The Michael Reade Show
LMFM Radio 95.8FM Drogheda
28 March 2014
Michael Reade (MR) interviews Dr. Anthony McIntyre (AM) about Gerry Adams’ recent comments about the Boston College tapes.
(begin at time stamp 15:50)
MR: Now earlier this week the Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth, Gerry Adams, explained to me why he instructed his solicitor to let the PSNI know that he’s available to them if they wish to speak to him about the “disappearance” and killing of Jean McConville.
(An audio clip from that interview is played and is transcribed here)
Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams:
This arises, Michael, and it’s quite interesting. The media in The North, and I was in the North on Sunday, there was a frenzy of reportage that I was about to be arrested. And this arises from the arrest and the charging of a man called Ivor Bell who allegedly has made a tape as part of this totally bogus Boston oral project in which it’s alleged that he implicated himself in certain activities around the IRA. So there’s a big media run at this. And I simply put out a statement saying that I’ve no issue about meeting the PSNI and asked my solicitor to get in touch with them. I also, as I’ve done fairly consistently, took issue with this Boston oral history project.
You know, it’s all of those interviewed by it are avowedly anti-Sinn Féin, avowedly against the peace process, against the Sinn Féin leadership. It’s a very flawed, partisan project – shoddy and self-serving. It is not a serious or genuine, ethically based history project. (Audio clip ends)
MR: Anthony McIntyre a former IRA prisoner was the lead researcher in the Boston College Belfast Project and conducted the oral history interviews with Republicans for the archive and is with me in the studio. Good Morning to you, Anthony McIntyre, and thanks for joining us here on the programme.
Gerry Adams issued a statement in relation to all of this pretty much in line with what we’ve just heard there. You issued a statement contesting what Gerry Adams has to say.
And in case there is any confusion he is talking specifically about you.
He says the idea for the Boston oral history project originated with Paul Bew, an advisor to David Trimball, and was taken up by Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews. Both are vitriolic critics and opponents of the Sinn Féin peace strategy, of me in particular and of Sinn Féin and its leadership. Your response to all of that.
AM: Well I don’t think that Mr. Adams would recognise ethics if it bit him in the backside.
I am very much of the view that his narrative on this is self-serving and shoddy. The real shoddy, false narrative is Mr. Adams’ narrative of no involvement in the IRA.
And in terms of it being a shoddy academic exercise allow me to quote from Judge William G. Young, who has read, unlike Mr. Adams…
MR: This is a US federal judge…
AM: This is a US federal court judge who has read a hundred and seventy plus interviews, transcripts of the interviews that Boston College regrettably handed over when it had no need to hand (it) over to him but it is what it is.
And Judge Young said: “This was a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit. These materials are of valid academic interest historian, sociologist, the student of religion, the student of youth movements, academics who are interested in insurgency and counter-insurgency and terrorism and counter-terrorism. They’re of interest to those who study the history of religions.”
Now that’s far removed from the characterisation of the project that has been offered by Deputy Adams.
MR: You say that the core issue in all of this is Gerry Adams’ denial of his membership of the IRA.
AM: What I’m saying is it’s not the core issue in terms of what this project was about.
But it’s certainly the core issue for Mr. Adams because he has strenuously denied that he was ever a member of the IRA.
And the day that academics and journalists and researchers and historians discover that Mr. Adams was not a member of the IRA is the same day that scientists will discover that Newton’s Theory of Gravity was wrong. That the apple, when it comes off the tree, actually goes up the way rather than fall to the ground.
MR: Is his denial of his IRA membership feeding into all of this?
You’ve been writing on your blog, The Pensive Quill, about this and how it wasn’t necessary for him to deny membership that he could have fudged the issue if you like.
But because he denies his links with the organisation and his relationship with the people who were involved in that organisation, in particular Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, it led to what they told you, what Brendan Hughes told and what Dolours Press had told the press.
