WBAI: Radio Free Eireann interview with Ed Moloney and Carrie Twomey

Interview with Ed Moloney and Carrie Twomey
Radio Free Eireann WBAI Radio New York City
Radio Free Eireann
28 January 2012

(1:38PM EST)

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview Ed Moloney (EM) and Carrie Twomey (CT) both via telephone about the recent hearing concerning the PSNI subpoena sent to Boston College for The Belfast Project, the Oral History archive collected from former combatants in The Troubles.

Sandy Boyer (SB): And welcome back to Radio Free Eireann WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.

We’re talking about The Belfast Project, the Oral History of The Troubles that the Police Service of Northern Ireland wants to get their hands on with the assistance, unfortunately, of our Justice Department. We’re going to be talking to Ed Moloney, the director of the project who is also the author of Voices From the Grave, and Carrie Twomey, whose husband, Anthony McIntyre, did the interviews with the members of the Provisional IRA. And Carrie was over here to spread the word and actually this week there was a hearing in Boston and Carrie was at it and is going to tell us about it. But first Ed, tell us very quickly: what is The Belfast Project?

Ed Moloney (EM): The Belfast Project was an Oral History project based at Boston College, financed by Boston College and enthusiastically adopted by Boston College back in 2000. The idea behind it was that over a number of years we would go out and try to interview as many people as we could who had been involved at the cutting edge of The Troubles on all sides. The first part of the project that got underway almost immediately was dealing with Republicans and not just the IRA, but other Republicans as well. The second part was the Ulster Volunteer Force, the UVF, which was the major Loyalist group in Northern Ireland. And a third part which got underway but sort of faltered a little bit because of the quality of the material was dealing with the RUC, with the police side of it. We decided to go down this road because The Troubles had lasted something like 30-35 years by the time we got going. A lot of the people who had been involved throughout The Troubles were getting on in years and some had already died. This was not a project that you could leave for another twenty years or so as happened after the Anglo-Irish War when the Irish government did a similar sort of Oral History project. The Anglo-Irish War lasted, what, a matter of three or four years and then they could sit and wait for twenty years for passions to calm somewhat and then go out and interview people. We didn’t have that time. So it was either do it now or it would be lost possibly forever. The important aspect of the archives and the project was that we were interviewing ordinary foot soldiers, if you’d like, the people who normally don’t figure in the history books, not the leaders but the people that actually did the business, if you’d like. And their stories, therefore, would be all the more valuable and also, we thought, in terms of getting a look inside the minds of people who indulge or take up political violence and it would be very valuable for conflict research people and so on and so forth. So, from all points of view it was regarded as very valuable project, and that’s the way that Boston College regarded it up until very recently when they started to, unfortunately, disown it.

SB: And we’re also joined by Carrie Twomey, who is married to Anthony McIntyre who did the research on the Republican participants. And Carrie has come out from Ireland to attempt to mobilise support to stop the PSNI from getting their hands on this. So Carrie, thanks for being with us.

Carrie Twomey (CT): Thank you, Sandy. Good to talk with you again.

SB: And Carrie, this Tuesday there was a hearing, actually in Boston actually in Boston College, about whether the tapes would have to be handed over and you were at that hearing. Can you tell us about it?

CT: Yes, I was at the hearing in Boston and it was very emotional for me to be there and sit directly in front of the Judge and listen to our lawyer put our case forward and hear the Judge dismiss it. We had anticipated that and we are appealing it and we’ll be taking it as far as we possibly can. But it was still…you know…this is people’s lives on the line here and that’s very hard to hear it in person.

SB: And Carrie, what did the Judge actually finally say?

CT: Well, one thing that he said that was positive that came out of this was that in reading the transcripts that the project itself was a very academic work full of intellectual rigor and that was good to have that validated in court. But he didn’t think that Anthony or Ed had standing to be able to file their own complaint. Of course, we completely disagree and that’s why we’re appealing his ruling.

SB: And he essentially said that the tapes and the interviews would have to handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

CT: Yes. An interestingly enough there’s a very significant article today carried by Reuters by Ross Kerber in which he has the PSNI quoted as saying that they want all of the material at Boston College. Now obviously, it’s a complete fishing expedition that they’re going on; it’s not specific as it was presented in the sealed subpoena. Again, we don’t know the full details of what’s in the sealed subpoena but that statement that was issued by the PSNI this week really seems to contradict everything up to this point. They’re going for everything. That’s a fishing expedition. The US courts should not be supporting that on behalf of a foreign government.

John McDonagh (JM): And Carrie, who was actually in the court room, any Irish-American groups, what types of press were there and how were you treated?

CT: The Irish-American support has been terrific and I really want to give a shout out and a thanks to all the Irish-American groups: the Irish-American Unity Conference, The Brehon Society, The Ancient Order of Hibernians, they treated me great in New York. Thank you so much you guys for all the help that you did. O’Dwyer and Bernstein’s offices…I could not have asked for a better reception. In Boston, I had John Foley with me, Dick Wall from the AOH was very, very supportive…Jim Cohan came down from New York. Irish-America has pulled behind us in such a fantastic way and we owe a big thanks to them because this is why people like Senator Kerry are moving this forward and challenging the British on this. So thank you to those guys; all that support is fabulous. And I’m meeting Irish-American Unity Conference President tomorrow, Thomas Burke, here in Colorado and again, I just am so grateful for all the support that the Irish-American groups have given us. I also ran into the spokesman for Boston College, Jack Dunn, who was extremely rude to me and turned his back on me and would not even allow me to introduce myself which I just don’t understand the rudeness. It wouldn’t have cost him anything to be polite. He treated me like dirt.

