St Patricks Day: Radio Free Eireann interview with Carrie Twomey

Radio Free Eireann
Saint Patrick’s Day Special
WBAI – New York
Saturday 17 March 2012

Sandy Boyer (SB) interviews Carrie Twomey (CT)

@39 minutes


Sandy Boyer (SB): You’re listening to Radio Free Eireann WBAI 99.5 FM and this is our Saint Patrick’s Day Special. And we have just about an hour and twenty minutes to go and then the last hour we’re going to turn it over to Eliza Butler to spin her inimitable mix of Irish music. But we’re very lucky that we have Carrie Twomey in the studio today, who’s normally in Ireland, and her husband, Anthony McIntyre, was the Lead Researcher on what has become known as The Belfast Project at Boston College, which was a very innovative attempt to get an Oral History of The Troubles from the point of view of the IRA veterans, the UVF veterans, the people who were actually on the front lines fighting it. But Carrie, now we have the pretty terrible spectre of the US government, at the bidding of the British government, trying to subpoena some of those papers. Carrie, can you tell us about it?

Carrie Twomey (CT): It would be like trying to subpoena Ernie O’Malley’s notes to use them to prosecute him for On Another Man’s Wound. It’s just a terrible situation. When I was last here we were in the lower courts and our Motion to Intervene and Boston College’s Motion to Quash was over-ruled or dismissed, basically. But we have very good lawyers in Eamonn Dornan and Jim Cotter, and they managed to get a Stay on all the material being handed over, pending an appeal, which is going to be heard in April. So I’m here to continue lobbying, to continue the political pressure to get this to stop.

SB: Very specifically, we’re talking about tapes (and) interviews about the case of Jean McConville, who was allegedly an informer for the British in a Republican ghetto in Belfast. But Carrie, it looks like this is a fishing expedition, an attempt to use these interviews, if they can get their hands on them, to mount criminal or maybe even civil prosecutions.

CT: Oh absolutely it’s a fishing expedition. There’s no question about that. And we do believe that because these are unsworn testimony, it’s going to be uncorroborated, it’s not going to meet the standard of evidence in a criminal court. We believe that there is a move to try to get them released as criminal evidence in order to proceed with a civil suit against people like Gerry Adams. That’s not what this Oral History was gathered for and that’s absolutely wrong to do and the US courts should not have proceeded as far as it has with it. The Department of Justice should have said “No” as soon as it landed on their desk.

SB: What we suspect, we can’t quite prove it, but it’s looking more and more like this is an effort targeting very specifically Gerry Adams, trying to try to drag him into court to face charges that he gave the orders to kill Jean McConville and that’s a fairly scary prospect.

CT: Well it could, potentially, destabilise all the work that has been done over two decades for the peace process, to get someone like Gerry Adams in court order when in order to have peace…And this sort of happens in conflict zones around the world when they get to a point of deciding, okay we’re going to stop the conflict and move on forward with peace, you have to draw a line over the past in order to move forward. So to bring somebody like Gerry Adams, or to be incarcerating somebody like Marian Price, as Eamonn (McCann) was talking about, that flies in the face of trying to continue with peace.

I think that there’s been a complacency that’s sort of settled with all the main participants in the peace process and this has meant that the dinosaurs are now roaming the Earth and they’re pulling us back and they’re regressing and we’re seeing an erosion of all the moves that have come forward and created stability within the North. I think we’re at a dangerous point in that, and we need to find somebody who has the power, whether it would be Secretary of State Clinton or even President Obama, to have some courage and to lead the way and focus everybody on having a re-commitment to this peace process.

SB: You have to wonder if they could (If they could. I’m not saying they will, but if they could) drag Gerry Adams in, who would be next? It’s very unlikely they’d stop with Gerry Adams.

CT: Exactly. In a way, with all the people they have been dragging in front of the courts, Gerry Adams should be asking: “Am I next?” because he’s not the first and he won’t be the last.

SB: And it is entirely possible that Martin McGuinness, who’s now the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, could find himself dragged in after this.

CT: It’s possible. It’s quite possible.

SB: But Carrie, I think you’re right. You said something very important. We’re fighting this in court and as you’re saying: there’s great lawyers, and it’s come a long way…but you never know what’s going to happen in the courts…you can’t just trust the courts. We really need someone to stand up and say “Enough! Halt!” Tell the British: “No. We’re not going through with this. We’re not handing over the records.” But, that doesn’t happen easily; you’ve really got to generate pressure. Unfortunately, because the time is so short, it really has to be pressure from public officials, prominent people, and I think that’s alot of why you’re here.

