Belfast Project: Boston Prosecuting Irish Politics

Belfast Project: Boston Prosecuting Irish Politics
Chris Bray
Letters Blogatory
6 May 2013

The Supreme Court has turned aside a legal appeal from Belfast Project researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, and IRA interviews will likely soon be transferred from the archives at Boston College to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. (A more limited appeal from BC, still pending, relates to only some of the subpoenaed interviews.)

The Irish press has been busy covering this development, and the stories tell you everything you need to know about the federal subpoenas of confidential academic research materials. They all center on Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein politician alleged to have ordered Jean McConville’s murder in 1972.

“Like his hero, Fidel Castro, Adams plans to go on and on,” reads an April 27 editorial in the Herald, a Dublin newspaper. “Until now many of us have given him the benefit of the doubt on both counts.”

But not anymore, the newspaper concludes:

“Meanwhile, Sinn Fein goes from strength to strength. As long as a growing number of voters conveniently forget about the hell that Jean McConville suffered, few among the Sinn Fein ranks will challenge their leader for life.”

This is the point of the effort to breach the Boston College archives, openly discussed in the Irish press as the object of the investigation: to stop Sinn Fein from going “from strength to strength,” preventing voters from conveniently forgetting the actions of the IRA,and convincing party members to challenge their leader.

This is not law enforcement.

Similarly, many of the Irish news stories about the pending release of the tapes say that the move could lead to the “downfall” of Gerry Adams. Here are some words and phrases you will not find in any of those stories:

  • “prosecution”
  • “murder charges”
  • “arrest”

Because none of that is the point. The Herald does refer to the possibility that Adams will face “a case,” but everyone involved knows what case that is. The McConville family is likely to sue the Sinn Fein leader in civil court. This, too, has already been reported.

“We owe it to McConville to reveal IRA interviews and tackle Adams,” the Herald headline reads.

Gerry Adams is to be tackled, challenged, sued, unmasked before an audience of voters, and weakened before the members of his political party. He is not going to be convicted in a court of law on murder charges, and no one—no one, period—believes that he will be.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston is using federal subpoenas to intervene in Irish politics, not to assist in a British murder investigation. I have been saying this for two years. Now the Irish press is saying it too.

Will anyone bother to notice this act of political malfeasance? Or do we simply accept that federal prosecutors should loan their authority to foreign political causes?