Tapes hold N. Ireland murder secrets
By Nic Robertson and Ken Shiffman CNN
May 25, 2012
Tapes made in secret by former fighters across sectarian divide offer chilling insights
Now a fight is brewing over whether police can have access to them
Northern Ireland police and one family think the tapes may help victims of the violence
Researchers say releasing the tapes puts at risk the lives of those who spoke to them
Editor’s note:Watch how Northern Ireland’s dark past could threaten the peace process as victims look for closure from tapes made by former combatants on both sides of the sectarian divide. “World’s Untold Story” on CNN International at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET on Saturday May 26, or Sunday at 6 a.m. ET.
Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) — Audio recordings locked inside a college library in the United States might help solve a decades-old murder mystery, but the release of those tapes could damage the fragile peace in Northern Ireland.
In December 1972, the widow Jean McConville was taken from her home in Belfast and her 10 children.
“They came about tea time and they dragged her out of the bathroom and dragged her out,” remembers McConville’s daughter, Helen McKendry, who was then a teenager.
Ever since, McKendry has been on a 40-year quest for answers.
“All I ever wanted was to know the reason why they killed my mother,” McKendry explained.
“I’ve lived all my life in fear,” McKendry added. “They destroyed my mother’s life, my family life.”
McKendry believes tapes locked away in Boston College’s library may hold the truth about her mother’s fate. But there are fears that the tapes may also cause embarrassment or worse for Gerry Adams, the prominent Catholic politician who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland.
The recordings were made as part of the Belfast Project, which is a collection of interviews conducted with former Northern Irish paramilitary fighters. They provide an oral history of the decades of sectarian fighting that became known as The Troubles.
Northern Ireland is part of Britain and Protestant fighters wanted to keep it that way. Catholics were fighting to force the British out and reunify the north with the rest of Ireland.
The former combatants believed that their recorded interviews would be kept secret until their death. But that may no longer be possible as Northern Irish police are asking the United States government to hand over some of the tapes.
The police say they were alerted to the secret archive by the book, “Voices from the Grave,” written by Belfast Project archive manager Ed Moloney, which is based on transcripts from two of the recorded interviews. One of those featured is Brendan Hughes, a now-deceased former commander of the Irish Republican Army or IRA, a Catholic paramilitary.
Hughes told his interviewer: “I have never, ever, ever admitted being a member of the IRA, ever. I’ve just done it here.”
And he talked about Jean McConville’s murder, stating: “I knew she was being executed. I knew that. I didn’t know she was going to be buried or disappeared as they call them now.”
Hughes went on to allege Gerry Adams was involved: “The special squad was brought into the operation then, called The Unknowns. You know when anyone needed to be taken away they normally done it. I had no control over this squad. Gerry had control over this particular squad.”
Hughes added he regretted what happened: “Looking back on it now, what happened to the woman was wrong.”
Hughes said in his taped interview, McConville was killed because the IRA believed she was working with the British army. The McKendrys do not believe she was a spy, saying she was too busy looking after her 10 children to be an informer.
Gerry Adams, leader of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party, refused to be interviewed by CNN for this story. But, he has said many times before that he was never in the IRA and never involved in the death of Jean McConville, and has labeled as libelous any allegation he was involved in the McConville murder. His spokesman goes further, labeling Adams’ critics as anti the peace process.
Adams’ denial of IRA membership angers his old comrades like Hughes.
“It means that people like myself had to carry the responsibility of
all those deaths,” Hughes said on the interview tape. “Gerry was a major, major player in the war and yet he’s standing there denying it.”
The Northern Irish police vow to “follow the material in the Boston Archives all way to court if that’s where it takes them … they say detectives have a legal responsibility to investigate murders … and follow all lines of inquiry.”
The British government’s most senior politician on Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson told CNN that no one person is above the law.
“There can be no concept on amnesty, so we have to support the police to have complete operational independence in pursuing every line of inquiry in bringing those who committed crimes to justice,” Paterson said.
Right now the Boston archive manager, Ed Moloney, is furious with Boston College for initially giving in too quickly to subpoena’s demanding they hand over some of the tapes to a U.S. judge. He says it puts lives in danger, damages the future of truth recovery, oral histories and academic research.
