Marian Finucane Show: Boston College Tapes
RTÉ Radio 1
3 May 2014
Former Provisional IRA member and historian Anthony McIntyre talks about his involvement with the Boston College tapes project.
Marian Finucane (MF) interviews Boston College tapes researcher Anthony McIntyre (AM)
(begins time stamp 2:55)
MF: And I want to bring you back if I may for a moment to the year 2000, just two years after the peace process which ended as you know three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
Anthony McIntyre, an independent historian, was having dinner at Deanes Restaurant with an Irish journalist and a librarian from Boston College. The journalist, Ed Moloney, was a friend who had recommended Anthony McIntyre for a project. But the librarian, Robert O’Neill, was a stranger.
And Mr. McIntyre needed to know what sort of promises… this is all about the Boston College story and the Boston College tapes and how they came about and what’s in them and why it has led to where we are now.
So anyway, Anthony McIntyre wanted to know what sort of promises he and Boston College were willing to make. The IRA was an unforgiving organisation and although the fighting was over informers or “touts”, as the IRA call them, were not looked upon kindly. You just didn’t go around talking about what you had done in the dark years.
Yet the idea was undeniably appealing.
To record the stories of the men and women who had put their lives on the line for the cause of independence – some of whom had committed horrific acts of violence in the process.
That was something that no one had done. And the three men at the table understood the insights that could be gained.
Mr. McIntyre perhaps most of all. He was a former IRA man; had spent nearly seventeen years in prison for killing a Loyalist paramilitary soldier.
That of course was why Ed Moloney wanted him for the job because he would be trusted by his fellow fighters. Well, Anthony, Mr. McIntyre, is with us in studio this morning. Good Morning and you’re welcome to the programme.
AM: Good Morning.
MF: I presume you’re not in a happy place at the moment.
AM: Oh, definitely not.
I’m very disappointed at the outcome. I have been severely disappointed since the process of the British state trying to seize the archive began back in 2011.
MF: When you were in that restaurant, the three of you, going through it and you met the librarian and you knew Ed Moloney and he knew you and you had a doctorate in History and then you also had your background so to speak with IRA so your credentials…What was going through your mind at that time?
AM: Well, the main thing was that I was obviously interested in the project.
It offered a possibility to mine an area not previously mined. It was an area rich in knowledge.
But I was, as was Ed Moloney, because Ed Moloney had a history of fighting against the police. He had just successfully won a case in court about source protection. He was very sensitive to the need to protect sources.
So it was about confidentiality.
And I was very concerned that if the project was to take place that the guarantees would be in place. And that was one of the planks, central planks, of the discussion that I had with Dr. Bob O’Neill.
MF: Right. And were you convinced at the end of that that you had a cast iron guarantee?
AM: Not at the end of that meeting with Bob O’Neill. No. And that is the reason that the project did not go ahead.
Because Bob O’Neill had told both myself and Ed Moloney that he was not certain that the type of confidentiality on offer could withstand an American court order. But that there were no circumstances under which he would accept into his library any interviews or any material that would have the potential for “legal repercussions” was his phrase, legal repercussions for the interviewees.
So the project was then taken up at that stage. Ed Moloney was involved in future discussions with them and then came back and he had told me that the green light had been given for the project and that Boston College were now saying that they could stand over it legally.
So myself and Ed then helped draw up a donor contract which would explain that this…
MF: …The donor now – your interviewees.
AM: Yes, the donor. Yes, that’s correct.
The donor contract that we proposed – Ed Moloney was insistent that it be put passed university counsel – because it was tight, iron clad, water tight as far as we were concerned. And for that reason we wanted to be sure that Boston College approved it and put it, run it passed their legal counsel.
They told us that they would. And then they came back and they gave the green light. And the project took place after that.
The Loyalist leader met with the Boston College and the Loyalist body of the UVF actually met as a corporate body because they approved the project in a way that the Provisional IRA had not.
And they were given the same guarantees and told that there were no circumstances under which the PSNI could even peek at the material never mind a court order.
MF: So, ’cause let us remind people again: the idea was that you would do interviews with former IRA people and that somebody else would do interviews with former Loyalist people and that they would not see the light of day so to speak until after these people had died.
AM: That’s true. Although when we talk about the guarantees being given until after the people died that did not mean that the material would be released upon death or made public upon death. It was to reassure the interviewees that it would never be released prior to their death and that they alone had ultimate control over the release.
