The Arrest of Gerry Adams

The arrest of Gerry Adams
Sráid Marx
An Irish Marxist Blog
May 4, 2014

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When Gerry Adams was arrested for the murder in 1972 of mother-of- ten Jean McConville Sinn Féin claimed it was “political policing. The arrest of a high profile political leader during an election could hardly be anything else.  That the intention to question him was notified by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to the highest levels of government in advance and that this government tells us it is keeping Washington informed is simply confirmation.

Yet when it comes to explaining what this political policing amounts to, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness claims lamely that the arrest is due to a “small cabal” of police officers, “an embittered rump of the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary)”.  McGuinness claims that other police sources have described these people as the “dark side”.

So it’s not really political policing but a “rump” that presumably can be dealt with.

Yet Sinn Féin hasn’t asked for this but just a vague wish that the episode is “resolved in a satisfactory way”.  Meanwhile the party will continue to “support the reformers who have made a massive contribution to policing” while saying that if it “does not work out the way that it should” the party will review the situation “in the context of continuing with a positive and constructive role in a vitally important peace process”.

However the press conference at which all this was said was really about a threat to reverse its previous political support for the PSNI, an event that would precipitate yet another crisis in the never-ending peace process.

But how can Sinn Féin complain of political policing when it supports this policing?  How can it issue vague hopes that everything turns out ok when it also claims that policing is accountable?  Why is it threatening to withdraw support (in a very vague and indirect way) when it can hold the police to account for its actions?  Why doesn’t it just do that?

Graffiti has gone up in West Belfast attacking “Boston College Touts” (informers), i.e. those who gave their accounts of their own and Adams’ involvement in the IRA and its abduction of Jean McConville to the American institution , the acquisition of which may be the basis of his arrest.


Yet how can these people be touts when Sinn Féin supports the PSNI and has called for everyone to give the police whatever information they have on the actions of republicans (i.e. the dissidents)?  The hypocrisy involved is as staggering as it is completely unselfconscious.

McGuinness claims that “Sinn Féin’s negotiations strategy succeeded in achieving new policing arrangements, but we always knew that there remained within the PSNI an embittered rump of the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary).”  Yet it never made any qualification when it announced its original support for the PSNI.

Does this mean it only supports part of the PSNI or only partly support the PSNI?  Which part? How is everyone else supposed to know which part to support?  How would it and everyone else partly support the PSNI?

How can such a situation exist when Sinn Fein is in government?  How could the brilliant negotiators of Sinn Fein agree to a deal to support the police without getting a guarantee its leader would not be lifted for allegations made years ago?

Why is Sinn Féin making such an issue of Adams’ arrest when it never threatened to withdraw support from the PSNI when the PSNI spent months allowing loyalist crowds, led by the UVF, to disrupt everyone else trying to get home during the flags protests?

Why did it not threaten to withdraw support when these illegal parades were allowed by the PSNI, in fact the PSNI met with organisers to arrange them, and not do so when these parades attacked the small Catholic area of the Short Strand?  Only this week a judge found the PSNI (all of it, its leadership included and not just some “rump”) guilty of failing to enforce the law when it came to illegal loyalist parades.

Again these last few weeks drunken loyalist paramilitary mobs have taken down legal election posters and put up their own flags on main roads in Belfast,  right in front of police stations, while the PSNI has told local residents on no account to take them down.  Is it only Sinn Féin’s leaders who must be protected from the “dark side”?

And why indeed should Adams be protected?  He denies any responsibility for Jean McConville’s killing but then he also denies ever being in the IRA.  Other former IRA members, with unimpeachable republican credentials, have admitted their involvement and claimed Adams was in on it.

As the recently deceased IRA member Dolours Price put it “I wanted very much to put Gerry Adams where he belonged and where he had been. We had worked so closely with him, on many occasions and taken orders from him on many occasions and then to deny us, particularly after we had been through such a harrowing experience in prison … we were offended that he chose to deny us as much as he chose to deny his belonging to the IRA. To deny it is to offend those of us who partook in what we partook in.”

The message on the hill overlooking Belfast calls for the truth about the British Army murders of 11 people in Ballymurphy in August 1971, an enquiry into which has just been rejected by the British Government, but the same demand can apply to Adams.

But bad as these questions are for Sinn Féin none of them get anywhere near the biggest problem it has.   And this problem is that Adams would not have been arrested if the British Government had not given it the ok.  The political policing of which Sinn Féin speaks is not the actions of a “small rump” but the actions of a state.

That Sinn Féin should peddle the line of ‘sources’ within the PSNI that what is involved are the actions of “dark forces” against the reformers, “the many progressive and open-minded elements” of the PSNI that McGuinness hallucinates, is to swallow the old good-cop bad-cop tactic that old IRA men must have been warned about if caught or arrested.  That this is now the line of Sinn Féin shows how far it has travelled and so low it has sunk.

Swallowing and parroting this means buying into the designs of the British state just as much as swallowing the good cop line gives you the bad cop result.  What this means has been signalled by the British Government.

Recent speeches by Teresa Villiers, the NI Secretary of State, have glossed over the refusal of the Unionists to accept the deal offered by US diplomat Richard Haas, and supported by the British state itself,  and have conciliated their intransigent line, which itself is a play to extreme loyalism.  So the crimes of the state, never investigated with any seriousness it has been revealed, are even more to be airbrushed out of existence and instead it is the crimes of the “terrorists” which must be centre stage.  The role of state forces in sponsoring these terrorist gangs will of course also be occluded.

So the past will more and more become the one imagined by unionism.  Parades? Well the Parades Commission has given every evidence that its restrictions on loyal orders can be ignored with impunity.  Getting a form of words that ends with the same result might not be difficult given even a minimal willingness of loyalism to engage with Catholic residents whose neighbourhoods they parade in.  Flegs? Well we have noted the PSNI’s preference to let drunken loyalist mobs put up whatever symbols of intimidation they want.

That about completes the Haas agenda but even these do not signal the end game and this too is coming more into focus in a statement of Villiers.

In a speech widely reported, but the reporting of which missed its most significant element, Villiers anticipated the rewriting of the political deal on which Sinn Féin can claim success.  She foresees the “evolution” of the power-sharing institutions towards them having an opposition.

The whole point however of these institutions is that no one is in opposition, in particular nationalists are not put into opposition by unionists who have not demonstrated any capacity to act in other than a sectarian fashion.

It’s put in the usual honeyed words:

“The third way in which politics could be moved forward here is through the evolution of the devolved institutions.

Let me be clear, power sharing and inclusivity are enshrined in the Belfast Agreement and the government is not going to undermine any of those principles.

. . . Yet at the same time nobody can plausibly argue that the institutions must be set in stone for all time.

Political institutions the world over adapt and change.

As the founding father of modern Conservatism – the Irishman Edmund Burke – once put it:

‘A state without the means of change is without means of preservation.’

And there are inherent weaknesses in a system in which it is very difficult to remove one’s rulers by voting and to choose a viable alternative.

That’s why this government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power sharing and inclusivity.

But we also believe that if or how this happens really has to be primarily for parties in the Assembly to take forward, not least because it is so firmly within the Assembly’s competence to deal with those matters that might characterise an opposition, such as speaking rights, financial assistance and committee chairmanships.”

So at the moment the British Government would be quite happy for the Stormont regime to have parties outside Government if this was accepted by these parties, if it was voluntary.  No longer is this anathema, no longer is such a suggestion the antithesis of what the new arrangements are about.  Now this is both a viable and even preferred destination.

But of course it has to be voluntary.  Since having the nationalists in opposition is the primary objective of unionism such a policy stance is not so much a disinterested, absent-minded meandering on possible future directions as an incentive for unionism to get nationalists, or at least Sinn Féin, out of Government, “voluntarily”.

This is not actually the preferred British solution but it is testimony to how far it will go to keep unionism inside the existing deal that it floats ideas that while mollifying unionism actually increase instability.

That it only undermines the deal more and more by emboldening unionism and feeding its triumphalist agenda demonstrates only the continuing contradictions within the imperialist settlement – continuation of a sectarian state and sectarian political arrangements while hoping that this sectarianism can be made innocuous or at least reduced to an acceptable level, just as there used to be an “acceptable level of violence.”