Moloney — who is appealing to try to stop the court from handing the tapes it has to police — wants the tapes handed back to the people who told their stories.
“Boston College is no longer a fit and proper place to keep these interviews,” Moloney insists. “The archives should be closed down, and the interviews should be returned to the people who gave them because they’re not safe.”
But there seems to be little chance of that, Boston College’s spokesman Jack Dunn blames Moloney.
“From the beginning, we said to the project organizer, who approached us with this idea, that there were limitations regarding the assurances of confidentiality under American law,” Dunn said.
But what worries Moloney is that if the police get tapes relating to Jean McConville’s murder, they could quickly find other crimes to investigate implicating more political leaders and the police could soon demand all the tapes in the archive.
While few believe the police will get Adams to court in part because he is inoculated from prosecution by his central role silencing IRA guns and delivering peace, and in part because the tapes alone cannot secure a conviction.
Former IRA man Richard O’Rawe recorded a statement for the Boston College archives and says lawyers told him under UK law the tapes the tapes cannot be used in court.
“I find it just imponderable, why the police are going down this road when they must know that there is no chance of obtaining any convictions at the end of this,” O’Rawe says.
Like many other Catholics, O’Rawe thinks the police are biased against them, trying to settle old scores and bring Adams and others down. But for Helen McKendry, herself a Catholic getting access to the tapes is about so much more.
For her, it’s not only about justice but a release from the pain of never knowing the truth.
“They tried to destroy what life I have now,” she says. “They are the people who committed the crimes in this. They should be worried.”
Campaigners fighting to keep Boston tapes in US
By Jim Dee Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
More than six weeks have passed since the last courtroom chapter of the Boston College tapes saga and the ultimate fate of some of the college’s archived IRA interviews remains nebulous.
However, as a federal appeals court in Boston ponders whether or not the college’s chief Belfast Project researchers – journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre – can legally challenge a British subpoena seeking the IRA tapes, supporters of the men have been busy blitzing Congress on their behalf.
“This is the hottest campaign we’ve had in a while,” said Seamus Boyle, the Philadelphia-based president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. “It’s very, very hot,” the 40-year AOH veteran said. “I would put it on the same par with the McBride principles campaign, or other issues we’ve had over the years.”
Since January, five US senators and seven members of the House of Representatives have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Attorney-General Eric Holder asking them to get Britain to rescind its request.
Central threads in each of the congressional letters mirror those advanced by Moloney and McIntyre: that surrendering the IRA material could damage the peace process and imperil the lives of interviewees and McIntyre.
Dozens of former IRA and UVF members were interviewed for Boston College’s Belfast Project. Participants were given assurances that their interviews would not be published while they were still alive.
So far, only two men have had their interviews published – former IRA member Brendan Hughes and former UVF member David Ervine, both of whom are dead.
It has been a full year since the US Justice Department, acting on behalf of the British Government (which is believed to be acting as the PSNI’s proxy) served Boston College with a subpoena seeking interviews related to the IRA’s 1972 murder of Jean McConville.
Given history’s still-strong grasp on the present, it seems ironic that Boston College was served its first subpoena on May 5, 2011 – the 30th anniversary of Bobby Sands’ death.
Initially, Britain sought only interviews with former IRA members Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, in which each allegedly implicated Gerry Adams of involvement in Mrs McConville’s murder.
By the end of last summer, the British had broadened their request to include any and all of the IRA tapes with any reference to Mrs McConville’s murder.
Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College, said Boston College will still retain other IRA and UVF interviews in safe-keeping. But Ed Moloney dismissed Dunn’s assertion as, at best, naive.
“By keeping these interviews, Boston College is keeping a repository of evidence for the PSNI,” said Moloney. “Because there’s nothing to stop the PSNI from coming back and asking for more and more, eventually getting the entire archives.”
Standoff turns on credibility of threats
BY RAY O’HANLON Irish Echo
MAY 16TH, 2012
This op-ed is more question than opinion, though it focuses on two opinions, one belonging to the district attorney prosecuting the Boston College archives case, the other belonging to the primary compilers of the archive, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, and their attorney.
Moloney and McIntyre have been battling – thus far unsuccessfully – in the Massachusetts courts to be allowed entry to the case as interested parties.