MF: Right. I gather there was one person who said that wanted it not to be published until thirty years after his death.
AM: There was one person who had been interviewed by me who in his donor form insisted that his interviews were not to be published until thirty years after the death of himself or his partner. Whoever died last from thirty years from that point and then it was free to release the interviews.
And Boston College seemed to have lost the contract as they have lost some contracts.
MF: How did you go about it?
AM: Well, I had to build trust and confidence and I went to – I had talked to people whom I knew and I explained to them what I was doing, what I intended to do.
MF: Were you nervous?
AM: I was. I was nervous because I was very fearful for their safety.
I wasn’t nervous from the point of view of the police. Once I got the material out of the country and off to America I could relax. I was nervous about the possible police stumbling across it while I may have had it. One doesn’t know what happens in these circumstances – you just get stopped and searched.
And I would always hold it very tightly. If I went for a drink with people in a bar afterward as often happened I would hold it to my chest. If I went to the bathroom I would never leave it sitting in the chair. I would never say to an interviewee: you hold onto it while I go to the toilet. I just would not take that chance. So I guarded it tightly.
What I was more nervous about was the Provisional IRA coming to learn about it and any threat that might emanate from that. Because I mean Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA were very dangerous organisations.
I had my home picketed in 2000 by Sinn Féin and the IRA. They surrounded my home and handed out abuse to my pregnant wife. I was not there at the time.
Not because I was speaking out against the process. But because I was speaking out about the murder process that the IRA in West Belfast was involved in at that time.
They had just shot a man dead on the street on a Friday afternoon; a man by the name of Joe O’Connor. Mr. Adams, who was MP for the constituency disputed that the IRA had did it and Sinn Féin had disputed the IRA had did it and the IRA released a statement denying responsibility.
So I had these mobs around my home. I had the Provisional IRA leadership, its General Headquarters Staff, visiting me at home. And when I say “visit” I don’t say in the social sense, come on in and have a cup of tea – it was a very threatening, menacing visit designed to intimidate me.
So I knew exactly the nature of the people that were out there and what could happen.
MF: So if you approached somebody, I mean we could even take Mr. Hughes because obviously he’s dead and he features in Ed’s book and featured in the documentary.
How did you know they wouldn’t automatically go and tell the authorities, or the so-called authorities within the IRA, because as I understand it it’s a very, very, very tight family…I mean, omerta and all that.
AM: That’s true, Marian.
This is one of the reasons that limited the pool of people I that could talk. I did talk to people who were pro-Sinn Féin and pro-peace process; a small minority of them.
But I knew that the people who I was talking to – on most occasions I had a previous experience with them – strong affinity. Brendan Hughes, for example, I had come through prison with. I first met Brendan Hughes in 1974. So there had to be an element of trust and I had to be sure that these people, even if they were sympathetic to Sinn Féin, I felt that I had to know them well enough to gain their trust that whatever they said would not be divulged prior to their given approval.
MF: Did anybody turn you down?
AM: Yes, there were people who turned me down. I explained to people and to this day they have never acknowledge that they turned me down. They’ve kept it tight and I respect their doing that. But there were people who declined to become involved in the project, yes.
MF: Because they didn’t approve of the project or because they were frightened?
AM: I think it was a mixture of the old Irish psyche of: whatever you say say
They didn’t make it clear that they disapproved of the project. But in all cases I don’t recall accurately the reasons that anybody…nobody was hostile. And nobody that I approached ever went, to the best of my knowledge, and told the IRA.
But I do know that on one occasion Brendan Hughes approached a person, a friend of his and asked him would he be available for interview. And I had sharp words with Brendan over it because I said to Brendan: Brendan, never do that please of your own volition. Always leave this to me. This could be heavily compromised if you make approaches on my behalf that I did not ask you to make.
Brendan was fine with that because Brendan was a very humble and quite able to take criticism and also quite willing to give it to me. So that was the sort of security aspect we had developed in that sort of culture.
MF: So you would do the interview. And I gather you spent like a lot of time with them going over the ground. And then you would do what with the material?
AM: Before I would discuss anything with the interviewees on tape I asked them what they wanted to talk about.
And I asked them were there areas where they didn’t want to go.
