to write the history by beating and torturing the history out of you, not having participants freely give it. And a lot of people ave you been surprised by the people that have been against you? Stating this is purely an academic exercise: Anthony went out, he interviewed people to give their story and the way they’ve flipped it around now that Anthony, by just holding up a microphone, he has now become, or been called, an informer, which is as bizarre as it gets! And I just read a story from Martin McGuinness, who is a paid member of the British government, paid member of the British Parliament, of the British Parliament and that, and he gets to do whatever he wants, he gets to fly in and out of the country. And Anthony, for holding up a microphone, it’s now been flipped on him and people giving their honest history. Essentially what they’re saying: If you were a Volunteer of the IRA, do not write any books and do not do any interviews.

CT: Yeah, it’s terrible. I mean, People, unless they are members of British Parliament, they don’t have the right to tell the story of their own life. Richard O’Rawe was attacked, had breeze blocks thrown through his house windows. Gerry Bradley tragically took his own life for writing his life story. We’ve been threatened and our neighbor’s home attacked for Anthony’s research and interviews that he did with Brendan Hughes, when they were published. Unless you are part of the British apparatus you are not allowed to speak.

SB: Now, Carrie, your husband, Anthony, has been called an informer. What are the consequences of being an informer in the North of Ireland?

CT: Very simple: death. This is why I feel that he is being set-up for assassination and this is why we are as frightened as we are.

JM: Now, the guest you’re listening to is Carrie Twomey, the wife of Anthony McIntyre, she will be at The Blackthorn, in Rockville Centre, at 49 North Village Avenue, between 2 and 4 tomorrow. And once again Carrie, how can people get in touch, particularly if you’ve got a hook in there with some Congressmen or even state Senators, anyone that can help out in this case, how can they get in touch with you?

CT: Go to thepensivequill.am and go to Anthony McIntyre’s Facebook page; send him a direct message there. If you go to bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com, go to the Twitter account and send me a direct message there.

LB: Actually, the event tomorrow gonna’s be, actually at the west end of the Long Island Railroad Station, so it’s easy to get to. Take the Long Island Railroad out to Rockville Centre. It’s going to be the pub, The Blackthorn, at the west end of the actual station. So it’s easy to get to.

JM: And if you want to read a rebuttal to Lord O’Dowd’s hit piece on Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney, the response is in today’s Nuzhound, n-u-z-h-o-u-n-d, I recommend it every morning. Get up and read that. So that’s nuzhound.com and you’ll see a response to that great defender of the First Amendment, Lord O’Dowd, and what he said about Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney. Any final words, Carrie, as we wind up here.

CT: It’s funny. I’ve put in a couple of calls to Niall O’Dowd hoping to meet him while I’m here in New York and he’s not returned any of them yet, so…

JM: (Scoffs) Yeah, I’m sure he just couldn’t get to a phone! (all laugh)

CT: Maybe he’ll be there tomorrow on Long Island.

SB: Yeah, how very strange, how very strange.

LB: We’re going to be going out with a song by The Druids. And we had on Mick O’Brien, earlier in the show. And they’re coming over from the 13th to the 20th of March to be playing but they have two open dates, I think it was the 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, and I think the 19th. But if you want to get a hold of them to get them into your bar Saint Patrick’s Day, or the 19th, you want to go to the Facebook page for The Druids. So we’re going out… actually a fabulous band to have live, if you’re sick of Saint Patrick’s Day with green beer and leprechauns and you want to have a real Republican Saint Patrick’s Day, you wanna go out and make sure to get to see. We’ll be announcing the dates of where they’ll be playing. This is The Druids.

Play-out song: I Wish I Was Back Home in Derry. Music: Traditional. Lyrics by Bobby Sands. Music plays. (Interview ends 1:55PM EST)