Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS • BREHON LAW SOCIETY • IRISH AMERICAN UNITY CONFERENCE

April 18, 2012

Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary
U. S. Department of State
2201 C St NW
Washington, D. C. 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

As you know, our coalition of the largest and most active Irish American groups is very concerned about the subpoenas issued by Attorney General Holder to Boston College to obtain records from their Irish archives. We have asked Members of Congress and others to share our concerns with you in the hope that this misuse of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the United Kingdom will be abrogated.

It is our position that whatever the result of the litigation connected with the British request, there is ample grounds to deny the Royal Ulster Constabulary the requested records. First, there are over 50 incidences of multiple killing of Catholics in which police corruption and planning is suspected. A recent hearing by Representative Chris Smith, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, heard compelling evidence of collusion of police involvement in those killings. Why on earth would our chief law enforcement officer countenance for a minute the request of a police department which even the Prime Minister of Great Britain has admitted has been involved in lawless actions against Catholics? Second, the incident for which records is requested occurred 40 years ago (months after the slaughter Bloody Sunday) and was by admission of a former Chief Constable unlikely to result in a criminal prosecution. This is a serious misuse of MLAT by admission of the former Chief Constable! Third, there is simply no good that could come from this subpoena in the context of the fledgling Irish peace process. Dissidents on either side are the only beneficiaries if Attorney General Holder were to turn over the requested documents in this case which from start to finish is politically inspired.

We have brought this information to you before but we now need to know if you will explain to Attorney General Holder why he should not enforce the subpoena issued to Boston College. If you harbor any doubts about our request or any reservations about taking the action we seek, we wish to meet with you to explain and emphasize our actions. Our concern for this matter was recently heightened when Assistant United States Attorney General Healy-Smith sent a letter to the U. S Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit suggesting that the Department of State and the Department of Justice are of one mind about this case.

We are ready to meet with you at any time to reinforce our concerns and to further document our concerns. Please let us know when such a meeting will be possible. Thank you for giving this request your earliest consideration.

Sincerely,

Seamus Boyle
National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians

Robert Dunne Esq.
President
Brehon Law Society

Thomas J. Burke Jr. Esq.
National President
Irish American Unity Conference

Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney interviewed on New York radio

Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney interviewed on New York radio
Radio Free Eireann
WBAI 99.5 FM
New York City
Saturday 21 April 2012

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview Ed Moloney (EM) to get an important update on appeal pending in the federal court in Boston concerning The Belfast Project, the Oral History archive at Boston College.

Download

(1:40 PM)

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

We’re speaking with Ed Moloney, the Director of the Belfast Project, the Oral History of The Troubles which the US government has subpoenaed on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Ed, thanks for being with us. Ed, can you hear me?

Ed Moloney (EM): Yes I can.

SB: We didn’t get you for a moment. So Ed, there’s new development: after you had two rounds of briefs and oral arguments suddenly the US government has come back to the court of appeals.

EM: Yes, it was an extraordinary incident. Our oral hearing in Boston was on April the fourth and then on April the sixteen, I think it was, a letter was sent to the three appeal judges by the US Attorney’s office trying to raise issues that had been dealt with both in the, to some extent in the written brief and also in the oral argument, and that was the assertion from us, which was really central to our argument that we should be allowed to have a proper say in the court proceedings, that there was no great risk to either to myself or to Anthony McIntyre.

And the US Attorney’s office wanted to put that on record again with the judges and also to dispute the claim that had been made by Eamonn Dornan that the Department of State, that’s Hillary Clinton’s department, had a different view of all of this than Eric Holder’s Department of Justice.

And they claimed in their letter that there was no difference between the attitude of the State Department and the Department of Justice. That was their letter and apparently it’s an unprecedented thing to happen.

Eamonn Dornan eventually wrote back a few days ago and pointed out that there’s nothing in the rule books relating to appeal hearings that would allow something like this.

And he also went on to dispute some of the claims that had been made in this US Attorney’s letter saying that in fact that the State Department had been fully aware of all the dangers and there was evidence there to show that there was concern at that level and just to quote he said: “the appellants are ready, willing and able to provide evidence of those contacts” (that’s contact between the McIntyre Family, principally, and the US Embassy in Dublin) over any of their security or threat to physical safety arising from these interviews being handed over to the PSNI.