And in the case of Dolours Price for example, which I can say because we had to explain this in affidavits, I said to Dolours what sort of things would you like to talk about and she had mentioned the “disappearances” and the Jean McConville case.
And I had to explain to Dolours that I was, as an historian, this was serious, serious research which I would love to get but I felt obligated to warn her as a friend that living in southern society, not in The North, that if she were to divulge to me anything in relation to Mrs. McConville on tape that her children could possibly carry the mark of Cain in a society that disapproved of this type of activity in a way the Northern society, the Nationalist community in The North, was not so severe on.
MF: Were people not shocked? A widow? Ten children? A Protestant well, but I know that she had converted at Divis. I mean, a very vulnerable person, really. And their family were destroyed.
AM: Yes, Marian, there’s no getting away from this. It was a war crime. It was a terrible, terrible act.
But the sad reality is that Jean McConville was buried in secret twice. The first time at that beach in Co. Louth and the second time in West Belfast – because so few people turned out for the poor woman’s funeral.
And I think one of the columnists made this point that the tragedy of Jean McConville is that this woman, this victim of a war crime, was buried in secret twice.
MF: She was left down everybody. She was left down by the Protestant community. She was left down by the Loyalist community. She was left down by the Nationalist community, the Republican community, the British Army and the RUC. I mean, that woman had nobody on her side.
Anyway, I presume that’s what’s being discussed in Antrim as we speak.
So you said to Dolours that because she was in The South and because of the reaction in The South to Jean McConville’s death and “disappearing” that it would be bad for her children.
AM: I told her to think about it.
The historian in me, the selfish side of me said: I hope she decides to give me this. The ethical side of me said: I had to warn her. When she came back and told me that she had re-thought it and she would therefore prefer to say nothing about “the disappeared” or Jean McConville, the historian in me felt disappointed. The friend in me felt that I had done the right thing.
MF: Yeah because you were very close to her. She’s Godmother to your own son, I understand.
AM: She is Godmother to my son, yes.
MF: She did further interviews though didn’t she, after that where it is alleged she went through the details of what she had done and what her role in it was. Do you think it was playing on her conscience?
AM: I think that Dolours was seriously traumatised by her role in the abduction and “disappearing” of people.
At low times I had noticed that she had stood over it publicly. In private I also had conversations with Dolours about this and I felt that she was of the view that terrible things happen in war. And she was deeply traumatised and saddened.
And also hurt by the fact that the people who she claimed ordered her to carry out these activities had effectively abandoned her and abandoned the IRA and were in her view denying their own role and distancing themselves from the IRA.
And she like other IRA Volunteers felt that the onus for the war, responsibility and culpability for the IRA’s war was being placed on people like her and people like Brendan Hughes and that the architects behind the war, the architects behind the policy of “disappearing” people were absolving themselves of all culpability and she felt this was an abdication of responsibility.
MF: Well, she and you and…not all of your interviewees were opposed to the peace process, isn’t that right?
AM: That’s correct. Not all of them were.
Two at least were very strong supporters of Sinn Féin. Others were not hostile to Sinn Féin. I didn’t just interview people who…when this ultimately does come out I think society may be surprised about the nature of the people that I did interview.
I did not interview people because they might be hostile to Gerry Adams.
I interviewed people for their ability to enhance knowledge and to bring more knowledge of Republicanism into the public domain. And this on occasion meant that I had to interview people who might have had no connection with the IRA or the INLA but who may have had valuable knowledge and I thought that knowledge was essential to obtain.
And would have no bearing whatsoever on Mr. Adams.
MF: I want to go on more about yourself but if you take that there was a referendum North and South, if you take the kind of support there was for the peace process, if you take where Mr. Adams brought people – you cannot count the number of people that weren’t killed – but – the youngsters growing up in Northern Ireland now have a completely different life.
I mean, was he not a man of extraordinary leadership to bring so many people – who in a previous existence might have been opposed to the system that we have now – to bring them with him?
AM: I think Mr. Adams is very strong. Even though he’s an autocrat with great authoritarian tendencies I think that he has remarkable leadership skills.
The problem for Mr. Adams I think is that he has tended to present himself as a leader in the mould of Nelson Mandela and other people’s testimonies tend to present him as a leader in the mould of Augusto Pinochet and I think that that causes a serious problem.