To say they are literally interested in the case would be an understatement. But they have thus far been prevented from explaining the nature and complexity of that interest as the District Court handing the case has blocked their efforts to intervene as legal parties to the affray.
The matter was argued in a hearing before an appeals court panel on April 4.
Twelve days later, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, sent a letter to the appeals court taking issue with arguments during the appeals hearing made by the attorneys representing Moloney, who lives in New York, and McIntyre, who resides in Ireland.
This prompted a rapid reaction from New York-based attorney Eamonn Dornan who, in a responding letter, stated that “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.”
Legal rules and niceties aside, there is a serious matter at the heart of this exchange of letters and it concerns the physical safety of the appellants, most especially McIntyre, a former IRA member and Long Kesh prisoner who has given cause in recent years, by virtue of his writings and utterances, for some of his former comrades to be less than happy with him.
Moloney and McIntyre want to keep the secrets of the Boston College Troubles archive (dubbed the Belfast Project) within the framework that was offered to those individuals who gave testimonies – this being that their words would remain under academic lock and key so long as they were alive.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland, represented in the case by the U.S. Justice Department, is not so patient and wants to get hold of archival testimony given by the still living.
Moloney and McIntyre take the view that this poses life and limb dangers to the testifiers, and themselves.
U.S. Attorney Ortiz, in her letter, begged to differ.
She stated in part: “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. 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.
“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……the government has argued in its brief and at oral argument, appellants’ claim of potential harm from third parties, even if substantiated, would not entitle them to prevail in this appeal.”
Attorney Dornan, in turn, begged to differ with the U.S. Attorney.
In a letter to the appeals court dated three days later, Dornan wrote in part: “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, 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 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.”
Attorney Dornan evidently takes the view that bad things can happen without advance notice in the form of “credible threats.”
A glance at Irish history would appear to give him more than a gambler’s chance of being right. In this matter, readers can be the jury. Letters to the editor, as always, are welcome.
Eric Holder Clueless or Turning A Blind Eye? British Mock 1998 Irish Agreement
Michael J. Cummings
Irish American Unity Conference
Picture this. It is the beginning of the civil rights marches in N. I. in the 1970’s and the British respond with plastic baton rounds, arrest w/o charge, internment and a murderous police force more interested in creating insecurity thus guaranteeing decades of job security.
Looking to insure no interference in this violent subjugation of the Catholic ghettos, Her Majesty’s Government arranges the no-warning Dublin-Monaghan bombings delivered by her loyalist subjects. This act was the largest loss of life in the entire conflict and was aimed solely at civilians. It was brought to Ireland by the British NOT the IRA. It achieved its objective. Ireland’s government did precisely what Prime Minister Lynch said they wouldn’t do and stood idly by while the pogroms of Catholic ghettos continued.
Many living in those communities in the North would rather live free or die and took up arms to rid themselves of British treachery. Although widely misrepresented by British controlled or British manipulated media, the war that followed showed a loss of life at the hands of security (sic) forces and loyalist death squads that focused heavily on the civilian Catholic population. It nearly equaled the loss of life at the hands of Republican forces which focused their arms primarily on police, military, judges, prison and government personnel. It is a distinction with an important difference.
In 1998 President Clinton brought the British to their senses and a line in the sand was drawn from that day forward to a new future. Or not. Two of those who stood up to the British at the peak of the persecution were Gerry McGeough and Marian Price. They are political prisoners today by any definition. Both are in ill health. And here is the irony.
Throughout the entire conflict the British have absolved every British soldier…even those convicted of murder…. returning them to ranks, and rewarding the corruption of the police force with fat pensions and Get-Out-Jail-Free cards called Public Immunity Certificates for collusion with loyalist death squads. To this add insult. Many of these same pensioned officers with Special Branch backgrounds etc have been hired back to make sure files go missing and to obstruct the work of the Police Ombudsman and the Historical Enquiries Team investigating the ‘unsolved’ murders of nearly one thousand Catholics.
You can hear the laughter on this side of the Atlantic as the men and women of the newly reconstituted Royal Ulster Constabulary lift their glasses in a local pub in Lurgan celebrating what it really means to be a loyal Subject of her Majesty. Gerry McGeough and Marian Price are to rot for their actions prior to 1998. There is, however, another source of laughter. This time it emanates from the corridors of Whitehall in London as civil servants marvel how easily they can get away with murder… Bloody Sunday, the Dublin Monaghan bombings and the assassinations of lawyers Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. No accountability. No justice for the victims. Your basic “special relationship” where America’s compassion for human rights and its concern for justice and freedom everywhere else in the world is missing in action in Ireland.