SB: And you’d think that if the government was really happy with the way the case was going they wouldn’t be doing this.

EM: You would think so, yeah.

The lawyers that I’ve talked to, the moment they get over the surprise of this thing, and all sorts of adjectives have been used from “extraordinary” to “unprecedented” to describe what has happened here, the next thought that comes out of their heads is that the government must be a little bit worried about the way that it’s going in order to have, as it were, a second bite of the cherry, you know?

Who knows whether that’s a straw in the wind or not but it’s an extraordinary event to happen and apparently has never happened before.

SB: Ed, something else very interesting has come up: one of the key interviews that the government is seeking to turn over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland is an interview with Dolours Price, Marian Price’s sister.

It’s emerged that the Police Service of Northern Ireland could easily have talked to her.

EM: Oh yes! One very important plank in our case is that there was no need for the PSNI to go to the lengths of trying to get interviews extracted out of the archives at Boston College because there were other alternative opportunities to get the same sort of evidence. And one of these occurred in August, 2010 and that is, to refresh your listeners memories on this:

  • the incident which apparently led to the PSNI seeking these subpoenas took place in February, 2010 when Dolours Price gave an interview to a newspaper in Belfast claiming her involvement in or alleging her involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville and a few other incidents like that and also apparently telling The Irish News that she had also given an interview to Boston College.

That was the basis on which the PSNI sought the subpoenas. In other words, we have evidence that this exists, it’s the only evidence that we have and therefore we want to get hold of it.

Well in August, how many months after is that? At least six months after this happened…where was Dolours Price?

Appearing in a Newry Magistrate’s Court on a charge of shoplifting (for which, incidentally, she was cleared.)

As you know, the courts in Northern Ireland, particularly like Magistrate’s Courts, are jammed-packed with policemen. The authorities would have known that she had been charged. The authorities would have known that she was appearing. They had an ideal opportunity to say, to come up to her after the hearing and say: “Excuse me, Ms Price, we would like to have a few words with you down at the police station. Would you mind coming down and explaining to us these interviews that you gave to The Irish News?”

And they didn’t do so.

And that’s a very important element in our case because it shows really that the police were not on the job here. And it raises all sorts of serious questions about the motivation for the subpoenas.

It’s not about getting evidence against Dolours Price because if they were serious about that they could have gotten it there and then.

It’s about something else.

And that something else is, as we have argued consistently, that there is an element there within the PSNI which is seeking revenge against Gerry Adams and the leadership of the Provos for all the changes in policing and so on and so forth. So that opens up that whole issue and that whole question so it’s very important.

That has not yet formally been presented in terms of written evidence but Eamonn Dornan was able to raise it at the oral hearings on the grounds that this was information that we’d only just found out about and that was accepted by the judges.

So that’s now there and hopefully going to be part of the consideration when it comes to making a decision about whether we should be allowed our own opportunity to argue our case.

John McDonagh (JM): Ed, what’s going on in Boston and the court system is really going to have world-wide implications!

I was speaking to the people at The Ulster American Folk Park. And even though they’re not involved politically, they’re involved with migration, but they’re following it very closely they said because it will have an effect to all museums – to all college around the world who want to do recordings like this and record histories…that now, any police force anywhere in the world can file papers, say here in America, or we can file papers in Germany or whatever…who’s going to speak and do this?

EM: Exactly!

What this is going to do, if this is successful, is to stifle historical research or rather confine the recording of history to very limited groups of people. And my argument has always been that, for reasons which absolutely totally confound me, the participating parties in the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive, and this includes Sinn Fein, have allowed the interpretation of the past to be handed over to this Historical Enquiries Team which is part of the PSNI. And the PSNI are the successors of the RUC.

The RUC and the PSNI are participants in The Troubles!

Those of us who are old enough can remember when The Troubles started and the civil rights movement and so on and so forth, the reason why the civil rights movement got such a boost at the very start was because of police brutality at places like Doire on October the fifth, Burntollet, and so on and so forth. And that continued.

And they were major participants in The Troubles. And the idea that their successors should be allowed to be the people to collect and interpret the history, which has happened here is just obscene!

My attitude I would have to say would be exactly the same if it was handed over to the let’s say, The Orange Order, to record the history of The Troubles or to Provisional Sinn Fein or anyone like that.

