Supreme Court Update: Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney
Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
Saturday 22 December 2012
Sandy Boyer (SB) and John McDonagh (JM) interview Ed Moloney (EM) about the updates in the legal case involving the UK government subpoenas issued to Boston College for the oral history archive known as The Belfast Project.
(begins 1:37 PM EST)
Sandy Boyer (SB): We’re talking to Ed Moloney, who among other things was the director of an oral history project that tried to get a history of The Troubles in a different way: talking to the members of the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force who had actually been doing the fighting.
The British government is trying to get its hands on those interviews and the American government is doing everything they can to help them. And now that case has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court. Ed, thanks very much for being with us.
Ed Moloney (EM): No problem, Sandy.
SB: And there’s at least some encouraging news this week.
EM: Yes, our application or brief or whatever you want to call it is in front of the Supreme Court right now and they have to make a decision about whether they will hold a hearing into the case. That would obviously be a very major development if that happened.
Well, this week we launched a number of what are called amici brief (friend of the court briefs).
These are from people who are not directly involved in the case themselves but have a point of view that they would like the court to read.
And they were all in our favour and two of them came from very prestigious lobbying groups on behalf of media rights.
One, an American one which is the major group that represents working journalists in relation to legal challenges called the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which has been going since about 1970 when the federal government tried to force a reporter from The New York Times to surrender all his sources in the Black Panther movement and this group was put together by various members of the press to resist that.
And then another one is called Article 19 and that’s an international body that gets its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which calls for the free-flow of information, etc.
They’re based in London but they represent media outlets and journalists throughout the entire world. And have fought cases like…they spearheaded for example the campaign to protect Salman Rushdie from the Iranian fatwa.
Then we had an amicus brief from about fourteen senior academics from Indiana.
And then lastly, the three Irish-American groups who have been to the fore of this campaign: The AOH, the Irish American Unity Conference and The Brehon Law Society put in an amicus brief.
That happened on Thursday and the very next day the US government reacted. It had responded to our original petition to the Supreme Court by I think trying to play it down and ignoring it. The Solicitor General let it be known that he wasn’t even going to file a response to our petition.
Well, once these amicus briefs appeared he did an abrupt change of mind and announced or let us know that he’s now going to file a response. And he asked the court for another lengthy delay until January the 31st before he files which means that we’re probably into maybe March before we get a decision on this.
So it delays it nonetheless so I think is it’s quite good news. It’s getting quite alot of publicity and these are good developments.
The briefs, the amicus briefs, were all very good – very well-argued – very encouraging.
SB: Now Ed, just to clarify: these are briefs telling the Supreme Court that it should take your case, your appeal, from the court decision that said the interviews should be handed over. But you also got a very good article from a very intellectual law review which apparently has alot of influence with the Supreme Court.
EM: Well I hope so. Stanford Law Review, which is a very prestigious publication, had an article more or less calling on the Supreme Court to take on the case and hopefully that call will be heeded. But we’ll see…
You know, I mean there are sort of positive signs but you’ve got to be very careful as well because the Supreme Court makes its own mind up and they take a very, very small percentage of the cases that are put in front of it. So we’ll just wait and see and hope for the best but not expect too much.
SB: This allows more time for individuals to intercede with their own elected officials.
EM: Well, you see the other development that’s happened of course is that John Kerry has been nominated as Secretary of State – replacing Hillary Clinton and he is very much on record as wanting to stop the hand-over of these interviews.
Now we’ll wait and see what transpires when he actually does take office. But you know, that’s another positive sign and in fact, this delay gives him time to settle into office and various other things can happen in conjunction with that. And we’ll see how it goes.
SB: Again, with the previous Attorney General we were urging people to get their elected officials to write and with a new Attorney General it will be a fresh opportunity.
EM: I don’t think it’s a new Attorney General — it’s a new Secretary of State.
SB: You’re quite right. Unfortunately…
EM: Holder is staying there unfortunately for reasons not just confined to our own…I don’t think he’s been the greatest individual in that office. But John Kerry getting into the State Department is good for us…we hope.