It gets better. Attorney General Holder has rubber stamped a request from this same corrupt police force and subpoeaned records held by the Irish archives of Boston College. It is true he is clueless about the people he is dealing with but Secretary of State Clinton could send him a lifeline by briefing him on British violations of the Belfast and Weston Park Agreements and the extraordinary imprisonment of Gerry McGeough and Marian Price. Will she? Senator Kerry, Chairman of Senate Relations asked her to do just that back in January. He is still waiting for an answer.
As Chris Bray writes here, Boston College has lodged its plea with the First Circuit Appeal court and he points out that the college have unceremoniously dumped Dolours Price, choosing to interpret two controversial newspaper articles in the Irish News and Sunday Life back in February 2010 as evidence that she had relinquished her protection of confidentiality and therefore any need for Boston College to resist the PSNI/Department of Justice subpoenas seeking her interviews.
UPDATE – I am informed that legally this might be a controversial and invalid claim for Boston College to have made. I will update more when the situation clarifies.
UPDATED AGAIN – Chris Bray has addressed the issue of the legal standing of Boston College’s claim that Dolours Price relinquished her protection of confidentiality when she allegedly gave an interview to the Irish News in Belfast in February 2010. He effectively concludes that Boston College’s claim is spurious. You can read his piece here.
Here is my take on that issue and the general matter of this so-called appeal by Boston College.
Boston College’s lawyer says that Dolours Price made “public statements”admitting that she had given interviews to Boston College and that this indicated that she was no longer prepared to protect the confidentiality of her interviews.
My question is a simple one: exactly which statements are these? As far as I know Dolours Price has made no public statement about her involvement with BC and has never been quoted saying that to anyone anywhere, to journalist, lawyer, newspaper or whoever.
The only reference to her having a connection to Boston College came in a Belfast Sunday tabloid article that appeared in February 2010. The article, in the Sunday News, had this to say: “Price, who has made taped confessions of her role in the abductions to academics at Boston University (sic), will relay this information to ICLVR (Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains) investigators later this week.”
That is all there is. A bald statement (which manages to name the wrong university) based on what? Where are Dolours Price’s quotes? Where is the evidence for this claim? Where does this information come from? The reporter, Ciaran Barnes, does not say, even though he claims to have listened to tapes stored in the vaults at Boston College. It seems to me quite extraordinary that in a legal case as important as this that claims are being made about what Dolours Price said with absolutely no evidence to back them up.
BC’s lawyer goes on to say: “(Dolours Price) provided much of the information about her role in the IRA and the disappearances of individuals, including Jean McConville, in public interviews”.
Excuse me, but exactly which public interviews were these? If the reader wishes to check here or here, not one IRA action allegedly ascribed to Dolours Price in those two articles is backed up by as much as a single quote from the woman herself, not as much as one word!
The two articles allege that Dolours Price made admissions about Jean McConville’s disappearance and cite taped interviews she made as the source. So, where are the quotes from these taped interviews, supposedly made by her in conversations with Anthony McIntyre? If she told McIntyre these things then why not quote her? A simple question to ask, a simple demand to make and most journalists would regard their work as unworthy of publication if it wasn’t backed up by such quotes or equivalent convincing evidence. But the single defining and damning feature of the newspaper articles upon which this whole subpoena saga has been based (and which in turn Boston College’s lawyer bases his and the college’s desertion and abandonment of Dolours Price) is that there is not a single quote anywhere to back anything up, not a shred of evidence that she said anything to McIntyre about Jean McConville or anyone else “disappeared” by the IRA in the early 1970′s.
If the New York Times or the Boston Globe or indeed any decent newspaper with standards were presented with such stories their editors would correctly reject them as being a series of unsubstantiated assertions and they would be spiked. Yet here we have a protracted and expensive legal process which could have devastating consequences for many of those involved which is based upon newspaper articles that carry no quotes nor any evidence of any meaningful sort to back up what they publish. If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable!