Anyone who was actually involved in The Troubles is not a neutral party. They’re not objective, they can’t be objective and that job should be handed to somebody or organisation or people who are regarded as much more objective and don’t have a dog in the fight, as we say in this country.

But the HET does.

And one of the effects of this action, if it is successful, is to say well, the HET really is the only group in Northern Ireland society that’s allowed to record this history.

And the only other people of course will be those who have got various axes to grind from all sorts of political directions.

So a true, bottom up, grassroots-type of history of what happened in The Troubles, the sort that we were trying to collect, will be rendered impossible after this.

And that happens anywhere in the world because let’s say look at, if this is successful here in the United States…people who want to do an Oral History of the US involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan…they won’t be able to do that because they would be looking over their shoulders all the time at the possibility that the Iraqi government could come and use exactly the same legislation or treaties to collect evidence against people that they want to charge in Baghdad or people who were involved in the American military and so on.

And you can continue this through all sorts of examples of the sort of important social, political history that you really want to chronicle and what have you and it’s going to have a devastating effect on it.

The people who are responsible for these subpoenas are…they have a huge burden of guilt in relation to what damage they are doing to human beings’ abilities to collect their own history.

SB: I want to get back to Dolours Price for a moment. I mean, Why?

Are they just so incompetent that they didn’t find out that she was going to be in court or….?

EM: I’ve absolutely no idea. It’s possible. I don’t know. I really don’t know.

The point is though is that she was well known.

It was well-known that, apparently that and I wasn’t obviously covering the story at the time being over here in New York, but when she was arrested and what have you, that was apparently a story that appeared in the newspapers.

She’s a figure of some, if not notoriety, she’d certainly be well known as The Price Sisters are major characters in the history of The Troubles; it’s not as if they’re like unknown people.

Dolours Price and her sister were convicted of the The Old Bailey Bombings, the first IRA bombings of London during the current troubles; they’re extremely well-known.

And the idea that someone like her could appear in court and be charged and what have you and it would go unnoticed by the authorities is a stretch, I think, at the very least.

The point is though that they had that opportunity.

They also, of course, had the opportunity of going to the newspapers who interviewed Dolours Price because there’s a tape recording involved in that.

She gave an interview to this woman, Allison Morris of The Irish News. That interview was tape recorded. The tape recording was then passed on to another newspaper called The Sunday Life.

Both of those newspapers used material based on the (Irish News’) tape recorded interviews.

And from what we know and what we’ve been able to piece together, the police didn’t even bother going near any of those newspapers until more than two months after they had served the subpoenas on us. They served the subpoenas on us in May and I think it was July by the time that they went round to The Irish News and The Sunday Life offices to ask them about these tapes.

And only because we had pointed this out in our court documents. Otherwise the police were not going to bother at all going anywhere near these people.

So it’s an extraordinary lapse and one has to ask: Why?

And there are very serious implications in the possible answers that come out of that.

We hopefully will have the opportunity, if we win this appeal case, to raise all of these issues because it demonstrates a fundamental weakness and flaw in this treaty that the United States has signed and agreed with countries like the United Kingdom, and they’re not the only one, there are many other countries with similar treaties, in as much as that US citizens end up having less rights under these treaties than they do under their own Constitution.

In other words, the PSNI is able to do more to a US citizen than that person’s own government.

Which cannot be right.

SB: Ed, thank you very much and we’ll be getting back to you as soon as there are any new developments in this case.

(1:55 ends)

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Self-Inflicted Wounds
Chris Bray
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012

Below, a letter filed today with the clerk of the First Circuit by Eamonn Dornan and James Cotter, the lawyers for Belfast Project researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, responding to the extraordinary letter to the same court this week from Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Healy Smith.

The letter opens with a rebuke: “We could not find any provisions in the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure or U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s Rulebook which would permit the Department of Justice to make further submissions or communications once the Panel has risen following oral argument.”

But then, walking through a door the U.S. Attorney’s Office has opened, the letter goes on to challenge the government’s premise that the State Department has not been in contact with the McIntyre family regarding the threat the Belfast Project subpoenas presents to their safety: “The Appellants are ready, willing and able to provide evidence of those contacts, if the matter is remanded.”

So Barbara Healy Smith has given her opponents in a legal appeal an opportunity to point out to a court that she willfully disregards its rules, and to effectively call her a liar — while offering to prove it.