So the incentive for unionism is to continue not to work the existing institutions while seeming to maintain a modicum of good faith, obstruct and provoke Sinn Féin as much as it can without damaging itself and hope that the sheer impossibility of Sinn Féin putting up with its obvious powerlessness gets the right reaction.

Unfortunately for them it is perfectly obvious that Sinn Féin will cling to the Stormont regime like grim death with no humiliation too embarrassing and no rebuke too severe for it to walk away. Sinn Féin will hold on to the appearance of power even when this appearance has gone.

But if clinging to the trappings of office becomes the main objective the point of actually having it – making changes – grows ever less important.  Being in office in the North is important for Sinn Féin getting into office in the South and it believes that it being in office in both Irish states on the centenary of 1916 will be a powerful symbol.

Indeed it will.  It will symbolise that the party has realised its strategy but that this strategy is ultimately a failure.  A Sinn Féin in government in both partitioned states will still leave both partitioned states in place.  Sinn Féin will simply sit over both.  Should it stay in office the sight of it doing so will prove no more remarkable than the sight of Sinn Féin toasting the Queen of Great Britain.

How quickly can illusions be shattered.  Fresh from congratulating themselves and being congratulated by the chattering classes for its wearing of white tails and standing for “God save the Queen” the acceptance of the privileges of the British monarchy is rammed home by her state exercising its powers as it sees fit.

Why toasting the symbol of oppression should lessen this oppression or limit its exercise can nowhere be explained by Sinn Féin.  When one swallows the toast there can be little complaint when one has to swallow a whole lot more.

Whatever the outcome of Adams’ arrest the whole exercise is a brutal demonstration of Sinn Féin failure and it will cost it in the long run.  The grounds for creation of an alternative are clearer but unfortunately there is no sign yet that any such alternative is arising or has some progressive working class content.


Saint Martin de Process

Saint Martin de Process
Anthony McIntyre
The Pensive Quill

This article was submitted to the Irish Times in response to an earlier opinion piece by Martin Mansergh. The Irish Times politely declined to publish on the grounds that Ed Moloney had already responded in a column to Mansergh.

Martin Mansergh is deeply committed to the peace process and has been for almost as long as anyone can remember. Not without justification he believes himself to have been one of the early architects responsible for the current edifice. He has battled tenaciously to navigate it to a safe port and away from the violent waves sometimes caused by peace process partners not entirely committed to peaceful means.

Martin Mansergh is without question someone who has made a considerable emotional investment in the peace process and is eager to defend it against all who might cause it some “inflight turbulence.”

Yet the peace process is not something that is restricted to the securing of peace. It is also a political project strategically utilised by Sinn Fein to fuel its expansionism across the island. It goes without saying that the peace process has not always been a peaceful process, as the Northern bank robbery revealed. The then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, when left with no option, openly accused members of the Sinn Fein leadership of having prior knowledge of that robbery. Prior to that, he had been given to claiming that when the IRA spoke it was worthy of belief. It was of course arrant nonsense but underscored the way in which the peace process at times has sought to stupefy the Irish public.

It is important therefore not to frame the peace process in a one dimensional optic, where it is only to be viewed as driven by the search for peace and nothing else; and where those with serious misgivings about the moral quagmire it spawns are smeared as enemies of the peace, their judgement to be scorned and their own contributions to peace undermined because they are not enamoured to the opacity or partisan instrumentality of the process.

It is axiomatic that the peace in the peace process be protected. But that is no reason to protect the political careers of its main beneficiaries. The process should be transparent and held up to public scrutiny at all times. The figures at its centre should not be shielded. Imagine the health of society had public scrutiny of Bertie Ahern’s financial affairs been shelved on the grounds that he was a central figure in the peace process.

The peace process has become one of the Big Brothers of the modern Irish era. No other project has demanded and received such intellectual acquiescence, nor breathed such censorious fumes throughout political discourse.

It is in such a context that we find Martin Mansergh, an academic, arguing that the peace process be protected from academic research and hurling disparagement upon those who unlock non peaceful secrets. The Boston College oral history project in this jaundiced view is simply without merit because people not acquiescent in the myths of the peace process are incapable of Mansergh’s much cherished deference of having “respect for your betters.”

While the Boston College project was never about holding Gerry Adams to account it was very much about bringing to the surface knowledge from the republican subterranean world. And when Mansergh refers to “Adams’s past IRA association” it would be remiss of any historian to bury references to Adams out of concern for the peace process. While some concession should be made to Diarmaid Ferriter’s assertion that history retrieval and current affairs are separate strains, neither must it be insisted upon that they are mutually irreconcilable. History is yesterday and yesterday is current affairs.

Martin Mansergh seeks to strip authenticity from the interviewees by labelling them as so embittered they would give testimony against Adams via oral history. Why is whistle blowing admirable for garda but bitterness for former members of the IRA? Does Mansergh think Gerry Adams should be protected in a way that Alan Shatter should not?

Mansergh is right in arguing that the Boston College oral archive was “commandeered by the PSNI.” Perhaps he should direct his ire its way given that it not the Boston College researchers who arrested Gerry Adams. And spare us the bull about the police only following the evidence.

In the week that sees the 40th anniversary of the Dublin Monaghan bombing there is no PSNI subpoena issued in pursuit of documentation within the bowels of the British state security apparatuses that would shed light on that horrific war crime.

Mansergh’s argument topples under the weight of its own inconsistency when he suggests that the Good Friday Agreement amounted to a de facto amnesty that should have precluded the arrest of Gerry Adams. He could have vociferously flagged up his amnesty claims when Gerry McGeough, Seamus Kearney and Bobby Rodgers were all convicted for offences supposedly amnestied. Forgetting Pastor Niemöller’s words he waited until the PSNI came for Gerry Adams.

Ultimately, what is going to protect intellectual investigation from Martin Mansergh and the peace process?

Why an amnesty is needed in the North

Why an amnesty is needed in the North
A weakness in the Haass agenda has been lack of engagement by the British and Irish governments
Adrian Guelke
Irish Times
Wed, May 28, 2014

As the results of European and local elections across these islands are absorbed, it might seem that at least in Northern Ireland little has changed since the last major test of opinion there, the Assembly elections in 2011. The reality is a bit more disturbing.

An unfortunate sequence of events has unfolded that has the potential to threaten the peace, including the failure of the Haass talks, histrionics from some senior members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Boston College archives affair that culminated in the arrest of Gerry Adams. These challenges have been compounded by some unhelpful and sensationalist commentary in the media, the determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland not to be out-victimed and a lack of understanding of how other societies that have needed to face up to dealing with the past after a long-running violent conflict have actually done so. These circumstances ensured that the atmosphere surrounding recent elections was different from that in 2011.

A weakness in the Haass process from the outset was the lack of engagement by the British and Irish governments. The relatively recent change in the political composition of both governments probably didn’t help insofar as neither government seems to have fully grasped how dependent political progress in Northern Ireland has been on conflict management from London and Dublin. The distance of the British government from the Haass process was reflected in the contradiction between its urging that the parties should accept the Haass proposals unequivocally, and being equivocal itself about who would meet the financial costs of the institutions Haass had proposed in a vain effort to satisfy all parties of the Executive on the subject of dealing with the past.

Misleading the public The impression created by coverage of the on-the-runs issue has been that members of the Provisional IRA have been able to escape justice because of a deal done under the last British government. In fact, the scheme put into effect by the government fell far short of an amnesty for the on-the-runs. The mistake in John Downey’s case that led to a judicial finding of abuse of process was the responsibility of those within the PSNI given responsibility for carrying out the checks on whether the names put to them were wanted in connection with any offence. It is outrageous that those who made these mistakes should seek to defend themselves by misleading the public as to the very limited nature of the scheme. It may be unusual to tell individuals who might consider themselves persons of interest whether they are wanted for questioning or not, but it is far from wrong in principle, particularly given its relevance to ensuring such individuals did not gravitate to the dissidents.

