Radio Free Eireann interviews Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney After First Circuit Hearing
WBAI 99.5 FM NYC
Saturday 7 April 2012
Sandy Boyer (SB) interviews via telephone Ed Moloney (EM), the former Director of The Belfast Project who, along with Dr. Anthony McIntyre, is the plaintiff in an appeal to stop the British government subpoenas served on Boston College for confidential material from the project’s archive. Oral arguments were heard in that appeal last Wednesday in The First Circuit Court of Appeal in Boston.
Sandy Boyer (SB): Welcome back to Radio Free Eireann, WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.
We’re talking about The Belfast Project, the Oral History project which looks at the history of what’s called The Troubles from a different point of view: from the bottom up. Instead of the politicians and “the official” history, this was a history from the point of view of the people who were doing the fighting in the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force.
And we have on the line with us Ed Moloney, who was the Director of The Belfast Project. Ed, thanks very much for being with us.
Ed Moloney (EM): No problem, Sandy.
SB: So Ed, in a very bizarre turn of events, the American government acting on behalf of the British, are trying to get turned over to the British government some of your interviews. Now that was just argued in federal at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Can you tell us a little about that?
EM: Yes. The attempt by the British government which is actually really, I think, some elements inside the PSNI, the new policing system in the North of Ireland, who are really behind this.
The effort to get hold of these interviews was initially challenged by Boston College. When the lower court ruled against Boston College and said that the interviews could and should be handed over, myself and Anthony McIntyre, who had basically broken with Boston College over their whole approach to this business and also issues of bad faith, we had been attempting to establish own our right to separate representation in the court case.
That was also turned down by the same judge, a character called William Young, who some people might remember as the guy who sentenced “The Shoe Bomber”, Richard Reid, a few years back.
So we were turned down and we took an appeal to the First Circuit there in Massachusetts. That’s what the hearing was about last week: was whether this decision to prevent us from intervening in this case should be overruled or not. Obviously, it’s an important development because if we lose then essentially…well, we do have the option of trying to take it to the Supreme Court. I think we probably will if we do lose it, but if we win it means that the whole case is re-opened and have to be sort of basically re-tried.
Which could be important because then we can bring to the case those elements which Boston College refused to introduce: such as the fact that these interviews, if they’re handed over, could materially damage the peace process in Northern Ireland, and that (the peace process) is a US foreign policy aim and that’s something that the court should protect.
That sort of thing was not part of Boston College’s effort.
SB: And Ed, on Wednesday when this was argued in Boston in The First Circuit Court of Appeals, you had an Assistant US Attorney in effect, arguing on behalf of the British government!
EM: Yes. Yes, you did. Yes.
There is a treaty between the British and the Americans called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which they use to get evidence and documents and what have you from each others jurisdictions to assist their various police forces.
Now that’s happening in this case even though that there is no actual criminal prosecution underway. It’s just a fishing expedition if you like, by the PSNI.
They have no idea really, what’s in these interviews, whether they’re relevant and nevertheless the US are backing that.
Now what is happening in the background, of course, is that thanks to the assistance of a great many people in Irish-America, and I’d like to take this opportunity to convey my deep gratitude to Irish-American because they have come up in trumps on this.
Thanks to people like The Brehon Law Society and The AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians) we’ve been able to mobilise a considerable amount of political support. We have three US Senators who have written to both Eric Holder, the Attorney General, and Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, urging that they intervene with the British and persuade them to drop these subpoenas on the grounds that it will damage US foreign policy.
Both Senators Kerry and Schumer of the Democratic Party and Brown in MA and we’ve got a growing number of members of Congress in the House of Representatives who have sent letters as well.
There’s (been) a great amount of media coverage and people are very aware of this case and they are very aware, now, of why this shouldn’t be happening.
And there are three grounds on which we are objecting to this: One is that is real target, we believe, of this effort by the PSNI is coming from, we strongly suspect, we don’t have cast iron evidence but we strongly suspect, that there are old RUC/Special Branch elements within the PSNI who see this and know full well where this story will end up – it will end up at the door of Gerry Adams and this gives them an opportunity to exact some sort of revenge for the peace process, changes in policing, and so on and so forth.
So we’re saying this is really not a bona fide police investigation. It’s a pretext to cause political damage and that political damage will also affect the peace process.
Secondly, we’re saying that the people involved in this project, particularly the researcher, Anthony McIntyre, but also those who were interviewed whose names will become public or could become public, will be in mortal danger on the grounds that there would be elements within the Republican Movement who would regard them as being informers.