CT: It will really take courage. What we have right now is a situation where you have the Department of Justice and the State Department and the various…even the Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, at NIO (Northern Ireland Office), they’re all looking at this wringing their hands: (mocks) “This is terrible! This is awful! Look at this train coming on this track and the train on the other and there’s going to be a terrible wreck!” and none of them have the courage to come up and say “Well, here’s the switch to switch the track and avoid this train wreck that we all see that’s coming.” The Department of Justice is pursuing this as a straight criminal case and the State Department doesn’t want to interfere politically.

But they all know this was the wrong thing to do. This has snowballed and it’s going to be a disaster on so many levels. We need to find that person with courage whether it be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or whether it be President Obama who says, “Alright. Time to throw the switch. This should not be happening. It was a mistake.” And roll it back. And in part and parcel with that, part of why this has been so contentious: we’re at at the end-stage peace process, we’re at the end-stage of conflict resolution where we’re dealing with legacy issues, issues of the past, the British have completely dragged their feet about getting a Truth Commission, so everybody’s looking at this Boston College archive because of its uniqueness as “Well, let’s get the truth from there”. Like I said, this re-commitment to the peace process needs to move things forward so that there can be a proper Truth Commission and not using this in the absence of one.

SB: As you can judge from her accent, Carrie may live in Ireland (but) is an American citizen; grew up here, grew up in California, I believe. You now have a very personal stake in this. Your husband, Anthony McIntyre, if these tapes are turned over, if people are dragged into court, Anthony was the Lead Researcher who did interviews with members of the Provisional IRA, could be labeled an informer. In fact, that’s already begun to happen over there. And it’s no secret, shall we say, that if you’re labeled an informer you could wind up in a ditch.

CT: The very case that has precipitated these subpoenas was about the disappearance and murder of somebody who was alleged to have been an informer. And it’s astounding that the Department of Justice can argue with a straight face that there’s no danger posed to Anthony McIntyre by the fact that people are calling him an informer over this.

He’s not an informer. This project was not informing. They attempted to smear Brendan Hughes’ name with the same thing. But using that kind of language, in that context and in that environment is extremely dangerous not only for Anthony and our own family but for all the participants in this project on both the Republican and Loyalists sides. Very dangerous times and very frightening. Very frightening.

SB: Unfortunately, what we know from our experience is, when people come to shoot people they’re not overly choosy, then if Anthony’s in danger, you and your American-citizen children are in danger as well. That is an important message. You’re as entitled to life as anyone else.

CT: Like I said, it’s very frightening. I said in my affidavit about the worry of something coming through the window, it could be my kids; my daughter’s eleven, my son’s six…they’re very little…they’re completely innocent of everything. It’s just a terrible fear to live with on a daily basis.

SB: And because of that, you’re uniquely able to tell that story to Senators, Members of Congress, and it’s one of the things you’ve been doing this past week. Tell us about some of the people you’ve been meeting with and some of the reception you’ve been getting.

CT: Well, I started out this week DC. The Irish-American Unity Conference was very helpful with that, Peter Kissel in DC. And I’ve met a number of offices, Congressional offices, I met with Richard Neal’s office from Massachusetts; they’re very worried and concerned about this case. I met with Senator Lugar’s, who was part of the Extradition Treaty, where the UK Secretary of State at the time had said they weren’t going to be seeking anybody for pre-1998 crimes. It’s interesting now, Obama meeting Cameron at the same time wants to roll back this Extradition Treaty so I think Irish-Americans need to be vigilant on this discussion as it’s going between the US and UK and protect that part of the Extradition Treaty that they worked so hard on. I also met with Ed Royce’s office, he’s on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Boxer’s office as well. And I have some future meetings this week in New York and when I travel to Boston.

SB: Can you tell us about any of those meetings?

CT: Well, I’ll be meeting with Schumer’s office…

SB: Senator Schumer, who’s also the third ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so the Justice Department would have to pay some attention to him.

CT: Yes, I am very much looking forward to that meeting. And I will be meeting with Senator Kerry’s office in Boston again. Senator Kerry has taken the lead on this issue and we’re very grateful for the vocal work he’s been doing on this, lobbying the Secretary of State. He’s the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and alot of people are looking to him for the lead on this issue.

SB: And I believe that the Ancient Order of Hibernians was just hosting you in Philadelphia.

CT: They did. They adopted me as well! Very wonderful people, down-to-Earth. I did a speaking engagement with them at their Port Richmond chapter. I found Philadelphia a very charming city.

SB: And of course we should say that the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and The Brehon Law Society and the Irish-American Unity Conference have formed an alliance; really tremendous energy and support and pressure and publicity. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve come as far as we’ve come…has been in large part because of them.

CT: Oh, absolutely! This issue re-awakened them and I wouldn’t be sitting here without their help; the lobbying that they’ve been doing, the organising they’ve been doing. They “get” what’s so important about this issue not only in relation to Ireland and the peace process but in terms of American politics as well.