Martin Mansergh has already lucidly laid out the story of the Boston College tapes in these pages. Most of the blame in this affair lies with those who made it known that they had explosive secrets to divulge and yet imagined that this material could be kept confidential insofar as that suited them. At the same time, the British government should have considered how the interests of anyone legitimately seeking to establish an archive through the collection of oral testimony for the sake of posterity might have been protected. However, the police cannot be faulted for wanting to follow up leads laid by others.

The difficulties have enabled commentators in the North, especially ones with a visceral dislike of the DUP-Sinn Féin duopoly, to question the moral foundations of the political settlement itself. Paradoxically, the very success of the settlement in reducing the threat of renewed lethal political violence on a sustained basis has increased its vulnerability to high-minded criticism of this sort. At the same time, the argument that it is time to move on, rather than engage in endless recriminations about what happened during the Troubles, has gained little traction amid the lurid headlines about past atrocities.

In the case of the political parties, the wish to be seen to champion victims of past violence has trumped all other considerations. Alone of the political parties, NI21 has shown a willingness to speak sense on this subject and to give priority to the wider public interest in sustaining the peace for future generations. But the party’s lack of electoral success shows it has secured no reward for doing so. That strengthens the argument for action by the two governments as the parties in the North left to their own devices are unlikely to rise above partisan considerations, particularly given how the victims issue has played out in these elections, with headway made by the Traditional Unionist Voice and the Ulster Unionist Party through their exploitation of the on-the-runs and the abandoned plan for a peace centre at the Maze prison.

Truth and reconciliation In the context of dealing with the past, South Africa’s example tends to be invoked across the political spectrum, but with a cavalier disregard for what happened there.

The basis of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission lay in the agreement in the country’s transitional constitution: that “amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and offences associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past”.

Adopting the same principle in relation to the actions, omissions and offences of both the paramilitaries and the security forces in the course of the Troubles would serve Northern Ireland well. It is time for this nettle to be grasped by the two governments, before another crisis comes along with the potential to destabilise the political settlement that underpins the peace.

Adrian Guelke is visiting fellow at Queen’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice

Hunger strike episode important in explaining reaction to Boston College project

Hunger strike episode important in explaining reaction to Boston College project
The story is about who controls the narrative of the IRA’s part in over 30 years of violence in the North
Ed Moloney
Irish Times
Tue, May 20, 2014

In his seminal account of the 1981 IRA hunger strikes, Afterlives, Richard O’Rawe writes that when, in 1991, he canvassed the idea that he might go public with his story of what really happened during the protest, that someone close to the Sinn Féin leadership told him, “as a friend”, that if he did, he could be shot. He wrote: “While he never used the words ‘shot dead’, I nonetheless felt that that was implicit in his warning” (p66). And so, fearful of the consequences, he kept his mouth shut.

And he did, for over 10 years, until the Boston College project reached out to him and he agreed to be interviewed about his role as public relations officer for the IRA inmates during the protest. He found the interviews such a liberating experience that, against my advice that his safety could be at risk, he wrote Blanketmen, his first book about the prison protest. If I had had my way Richard O’Rawe’s story would have stayed secret until his death. But he was insistent it be told.

O’Rawe’s account of the hunger strike gave an entirely different account of events from the one peddled by the Sinn Féin leadership, which placed responsibility for all the deaths on Margaret Thatcher. In O’Rawe’s account the late prime minister was responsible for just four deaths, the republican leadership for six.

Essentially, O’Rawe’s story, which in subsequent years was substantially confirmed by contemporary British documents released in response to his books, went as follows. In July, 1981, after five months of protests and four deaths, the British offered to concede a majority of the hunger strikers’ demands. O’Rawe and his immediate superior, the IRA jail commander, Brendan McFarlane, recommended that the fast should end but they were overruled by Gerry Adams; the hunger strike continued and a further six prisoners went to lingering, painful deaths. (This has been denied by Brendan McFarlane and senior Sinn Féin figures such as Gerry Adams and the then Sinn Féin publicity chief Danny Morrison).


So what was the motive for overruling the prisoners’ leaders? One possible reason was that a continuation of the hunger strike helped ensure the success of Owen Carron in that August’s Westminster byelection in Fermanagh-South Tyrone caused by Bobby Sands’s death.

That was because preserving the hunger strike also kept in place a deal with the SDLP not to intervene electorally in the constituency, thereby avoiding a split in the nationalist vote to the unionists’ advantage. Carron’s win was entirely dependent on IRA prisoners still being on protest when polling happened. Had the prisoners accepted the British offer, the SDLP would have fielded a candidate and Carron would have lost.

Instead Carron’s victory paved the way for Sinn Féin’s electoral strategy and set in motion forces that, as I write, have placed Sinn Féin on the cusp of government on both sides of the Border.

That July 1981 episode thus assumes critical historical importance. Arguably it also explains why O’Rawe was warned to keep his mouth shut in 1991, why he was so badly abused when he did make his story public and why Sinn Féin, and those like Dr Martin Mansergh (“Adams episode sounds warning on peace process”, Irish Times, May 7th, 2014) who recycle Sinn Féin’s talking points, are so agitated about the Boston College project.

The truth is that without the Boston College project this crucial chapter in modern Irish history would have been buried – perhaps disappeared is a better word – and hidden from view at the point of a gun. The only account to survive would be the one that suits Sinn Féin best, the version that heaps all the blame on Thatcher and keeps the focus well and truly off the Sinn Féin leadership.

This story, and the Sinn Féin-led offensive against the Boston project, is about more than the character of the man who might be Ireland’s next tánaiste, although it is surely that as well. It is about who controls the narrative of the IRA’s part in over 30 years of violence in the North.

Just as Adams wishes the world to believe that he was never in the IRA, so he also wants those like Richard O’Rawe who dare challenge his control of that narrative, his version of events, to remain silent.

The current campaign of intimidation led by Sinn Féin against the Boston project is really aimed at anyone tempted to imitate our efforts by trying to explore the reality behind the propaganda.


Mansergh accuses the Boston project of hypocrisy when I wrote that it was carried out in a “professional and detached” way. But when Dr Anthony McIntyre approached Richard O’Rawe – and others – for an interview he carried a tape recorder in his hands, not a pistol behind his back. We sought accounts about life in the IRA in interviews freely given by former activists motivated only by a desire to tell the truth as they saw it. Our crime was to unearth some accounts that were inconveniently at odds with the version of history that Sinn Féin wishes the world to believe and we interviewed people such as Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price who would be central in any narrative about the IRA. Not to have interviewed such people would have been remiss beyond words.

The logic of Mansergh’s critique of the Boston project is unavoidable. Should anyone wish to imitate our project, the potential interviewees should be asked one of two questions: do they believe Gerry Adams was in the IRA? Or, do they give unequivocal support to the peace process?

If they answer “Yes” to the first, and “No” to the second, or even hesitate in their answer (after all, one can favour peace, but dislike the process), then they will be excluded from recording their memories since they are, in Mansergh’s view, likely to be motivated by malice towards Adams or the policies he has helped put in place. Only in such a way can subversive, anti-peace sentiment be prevented from contaminating historical research.

That is the history telling of totalitarianism.

Adams episode sounds warning on peace process

Adams episode sounds warning on peace process
Opinion: Agreement on outstanding Haass issues needed to reduce tensions
Martin Mansergh
Irish Times
Thu, May 8, 2014

Most people whose concern is that peace in Northern Ireland and the institutional arrangements that underpin it should endure will have been unsettled by events of the last week.

The arrest of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and his interrogation for four days at Antrim police station, not only about the murder of Jean McConville 42 years ago but about his whole life in the republican movement, have no precedent since the days of Parnell.

The murder and disappearance of Jean McConville, widowed mother of 10, a Protestant in a mixed marriage who sought refuge in west Belfast from loyalists, was, regardless of pretext, a cruel and heinous act. Proving responsibility is very difficult. Such deeds, many almost forgotten, have left grieving families suffering a life sentence. Dark forces were at work, sometimes including state elements; the one creating the most victims, even in its own community, was the Provisional IRA.

The Belfast Agreement was not just negotiated between opposing political parties. It involved the taming of dark forces, by persuading republicans and loyalists that there existed a balanced alternative democratic way that would allow the peaceful resolution of deep-seated differences peacefully in the shorter and longer term, while allowing people to get on with their lives in a more normal atmosphere.