John McDonagh (JM): And Ed, we’ve been covering a couple of cases over there between Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough and the way they don’t give out information…you can only imagine what they might do with these tapes…the manipulation of them and who they could arrest on behalf of the tapes.
I mean, people are being held on just about no evidence and they can’t even see it. So I mean the way they’re pursuing these tapes God knows who they want to put in gaol or what they want to use them for.
EM: It does raise all sorts of very important questions about the motivation of the people who are behind this in the first instance.
I think….there’s no doubt in my mind that there are elements within the PSNI associated with the old RUC/Special Branch who saw an opportunity here to cause mayhem and decided to grab it.
There’s a new leadership in the PSNI, the Chief Constable etc, who I think were taken for a ride, (at least that’s my impression), by these people — probably in their naivety and not knowing the reality of the policing system and not knowing the character and colour of some of these RUC, former RUC/Special Branch types – and they took the initiative and they started this ball rolling.
Hopefully, we will stop them. I will certainly do everything in my power to stop them – that’s for sure.
SB: Ed, how could these interviews conceivably be used? It would be very hard for the PSNI to use them in a court of law, presumably…
EM: Yes, they would want to…yes. And the problem for us in that regard is that the laws of evidence now in the UK system have been relaxed so much that this type of evidence which is normally regarded as hearsay evidence can now be admitted to court.
So they could bring all sorts of people up on charges, conspiracy charges, and not just the individuals who were let’s say interviewed or whose interviews are handed over but because they could bring conspiracy charges against people who are mentioned in the tapes.
SB: And a lot of their interest seems to center on Jean McConville, who was abducted and killed by the IRA, and people have gone on record saying Gerry Adams was centrally involved in that.
EM: Yes, yes, right – there’s no doubt. And that’s why I think the RUC/Special Branch went for this – I think they had Adams in their sites and they want to do this…to wreak revenge on him.
You can imagine from their point-of-view: there they are, RUC/Special Branch no longer exists, the RUC, in the old terms, doesn’t exist anymore.
You’ve got this new PSNI and there’s Gerry Adams waltzing around the world stage – he’s a member of the Irish Parliament and McGuinness is Deputy Minister of Northern Ireland government – they must be fuming.
And this is their opportunity to have revenge.
And I think what’s in their minds as well is that if let’s say the legal authorities in charge of this come to their senses and say: Listen, we can’t go down this road because the damage to the peace process will be so great that in the public interest we recommend no prosecution – which is what can happen and I think probably will happen.
Nonetheless, their plan all along has been, and they’ve made this clear in public statements, to use the evidence that is handed over to bring civil cases against the various people who would be named in the tapes.
And so you would end up with an O.J. Simpson-type situation for people like Gerry Adams. A danger which I don’t think the Sinn Féin leadership is particularly aware of or at least if they are they’re not taking it terribly seriously because it is I think what the name of this game is really about at the end of the day – it’s about bringing this case into a civil court where the rules of evidence are even more relaxed and where the standard of proof necessary for a verdict is much less than in the criminal process. So, that’s what I think they’re up to.
JM: You’re listening to Radio Free Éireann and we had Ed Moloney on. Ed, thanks for coming on.
EM: No problem.
JM: If you want to read more of Ed Moloney go to The Broken Elbow.
Just type that into any search engine and you’ll get to go right to Ed and read some of the things he’s been writing about lately.
He also has one of the best books about The Troubles – it’s called The Secret History of the IRA.
And if you’ve been listening to this show it looks like we’re going into 2013 not on a very happy note with the way the prisoners are going and with the way…hopefully…we’ll get better news with the prisoners and with the case of Ed Moloney and the tapes up at Boston College that they’re fighting to get these tapes that were not be to released until the person that made the tape, whether it was an IRA man or a Loyalist paramilitary, until they were dead. And then tapes were released, and Ed has a book already on some of the people that died and he wrote a book called Voices From the Grave – that there was also a documentary also made about.
(ends 1:48 PM EST)