Boston College’s written brief to the appeal court badly needs to be put in context and we should remember a very important feature of this action: that Boston College is appealing against a judgement which it did most to bring about in the first place and that the one thing that it is not doing is to challenge the district court’s substantive judgement that the interviews in the Belfast Project archive should be handed over to the PSNI in Belfast.
Boston College announced this “appeal” in late February after weeks of unrelenting media criticism for fleeing the field of battle in the wake of the District Court decision against us last December, leaving myself and researcher Anthony McIntyre to struggle on alone against huge odds. Here was a prestigious and enormously wealthy college abandoning its former researchers and research subjects to a lonely battle whose worst outcome could be devastating for them. With barely a shrug BC had ditched its promise to stand by its pledge of confidentiality given a decade earlier to the researchers in Belfast. By February there was a whiff of rotten cabbage about Boston College. As public relations disasters go, this was as bad as it could get.
So when the college announced in February that it was now going to appeal Judge Young’s decision in the District Court, the initial reaction was euphoric. One email to myself from a supporter captured the mood: “Yahoo!”, it read. That mood lasted about twenty-four hours. It became depressingly clear that BC had no intention of appealing Judge Young’s decision to hand over the interviews. The college’s appeal would be limited to the scope of Young’s decision since the venerable judge had decided that even though some interviewees had barely mentioned Jean McConville, the reason for the subpoenas in the first place, their interviews should nonetheless be handed over. And in the case of those who had given McConville greater mention, all of their interviews, including interviews entirely unconnected to the alleged British Army spy, should be handed over.
So what appeared to be a major U-turn by BC soon turned out to be much less. A cynic might even say that the move was a classic piece of public relations trickery, designed to deflect media criticism while really doing very little in terms of significance. I compared BC’s “appeal” to a condemned man arguing with the hangman over the length of rope he planned to use on the gallows.
At the same time there is no doubt that Judge Young’s decision was an outrageous one and if BC’s “appeal” succeeds in diluting it then so much the better. But the irony of all this is that if BC’s academic staff had played with anything like a straight bat during the hearings in front of Young, the judge would not have been able to make the decision he made and BC would not have had to take it to the appeal court.
Here’s why. When Young ruled back last December that the interviews should be handed over to the PSNI, he asked Boston College to review the interviews in the archive and come back to him with those that made reference to Jean McConville. Had Boston College acted on this, they could have minimized the damage to the archive by limiting the portions to be surrendered.
But instead Burns Librarian, Bob O’Neill, who has charge of the archive made an astonishing claim to the judge. He had never read the interviews, he said, so he wouldn’t know where to start or which interviews to read. So sorry, your honour, Bob O’Neill cannot help the court. I will be careful in my language here but let’s say the truth and this claim by O’Neill are complete strangers and if myself or Anthony McIntyre had made such a claim we’d probably end up on a perjury charge. I know that O’Neill did not tell the truth because over the years he and myself had many discussions about the contents of interviews and I have emails from him discussing interviews that he has read. For him to claim that he was so unfamiliar with the interviews that he couldn’t help the court is simply not true.
(It is arguable that had O’Neill been telling the truth his behavior would be worthy of even greater condemnation. This was the librarian in charge of a sensitive and important archive which had cost his college several hundred thousand dollars and he says he hasn’t read a single interview! The skeptical reader could be forgiven that the proof of his lie is that Boston College didn’t instantly sack him after such a startling and damaging admission!)
Someone, we don’t quite know who, then had the idea of asking Anthony McIntyre if he could help the court. To his credit, McIntyre refused to take refuge in a lie but took a principled decision not to help Judge Young, saying that while he respected the court, he had no intention of becoming an evidence gatherer for the PSNI.
As a result, the entire archive was then handed over to Judge Young who, along with his clerks, spent the Christmas holidays trawling through interviews that Boston College had promised its researchers and research subjects would remain confidential. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth Judge Young can hardly be blamed for deciding to hand over as much and as many of the interviews as he could. And all because Bob O’Neill told a lie.
A couple of weeks later, Tom Hachey and Bob O’Neill wrote up their account of the Boston College subpoena affair in the Irish Times and this is what they wrote about this episode: “No one knows more about the contents of the interviews of former IRA members than the interviewer himself, Anthony McIntyre, who declined the court’s request to disclose which of the interviews were potentially responsive, thereby requiring Boston College to provide all the IRA interviews to the court for its review.”