Parties to the agreement were conscious of the situation of victims. Paragraph 2 states: “We must never forget those who have died or been injured and their families. But we can best honour them through a fresh start . . .” As Nancy Soderberg, president Clinton’s deputy national security adviser, argued in a powerful article in the Financial Times on Monday, the allegations against Adams should not be used to justify an intensification of “the righteousness of the victim”, further delaying the necessary compromises.

De facto amnesty

The agreement sought to draw a line under the past. Qualifying prisoners belonging to an organisation on ceasefire were released within two years, regardless of their convictions. It was a de facto amnesty, later extended privately to on the runs, where evidence was not sufficient. It was not envisaged that anyone would be charged with prior membership of a paramilitary organisation or a directing role in the absence of new activity or offence. As Nancy Soderberg notes, it is Adams’s past IRA association that enabled him to exercise the influence that brought about a ceasefire, and later disarmament and dissolution.

No one foresaw that internal opponents of the peace process would become so embittered as to testify against Adams, albeit as part of a research project under supposedly guaranteed lifetime confidentiality.

The Boston tapes project may have been modelled on the Bureau of Military History statements collected 50-60 years ago from survivors of the independence struggle, which only became generally available after everyone’s death. With a broad consensus behind the independence struggle, no one faced prosecution by the State for their part in it. Those collecting the statements acted impartially.

The Boston tapes in contrast have been a complete debacle, having been commandeered by the PSNI, prejudicing any future project. Apparently, with great foresight – or was it foreknowledge? – British law was changed 10 years ago to permit the admissibility of such statements, even where people were dead. Anthony McIntyre has engaged before, during and after the project, in repeated polemical attacks on the Sinn Féin leadership’s conduct of the peace process, suggesting a more immediate political, and not just a long-term scholarly, intention.

To give just one instance, in his collected articles Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism, he refers in April 2004 to “the nauseating spectacle of Sinn Féin at the Republican plot”. Ed Moloney in his foreword argues that the Adams-McGuinness leadership employed “ambiguity, deception, dishonesty, betrayal, duplicity etc”, calls their allies “a bunch of authoritarian Stalinist control freaks”, and expresses frustration that Adams and McGuinness have managed to escape “Houdini-like from the straitjacket of IRA violence”.

Are these examples of the spirit of “professionalism and detachment”, which, Moloney claims, informed conduct of the project? What possessed Paul Bew, now Lord Bew, distinguished historian, former unionist adviser, and present chairman of the British-Irish Association, to recommend people who were more crusading journalists than academics to manage it?

None of this is to say that all three were not appalled at the later turn of events. Moloney and McIntyre tried every legal avenue to stop the handing over of the tapes.

‘Public interest’

Boston College is right to question why the British government, with its huge investment in the peace process, allowed the PSNI to subpoena the tapes, when it has no difficulty “in the public interest” in preventing the law from taking its course in relation to following up evidence which implicates members of the security forces? Did the Irish Government express any reservations about it?

While tension has been somewhat relieved in the short term by Adams’s release without charge with a file going to the Public Prosecution Service, and by strong statements of continuing Sinn Féin support for the police despite destabilising doubts having been earlier expressed, this episode has given warning that relations within the Executive are brittle, and that tensions must be reduced by an agreement on outstanding issues covered in the Haass report.

American mediation to be successful requires the active input of the British and Irish governments. Recent statements suggest that they recognise the danger. The electoral fall-out from what has happened is quite uncertain.

Martin Mansergh is a former Northern Ireland adviser and politician

Chris Bray: BC, NBC, and the PSNI

The PSNI Arrives on Tuesday for a Monday Lunch
Chris Bray
Friday, May 30, 2014

They’re too late.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland recently announced that they intended to make a broader MLAT request for every interview from the Boston College oral history collection they first began to mine in 2011. But Boston College also announced that it intended to return interviews to the former members of Northern Ireland paramilitary organizations interviewed for the university’s Belfast Project. For a while, it appeared that the PSNI’s announcement trumped BC’s announcement: The news that more subpoenas were on the way would prevent the return of interviews.

For at least one Belfast Project interviewee, however, that’s not what happened. Whether or not the PSNI gets the U.S. Department of Justice to subpoena the Boston College archives again, some of the interviews are out of their hands forever. They have already gone home.

Take a look at this remarkable set of documents that was posted on Pacer, the federal court system’s document website, on Thursday:
NBC O’Rawe from PACER

Of particular interest are pages 3 and 4 of the PDF file, a May 1, 2014 letter from Jeffrey Swope, Boston College’s outside lawyer for matters involving the Belfast Project, to Kevin Winters, the Belfast-based solicitor who represents former IRA member and Belfast Project interviewee Richard O’Rawe. Swope details a long list of documents and audiotapes that he is returning to O’Rawe through the offices of KRW Law, Winters’ Belfast law firm. They are all of O’Rawe’s interviews — tapes and transcripts — except the ones that the PSNI already received on account of the 2011 subpoenas. Also returned: O’Rawe’s complete correspondence with the Belfast Project. There’s nothing left but the material that police already have.

I don’t know if material from other interviewees has already been sent back to them. Boston College and Jeffrey Swope have long since stopped responding to questions from me, and other people who would know about the return of interviews are either not responding to messages or not saying. (And I wouldn’t respond to the questions I’m asking them, either, if our positions were reversed.) But if Boston College began returning interviews, there’s no reason for them to have returned interviews to Richard O’Rawe but not to other interviewees, some of whom have been asking for the return of their interview material since shortly after the 2011 subpoenas arrived.

Bottom line: At least one interviewee has beat the PSNI to the archive, and maybe more. (Interviews that are unlikely to have been returned, and that are unlikely to ever be returned, are those for which Boston College has lost identifying material. So the PSNI may still be able to get its hands on interviews with unidentifiable research subjects, the legal value of which will be limited.)

Meanwhile, the political floor is beginning to give way beneath the PSNI’s effort to treat the Troubles as ordinary crime.

The likelihood of a successful PSNI / DOJ return to the Belfast Project archives is rapidly fading.

Rep. King: ‘I have every reason to believe Gerry Adams’

Rep. King: ‘I have every reason to believe Gerry Adams’
By Niall Stanage
The Hill
05/01/14 08:32 PM EDT

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) sprang to the defense of Irish politician Gerry Adams Thursday, as Adams was held in police custody in Northern Ireland in connection with a 1972 murder.

Since 1983, Adams has been the leader of Sinn Fein, a party that for many years served as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.). He is being questioned, but has not been charged, in relation to the killing of widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

Adams has strenuously denied any involvement in the murder — and King says he takes the Sinn Fein leader at his word.

“I have every reason based on his past record to believe Gerry Adams,” King told The Hill. “I have known him since the early ‘80s and he has never told me something that turned out to be untrue.”

King added that his faith in Adams was also rooted in observing the Irish Republican leader during the tortuous years of negotiation that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the accord responsible for largely ending three decades of violence.

“In my dealings with Bill Clinton, George Mitchell [the former Senate majority leader who chaired the peace negotiations] and even [former British prime minister] Tony Blair, they always said that the one guy who could be counted on to deliver what he said he could deliver was Adams,” King said. “He never lied to them, he never misled.”

Adams does, however, deny ever having been a member of the I.R.A., a claim that is viewed with deep skepticism across the political spectrum in Ireland.

The I.R.A. took McConville from her home in a staunchly Irish nationalist area of West Belfast in December 1972. The guerrilla group claimed that she was an informer for the British, though this has always been denied by her family. McConville was shot dead. Her body was buried in the Republic of Ireland and lay undiscovered until 2003.

The investigation into her killing has only picked up pace recently. The catalysts for that appear to have been allegations against Adams from two former comrades who later split with him, believing the political strategy he pursued was too accommodationist with the British.

Brendan Hughes, a onetime I.R.A. commander in Belfast, and Dolours Price, one of the organization’s most prominent women, alleged that Adams authorized McConville’s killing. Hughes died in February 2008 and Price died in January 2013. Allies of Adams contend that the two had axes to grind.