The government seems determined to put on a public display of its bad faith and limited ability. Under the circumstances, I’m pretty happy about it.

Dornan Cotter April 19 Letter

Response to Department of Justice Letter to Court

THE LAW OFFICES OF DORNAN & ASSOCIATES
WWW.DORNANLAW.COM

April 19, 2012
Via ECF
Margaret Carter, Esq.
Clerk of Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse
One Courthouse Way, Suite 2500
Boston, Massachusetts 02210

Re: In Re: Request from the United Kingdom Pursuant to the Treaty Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters in the Matter of Delours Price, Appeal Nos. 11-2511 and 12-1159

Dear Ms. Carter:

We write in response to the letter submitted by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) dated April 16, 2012 concerning the above referenced matter. We could not find any provisions in the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure or U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s Rulebook which would permit the Department of Justice to make further submissions or communications once the Panel has risen following oral argument. However, in the best interests of our clients, we feel compelled to respond and request that you kindly bring this letter to the attention of the Panel.

It is our respectful submission that the DOJ’s letter merely confirms that the District Court’s denial of the Appellants’ motion to intervene prevented them from providing evidence that is essential to assessing their claims that the Government’s position poses a grave risk of physical harm to the Appellants and their families. The Appellants’ affidavits in support of their motion to intervene were not intended as a substitute for, or limitation of, the evidence they would have presented if granted the right to be heard. As just one example, the DOJ’s letter does not dispute that the Department of State made contact with Carrie Twomey, Mr. McIntyre’s wife regarding her family’s security. In fact, at Paragraph 9 of the Affidavit of Carrie Twomey (Appendix A240/A241), Ms. Twomey stated that Boston College had raised the threats against her family with the U.S. Department of State. The Appellants are ready, willing and able to provide evidence of those contacts, if the matter is remanded.

The DOJ’s implicit suggestion that it would have been able to rebut any evidence that the Appellants would have elicited before the District Court proves only that the proceedings below would have been categorically different if the Appellants had been permitted to intervene, and that Boston College did not adequately represent the Appellants’ interests.

Regardless of the outcome of this litigation, the DOJ’s insistence on downgrading the threats facing the Appellants provides them with cold comfort. Although the DOJ was unable to identify, on the record, police reports regarding threats to Mr. McIntyre and his family, the IRA factions are unlikely to telegraph advance notice of their plans for retaliation. Moreover, as is evident from the final sentence of the DOJ’s letter, the Government takes the remarkable position that, even if harm to the Appellants and their families is assured, the Appellants nevertheless lack sufficient interest to be heard in opposition to the subpoenas.

The Honorable Court—and clearly not the DOJ or Boston College—now represents the Appellants’ best hope to assure their safety.

Respectfully,
DORNAN & ASSOCIATES PLLC

By: /s/Eamonn Dornan

EAMONN DORNAN, ESQ
1040 Jackson Avenue, Suite 3B
Long Island City, New York 10017
Tel: (718) 707-9997
Fax: (718) 228-5940

LAW OFFICES OF JAMES J. COTTER, III MA BBO 101620

By: /s/James J. Cotter, III

JAMES J. COTTER, III
(MA BBO 101620)
Post Office Box 270
N. Quincy, MA 02171
Tel. 617 899-0549
Fax 617 984-5858

Attorneys for Appellants
Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre

cc: Barbara Healy Smith
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Office of the United States Attorney
District of Massachusetts
John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse
1 Courthouse Way, Suite 9200
Boston, Massachusetts 02210
Via electronic mail


See previously: US Attorney Letter to Court

Irish American Groups Write to Chairman Christopher H. Smith, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS • BREHON LAW SOCIETY • IRISH AMERICAN UNITY CONFERENCE
April 17, 2012

Honorable Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
234 Ford HOB
Washington, D. C. 20515

Dear Chairman Smith:

This letter will serve to follow up discussions we have had with Mr. Milosch and others of your staff regarding the subpoena of Boston College Irish records by Attorney General Holder and its corrosive impact on the Irish peace process. Your steadfast concern for the implementation of the Belfast Agreement and the British failure to observe some of its provisions has been much admired and deeply appreciated by all of us. Once again we find it necessary to seek your help.