I have often compared Boston College’s behaviour during this wretched affair to that of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their Generals when the news broke about US-sponsored torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Just as Bush & Co passed the blame for a policy they had devised and designed on to the shoulders of grunts working shifts at Abu Ghraib, so Boston College has done the same to Anthony McIntyre and myself. This affair of the appeal-that-need-not-have-been is perhaps the best example of that approach in action. And still the stench of rotten cabbage hangs around Chestnut Hill.
The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton
Department of State
2201 1 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
I am writing to express my concern about the British goverment’s efforts to obtain documents and recordings related to the Troubles in Northern Ireland from Boston College’s Oral History Archive. I recognize the United States’ obligation to assist with British criminal investigations under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. However, I am concerned about the potential negative impact of releasing these materials on the future of academic research and the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland.
The interviews collected by Boston College oral historians provide a valuable – and in some cases unique – record of individuals’ experiences during the Troubles. Releasing the materials would violate the confidentiality promised to the interviewees, and could endanger those involved in the project. It would also jeopardize the future work of oral historians who encourage people to speak candidly about their experiences. I believe that the release of these materials will discourage participation in future oral history projects that address controversial events, depriving researchers of an important historical resource.
Releasing the subpoenaed materials may also have negative implications for the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland. The United States played a pivotal role in negotiating the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and we must continue to support peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland. I am concerned that releasing these oral histories will inflame tensions and undermine trust among parties to the Good Friday Agreement.
Thank you for your leadership on this important issue. I hope that you will continue to encourage all parties to the Good Friday Agreement to continue to work toward enduring peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Jake Sullivan,
Director of Policy & Planning
U. S. Department of State,
2201 C Street NW,
Washington, D. C. 20520
Dear Mr. Sullivan:
Thank you for the opportunity to share our views with you on a number of issues. This letter is a follow-up to our previous correspondence about the subpoenas issued to Boston College by Attorney General Holder pursuant to the U.S.-U.K. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
We are concerned that you may not fully appreciate the priority we attach to the subpoena issue. You may find it helpful to review the submissions made recently at a hearing of the Helsinki Commission (CSCE) conducted by Chairman, Representative Christopher Smith. The material was prepared and extensively documented by the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Relatives for Justice, and the Pat Finucane Center. The reports leave no doubt that the United Kingdom is indifferent to provisions of the 1998 Belfast Agreement and cleverly uses every means at its disposal to obstruct the search for truth and justice.
There are three principal reasons for our concern. First, we are not persuaded that there are any grounds for the Department of State to delay a decision to oppose this misuse of the MLAT. The Treaty and its ratifying documents are clear on justifications for withholding requested information. The Northern Irish police, even as presently constituted are the most discredited police force in Europe. The systematic re-hiring of pensioned officers from the old regime to distract and misdirect the work of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and the Police Ombudsman undermines the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and American values. One need only review the number of sealed reports into the police forces corruption with death squads and know the number of times the UK has derogated from its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights to understand the obligation of the Secretary of State to inform our nations’ chief law enforcement officer of this record before he responds to this request. More specifically, the misuse of the MLAT to engage in an “investigation” that has clear political motivation cannot be ignored. The focus on a killing in 1972, after the Northern Irish police and British military intelligence services deliberately ignored the killing in 1972 and for decades thereafter for reasons now well understood, confirms the political motivation driving the issuance of subpoenas in the lead-up to an election in Ireland.
Secondly, Prime Minister David Cameron cavalierly dismissed the Weston Park Agreement with regard to the assassination of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane. He did so with an admission of collusion in that murder by the very same police force that now seeks records from Boston College. Unfortunately the present United States Administration has chosen to ignore this murder. The murder of a second lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, was the subject of another inquiry into suspected collusion after an initial investigation by Canadian jurist Judge Cory. A complicity of silence and worse, cooperation, with the same police force that engaged in collusion of murder of defense lawyers and now wants to trawl through confidential oral history records would badly stain the State Department and the Administration. We support human rights advocates and journalists around the world, most recently in China. Are not Irish lawyers worthy of the same respect and recognition especially when there is public admission of security forces collusion in their murders?