King is clearly on the pro-Adams side of that question, also suggesting the arrest had been timed to hinder Sinn Fein’s performance in local and European elections that will take place this month.

“This has been around for years, with these allegations. Why they [law enforcement in Northern Ireland] decided to push it now, at this stage, with elections a few weeks off…” King said.

Referring to Hughes by his commonly-used nickname, the New York congressman added, “As I understand it, these allegations are based off what Darkie Hughes and Dolours Price said… I’m not arguing [Adams’] case for him, but the fact is that these two people hated him because of his role in the peace process.”

Throughout his career, King has sometimes received criticism because of his sympathies for Irish republicanism. Back in 1982, King told a pro-I.R.A rally in Long Island, N.Y., that, “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.” His defenders say he played a helpful role during the crucial early stages of the Irish peace process.

The Hill contacted four lawmakers who have been known for their engagement in Irish issues, but King was the only one who agreed to speak about Adams directly. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) issued a statement noting that Adams had met with police voluntarily, adding that “I have also condemned the killing of Jean McConville in the strongest possible terms.”

A spokeswoman for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y) said he was unavailable. The office of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) did not respond to requests for comment.

Adams in DC: Confirmed, and Still Ignored

Adams in DC: Confirmed, and Still Ignored
Chris Bray
Friday, May 30, 2014

A news story on the website of RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, confirms that Gerry Adams discussed his arrest with American officials during his visit to Washington. While the PSNI pursues new subpoenas, the RTE headline tells the whole story: “Adams arrest discussed at Washington briefing.”

An email to Adams’ office this morning produced a list of officials who met with Adams: In addition to a sizable group of Congressmen — gendered term intended, because he somehow only met with men — Adams met with some moderately well-placed officials at the State Department. The White House took relatively little notice of the meeting, sticking Adams with an official from the Office of the Vice-President. Imagine flying four thousand miles and then finding yourself in a meeting with the vice-president’s staff.

In any event, yes: Gerry Adams was in a foot race with the PSNI, talking to U.S. government officials about his arrest and the foolishness of the police investigation at exactly the moment the police are trying to get new subpoenas of the Boston College archival material that they hope to use against him.

Besides RTE, which news organizations noticed the presence in the capital of a foreign official engaged in a lobbying effort against a criminal investigation that the United States is helping with? Take a look:

adams blackout

When I picture the American news media, I imagine a little ring of saliva around the spot on the desk where they put their heads during nap time.

Bias, Bona Fides, & the Boston Tapes: An Interview with Anthony McIntyre

Bias, Bona Fides, & the Boston Tapes: An Interview with Anthony McIntyre
Alfie Gallagher
Left From The West 
29 May 2014

This is the transcript of an interview I conducted with Anthony McIntyre via email. McIntyre is a former IRA volunteer and ex-prisoner. He spent 18 years in Long Kesh, including 4 years on the blanket and no-wash/no-work protests against criminal status for republican prisoners. These protests eventually led to the 1981 Hunger Strike.

Following his release from prison in the early 1990s, McIntyre completed a PhD at Queens University and went on to become a journalist and academic. He was employed by Boston College as a researcher for its Belfast Project, an oral history archive of the Troubles. For this project, he was involved in the interviewing of 26 republican activists who gave accounts of their political activism and/or paramilitary activities during the conflict.

Since the arrest of Gerry Adams a month ago, the Belfast Project has become international news. There has been extensive media coverage of how the PSNI gained access to a number of interviews from the archive following a lengthy legal battle and, based on the content of these interviews, arrested Gerry Adams and several other individuals in connection with the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.

I plan to conduct further interviews with Anthony at some point about the legal battle that was waged to stop the PSNI from gaining access to the archive and the threats that have been made against him and his interviewees since some of the interviews were handed over to the PSNI by US authorities. However, this particular interview explores the specific criticisms of the project that have been made since Gerry Adams’s arrest.

At this point, I should also declare a bias in this matter — Anthony is a friend of mine. However, to paraphrase the late historian J. M. Roberts, all writers have a bias, and so we should simply declare our own particular bias at the beginning of our work and try to keep it in check thereafter.


AG: Your involvement in the Belfast Project as a researcher and interviewer is well known. However, Sinn Féin and a number of journalists and writers have severely criticised this project. It is these criticisms that I would like to ask you about in this interview.

Firstly, it has been claimed that the project was essentially the brainchild of Paul Bew, the historian and academic who served as an adviser to former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble. Is that the case? Precisely what involvement did Paul Bew have in the project?

McIntyre: Paul Bew and Boston College staff discussed the possibility of the type of project that emerged. Paul then discussed it with Ed Moloney. Paul witnessed my contract with Ed being signed and thereafter had nothing to do with it.

I think the first time I spoke to Paul about it after that was at an event in England shortly after the issuing of the first subpoena. To borrow from the Gerry Adams lexicon, he played no hand, act or part in it. He never read a transcript and never heard a tape. You can ask him yourself for confirmation of that. Alternatively you can ask Professor Kevin O’Neill at Boston College who did read a small portion of the earlier transcripts.

The irony will hardly go unnoticed that at the time the project started Martin McGuinness was not a mere adviser to David Trimble but a ministerial colleague-cum-subordinate in the power-splitting executive.

AG: So the idea for the project was Paul Bew’s?

McIntyre: To a large extent I believe it was, although I do not want to go as far as to say exclusively his. Boston College were engaged in a dialogue with him about it. But he was there at the moment of creation, to borrow a phrase.

AG: Paul Bew was a visiting professor at Boston College in 1999-2000. Other than mooting the idea of an oral history archive of the Troubles to Boston College and recommending Ed Moloney to direct the project, you are saying that Paul Bew played no further role. Why then did he witness your contract with Boston College in February 2001?

McIntyre: Convenience and it involved no one who had not already been familiar with the concept.

AG: In your view then, having Paul Bew witness the contract helped maintain the security and confidentiality of the project?

McIntyre: It kept it inside the loop.

AG:  It has been alleged that Paul Bew’s involvement in the project is much more extensive that what you have outlined thus far. For instance, Paul Larkin, the journalist and author of the book A Very British Jihad: Collusion, Conspiracy and Cover-up in Northern Ireland, points out that in the preface to Ed Moloney’s Voices From The Grave, it states that Paul Bew “assisted in an assessment of the information contained in the recorded interviews” with two other historians who are not named.

That statement in the preface directly contradicts what both you and Ed have publicly claimed – namely, that apart from Judge William Young [the American judge who had to decide which interviews were relevant to the Jean McConville murder investigation] no one other than yourself and Moloney has read the entire archive of republican interviews.

What is your response to those allegations?

McIntyre: I have never read a full Paul Larkin piece on anything, bits here and there. It is rare in my experience to see him cited either in support of something or against something, so his work as far as I can make out tends not to be influential, and therefore I am not drawn to it. I think he is attempting to get by on the Steven Weinberg witticism: “All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically.”

While I have not read his book A Very British Jihad – I do have it at home – it seems to have been rubbished as the product of a fantasist. Read Adrian Guelke’s critique, for example. Guelke was one of the people who was a victim of this supposed jihad. I do know that when the Anne Cadwallader book on collusion came out last year, there was a reluctance on the part of some people promoting her book to have it compared with Paul Larkin’s – again the same type of grounds: they wanted to avoid a solid grounded piece of work being contaminated by stuff they considered fantasy. And when I heard he had invented something called the “Get Adams League”, I half thought we would see a new book called A Very Bewish Jihad.

Tom Hachey and Bob O’Neill wrote the preface and simply got it wrong. But this is a matter that is easily verified. Put it to Kevin O’Neill [the professor who assessed some of the earlier interview transcripts in January 2002], Tom Hachey or Bob O’Neill [the two academics who helped establish the Belfast Project] if they are willing to talk with you.

AG: OK. I will try to clarify this matter with one of the academics you’ve mentioned. To be fair to Paul Larkin though, would you not say that the point he’s making in this case is a reasonable one? Thomas Hachey and Robert O’Neill are the two Boston College academics who helped set up the project. Their assertions about the role of Paul Bew and other historians in assessing the contents of the archive are made in the preface to Ed Moloney’s book. As far as I know, Ed did not object to what they wrote.

