TRANSCRIPT: Arrest of Ivor Bell and the Boston College Tapes

Radio Free Eireann interview with Ciaran Mulholland on the political imprisonment of Ivor Bell.

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview via telephone from Belfast Ciarán Mulholland (CM) an intended independent Republican candidate from the Black Mountain ward to run for Belfast City Council.

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
Saturday 22 March 2014

(begins 1:38 PM EST)

SB: We’re going over to Belfast to talk to Ciarán Mulholland about the arrest of Ivor Bell, former Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army, now seventy-seven years old, suffered two heart attacks and Ciarán organised a protest this morning for Ivor. Ciarán, thanks very much for being with us.

JM: No – we’re going to go to a song and then make the phone call. And when we come out of the song we’ll head over to Belfast and we’ll talk.

… Because of the Boston tapes – remember – Boston College gave up these tapes – based on these tapes Ivor Bell is now in prison.

So there have been huge consequences of the tapes that were handed over. They were supposed to be kept in secret until the people who did the interviews that Anthony McIntyre did, until they died. But even with some of the people that did die, say Brendan Hughes, the tapes are being used to arrest people in Belfast.

(Song, What Ireland Means to Me by The Irish Brigade is played.)

SB: Welcome back to Radio Free Éireann at WBAI 99.5FM in New York. Now we’re going to go over to Belfast to talk to Ciarán Mulholland about the arrest of Ivor Bell. Ciarán, thanks very much for being with us.

CM: Hi. How’s it going?

SB: Good. Tell us who Ivor Bell is and the significance of his arrest after all these years.

CM: Essentially Ivor Bell is a well-respected Republican from West Belfast. Ivor would have been there at the beginning of the Republican Movement in terms of the Provisional Republican Movement and was a prominent leader of the Provisional Republican Movement until the mid-80’s.

That’s really I think all I could say at the moment but there’s alot of literature out there in respect to who Ivor is. He’s a very senior Republican and he’s respected a lot within the greater Republican family and beyond.

SB: Ed Moloney in his (book) Secret History of the IRA identifies him as a former Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army.

But today, this morning in Belfast, this seventy-seven year old man who suffered two heart attacks was charged with aiding and abetting the killing of Jean McConville and membership in the Irish Republican Army.

Jean McConville of course was a woman, a Protestant woman, living in West Belfast who was killed by the IRA and her body “disappeared” because they said she was an informer. But tell us very briefly about these charges.

CM: Essentially I think these charges came out of the blue when Ivor was arrested.

And the basis for that arrest was founded on the Boston College tape project which was a catalogue or an archive for want of a better term which was commissioned by the university, Boston University (Ed. Note: Boston College) with the view of collecting recordings from combatants who would have been involved in the conflict, in the war in the North of Ireland.

What occurred was individuals who would have been members of the Irish Republican Army, or alternatively Loyalists for that matter, would have given their accounts of the actual conflict. Now as everyone is aware the recordings in respect to Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price have reached some controversy. And we have and came across the book, Voices From the Grave, which gives an account of what was said.

I think the disclosure of those interviews provided to Boston College was to be released upon the individual’s death and I understand that was the arrangement which was sanctioned by the college – that they weren’t to be released until the individual died or unless the individual gave their consent.

Ivor was arrested last week, as you already said, a seventy-seven year old man, an ill man, was arrested at his home in West Belfast in respect to the murder of Jean McConville on the foot of evidence obtained in the Boston College tapes collection.

And today he has been charged with membership of the Irish Republican Army in 1972. Which is widely known – that Ivor was part of the delegation that was in negotiations with the British government in 1972 on Downing Street. So that’s widely known, it’s widely reported and it’s widely accepted. He was there on Downing Street with other members of the Irish Republican Army, including that of Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

So there’s no disputing this fact but however Ivor was the sole person to be arrested on the foot of that and also aiding and abetting murder. And as far as I’m aware at the moment no doubt the PSNI have him under the protectorate of that aiding and abetting. But from what I understand that is because of Ivor’s rank. It’s what you said – the Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army – and that he must have had some involvement or knowledge in respect to the order.

JM: Yeah, Ciarán, we’ve been discussing for the past hour about the political policing that goes on in The Six Counties: Stephen Murney, arrested for taking pictures, Marian Price, Martin Corey …. just the long list of political policing.

What I want to do is play a little clip from (the documentary) Voices From the Grave and this is Brendan Hughes’ voice (saying) who he thinks was involved.

(Audio clip from the 2011 Irish Film and Television Award winner for Best Documentary, Voices From the Grave, is played.)

Now Ciarán, in that little clip he does mention someone specifically – Gerry Adams – who seems to be allowed to roam the world, go to the White House and he’s not being picked up or questioned or charged with anything based on the same tapes that Ivor Bell is now being charged.

CM: Well I think it’s widely known when one recalls the murder of Jean McConville, those horrific events which unfolded, and one can only imagine what the McConville family have gone through, but one also recalls the allegations that Gerry Adams was involved and directed the abduction of Jean McConville.

So it would beg the questions: Why is Ivor Bell arrested?

