Boston College: The Irish News & Sunday Life Revisited

Boston College: The Irish News & Sunday Life Revisited
Ed Moloney
March 13, 2012

The US Attorney, Carmen Ortiz has just filed her reply to the briefs presented by our lawyers, Eamonn Dornan and Jim Cotter as well as the brief prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and on first reading one thing jumped out at me: the US government is finally admitting that one crucial justification for the original subpoenas against Boston College back in May, 2011 was false.

This was the claim that way back in February 2010, Sunday Life reporter Ciaran Barnes had been able to listen to Dolours Price’s interview with Boston College researcher, Anthony McIntyre in which she allegedly admitted her role in the disappearance of Jean McConville and three other people killed by the IRA in 1972.

This was a crucial claim because if true it meant that someone at Boston College, either myself or Anthony McIntyre or Bob O’Neill, the librarian on the BC campus, must have breached the confidentiality pledge given to Dolours Price and therefore we could no longer claim that pledge as protection against the subpoena.

This is what the affidavit prepared by Ortiz’s office back in July 2011 had to say about this:

“Ms. Price’s interviews by Boston College were the subject of news reports published in Northern Ireland in 2010, in which Ms. Price admitted her involvement in the murder and“disappearances” of at least four persons whom the IRA targeted: Jean McConville, Joe Lynskey, Seamus Wright, and Kevin McKee……..Moreover, according to one news report, the reporter was permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price’s Boston College interviews.” (page 4)

So, according to US Attorney, Dolours Price had admitted all this in her interviews with Boston College and these tapes were then made available to Ciaran Barnes who wrote his report based on them.

As regular readers of this blog will know, we have strenuously denied all of this from the outset and in a series of articles, here, here and here, have attempted to demonstrate that the information in Barnes’ article actually came from a taped interview with Dolours Price made by Allison Morris of the Irish News.

In a deal with the Price family, the Irish News tempered its subsequent report but then Morris passed the tape onto Barnes who exercised no such restraint and compounded all this by dishonestly suggesting that the tape he had listened to came from Boston College. It was, of course, a device to protect Allison Morris and to hide the fact that the deal her editor had cut with the Price family had been betrayed.

We now know, thanks to a piece Morris penned in the Irish News, that the PSNI made no attempt to investigate this matter until June 2011, a month after our exposure of the Morris-Barnes deception. By that time, of course, Morris was able to tell the PSNI that she no longer had the tape in her possession. Quelle surprise!

Nonetheless, the tardy PSNI action was an admission that the basis for the first subpoenas served on Boston College was a lie. What has yet to be explained is why the PSNI did not approach either the Irish News or the Sunday Life back in February 2010 when their articles on Dolours Price were published. Was that just a one-off blunder by the PSNI or part of a pattern of preferential treatment to local newspapers whose political support is vital to the PSNI?

This is what Ms Ortiz has to say about the PSNI’s Keystone Cops act in her recently filed brief:

“……nowhere in the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty….does it authorize the court to assess whether the authorities in the U.K. sought interviews of Ms. Price from news reporting sources in that country. Moreover, even if U.K. authorities had made such an inquiry, it is clear from appellants’ own affidavits that the Belfast Project interviews were singular, were possessed only by Boston College, and could not have been obtained from news reporting sources in the U.K.”

The first part of that statement amounts to an implicit admission that the PSNI had fallen down on its job by ignoring the Irish News and Sunday Life reports in February 2010. The second part would have more validity had the PSNI tried way back in February 2010 to obtain Allison Morris’ tape but failed. The truth is that news reporting sources were available to the PSNI but they chose to ignore them.

The US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts has now revised the original account of this episode but, tellingly, failed to explain the major differences between the original claims and what Ms Ortiz’ office now says happened.

Here is the revised version of that episode:

“Price’s interviews with Boston College were revealed in news reports published in Northern Ireland in 2010, in which Price admitted her involvement in the murder and “disappearances” of at least four persons whom the IRA targeted, including Jean McConville. Price also told at least one reporter that she had been interviewed by ‘academics at Boston University.’” (pages 6-7)

Notice the differences: no mention of anyone listening to Boston College’s tapes, merely an acknowledgement, and nothing more than that, that Dolours Price had told the Irish News that she had been interviewed by Boston College and, on one reading, a subtle suggestion that the alleged admissions of involvement in these disappearances were really made in the Irish News and Sunday Life reports. More, much more on this to come and if I was Allison Morris or Ciaran Barnes I would pay especial attention to this.