Moreover, it is not exactly a simple misstatement; it is a very specific claim. I mean, why would Hachey and O’Neill say that Paul Bew and two other historians helped assess the archive if such an assessment did not in fact take place?

McIntyre: It would be more reasonable if it was true. It is reasonable for him to make use of what he finds in the record. It ceases to be reasonable once the record is proven to have been incorrect. As a matter of record it is inaccurate. Ed probably did not pay a great deal of attention to the detail of the preface. What relevance did it have then? I don’t recall it jumping out at me either. I don’t know why Hachey and O’Neill thought Bew had assessed the contents.

Interestingly, in his affidavit where he said Bew recommended the project, he [Hachey] made no mention of Bew having read any of the interviews:

Apart from the two interviewers, who saw only the transcripts of the individuals whom they themselves interviewed, the only other people who ever saw any of the material were Robert O’Neill, Ed Moloney, myself, and two academic specialists who were given some of the transcripts to review, but only with coded numbers (not names) attached to them, for the purpose of confirming for us what we believed to be the value of this unique collection.

I know some of the very early republican ones were read by Kevin O’Neill and I presume a sample of the loyalist ones by the other academic. The only report I have seen in respect of them was Kevin O’Neill’s. I presume if the other academic read the republican ones, there would be a report on his conclusions.


Note 1: I contacted both Kevin O’Neill and Thomas Hachey individually, and I asked them about Paul Bew’s alleged access to and assessment of the archive. Here are their respective responses to this question:

Kevin O’Neill: To the best of my knowledge, Paul Bew had no access whatsoever to the archive. I cannot explain the statement made in the preface, only Tom Hachey can do that. I only had access to two transcripts on one afternoon in January 2002. After that date, I had no access whatsoever. I do not know who the second historian who had access is.

Thomas Hachey: Anthony would be the most authoritative reference in this matter as he did all of the republican interviews and would know for certain who did and did not see the transcripts. … [I]f Anthony tells you Paul had no contact with the interviews, I would accept his statement. I cannot frankly remember who wrote what or why. Surely Bob and I must have had the clear sense, however misplaced it may have been, that Paul was working closely with the program when it began.

Robert O’Neill, the former director of Boston College’s Burns Library who helped set up the Belfast Project, is now retired, and I could not reach him for comment.


AG: Paul Larkin cites Kevin O’Neill several times in his critique of the Boston College project. Larkin refers a 2002 memo written by O’Neill to Thomas Hachey in which O’Neill gives the following assessment of your interviewing methods:

There is a serious problem with the interviewing technique. The interviewer frequently leads his subjects not only into areas of discussion [which he should], but also into modes of analysis [which he should try to avoid], and occasionally even conclusions [which he must avoid!]

Such leading of subjects would be thrown out in a court; they are equally damaging in the collection of oral history. They leave the future reader unsure whether he/she is looking at attitudes and linguistic formations of the subjects, or of the interviewer. As there is only one interviewer this provides the possibility of a large scale “corruption” of this “data”.

Larkin contends that O’Neill’s memo demonstrates “the poor standard and slanted nature” of your research. What’s your view? Does this memo discredit your work?

McIntyre: I don’t believe it does discredit my research, but I am not the best person to ask. Kevin O’Neill would be better. I would venture the opinion that my own research survives better the criticism levelled by Kevin O’Neill than Paul Larkin’s research has managed to survive the criticism of Adrian Guelke.

I would sincerely hope my research would be thrown out in court for the very reason that it was never gathered for court.

Oral history can be conducted in a variety of ways. There is no one-size-fits-all template. It is more an art than a science. Much is anchored in the “attached” process of rapport and trust that is absent from the “detached” sterile laboratory technique. And I think this is what Kevin O’Neill meant by corruption of data; that in such circumstances it might be infused (some might say infected) with different degrees of empathy. While I am absolutely certain he did not mean that I as an interviewer was corrupt, it is something you should put to him.

The best safeguard to be employed in this form of knowledge production is that ultimately when the final product becomes available the listener/reader should be able to access not only the answers (perhaps a problem in the Ernie O’Malley oral history of the Tan and Civil Wars in the Kerry region), but also the questions and then arrive at their own conclusions as to the extent to which the product is moulded or coloured by the input of the interviewer.

Leading questions as such are not the problem, misleading questions are. In my own view, a question has to lead somewhere; otherwise there is little point in asking it. Were my questions misleading? No.

If we look at the leading questions examples provided by Kevin O’Neill in their entirety I think the whole issue of some sort of Machiavellian manoeuvre to mislead or bamboozle the interviewees falls flat on its face:

Q: In my view it was very very naïve …

Q: Is it true to say, as many writers and academics claim, that was one of the significant turning points ….[Falls Curfew]

Q: I think that what you are trying to do is argue…

Q: Even in the most functional terms, was it a sledgehammer to crack a nut?

Q: They seemed to be… incestuous…

Q: Most volunteers that stayed the course seemed to have that as an objective, I know I did…

Were I to carry out the interviews again would I drop any of those questions in the light of what Kevin O’Neill has said? No. I respect his judgement but I do not feel bound by it.

AG: But then there is also the question of balance – or lack thereof. The Belfast Project was initially mooted to Boston College by Paul Bew, who recommended Ed Moloney to direct it. Moloney in turn recommended you to interview republicans for the archive. Now, all three of you have publicly criticised Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams in the past. For instance, in a TV3 documentary last year, you referred to Gerry Adams as “the biggest demon you know”.

So isn’t it reasonable for Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin leaders like Mary Lou McDonald to claim that the project was inherently biased? I mean, Kevin O’Neill raised concerns about this in his 2002 memo when he asked, “What discussion has taken place to insure access to Republicans still active in the mainstream?”

McIntyre: I will give you one example of the inherent bias of Mary Lou McDonald. She welcomed the arrest of Ivor Bell on the presumed basis of the Boston College tapes and criticised the arrest of Gerry Adams – who she also claims was never in the IRA – on the presumed basis of the Boston College tapes.

I think there is a lot of pro-Sinn Féin perspective out in the public discourse. I believe one task of academia is to bring out a wider range of perspectives than that which merely parrots the line. Long ago I acquired the view that a history becomes dominant in part to the extent it has managed to suppress alternative histories. My work was about bringing raw material out of the ground. How it might be processed by other historians was another matter entirely. They have to bring their own perspective and filtering methods to bear and, as part of that, would be free to weigh up how far – if at all – I as an interviewer might have shaped the responses of the interviewees. The tapestry of history is a mosaic of many different shades. The Belfast project did not set out to establish a new tapestry but to insert another tile in the multicoloured mosaic.

Was it inherently biased? What demonstrable untruths did it produce? There would be a serious problem for the project were its authors to claim it was the definitive account of republican history. But no such claim has been made. Does the project add to our knowledge of republicanism or detract from that knowledge? I think the answer is pretty clear. What is the more fraudulent history of the IRA – one with Gerry Adams at its core or one with him always having been outside the IRA?

I was willing to record any narrative that was on offer. But a project that wanted to balance the figures had to be a management area of responsibility. Boston College had the ability to employ a researcher that could easily have recorded all those voices that would have testified to, say, Gerry Adams being a man with an exclusively peaceful past. There was no discussion that I recall about the need to widen out the range of interviewees. BC never once raised an objection. Even Kevin O’Neill’s memo – the first time I got sight of it was this year.

The voices of the people I interviewed are not in the slightest way stripped of authenticity because many of them did not believe the Sinn Féin narrative. The logic of the SF argument is that only the official line on anything is the authentic one because critics of the official line are not to be trusted. This sort of puts Sinn Féin in an awkward situation when it asks to be believed in its criticism of the official government line.

Is the recently published work of Ernie O’Malley’s oral histories of Galway and Kerry republicanism during the Tan and Civil Wars discredited because a majority of people he spoke to were of the anti-Treaty persuasion? The Free Staters sought to discredit him and the Wee Staters in Sinn Féin do the same today. Both sets of Staters rest in the Treaty tradition and republicans opposed to them sit in the anti-Treaty tradition. Narratives should be drawn from both but that does not mean that the researcher doing the drawing must be the same person. Different people can draw out different things which can then be aggregated, filtered, tested by others once the coalface researchers have left the stage. Whoever finds the authorised biography persuasive? This is why there is a glaring need for the unauthorised ones.