If Ivor Bell is arrested why is Gerry Adams not arrested? If Ivor Bell is arrested on the foot of the Boston tapes – and everybody knows that there’s been references in the Boston tapes to Gerry Adams in respect to this murder – why has Gerry Adams not been arrested?

So these are the questions that have to be asked.

Ivor Bell’s departure from the Provisional Movement – why was that? Because Ivor raised serious concerns in respect to the leadership of Gerry Adams and the dictatorial role which Gerry Adams was cultivating for himself.

There was no room for maneouver or discussion – it was Gerry’s way or the highway.

So I think we have to keep that in mind when we’re considering it. So when we look at the political landscape – why has Ivor been taken off the streets yet Gerry Adams as you say can go to the White House, he can drive up and down from Baile Átha Cliath and Dundalk to Belfast – he can do what he wishes – without any arrest, without any enquiries made by the PSNI? So there’s serious questions and serious questions that have to be asked.

One of my concerns is that Ivor was involved in my election campaign. I intend to run as an independent candidate from the Black Mountain ward on an independent Republican ticket and now Ivor is behind bars. So it’s of serious concern to everyone. You made reference there to the other individuals who have fallen foul of the PSNI and the political status quo in The Six Counties here in Ireland at the minute.

There is no room for debate. There is no room for raising concerns. If you raise concerns you’ll find yourself behind bars in Maghaberry. And that is the situation that unfortunately we find ourselves in here at the minute.

If you don’t agree with the status quo you run the likelihood of possibly being incarcerated – interned by remand.

SB: Alright Ciarán, coming back to Gerry Adams: if you want to charge anybody with aiding and abetting for the murder of Jean McConville, Dolours Price said very specifically: I drove Jean McConville down from Belfast to the South of Ireland where she was killed and I did it on the orders of Gerry Adams. Now that’s pretty specific.

CM: Yes. That is specific and that isn’t just in the account which Price gave to the Boston College. That was also an account which she gave other journalists and has been widely reported and well before the PSNI had the Boston tapes in their possession.

So again it raises concerns as to why – if the PSNI were seriously interested in investigating the murder of Jean McConville and they were genuine about bringing those at fault before the courts – why didn’t they make reasonable endeavours then to investigate the matter from the outset when someone who openly stated: Well, 1) I was involved and, 2) I was acting on the instructions of Gerry Adams.

So those again are all serious questions that are in the public domain everybody knows it but again, there’s a serious reluctance there on behalf of the state and the PSNI to bring other individuals before the courts in respect to this.

My main concern is that if you can Ivor Bell, a seventy-seven year old – coming seventy-eight – ill health, as you said has suffered two heart attacks, has a pacemaker and also given the horrific conditions of Maghaberry (Prison) that it’s a great violation of his human rights.

Yet one would suggest there is more evidence on the face of it than what we know and what’s in the public domain pointing at other individuals that haven’t even been as much as questioned in respect to it.

So again I think alot of people can make assumptions but there is questions that have to be answered and questions that have to be answered by the British government in respect to this.

And it wasn’t so long ago that the whole issue of on-the-runs was brought to the fore and this was something that was brought before the media in respect to the arrest of Gerry McGeough.

Again, Gerry McGeough – leaving an election count and was arrested – no doubt demonstrating political policing – when anyone tries to offer an alternative, give a voice to alternative Republicanism they seem to be either incarcerated, subjected to smear campaigns or just intimidated.

So if those questions were raised in the Gerry McGeough case where it was openly stated that, no, there is no agreement in respect to on-the-runs and then subsequently you have the Downey case. Mr. Downey is still very much with the Sinn Féin movement but it seems to be that some people’s rights are more important than other people’s rights. And there’s a lack of consistency when it comes to the law depending on what your political aspirations are.

JM: And Ciarán finally we started off talking about the arrest of Ivor Bell and then we gave the announcement that this morning he was in court and he was denied bail. What’s the next step in the process?

CM: Well, the next step in the process would be to bring this matter before the High Court and to make a High Court bail application and hopefully to get Ivor back home where he belongs.

As you’re aware he’s an old man, he’s ill, he’s of an elderly age and he’s certainly not set to be in a British prison in Maghaberry. So in this coming week his legal team hope to have an application before the High Court and make a bail application to ensure that he is released.

SB: But Ciarán, if he doesn’t get released on bail how long would it be before he actually comes to trial?

CM: This again comes back to the whole campaign that you may hear that are ongoing at the minute in the North of Ireland – internment by remand.

If Ivor’s not granted bail – which one would imagine he should be granted bail – he should have been granted bail today and he wasn’t – so who knows given the legal system here and the double-standards and hypocrisy of it.

But if isn’t granted bail we really don’t know. Ivor could run the risk of possibly being held on these charges for maybe two, three years if not longer before he’d see a shred of evidence and before the matter could be brought adequately for a hearing before a court.

SB: Thank you very much for coming on and we look forward to hearing more about this case. We’re not going to let it go. So again, thank you for coming on Radio Free Éireann.

CM: Thank you very much. Go raibh maith agat.

(ends 1:54PM EST)