Thirdly, prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the U.S. policy toward the conflict in N.I. could be charitably described as ranging from indifference to Diplock courts, internment and the Hunger Strikes to a policy of collaboration with the United Kingdom with N.I. gun sales and turning a blind eye to the fact that it was the only democracy in the world to see 5 elected officials assassinated, again with collusion of the security forces. President Clinton saw that the way forward out of the violence and injustice was dialogue and, without waiting for any court decision, decided to let America hear from the victims of British misrule by issuing a visa to Gerry Adams, then an elected Member of Parliament. Since then American support for the Irish peace process has been bi-partisan, broad based and committed to not only the letter of the Agreement but to the healing power of truth and justice.
If these politically inspired requests for records were to be granted, they could undermine the peace process. The could also be viewed as collateral support of British efforts to cover-up the role of security forces in the killings of hundreds of Catholics and to absolve those same forces from accountability to the rule of law.
We are unclear about the intimation of interfering in the affairs of another country. We are asking that the United States live up to ITS obligations under the Treaty. It is already clear that Britain doesn’t take their responsibilities seriously otherwise it would not have rubberstamped the records requests in the first instance.
It is our hope these issues have been raised within the “consultation process” referred to by the Department of Justice. If so, we believe these MLAT requests would have to be denied. If they have not been raised, they should be addressed forthrightly and without further delay.
If you have any questions, or have need of more information or documentation, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to the response of Secretary Clinton at her earliest convenience.
Seamus Boyle, National President, Ancient Order of Hibernians
Robert Dunne, Esquire, President, Brehon Law Society
Thomas J. Burke Jr., Esquire, National President, Irish American Unity Conference
The State Department recently hosted a free ranging discussion of issues of concern to Irish American groups, and today three of those groups responded with an urgent appeal for Secretary of State Clinton.
National President of the Irish American Unity Conference Thomas J. Burke Jr. stated: “We urge Madame Secretary to review the compelling documentation recently submitted to the Helsinki Commission by the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Center and ask if by corrupting the work of the Historical Enquiries Team & the Police Ombudsman, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary) is not violating both the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement. “
Seamus Boyle, National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the nations’ oldest and largest Irish American group, urged the Department not to use an old crutch that they cannot interfere in the internal affairs of another country.
“After decades of that stance and Britain’s endless interference in Ireland including the infamous Dublin-Monaghan bombing, President Clinton tore out that page from the diplomatic playbook. All we seek is for the U. S. to fulfill its own responsibilities under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and not rubber stamp a scurrilous request such as this.”
“Prime Minister Cameron,” stated Robert Dunne, President of the Brehon Law Society, “recently admitted that the same security force making this Treaty request for Boston College records colluded in the killing of lawyer and human rights advocate Patrick Finucane. Surely if the U.S. can give voice to the human rights advocacy of Chen Guangcheng, we can seek accountability and sanction of those who butchered Pat Finucane in front of his family!”
Third time the charm in BC archives battle? Irish Echo
NEWS & VIEWS
MAY 2ND, 2012
The coalition of Irish American groups spearheading the drive against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s subpoena of records in the Boston College Irish archives case has released its response to what it describes as “his inaction and indecision.”
“Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer,” stated Seamus Boyle, National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, “has a duty, a legal obligation pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, to oppose any request from a country (Great Britain) that is working night and day to corrupt the Irish peace process.”
Boyle, in a statement accompanying the letter to Holder, pointed out that the record of Congressman Christopher Smith’s most recent hearing was replete with documentation of “British efforts to undermine the rule of law and deny justice to the victims of their misrule.”
Jim Cullen of the Brehon Law Society said: “Mr. Holder has chosen to ignore our request and, indeed, the requests of other members of Congress including the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, by alleging he is constrained from acting due to litigation before the federal Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit. We know of no legal reason restraining him from withdrawing his subpoena, and there are ample policy reasons for doing so spelled out in MLAT documents.”
President Thomas J. Burke Jr., National President of the Irish American Unity Conference, welcomed the support of senators and representatives “who have joined our appeal including Representatives Sires (D-NJ) and Murphy (R-PA) and Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Lugar (R-IN).”