AM: Certainly in the case of Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price they were deeply unhappy that Mr. Adams had denied his membership of the IRA. They felt that all he had to say was “no comment”.
They thought that the introduction into the public discourse of such a massive dishonesty was certainly not the ethical way to go. And I suspect their decision to be revealing about Mr. Adams’ role in the IRA was in part prompted by his disavowals of association with the organisation.
MR: If Gerry Adams was Officer Commanding for the West Belfast Brigade or had any other role in the IRA why has it not been proven up to this point? There’s obviously no record of all of this.
AM: There’s a very strong record of this.
Can you name me one historian, one journalist, one researcher… I challenge you to name me one that has found…
MR: But I would go further than that and Gerry Adams has agreed with this point: There’s nobody in this country who thinks that he wasn’t a member of the IRA. Or at least the majority…he agreed with me on that point: that the majority of the people in this country believe that he was a member of the IRA.
But he denies it.
AM: Of course he denies it. He also denies being involved in the killing of Jean McConville.
Unless Mr. Adams is able to demonstrate otherwise I assign an equal truth status to each statement. Or equal untruth status. Each statement is equally true or equally untrue. Can you give me reasons as to why we should believe one and not the other?
Mr Adams has continuously denied his membership in the IRA as a means to fuel his political career. I mean it would be a major travesty of the whole intellectual community, North and South, were (we) have called it wrong on this.
And whether or not Mr Adams was not the issue for me.
Friends that would say to me or anybody trying to assert to me that Gerry Adams was not in the IRA is on par with saying Mr Paisley was never in the DUP or Margaret Thatcher wasn’t leader of the Conservative Party. It is such a recorded fact of intellectual life.
Not proven in the court. But that is secondary because I was found not guilty in a court in 1983 of being a member of the IRA while I sat in the court as a member of the IRA. I had been a longtime member of the IRA. I just don’t buy it.
MR: Gerry Adams undoubtedly is listening to this or to a recording of this and will undoubtedly respond by saying that you’re an opponent of the peace process and the direction that he’s taken the Republican Movement in…
AM: I am. Yes.
MR: …and that that is fueling your comments today and previous comments that you’ve made.
AM: No, it is not.
I believe that I have never, and I can stand over this and say that I have never written anything that I did not believe to be true. If I did believe Mr. Adams was not a member of the IRA I wouldn’t write it.
I am a critic of Sinn Féin. I am a critic of the peace process.
But I’m strongly for the peace.
Because I believe the process is, from a Republican point of view, an ideological travesty. It is an intellectual fallacy. And it’s political opportunism.
When Mr. Adams makes the allegation, as he did in The Andersonstown News a few days ago, that all the people involved in the Boston College project were avowedly anti-peace and anti-Good Friday Agreement – this was another false narrative as spun by Mr. Adams.
I’ll will give you an example: Richard O’Rawe for example, who has openly admitted being part of the Boston College project, voted for The Good Friday Agreement (and) supports the peace process. Now Mr. Adams’ issue with Richard O’Rawe is that Richard O’Rawe has compellingly constructed a narrative around the 1981 hunger strike which shows that the Sinn Féin leadership sabotaged the deal that would have brought about an end to the hunger strike and saved the lives of six men.
And Richard O’Rawe has been rubbished. Richard O’Rawe has been smeared.
Everybody that disagrees with Mr. Adams or tries to hold Mr. Adams to any sort of public scrutiny is immediately smeared or dismissed. It’s a time honoured tactic. And it doesn’t concern me in the slightest…
MR: Why? I mean if what you’re saying is correct why would he take that approach? Would it actually damage Gerry Adams to admit that he was a member of the IRA?
AM: I think there’s two aspects. I think firstly that what it would do if he was to admit he was a member of the IRA, and I would not advise him to admit being a member of the ÍRA, is that it could lead to charges from a vindictive police force in The North. There would be a howl from the Unionist community to have him charged.