I think the power of the Boston College oral history can be found for example in the destruction of the Morrison fiction around the 1981 hunger strike. Who believes Morrison today when he claims he did not take an offer into the prison on 5 July 1981? The same sort people who believe Gerry Adams was never in the IRA.


Note 2: I asked Kevin O’Neill about the memo he sent to Thomas Hachey in early 2002. O’Neill disputes Paul Larkin’s interpretation of it, claiming that the memo “has been taken out of context by most who have referred to it.”

O’Neill maintains that he was asked to examine a small sample of the archive in order to “assess its importance as an historical archive” and “to insure that the archive being created would be broadly representative of those involved in the Republican Movement.” That is why he says his critique focused on the interviewer’s own perspective and technique. O’Neill states that he was not told who the interviewer was or who the interviewees were.

With regard to the question of bias or “corruption”, O’Neill makes the following observation:

There is obviously an important difference between “the possibility of a large scale ‘corruption'” and a “flawed and corrupted interview process” [Paul Larkin’s description]. I was expressing a concern that the interviewer’s POV might impose too much of his/her perspective; I was not making a judgement that this was so. Obviously I would have needed to see much more of the archive to reach such a judgement. I would also need to listen to the tapes (I only read transcripts) to understand the nuance of the questions and the atmosphere of the interviews.

O’Neill also points out that he stated in the memo that “the files contain very important information” about the Troubles and that “what is already collected forms the foundation of a significant historical archive.” However, he argues that Anthony McIntyre’s own statements about the people he interviewed suggest that the archive has “an over-representation of anti-agreement voices”:

From what I have seen, Anthony McIntyre did a very good job of interviewing his subjects. However, my concern that his POV might prevent him from including a representative sample of pro-agreement voices seems, sadly, to be born out. In defence of McIntyre – and one I could not make in 2002 because I did not know who was doing the interviewing – Whatever ‘fault’ there is to this bias in the project rests not with him, or Ed Moloney (whose views were well known), but to those at Boston College who hired them to do this job.

In a follow-up email, I asked Kevin O’Neill if his criticism of the project was not the involvement of Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney per se, but that Boston College did not seek to balance the project. I suggested that one way for the college to have done so would be to have commissioned a different researcher to interview more pro-Sinn Féin republicans. O’Neill agreed with my interpretation:

At the time I wrote the memo, I didn’t know who was doing the interviewing, so I couldn’t exactly say that. But that is exactly the spirit of what I was saying.

O’Neill says that he was also raised the question of whether anyone involved in the project was trained as an oral historian – someone who would have the expertise to determine what confidentiality guarantees actually existed and “who would have been hypersensitive to the way promises were made to the interviewees.”


AG: Danny Morrison would probably respond that the interviews you conducted are totally discredited because the history department at Boston College has now distanced itself from the Belfast Project. Indeed, Peter Weiler, Professor Emeritus and Chair of the college’s history department until 2003, states that the project “tarnished the reputation” of the department. He suggests that the project lacked professionalism and academic rigour:

The project didn’t observe normal academic procedures into projects of oral history. Questions asked were often very leading, and there was no attempt at balance.

When Boston College historians themselves disown and condemn the Belfast project, doesn’t that discredit your research?

McIntyre: As we say here, ten out of every 9 people asked claim they don’t believe Danny Morrison about anything. I saw him trying to spoof and spin his way out of the damning O’Rawe narrative in the Irish Times a day or two back. We joke that his novel The Wrong Man is semi-autobiographical because he never gets anything right.

If the spin put on that statement by the history Chairs and former Chairs was allowed to go unchallenged, it could damage the credibility in the way that any smears or untruths could do.

The “Chairs” have a point insofar as they had no involvement or association with the project. I think they are criticising the BC people who were in charge for the way it was organised. That is where I think their criticism that the reputation of the department has been damaged is directed.

Tom Hachey has offered the following reason as to why the Chairs were not involved:

Given how the desire for confidentiality among the Belfast Project participants was so very strong from the outset, the prevailing wisdom at the time dictated keeping the details as secretive as possible … With the optic of hindsight, however, I do regret that we did not include a few colleague specialists from both Boston College and elsewhere in reviewing the project, despite the potential security risk in any wider exposure of the project.

At another level, they are criticising me for the leading questions. But other than what Kevin O’Neill flagged up as leading questions, they have shown nothing else.

Where does responsibility for balance lie? During the interview process? Or at management level, whose task it would be to decide what they wanted from the project and then organise it accordingly? They never once complained to me that I was not interviewing enough pro-SF people. Had they done so, I would have readily explained why that was. Then they could have brought in another interviewer who would have had easier access to that type of interviewee.

AG: Your critics would say you should never have been involved in the Belfast Project at all because of your trenchant criticisms of Sinn Féin and the peace process. For instance, Paul Larkin suggests that Paul Bew was “reckless” for not informing Boston College about your “dissident republican” views. Larkin argues that since Bew was your PhD supervisor at Queens University, he would have known about your hostility to Sinn Féin:

McIntyre has not had a connection with the “Provisional Republican Movement” for the best part of two decades and was already questioning Sinn Féin’s peace strategy before he left the movement in 1998. … Nor does Bew point out that he was McIntyre’s adviser for his PHD, and that it was an anti-peace process tract from a dissident republican ethos.

So are you a dissident republican and — as Martin McGuinness has described you— an enemy of the peace process?

I know you have publicly opposed continued armed struggle since at least 2000, but could you explain how and when you arrived at this view? How is it possible to oppose both armed struggle and the peace process?

McIntyre: “Enemy of the peace process”? It is just the North Korean moment again – heretic, witch, infidel, malcontent, apostate, renegade, rejectionist, ad infinitum.

Basically Paul Larkin’s argument comes dangerously close to this: only those who support the peace process have a right to carry out research into the history of republicanism. In other words it would be fine for Jim Gibney to carry out that sort of work but not myself. I do not object to Gibney carrying out research work. But given, for example, that he criticised Brian Rowan for claiming the IRA robbed the Northern Bank in 2004, how valuable a method of truth retrieval would it be?

I hope that despite my own perspective that I have retrieved not only truth but also perceptions which always include biases and colouration. Is Paul Larkin now telling us that because of his own hostility to the British state that he should not be allowed to research it?

In terms of importance, many cite Richard O’Rawe’s two works Blanketmen and Afterlives but who cites the British Jihad work? O’Rawe’s work had its origins in the Boston College project. It has shredded the Morrison account and as many historians and journalists will now state, it has radically altered the way in which the management of the hunger strike is viewed. Are we seriously to believe that I “led” Richard O’Rawe to the conclusions that he came to?

I fail to see how Bew was reckless. I don’t know what he told BC about my perspective, but I discussed my perspective on republicanism with Bob O’Neill and Tom Hachey anytime we met up during the course of conversation over drinks. Moreover, it is not as if I was hiding my views: I had been very vocal about them in all sections of the media. Tom Hachey later wrote something glowing for my book when it was published.

My perspective on Sinn Féin was so clear that a blind man on a galloping horse could see it. While the project had ended by that point, you would imagine Tom would have said, “We have been sold a pup here – this guy we had working on our archive holds views we knew nothing about.”

I did question Sinn Féin’s peace strategy, but not because it was peaceful. Many of my criticisms of the peace strategy were that it was not peaceful. It was at times a very violent strategy. When the IRA assassinated Joe O’Connor, I opposed Sinn Féin’s peace strategy because it covered up a shoot-to-kill policy, something Sinn Féin had been shouting about for years in respect of the British. When I peacefully opposed the violence that was running in tandem with Sinn Féin’s peace strategy, Sinn Féin responded with intimidation. When I stated in an article in the Irish News that never again should republicanism use violence in pursuit of its goals, a current senior Sinn Féin figure wearing his IRA hat came to my house trying to intimidate me and my wife.