SB: I think the Boston College security guards sort of hustled you out of there.

CT: They did. And as I said on the day: Boston College are cowards. And they’re putting my family’s life in danger and to be treated so rudely on top of that is just disgraceful. I have not enough words to describe my disgust for Boston College and the way they’re handling this.

SB: Ed, at long last you’re really starting to get some very, very significant support: Senator John Kerry, who’s the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a letter to the State Department on your behalf. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

EM: Yes, yes. This is again is thanks to the work of the Irish-American groups primarily who’ve been lobbying his office. He’s Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a very powerful figure and thanks to their efforts he issued a letter which could not have been better had we written it ourselves essentially pointing out the damage this could do to Oral History in the United States of America and also the damage that this could to the Northern Ireland peace process. He’s hinting very broadly that the aim of this subpoena exercise is really to nail Gerry Adams and he knows full well what damage that would do. He’s calling on Hillary Clinton to intercede with the British to get them to withdraw. And I understand from a piece that was in, that was written by Reuters yesterday, that he’s also had meetings with British officials in an effort to try to persuade them to withdraw the subpoenas. Now, that’s very heavy-weight support. It’s all due to the fact that we decided at a reasonably early stage to break legally from Boston College’s case, to get our own lawyers, Eamonn Dornan and Jim Cotter; Eamonn of Belfast and Queens (NY) and Jim of Boston have done an absolutely magnificent job. What they have done is that they have given this whole legal process extra life, extra months which left to Boston College we wouldn’t have had. And those extra months have given the space and the time for Irish-America to organise and to get people like Senator Kerry backing this project. And the significance of Senator Kerry doing this is that where he goes others will follow and they will certainly not oppose him, certainly not in the Democratic Party. So, this is really excellent, excellent news. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, obviously.

SB: So Ed, you’re finally getting some really significant media attention. Forbes Magazine had an article, I saw something in The Washington Post today and The Atlantic did something. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

EM: Yeah, right. I’d really like point people towards the forbes.com article written by an imitable Libertarian, attorney and academic called Harvey Silverglate in which he excoriates the people behind this case and lashes the Judge, William Young, for the way that he has handled the case in a way which no one else has done so far. Pointing out the enormous damage that this case can do to and will do, if we don’t prevail in the court. The enormous damage that will be done to American academic life and he’s pointing out a number of things that the Judge ruled that are beyond rational explanation, for example: denying us intervention. Anthony McIntyre’s life is in danger if these subpoenas succeed. If I am forced by the authorities in Britain to validate and authenticate any of the interviews for evidential purposes that transforms me from a journalist into a Crown witness and makes me a target. Not that I’m going to do that but let’s say I succumb to the pressure that will come then that puts my life in danger. And the Judge is saying these people don’t have any right to intervene, they have no interest at stake. Well, we do, we have our lives at stake. He’s also ordered that if the Stay is lifted, within three days these documents, these interviews and tapes, have to be handed over to the British. Well, if you’ve only got three days that limits your time to take the next stage of appeal. We would, I think, like to take this all the way to the Supreme Court but Judge Young has rigged the game in such a way that it’s going to make it very difficult for us to do that. And he also ruled against our case on the grounds that there were no other sources available to the Police Service of Northern Ireland other than the Boston College tapes which is absolute nonsense. Given that this case started with a taped interview that was given to a Belfast newspaper back in February, 2010. A taped interview that was used in two newspaper articles; that material is available, the person who gave that interview is available, and none of these, as we’ve discovered, were followed up by the police at the time. They could have gone to interview the journalist involved in The Irish News and The Sunday Life, they could have asked to interrogate the person who gave the interviews. They have done none of that. They only went to The Irish News newspaper after we highlighted all of this in our very first affidavit fighting these subpoenas in June. In other words, more than thirteen months after these newspaper interviews the PSNI finally exert themselves to go around and interview the primary source for this. Now what sort of investigation is that? That’s a scandalous investigation! And for the Judge to know all of this, and he knows it because it’s in the affidavits, and to utterly and totally ignore it is nothing short of shameful.

SB: Ed, thank you and Carrie, we want to close here with you. First of all, you’ve been in this country how long and how long will you still be here?

CT: I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m extending my visit another week. I hope to be meeting some influential Senators and Congress people in California next week to keep pressing home this issue. We’ve got the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate on board; they’re very concerned about this as evidenced by the statements from the Chairman, Senator Kerry. And I’m hoping to start meeting with House Representatives on the other side of the Foreign Relations Committee. So, we’re going to keep pressing this politically, we’re going to keep fighting this as hard as we can. This is a very important issue for history and for people’s lives. And I’m doing everything that I possibly can here, while I’m here in The States, to raise this issue everywhere. And again I’ll reiterate, I’ll meet with anybody, any time, anybody who can help. And I’m so grateful for all the help that everybody has been giving us so far.

SB: And Carrie, if anybody wants to get in touch with you, they’ve got suggestions, they’ve got leads for you…how can they do that?

CT: The best thing is to get a message through to Anthony: thepensivequill.am. Contact him via his Facebook page, send him a direct message there; he can get it to me. Or you can follow the Boston College Subpoena News which is: bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com Sign up for our Facebook account and sign up for our Twitter account. You can send me a direct message on Twitter and I’ll be able to get back to you.

SB: Okay, so the easiest way is to send an email to thepensivequill – p-e-n-s-i-v-e- quill- dot- a-m, is that right?

CT: Yes. anthony mcintyre at the pensive quill dot am

SB: anthony mcintyre at the pensive quill and Anthony, of course, is your husband and will immediately get the word to you. Ed, Carrie, thank you both very much and we’ll be following this, of course.

(Interview ends 1:52:52)