But I would expect him not to introduce a massive dishonesty into intellectual or public discourse and I would expect him to simply say: “no comment” because he is ridiculed continuously over these denials.
Secondly, I think Mr. Adams is of a view that it is to his disadvantage as he tries to climb the political ladder to admit to membership of the IRA or directing the IRA campaign.
MR: Mr. Adams referred to a recent arrest in relation to the killing of Jean McConville. Did that emanate from your recordings?
AM: The police alleged that it did. But I have never confirmed that I interviewed Mr. Bell. I’ve never said that I interviewed Mr. Bell.
MR: You didn’t want these recordings to be handed over to the PSNI…
AM: Obviously not.
MR: Well, perhaps you could explain that yourself.
AM: I’m a researcher and I’m a journalist and I carried out this in good faith. And I had hoped that it would be beneficial to posterity at some point to future historians of the conflict…also as a need for truth recovery.
But as a journalist and a researcher my first ethical obligation is to protect from harm those people who participated in revealing confidential information to me. I have tried from the outset to ensure that I was successful and unfortunately the case that I had mounted in defence, along with my colleague Ed Moloney in the United States, has failed. It has curbed ultimately, the resistance curbed the amount of tapes that were handed over. But tapes have been handed over and there has been a process of arrest.
MR: Has that put you in danger?
AM: I’ve always suspected that I would be in danger as a result of this.
In the year 2000 when I was writing in West Belfast and living in West Belfast I accused the IRA of having carried out the murder, the shoot-to-kill murder, public execution, (of Joe O’Connor in)broad daylight in Ballymurphy on the thirteenth of October, 2000. And immediately at my home I was picketed by members of Mr. Adams’ party – mobs on two separate occasions surrounded it.
Mr. Adams wrote an article that the IRA was not responsible and accused me (again a smear) and of being a fellow traveler of the Real IRA because I had spoken out against a killing. The IRA leadership visited my home. One of the people in the IRA leadership is now a current senior figure within Sinn Féin. They tried to intimidate me and my pregnant wife but we resisted that intimidation.
So I do feel that there is a potential for a threat. But I don’t stay awake at night saying: well, it’s going to happen to me and I’m terrified of it. I live with the possibility but I’m not going to run around in fear.
MR: Now just to conclude in the brief time that we have…the statement that you’ve issued may beg questions of Gerry Adams. Mr. Adams may end up in the spotlight again for a short while and the comments you’ve made here this morning may even add to that. But do you accept that, as has been the case on every other occasion that these questions have been asked of Mr. Adams, it’ll fizzle out quickly enough.
AM: That’s a possibility. But I also believe that Mr. Adams has been drawn closer and closer into this and the whole issue here for Mr. Adams I think is fraught with dangers.
I would raise the question because Mr. Adams’ party members – the former Lord Mayor of Doire on his Twitter account – has been accusing the people in the Boston College project to have been involved in a touting programme. That is labeling those people informers.
The question I would put to Mr. Adams is:
If any trial ever emerges in relation to the killing of Jean McConville and people who are either charged or who have knowledge about the killing of Jean McConville are willing to use the court as a truth commission or a truth tribunal, does Mr. Adams support their right to give evidence in open court?
Would he think they’re right to do that? And if he does think they’re right to do that would he then ensure, or would he insist on his party desisting from calling the people who participated in the project touts or anybody that decides to give evidence in court as part of a truth commission…will he desist in calling them touts?
MR: You’ve told me that you’ll be happy to come back and discuss this with Gerry Adams if he’s available to do that. We’ve put that as a proposition to Mr. Adams already and perhaps we’ll talk again. But thank you indeed for coming in today.
AM: Thank you very much.
MR: Thank you indeed. So that’s Anthony McIntyre, former IRA prisoner himself, who was the lead researcher in the Boston College Belfast Project and conducted the oral history interviews with Republicans for the archive.
(ends at time stamp 31:25)