As for my PhD being “an anti-peace process tract” from a dissident perspective, that is something Paul Larkin simply made up. Delusional stuff that seems to be predicated on the fantasy that the peace process was being promoted by Gerry Adams in the years 1969-73 and that I attacked it in my PhD. My thesis only covered those four years. It was not about the peace process! In my view, it was a straightforward account of the emergence of the Provisional Movement during its formative years. It stressed that rather than republican ideology driving the insurrection it was the bad policies of the British government. Danny Morrison, whatever criticisms I have of him today, was pretty generous with his time back then when I interviewed him for my work. Martin McGuinness was also interviewed for it. Were they too part of the PhD Jihad I was waging against the peace process? Fantasy stuff, I am afraid.

There is no one Damascus moment when I turned away from armed struggle. And I guess I would have to go back and look at what I was saying over time. I have noticed in the past that when have read back through stuff I actually discover I had ideas on things that from today’s position I would have attributed to a later date. I know that somewhere towards the end of my PhD I cited Nicos Poulantzas where he had said the problem with political violence is that once you start, you never quite know when to stop. What I can say is that by the time of the GFA [Good Friday Agreement] in ’98, I had no objection to the peace whatsoever. The IRA under the direction of the peace processors had carried out a war up until a matter of months earlier.

Any lingering theoretical affinity that I may have had towards the republican physical force tradition died forever with the Omagh bombing. I felt then that the tradition of physical force had no place; that no armed campaign should ever be waged on traditional grounds. I am not a pacifist, but the use of military force in any circumstance must always be a last resort – never a first one. The physical force tradition defers to the perspective that it is any Irish person’s right to anywhere any time use political violence. I have long been totally at odds with that view. Yet the Provisional Movement – of which Sinn Féin was an integral part – carried on killing people long after the GFA.

So that is how we can oppose the peace process but not the peace. The peace process was not a peaceful process. The NIO [Northern Ireland Office], London and Dublin all to varying degrees were prepared to turn a blind eye to the Provisional Movement ‘peacefully killing’ people in the manner of Auden’s ‘necessary murder’. I opposed it. And Paul Larkin’s point is?

I find it strange that Larkin seeks to savage Paul Bew because of Bew’s Workers Party past. This, Larkin contends, makes Bew totally unreliable to ever have had any association whatsoever with the Boston College project given the Workers Party’s antipathy towards Sinn Féin. Paul Larkin made a very critical documentary back in the 1990s about the Workers Party. Now given his seemingly avid support for Sinn Féin – which long despised the Workers Party – does this invalidate his documentary? By the very standard he applies to others, how can such a rapid detractor of everyone at odds with Sinn Féin make a documentary about those he is in vehement opposition to? If he was, in 1991, the enthusiastic supporter of Sinn Féin that he is today, did he reveal this in the documentary? Perhaps he did not support Sinn Féin then and might contend that he therefore had no axe to grind. But that would make him a Johnny-come-lately displaying all the enthusiasm of the convert, which brings a problem of a different category to his current critique. Because what we tend to notice is that the Johnnies seem to be the most vociferous critics of Sinn Féin’s detractors: empty vessels making a lot of noise.

I don’t know Paul Larkin’s political past other than that – to the best of my knowledge – he was once associated with Red Action. But I think a certain guilt factor at never having been part of an anti-repression struggle when participation was costly, does tend to drive the Johnnies into launching Jihads against the perceived apostates. I can’t say that with any degree of certainty of Paul Larkin. I simply do not know. But first impressions – which are not always reliable – suggest the appearance of a Jihad Johnny out to smite down heretics and unbelievers not sharing his fantasies. There is an uncanny resemblance with religious type zealotry. Perhaps if I was to look at his background I might discover a flirtation with Jesus! And that would go some way towards explaining something about the type of mindset on display. But I don’t know.

AG: OK, Anthony. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. If possible, I plan to explore in later interviews the legal battle that you are fighting to prevent PSNI access to the archive as well as the threats that you and the interviewees face since the seizure of some of the interviews.

For now though, I would like to conclude by asking you about the recent announcement by the PSNI that it wants to seize the archive in its entirety. Did this come as a surprise to you? In your view, what are the implications, both for the security situation in Ireland and for source protection rights in general?

McIntyre: It did not come as a surprise. I predicted this would happen:

Boston College is now engaged in a PR exercise: a symbolic public washing of the hands. Had it been concerned with respecting what is an endangered archive it would have made its right of return offer to each of the interviewees privately. By going public on its position it is merely signalling to the British police that if they do not move quickly enough with a further round of subpoenas, they might lose the opportunity to once again plunder the college’s so called confidential research. The college knows the British could raid again. Jack Dunn admitted as much on BBC Spotlight this week.

Boston College is in possession of an endangered archive. It knows that PSNI is engaged in political policing and a fishing expedition. Yet it continues to hold onto an archive that it could easily dispose of. it knows that by holding onto it the archive is likely to be used against its own research participants. Why would any university be engaged in such an egregious holding exercise?

The chill effect is considerable. Source protection has been delivered a crushing blow. The PSNI held Gerry Adams four days trying to pin an IRA membership rap on him. That seems incredible and saturated with malign political intent. Having failed to make any progress are they hoping to access more material that they think might give them grounds to arrest him again and to keep arresting him and possibly other Sinn Féin leaders?

Perhaps chilling autonomous research over which it had no control formed a strand in the motivation for going after these type of archives to begin with. The British state responsible for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for participating in torture on an international scale as has been ably demonstrated by Ian Cobain in his book Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, is sending out a clear signal to anyone thinking of making records that it will hunt them down and invade the depositories, universities or or anywhere else that might hold such archives. It is declaring war on history retrieval and is in effect saying that law enforcement is the only body that can legitimately carry out any serious investigation into past actions and that the results of their findings will remain free from subpoena or public scrutiny no matter how many grievous actions on the part of state security agencies are contained within them.

This is why the Stevens Report has been for the most part suppressed, the full documentation on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings is withheld from the government in Dublin, the evidence of Special Branch involvement in the killing of Pat Finucane remains under cover, why there have been no prosecutions of those British security service personnel who had a direct input into agents like Freddie Scappattici and Mark Haddock, why any inquiry into the British Army massacre of numerous Ballymurphy civilians has been denied.

Adams in Washington DC: Blackout

Chris Bray
29 May 2014

Gerry Adams is in Washington, D.C. today, “briefing senior political figures and the Obama administration on the current difficulties within the peace process.” He is, in other words, lobbying one of the governments that’s supposedly trying to put him in prison. Taking the mutual legal assistance treaty process and the PSNI investigation at face value, Adams is trying to talk a murder investigation off the rails — to use politics against the police. Of course, taking that investigation at face value is…problematic, and the more likely reality is that an Irish politician is employing diplomacy this morning against a nasty piece of British politics.

Still, the drama in the moment is extraordinary: The same month he walked away from four days of police interrogation over a murder, a prominent politician is in the country where the supposed evidence against him was found, publicly announcing his intent to meet with officials in the government that helped to get him arrested. It’s as if a murder suspect in New York City walked out of the interrogation room, smiled, buttoned up the cuffs of his shirt, and sauntered over to City Hall to have coffee with the mayor, patting a detective on the head as he left the precinct.

But then here’s the fucking incredible part: The American news media isn’t covering the visit at all. As I write this on Thursday morning, Adams has been in the country for about 24 hours, and no American news source that I can find has even mentioned his presence. He got to D.C. last night: nothing. Silence. Try your own search terms, but here are the results of a Google News search for “Gerry Adams Washington DC,” narrowed to the last 24 hours:

no gerry

Why is this not news? Adams is here to kill the PSNI’s new request for subpoenas, full stop. He’s here to prevent the complete disclosure of an entire archive full of detailed and extensive interviews about paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The stakes are plainly very high, for both Adams and Northern Ireland as a whole, and Adams will be urging the U.S. government to take a step that will put it sharply at odds with one of its closest allies. It’s a dramatic narrative and an important piece of policy news at the same time, crossing multiple beats: diplomacy, law enforcement, Irish politics, the state of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Reporters, who is Gerry Adams meeting with? Does he have a meeting at the Department of Justice?

How is it that this aggressive piece of high stakes diplomacy is drawing no attention at all?