Fran McNulty reports on further developments to the Boston College Belfast Project

TRANSCRIPT: Fran McNulty reports on further developments relating to the Boston College Belfast project
This Week
RTÉ Radio 1
Sunday 21 April 2013

Fran McNulty (FM) interviews journalist and former director of The Belfast Project Ed Moloney (EM) about the status of the archive presently under subpoena by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision not to hear his case. Host Gavin Jennings (GJ) provides interview framework.

Legend: Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams (GA)
Male voice reading from US Senator Robert Menendez’ letter (MV)
Female voice reading responses from HET and PSNI (FV)
Boston College spokesperson Jack Dunn (JD)
The Belfast Project Lead Researcher Anthony McIntyre (AM)

Gavin Jennings (GJ): This week the US Supreme Court rejected an appeal against a decision of a lower court to release archived interviews with the now deceased IRA member Dolours Price. Today this programme can reveal that much more information about the disappearance and murder of Belfast mother Jean McConville than initially thought is actually contained in the Boston College archive where the Price interview is stored as part of the so-called Belfast Project. Reporter Fran McNulty has more.

Ed Moloney (EM): I have been able to share some of this with the American government.

And I can tell you, Fran, when I tell them this particular set of details, the people that I’ve had conversations with, who I then hope will take this further up the chain in the American political system, have immediately understood just how dangerous the contents of these interviews can be.

Fran McNulty (FM): That’s Ed Moloney, the man who oversaw The Belfast Project. This weekend he warns the institutions in The North could fall such would Unionist reaction be to what Dolours Price revealed in her archived interviews.

EM: The consequences of this for the peace process, and I know there are lots of people in Ireland who are rubbing their hands in glee at the anticipation of the fall of Gerry Adams over all of this but with Gerry Adams will also fall the peace process and the power-sharing government. There’s a very distinct possibility of that happening.

FM: Is that not an overstatement?

EM: Not if you knew what was in the interviews and the impact that they will have and once they get out.

And they will get out. They will get out I’d imagine reasonably quickly, they will be leaked, and once they get into the political stew in Northern Ireland there’s no removing them, they are stuck there and the consequences will be there. There’s material there about the story of one of these incidents that’s at the basis of the subpoenas.

People think they know the full story. They don’t know the full story.

FM: But heretofore we’ve been told that the full story was that Dolours Price didn’t tell interviewer Anthony McIntyre anything about the murder of Jean McConville. That is true. But now we do know that she did tell someone else. From his home in the United States Ed Moloney has cast new light on the subject.

EM: What I have said all along is that in her interviews with Anthony McIntyre as part of the Boston archive she did not talk about Jean McConville.

FM: So if we restrict our comments to that particular interview is what you’re saying that there are other people speaking about the disappearance of Jean McConville?

EM: Or, the other possibility is that there are maybe other Dolours Price interviews that were not part of the project that happened to be deposited in the Boston archive.

FM: Are there?

EM: Well, that’s something which people can speculate on now, can’t they?

FM: Ed Moloney is holding back information as he’s entitled to.

But this programme understands that an A to Z of what happened on the night Jean McConville was disappeared from her home and murdered is contained in the Boston College archive. The lengthy interview mentions names and places and in it, Dolours Price refers to Gerry Adams. Before her death she told a Belfast newspaper Gerry Adams was her Officer Commanding in the IRA, something the Sinn Féin leader has consistently denied. It’s a subject Mr. Adams has in fact spoken to this programme about:

Gerry Adams (GA): Look, I’ve said it for years, for decades, I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you have no control over.

FM: Dolours Price’s interview in the archive is causing concern in the United States.

Male Voice (MV) reading Menendez letter: Mr. Secretary, For over a year I have monitored the government of the United Kingdom’s efforts to subpoena the documents and recordings of the Boston College oral history project…

FM: The Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has written to the Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the issue.

MV: The United Kingdom’s request for material could have the effect of re-opening fresh wounds and threatening the success of the Good Friday Accords. Sincerely, Robert Menendez.

FM: Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre have been assisted greatly by Irish-America groups to lobby US politicians on this issue.

But interestingly, Boston College is taking a similar approach. It is trying to stop the release of further material beyond the Dolours Price interviews – both legally and diplomatically. College spokesperson is Jack Dunn:

Jack Dunn (JD): The Secretary of State of the United States is John Kerry. John Kerry is a graduate of Boston College’s School of Law. He knows our feelings on the matter. So we’ve worked through diplomatic channels including the State Department and other areas that I won’t get into specifics now.

So it’s a two-pronged approach now. We are looking for a legal resolution to the case through the court of appeals and we are also looking for a resolution through various diplomatic channels.

FM: Mr. Kerry himself when he was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the issue and expressed concern about the impact of releasing (the) tapes. Would that give you any hope?

JD: We certainly hope so. He understands how important this is. He was involved during the Clinton Administration in helping to broker the Good Friday Agreement. So he understands completely the importance of what’s at stake here. And our hope is that he will use his influence to get the Police Service of Northern Ireland to get law enforcement in Great Britain to work with the Department of Justice to re-evaluate the need for these tapes to go through.

FM: The family of Jean McConville have insisted the tapes should be released. They want those responsible for their mother’s murder brought to justice. Anthony McIntyre interviewed numerous people who were involved in The Troubles for the ill-fated archive. He, too, can see The McConville’s point of view.

Anthony McIntyre (AM): If I was in the position of the McConville Family I would probably be doing the same. And I think people would understand it that way. But there are wider issues at stake here, wider ethical issues. I mean, the same could be applied to the…an argument, for example, could be made that should we torture suspects to get the information that the McConville Family require? Well obviously no, we can’t. There’s certain things that cannot be violated. And I don’t think journalistic research, academic research should be violated by these types of demands.

FM: With the US Supreme Court clearing the way for the release of the Price tapes many now want to know what the next step will be. We asked the Historical Enquiries Team in The North. Their response was brief.

Female Voice (FV) reading PSNI statement: The PSNI are dealing with the issues you’ve asked about not the HET.

FM: So if the Historical Enquiries Team aren’t interested in the interviews what will the PSNI’s next step be? Their response to that questions was, too, very brief.

FV: We’re making plans to take possession of the material and proceed with our enquiries.

FM: The Dolours Price interviews will be handed over unless there is high-level political intervention. And Ed Moloney isn’t hopeful.

EM: I’m watching this situation from three thousand miles away and watching Dáil debates and what’s said in Dáil debates etc and I can see quite clearly that some of the leadership of the political parties in the Dáil are rubbing their hands in anticipation and glee at all of this stuff coming out to do down Gerry Adams. Well, I can understand that. They’re under political pressure, they’re under electoral pressure from Gerry Adams’ party.

But so far the Irish government has had no contact with me at all. Not one single Irish diplomat has rung me up and said: Look, Ed, can we have lunch and would you mind, like, telling us why you’re saying this stuff? Not one has shown any interest at all.

FM: Should they?

EM: Well, don’t you think if you were the Irish government and this thing is happening and that someone is saying these interviews could have this potentially devastating impact on the peace process that you invested so many years to create…you’d think you might have a little curiosity about what’s being said?

GJ: Journalist Ed Moloney speaking to Fran McNulty from his home the United States. Well in response, the Department of Foreign Affairs here has told this programme that it would be inappropriate for the Irish government to interfere or get involved in a case which was before a court of law in a foreign country.