Continued Burke: “Our impression is that the litigation is being used by the State Department as a rationalization for inaction and inappropriate deference of important policy considerations to the Department of Justice’s narrow focus on legal technicalities.”
The coalition members also announced a nationwide “Contact a Consulate (British) campaign,” this in addition to their appeals to members of Congress for letters of support.
Here is the text of the letter to Attorney General Holder:
“This is a follow-up to our letters of October 20th of last year and January 26th of this year which you replied to, through Ms. Mary Ellen Warlow, Director of your Office of International Affairs, on December 8th and March 7th respectively.
“The letters were unresponsive to our request. We join again in asking for your withdrawal of the subpoena which you issued to Boston College pursuant to a request from the United Kingdom.
Your letter noted your obligations to the United Kingdom pursuant to the Mutual legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). We have asked that you first consider your obligations as the chief law
enforcement officer of the United States. The actions we submitted for your consideration are, we believe, your primary obligation to the United States pursuant to the MLAT.
“The Treaty obligations that must be fulfilled on your part are three-fold and are included in the ratification documents. The Attorney General is to determine whether the request is for a legitimate prosecution of a crime, most notably, money laundering drug crimes cited frequently in the Senate colloquy on the Treaty.
“Even the judgment of a former Chief Constable of the RUC, that a prosecution would be unlikely for the crime for which documents were requested did not persuade you that the request was suspicious and, in fact, politically motivated. In your capacity you are to determine if fulfilling the request would undermine the values that support the American justice system. Mr. Holder, Northern Ireland’s legal system is to law what military music is to music. Juryless courts which the NYC Bar Association urged be abandoned in the 1990s remain in place and are proving useful in the imprisonment of political prisoners Gerry McGeough, a former candidate for office, and Marian Price, a political dissident whose views annoy the British.
“Moreover, the most casual observer of the conflict in Ireland quickly learns that the police force in the North was lawless and corrupt beyond measure and remains so to this day. So evident is this lawlessness that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, publicly admitted that there was collusion between the murderers of solicitor Patrick Finucane and the same police who now beg this favor of you. What message is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States sending to the rest of the world if it does the bidding of a police force who murders officers of the court Patrick Finucane?
“Solicitor Rosemary Nelson was murdered by the same hidden hand just months after testifying before Congressman Christopher Smith about the death threats to her from members of the police force in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. Your lightening-like issuance of not one, but two subpoenas to such a contemptible police force is unthinkable and unconscionable. Finally, you are obligated to assess whether the fulfillment of the request would impair or conflict with important public policy of the United States. The United States has played a pivotal role in crafting and protecting the Irish peace process which resulted in the international treaty of 1998 and evolves precariously today.
“The threats to the peace process are manifest in the British failure to fulfill key justice provisions of the Belfast Agreement and its various codicils. They have chosen to ignore provisions dealing with the assassination of Patrick Finucane, the mass murder of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and are doing what they can to bury the legacy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in murdering hundreds of innocent Catholics.
“If you had consulted with the Department of State in these matters, as Ms. Warlow’s letter suggests, you no doubt were made aware of all the potential ways this request not only makes a mockery of the 1998 peace pact, but serves to embolden its dissidents. We would certainly appreciate a copy of such a consultation with the Department of State, or a summary of it.
“Ms. Warlow ends her letter suggesting further comment would be inappropriate as the matter is subject of litigation before the court. The litigation does raise important points with respect to the individuals seeking to be heard and the Attorney General’s obligations. But, as noted previously, we believe your primary obligations are much broader than those raised in the litigation.
“On the hand, the actions of United States Attorney General Carmen Ortiz in sending an ex parte communication to the Court of Appeals panel is an extraordinary attempt to influence the panel after arguments were finished. It is such actions by the Attorney General and not those requested by our organizations which are inappropriate and prejudicial.
“We would appreciate the favor of any early reply to this request. If you have any question regarding the issues raised, please do not hesitate to contact us.”
The letter is signed by Seamus Boyle, Thomas J. Burke Jr. and Robert Dunne, who is president of the Brehon Law Society.
The Boston College case centers on federal subpoenas seeking oral history archived material related to the Troubles that was given to the compilers on the understanding that the material would remain confidential until after the death of the material provider. The U.S. Department of Justice and the district Attorney in Boston have been acting based on a request for archived material from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.