As you may note from the attached, Senator John Kerry, Chairman, of Senate Relations, has raised with Secretary of State Clinton the problems raised by Attorney General Holder’s subpoena issued to Boston College. It is our consensus opinion that the chief law enforcement officer of the United States has no business responding to a request from the most lawless and political police force in Europe; he has ignored evidence of political prisoners like Gerry McGough and Marian Price and the use of juryless courts which are anathema to American justice values and he has failed to ascertain from the Secretary of State if to respond to this request would do irreparable harm to the peace process slowly unfolding in Northern Ireland. We ask that you consider this case and express similar sentiments to Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton. There are few Members of Congress who have your extensive knowledge of the treachery of British security forces and the lawless actions of the very same police force that is misusing the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

Yesterday Assistant U. S. Attorney General Healy-Smith sent a letter to the Court of Appeals 1st Circuit handling the litigation arising out of the Boston College subpoena case. In it she dismissed any threat to one of the litigants in the appeal, Anthony McIntyre and his family. You know first hand how dangerous N. I. can be. Less than six months after giving testimony to your Committee about the threats on her life, Rosemary Nelson was assassinated by the very same forces that now seek to use Attorney General Holder and his subpoena power. Would it not be appropriate for you to share that information with Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton in a letter to underscore your concern that the MLAT is being misused and the threats of violence are very real.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your consideration and for the most recent hearing of the Commission focusing on the many abuses of human rights in the North.

Sincerely,

Seamus Boyle
National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians

Robert Dunne Esq.
President
Brehon Law Society

Thomas J. Burke Jr. Esq.
National President
Irish American Unity Conference

Attachment: Senator Kerry letter to Secretary of State Clinton

Wait, your honors!

Wait your honors
NEWS & VIEWS
BY RAY O’HANLON
Irish Echo
APRIL 18TH, 2012

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz is disputing assertions that the departments of Justice and State hold opposing views in the BC archives case.

In what journalist and author Ed Moloney believes to be an “extraordinary” and “perhaps unprecedented” legal move, the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the Boston College archives case has written a letter to the three member appeals court panel that recently heard arguments for and against the release of archived material to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

In the letter, addressed to the clerk of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, U.S. Attorney Carmen M Ortiz takes issue with statements made during the April 4 appeals hearing by attorney Eamonn Dornan, who led the argument in court against the release of file material.

Stated Ortiz in part in the letter: “During appellants’ oral argument, counsel relied on a number of factual claims which are not in the record before this Court. One assertion is of particular concern. Counsel for the appellants argued to the Court that there is a ‘grave risk of physical harm to the appellants’ from the disclosure to the United Kingdom of Belfast Project recordings.

“The government disputed this assertion in the district court, citing, among other things, the fact that there is no record of any reports to police in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland regarding credible threats to Mr. (Anthony) McIntyre or his family. At oral argument, counsel for the appellants asserted that the United States Department of State takes the threat of harm to Mr. McIntyre and his family ‘much more seriously’ than the Department of Justice and has ‘invited’ Anthony McIntyre’s wife ‘in for a security assessment,’ creating the misimpression that the Department of State has taken a position contrary to the Justice Department’s view of the matter.”

Continued DA Ortiz: “Appellants’ claim of an agency disagreement is not supported by anything in the district court record. Moreover, the Department of Justice has been working closely with the Department of State and can assure this Court that the agencies’ views of the matter are compatible.”

Ortiz concluded that “in any event,” the government had argued in its brief, and at oral argument, that “appellants’ claim of potential harm from third parties, even if substantiated, would not entitle them to prevail in this appeal.”

Said Ed Moloney, who along with McIntyre is the principal compiler of the BC archive: “This extraordinary and, I’m led to believe, unprecedented letter, begs the obvious question: if the government had problems with Eamonn Dornan’s presentation at oral stage, why didn’t it raise them at the time?”

The appeals court is expected to return a decision by the summer.

House of Commons Written Answers 16 April 2012: Northern Ireland: Boston College

NORTHERN IRELAND
Boston College

Dr Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has held discussions with the US Secretary of State regarding the Government’s request to subpoena recordings from the Boston college oral history project. [102545]

Mr Paterson: I have not held discussions with the US Secretary of State regarding the request to subpoena recordings from the Boston college oral history project.