This is very much an American issue as well as an Irish issue. Not because of my involvement as an American citizen but because of the implications that this has for American foreign policy. I’ve said before numerous times, there are Oral Histories of Iraq war veterans being collected right now at universities around America and the US Attorney’s argument that there’s no such thing as academic protection, the First Amendment doesn’t apply, source protection doesn’t apply, means that these soldiers, these veterans, who need to give their Oral Histories so that we have this for the future, are at risk if there’s ever any desire to create prosecutions about that, they’re not protected, they’re not confidential interviews. This is one of the reasons why people are so concerned that are outside of the Irish community as well.

There’s a lot of implications, not just alone for that example of Oral History, but politically sensitive papers, such as the Decommissioning Papers, which are held in the same library at Boston College, they’re under a forty year embargo which is now worthless if the US Attorney’s argument prevails in court.

SB: And speaking of court, where are we in the court?

CT: We are in court April 4th and that is in the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

SB: That’s an appeal, right?

CT: Yes, that’s an appeal. We’re now into the appeal process. Boston College has reversed their position of not appealing and they have filed a separate appeal which will be heard in June. However, theirs is not appealing everything; it’s protecting some of the archive not all of it. We’re still very disappointed in Boston College.

SB: Could you just give our audience, who may not be following it quite as thoroughly as we are, a District Court Judge ordered that the interviews be turned over to the Justice Department for forwarding to the British government but your lawyers intervened, took it to the Court of Appeals and now we’re talking about a hearing in the Court of Appeals and, what’s really exciting, is that the American Civil Liberties Union has now intervened.

CT: Yes, they did a fantastic brief that really shows you how good a powerful lawyer can be. They have taken this on on the civil liberties aspect of it. Their arguments in terms of the Irish politics of it were a hundred percent spot on. They’re concerned about privacy issues as well as the fact that this case, again with the way the US Attorney is arguing it, means that a foreign government can come in and actually over-ride legal protections that are every American’s right. Well, they don’t apply if a foreign government wants material or wants to pursue their own criminal investigations, the US Attorney will say: “Oh well, it doesn’t matter if this law is what protects American citizens normally, we’ve got to do what the foreign government says because of this Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.” And the ACLU is very strongly against that which is great.

SB: What’s the schedule now? I know that you have a schedule for briefs and I believe there’s going to be an actual oral argument…Tell us what’s going to happen with that.

CT: I’ve very much a layman’s understanding of this so I may not have the correct answer but I do know is that that April 4th hearing is going to be going to oral arguments. What the briefing schedule is around that …I’m not sure…get Eamonn on the show and have him answer. (Laughs)

SB: I do know that the government just submitted a brief, and I’m not a lawyer, but I couldn’t help but be struck when I read it because didn’t address any of the issues, like the ACLU talks about, it was just an attempt to tell the court you really don’t have any right to even consider this.

CT: Yeah, their brief was very interesting. That was just submitted actually, when I was in DC I was reading it before I was going into my meetings, and a couple things jumped out at me on that: Number One, their main argument seemed to be: “Well, the first Judge said we were right so we’re right! And that’s enough for us!”

The other thing that struck me, and this points again to why I’m so angry and disappointed with Boston College’s handling of this. Throughout their brief, literally on every page, they (the US Attorney) were making the point that Boston College did not appeal the first ruling. So they’re using Boston College’s rolling over on this issue as justification for why their side of things should prevail and I think that’s just absolutely shameful (for Boston College).

SB: Carrie, we don’t have much more time with you, two quick things: you’re going to Boston, what’s planned for Boston?

CT: Senator Kerry’s office. I’m going to be catching up on what’s been being done and where things are at and hopefully I’ll have very good news come out of that but that’s the optimist in me rather than the realist!

SB: And suppose people want to get in touch? Especially people in Boston who might have suggestions, or meetings you can do, people you can talk to?

CT: Yes, we have a Facebook page (and) a Twitter account. (Joking aside to SB: Yeah. We’re very modern. Laughs.) If you go to: you’ll find the links to our Facebook account and our Twitter account. Sign up there. You can message us via Facebook and you can keep up-to-date on all the latest news about the case.

SB: So again, give people that website. People are listening in Boston, people are listening throughout the Tri-State area, people are even listening in Ireland, so someone might say, “Oh, I know somebody in Boston she should talk to.”

CT: Yeah, if they could help securing a meeting with Brown that would be great! And again the website address is

SB: Carrie, thank you very much it’s a pleasure to have you in the studio, it’s good to see you on this side of the Atlantic, we’re often talking to you by phone, but it’s actually good to see you in person and Good Luck and keep up the good work.

CT: Thank you, Sandy and thanks for all the support here.

(ENDS 3:59 PM)