TRANSCRIPT: IRA DOCUMENTS – CBC Radio’s As It Happens interview with Ed Moloney
As It Happens
16 April 2013
Host Helen Mann (HM) interviews Ed Moloney, (EM) journalist and former director of The Belfast Project, an oral history project archived at Boston College and presently under subpoena by the police in Northern Ireland. Host Jeff Douglas (JD) sets the stage for this interview.
Jeff Douglas (JD): Northern Ireland’s police are one step closer to getting their wish.
Boston College’s Belfast Project was designed as an oral history of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. That oral history includes interviews with former IRA paramilitaries, including IRA bomber Dolours Price, who died in January.
For years Northern Ireland’s police have tried to get their hands on the transcripts of Ms Price’s interview. Last year they obtained a US Appeals Court ruling requiring The Belfast Project to hand over those documents. Researchers involved with the project have been resisting and they were hoping to appeal the court decision. However yesterday, the US Supreme Court said that it would not hear any appeal.
Journalist Ed Moloney was the director of Boston College’s Belfast Project. We reached him in The Bronx, New York.
Helen Mann (HM): Mr. Moloney, before we get into Monday’s decision could you just remind us who Dolours Price was?
Ed Moloney (EM): Yes, Dolours Price was a very well-known member of the IRA from West Belfast who I suppose gained notoriety in 1973 when she led the first IRA bombing team to London where she and her colleagues in the IRA planted three quite large car bombs causing alot of damage and one person died of a heart attack as a result of that.
She was caught and has come or came to prominence recently because of newspaper interviews that she gave revealing that she had been interviewed by Boston College and that in her interviews with Boston College she had talked about one of the most notorious killings of The Troubles in Northern Ireland: the disappearance of an alleged British Army informer and housewife called Jean McConville who was killed by the IRA and then her body was “disappeared”, buried in an unmarked grave where it lay for the best part of thirty years.
And it’s the interviews that she gave plus other interviews related or allegedly related to the incident which are the subject of a PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) subpoena which was served on Boston College and which myself and the researcher more or less by ourselves, along with alot of pro bono legal help, have been fighting.
HM: Now you and Boston College have been trying to keep these interviews out of the hands of Northern Ireland police but you lost at the appeal court level and that’s how you ended up at the Supreme Court yesterday.
EM: Correction: myself and the researcher have been fighting to keep the interviews out of the hands of the PSNI.
Boston College conceded a long time ago the right of the PSNI to have these interviews. They’re only quarreling with the PSNI over the extent of the interviews. A legal argument which I compare to the condemned man arguing with the hangman about the length of the rope. No. We are the only ones who are actually resisting this.
And you’re right, we took it all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided not to grant us permission to appear before them and argue our case which is essentially that we should have been allowed to have standing in this case.
We were denied standing by the lower courts and that meant that we could not argue own own case but they’ve decided not to do so.
And we are now left with the political fight which was the other track of our campaign.
From the outset we decided that if we were going to have a chance of defeating this very stupid and foolish action by the police in Northern Ireland, very potentially destructive and destablising action by the police in Northern Ireland, we would have to fight it on two grounds: 1) legal, which we’ve done and I think we’ve probably have exhausted that and the other is political and we’re still fighting that.
HM: Okay. And how is that working? What do you hope to achieve that way?
EM: Well, what we have done in the past few weeks is that we have managed to persuade very senior figures in the United States government, in the United States political establishment, very convincingly from their point of view, that handing over these interviews could in fact have the potential to destabilise the power-sharing government in Belfast.
The power-sharing government composed of Unionists who favour Northern Ireland remaining with Britain and Sinn Féin, who were the political wing of the IRA, who gave up their violence in order to go into this arrangement. There’s been a power-sharing government there since 2005-2006. We believe that the effect of these interviews and the revelations that they contain could imperil the stability of that and we were able to convince the American government of that and we hope that will impact on the fate of these interviews.
HM: That suggests that what Dolours Price had to say was incredibly damning to some parties.
EM: Yes, yes she did. But not the only one.
But the important interviews are the interviews that Dolours Price gave – that’s for sure. She did not give them, incidentally, to Anthony McIntyre who was the main researcher and I am again not at liberty to discuss the full circumstances of the other interviews but sufficing to say that what she has to say is absolute dynamite.
HM: One thing that did come out was she claimed that Gerry Adams was an IRA member and that he headed a unit that kidnapped and killed. Gerry Adams as we know has denied that.
How would the release of these transcripts to the Northern Ireland police affect Gerry Adams’ position?
EM: That’s what I’m talking about in relation to the stability of the power-sharing government.
You know this government, this peace agreement, the Good Friday Agreement exists only because the IRA, under the leadership of Adams, made huge ideological compromises to the extent that there were people who left their organisation in disgust and anger at what they regarded as a sell-out.
If we end up in a situation where the one person who was able to sell this compromise is, a few years after abandoning their armed struggle, abandoning their campaign to get the British out of Ireland, making huge ideological and political compromises, is hauled up in court by the same government to whom he gave those compromises, i.e the British government, ask yourself a number of questions: Could his party remain in government in those circumstances? I doubt it very much.
Will the British government come under immense pressure from hardline Loyalists and Unionists, people that Adams’ party are sharing with power with in Belfast, to prosecute him? Of course they will.
Just look at today’s headlines in The Irish Times: the fragility of the power-sharing government is there for all to see.
You had two very senior ministers in the Unionist part of this power- sharing government holding a press conference today admitting that their relations with their partners in government, Sinn Féin, were at the lowest since this thing started, that there were very deep strains in the coalition government, in the power-sharing government.
All these things are in the mix there and it’s a very delicate, very sensitive and very dangerous and very volatile situation into which to be injecting these interviews.
HM: But we’ve known of Dolours Price’s allegations for…
EM: You don’t. You don’t know them…
HM: Well we’ve had suspicion of them…
EM: No. You only think you know them.
You’re quite right, her allegations about Gerry Adams being involved in the IRA, Gerry Adams being her commander, Gerry Adams ordering them to take Jean McConville across the border to “disappear” her are all well known.
What is not well-known is what hasn’t come out yet. And what hasn’t come out yet, and I’ve been trying to tell you this, is dynamite and remains to be seen.
Hopefully this stuff will never come out. But I can assure you that when this other material comes out it’s going to have just the most dramatic and traumatic effect on politics in Northern Ireland.
HM: Ed Moloney, thank you very much for speaking with us.
EM: No problem.
JD: Ed Moloney’s a journalist and he was the director of Boston College Belfast Project which ran from 2001 to 2006. We reached Mr. Moloney in The Bronx, New York. (ends)