Dr Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with the (a) Police Service of Northern Ireland and (b) the Northern Ireland Department of Justice on the Government’s request to subpoena recordings from the Boston college oral history project (i) prior to and (ii) subsequent to that request being made. [102546]

Mr Paterson: I have not had discussions with either the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the Northern Ireland Department of Justice on the request to subpoena recordings from the Boston college oral history project. My Department is not routinely informed of such requests for mutual legal assistance. In line with the Government’s bilateral treaty with the United States on mutual legal assistance, all requests for assistance are transmitted via the Home Office.


Dr Alasdair McDonnell, MP for South Belfast, is the leader of the SDLP.

See previously:

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson discusses Boston College Case
(March 24, 2012 interview transcript and October 29 2011 interview transcript)

Irish Americans Meet Paterson in NY
(November 9, 2011)

Getting Hillary involved is key to ending IRA tapes saga

Getting Hillary involved is key to ending IRA tapes saga
Jim Dee
Belfast Telegraph
9 April 2012

After recently hearing arguments regarding Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre’s quest to judicially challenge Britain’s efforts to obtain Boston College’s archived IRA interviews pertaining to Jean McConville’s slaying, it’s anyone’s guess how the US Court of Appeal for the First Circuit will ultimately rule.

But an even bigger question is this: What is Hillary Clinton’s take on the BC tapes saga?

It may be weeks before the Appeals Court renders its verdict. And, even then, Moloney and McIntyre may fight on – either on the wings of victory, or in the form of an appeal of a negative ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Moloney and McIntyre argue the peace process could be imperiled if the PSNI gets hold of the interviews, and prosecutions of Adams or others ensue. In addition, they say that McIntyre and the former IRA members who took part in the project could be targeted for violence.

Most Americans think that the conflict in Northern Ireland ended with the Good Friday Agreement. Subsequent agreements on policing structures, the completion of IRA and loyalist decommissioning, and the seating of a DUP-Sinn Féin inclusive Executive were simply loose-ends.

Hence, while the heart-breaking details of Jean McConville’s slaying and secret burial have been enough to garner some press attention, in a world were the violence in Syria and the spectre of an Israeli-Iranian war looms large, the Boston College tapes row hasn’t been high on the American media agenda.

But some in Washington have noticed – including Massachusetts senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee.

In February Kerry wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to use her influence to get Britain to withdraw its request for the BC tapes.

Last week he followed up by penning an opinion piece in the Boston Herald stating that the US-UK treaty at the heart of the case wasn’t intended for cases such as this.

The fact that Kerry wrote the opinion piece at all is striking. This isn’t an election year for the senior senator from Massachusetts. In the short term, at least, has he has nothing to gain politically from going to bat for BC and its Belfast Project.

That the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken such an active interest in the case has surely been noticed by British diplomats in Washington, and likely Downing Street as well.

Matters such as the murder of Jean McConville are matters for law enforcement in the UK, but there is obviously more at play here, and this is what diplomats do – try to quietly tidy up ‘messy’ situations before they get worse.

Clinton has made no secret of her admiration for the peace process and its players, and she clearly values deeply the role that she and her husband have played in helping to bring a substantial measure of peace and stability to Northern Ireland.

She has also made it known that, whether or not Barack Obama wins re-election, she’ll be stepping down as Secretary of State early next year.

If Hillary Clinton does decide to ask Britain (and hence the PSNI) to back off, given the premium placed on that face-saving in the diplomatic world, she won’t do so publicly.

But if Britain does withdraw its request between now and next November, it’s a safe bet it’ll do so after one of Hillary Clinton’s parting peace process interventions as Secretary of State.

This article appeared in the April 9, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

Inside the Boston archive

Inside the Boston archive
Liam Clarke,
Belfast Telegraph
17 April 2012

It seems likely that large sections of the Boston College’s Belfast Project will be transferred to Police Service of Northern Ireland detectives investigating the murder of Jean McConville.

There was no worse murder in the troubles. Mrs McConville, a widowed mother, was abducted in 1972, bundled into a car, taken across the border and murdered by the IRA. Her body was then secretly buried and her ten children told nothing. This was in the run up to Christmas and it was only when her eldest daughter, Helen, went to the Civil Rights Association that they were taken into care.