And then thirdly and by no means last or insignificantly, is the huge damage that will be done to the whole body of historical research that depends upon people coming forward and telling stories and telling the truth about what happened in various situations.
And that applies, particularly applies, in the United States where it will have direct effect upon Oral History here. For example, one case study is that of what happened in the Iraq War or the Afghanistan War.
Oral Historians will now be discouraged from going around interviewing people who were in the Armed Forces and ask them what happened because if they told stories which involves, what are allegedly criminal matters, these interviews could then be confiscated and there’s a whole range of areas of social and political life which would be “off-limits” to American researchers.
And it’s also going to kill-off any real effort to get to a sort of a truth recovery or truth telling process in Northern Ireland.
And that means that the monopoly of the story about what happened in The Troubles will now, thanks to this measure, will rest basically in the hands of the PSNI. And that’s wrong!
I actually think it’s immoral as well because the policing system, the PSNI or the RUC, were actually part of the problem, part of the reasons why we had The Troubles in Northern Ireland for such a long period of time.
And the idea that they should have the monopoly on telling the story, which is what they’re actually doing here, they’re saying that no one else is allowed to investigate the past except themselves, is deplorable.
And it’s as deplorable as if the job of chronicling of what took place was handed over to the Provisional Movement or to the Ulster Unionist Party or the DUP or the UVF.
People would immediately object to those on the grounds that you can’t trust the participants to tell the truth.
But the PSNI and their predecessor, the RUC, are participants in this story. They should not be allowed to take over control of telling this story; that should be left in the hands of academics and journalists and also the people themselves who were involved.
SB: We’re talking to Ed Moloney, Director of The Boston (Belfast) Project. We’re talking about a hearing that took place on Wednesday before a three judge panel in the Court of Appeals. And you had this Assistant US Attorney saying all these interviews should be handed over to the British government.
What reasons did she give and how was she received by the judges?
EM: The argument that is again, that has been presented to counter our effort to be involved in our own right in the case, is that Boston College adequately represented our interest.
Now, not everyone is aware of all the fine details of the relationship between ourselves and Boston College throughout this affair.
But to sufficient to say the only reason we’re in court at all is because I found out about the subpoenas and I told The New York Times.
Otherwise I think Boston College would have handed these interviews over without any sort of court fight at all.
And that sort of attitude has characterised the Boston College side of this affair from day one. It was one of the reasons why we sought separate legal representation and also sought to get involved in the case in own our right.
So the idea that Boston College adequately represented our interests would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
Now funnily enough, that’s the argument of course that the US Assistant Attorney made at the court case, and that led to a quite significant event or incident when one of the judges provoked laughter in the court room when he said “Well, isn’t it a wee bit odd that Boston College aren’t here appealing the lower court’s decision? If they are supposed to be representing these two men why aren’t they here with them?”
And of course, the answer there is quite obvious: Boston College dropped their appeal. They didn’t even follow-up on appeal after they lost in the lower court. We’re the ones who are trying to fight on.
And you can’t have more eloquent evidence that they don’t represent our interest at all, never mind adequately, than that.
And that seems to have been appreciated by the court.
Also, there was some very good questioning and awareness of the very real dangers that do exist to those who participated in the project; that their life could be at risk.
Our attorney, Eamonn Dornan, who did a fantastic job on Wednesday, raised the case of Suzanne Breen, a journalist in Belfast, who the police, the same police force who seems to be addicted to getting into the filing cabinets of journalists, went after her as well because of an interview that she had been given by The Real IRA over a violent incident in Northern Ireland.
They were trying to get her to divulge the name and the record of the conversation and she refused to do so. She successfully won that case on the basis that the European Convention protects a person’s life in these circumstances and her life would be in danger.
And that’s an argument that Eamonn Dornan raised in the hearing on Wednesday and that seemed to have some sort of effect on the judges as well.
The US Attorney on the other hand was saying well, any Constitutional protection does not apply in this case because the guy who’s principally at risk, Anthony McIntyre, is not a US citizen.
And essentially what she’s saying is that US courts can take decisions here that will lead to the deaths of people elsewhere in the world and basically we don’t give a damn. That’s what she’s saying.
SB: Ed, thank you very much. And just before we let you go…they reserved judgment, I believe. Do you have any idea when this judgment might come down?
EM: No. No, absolutely no idea when it will happen. It could be two weeks it could be two months. We just don’t know. It’s like the papal elections- you wait until the white smoke comes out of the chimney and then you know.
SB: Ed, thank you very much and I’m sure we’ll have you back here at least when there’s a decision.
1:57 PM (Interview ends)