They were later told that their mother had deserted them to run away with a British soldier. It is not surprising that, even forty years later, the PSNI should leave no stone unturned in pursuit of her killers. That is why their ears pricked up when they read an interview with Dolours Price, a former IRA prisoner, in February 2010. Ms Price gave details of the abduction, accused Gerry Adams (who denies it) of involvement and, to cap it all, said that she was one of a number of former paramilitary activists who had given an interview for the Boston archive on condition it should remain closed till her death.

Was she crazy to out herself like this? Well, a smart lawyer could argue that she was not playing with a full deck if she was ever brought to court. Ms Price has received treatment for depression and post traumatic stress, she has been treated in mental facilities and she has been involved in both substance and alcohol abuse.

If, despite this, it was felt she was a good witness, she could have been interviewed in the republic – she now lives near Dublin – or arrested on one of her frequent trips north. For instance in August 2010 she was in court in Newry where she was acquitted on charges of stealing a bottle of vodka.

There was no problem with the PSNI interviewing her – which is why their first recourse should not have been to an historical archive. Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State, has himself has praised the Boston archive as a model which could be copied in Northern Ireland.

If material is handed over to criminal investigators, future oral history projects will be undermined. And it is unlikely to bring justice to the Jean McConville’s children.

This article appeared in the April 17, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

Issue of the ‘disappeared’ in the Troubles not going away

Issue of the ‘disappeared’ in the Troubles not going away
The Irish Times
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ASSEMBLY SKETCH: Unionist MLAs anxious to put pressure on senior Sinn Féin figures Gerry Adams and Mitchel McLaughlin, writes GERRY MORIARTY

THE ISSUE of the “disappeared” isn’t going away. It was the focus again yesterday of Northern Assembly members when they returned to the Stormont chamber after the Easter break, with some unionist MLAs anxious to put pressure on senior Sinn Féin figures Gerry Adams and Mitchel McLaughlin.

Two motions were discussed during the four hours from noon to 4pm that the Assembly sat – one from the SDLP calling on anyone with information about the seven bodies who have yet to be recovered to bring it the Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains; the other from the DUP pleading for further marking of the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic to be done in a “solemn and dignified” manner.

The Titanic debate was a relaxed affair, with proper acknowledgment of the terrible loss of 1,517 lives 100 years ago together with mention of the tourist and economic benefits offered to Northern Ireland through remembering the Titanic.

BBC presenter Andrew Marr not unsurprisingly came in for criticism. Referring to the current Titanic overload Mr Marr described some of the events around the centenary of the sinking of the great ship as “sordid and tasteless and dull”.

Members too were keen to replay that well-worn line that the Titanic was fine when it left Belfast, and that it wasn’t any poor craftsmanship on the part of Harland and Wolff shipyard workers that caused it to sink – no, it was the iceberg.

But the debate on the disappeared was a much chillier business item. It’s an issue, obviously, that still causes great anxiety for the families of those abducted, murdered and disappeared during the Troubles, mostly by the IRA – but it’s also a subject that raises difficulties for the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and for the party generally.

Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to lay into Mr Adams.

He referred to the issue of the Boston College interviews and the attempts to compel the handing over to the PSNI of tapes dealing with the 1972 abduction and murder of Belfast mother of 10 children Jean McConville.

Mr Allister said that Dolours Price, convicted of the 1973 Old Bailey bombing in London, in the tapes admitted driving Ms McConville to the place “where she was murdered and that she drove her as a member of a unit presided over by the current president of Sinn Féin”.

Mr Adams is now TD for Louth and no longer a member of the Assembly, and was therefore not in a position to respond. He has, however, regularly rejected allegations of involvement in her murder.

Neither did the Sinn Féin MLA for South Antrim Mitchel McLaughlin emerge unscathed. Unionist members reminded him how in a TV debate seven years ago he said the killing of Ms McConville was not a criminal act given the context of the Troubles and the claim that she was a British spy.

DUP MLA Lord Morrow and Mr Allister provided him with opportunities to retract the claim and admit her killing was indeed unlawful.

But Mr McLaughlin declined.

It was an issue that could be addressed “in the context of a process of truth recovery and in a process of genuine reconciliation”, he said. Other parties in the chamber were unimpressed and made their feelings known. And what about British security force “procuring murder” and “collusion with murder gangs”, Mr McMcLaughlin was moved to ask.

Lord Morrow seemed to think that eventually more may be forthcoming from Sinn Féin.

“I think he still has to deal with the issue, but I will give him his time. He seems to need more space on this one,” he said.