But he was definitely a leader that had great powers of persuasion. Now he was ably assisted in the peace process by the British because the British at all times sought to bring the IRA to its feet. And the peace process ultimately was about the emasculation and defeat of the Provisional IRA – which it did achieve.
I once asked a senior British figure, I once accused a senior British figure at a conference in England of having shafted Republicanism. And he came up to me after and he was laughing and he said: We didn’t shaft Republicanism. Republicans shafted Republicanism.
And I think that’s right.
MF: You see, many an Irish citizen would regard themselves as Republican. Now, not the kind of Republican that’s associated with violence but that they believe in the principles of a republic and that there’s a kind of a hijacking of that concept…anyway I don’t want to get into those things…
But if you take the comparison with Nelson Mandela – I mean Nelson Mandela was up front about the fact that he had been involved in violence and he did again lead people who were angry and down trodden and dealing with dreadful injustice and he brought them with him in a peaceful fashion.
Do you think the problem is that… because you see Nelson Mandela said he did it…do you think the problem is that Gerry Adams denies that he was in the IRA?
And a lot of people don’t really fully go along….it doesn’t get credibility and that maybe that’s why people are so hostile to him in some ways though so he’s the most popular leader in the country at the moment.
Do you think the problem is that Gerry Adams denies being in the IRA?
AM: I don’t know. I do believe he was in the IRA.
I do not know of one historian or journalist who would be able to stand up, come into your video studio and tell you that they believe he wasn’t. I have seen no academic or historian…I mean I think the cult of personality has become so strong that the only people who now believe that Mr. Adams was not in the IRA are some of those people who were in the IRA with him.
MF: What you mean?
AM: Self delusion. Self denial. That they have come to embrace the lie.
Sinn Féin often criticised me for being opposed to the peace process. My reason for being opposed to the peace process is that I am very strongly for the peace. But I think the peace process is a hybrid construction whereby the process has always been strategically used to undermine the peace.
I see the peace process in many ways as a purge process. It’s based disassembly, duplicity, deception and it has tried to purge honestly and accuracy and truth out of intellectual life.
Therefore anybody that criticises is immediately an enemy or some rabid dissident Republican that wants to run up with a dagger in his mouth and a hand grenade in one hand and an Armalite in the other ready to attack Omagh.
This is rubbish! Complete and utter nonsense and I refuse to acquiesce in the peace process for those reasons.
MF: But if you take a peace process anywhere. If you take what they’re trying to do in the Middle East, if you take any resolution, doesn’t there absolutely have to be compromise and fudge?
And if you’re going to have to live with people in the same space that have completely different perspectives on life people have to give a bit.
AM: Absolutely! And the fudge and compromise that you talk about is the remit of the politicians and the waffle merchants.
I do not think it is the remit of the journalist and I do not think it is the remit of the historian. I do not think that is their task. I do not think that an historian should ever get into this concept that Professor John Brewer has advocated in The North: peace journalism.
Peace journalism really means, in my view and I’m not attributing this motive to John Brewer, but peace journalism as distinct from conflict journalism, means (I’ll give an equivalent) today we will only report every plane that landed safely at Dublin Airport. Any that crashed we don’t want to talk about. That’s not what the job of the researcher, historian or journalist is. It has to be reported accurately.
So when the politicians fudge and when the politicians create these legal fictions the task of the journalist or the public intellectual is to comment accurately on it and not facilitate it and not compromise with the fudge.
They’re two separate areas and I’m glad that there are because we need pluralism and a diversity of discourses within society.
MF: You started your path to being an academic while you were in prison. How did you get involved with the IRA in the beginning?
AM: I got involved with the IRA basically…I mean, I was sixteen when I joined the IRA.
So people at sixteen don’t have a great deal of empathy with their opponents. People at sixteen don’t have a great deal of political understanding.
There’s no one motive but I would say that the main motive was the British Army militarisation of our ghettos in which we lived. The brutality, the killings, the sectarianism that I experienced as a young child.
I would say that the thing that hauled me into the ranks of the IRA was what the British Army were doing.
I mean for a young person growing up in a city like Belfast I mean I would look at this situation and I would say that if tomorrow morning the British Army marched down O’Connell Street to a protest and slaughtered – via or through means of a war crime – fourteen innocent, unarmed civilians – the slaughter of an unarmed civilian population. I would be asking: Why are the people of Dublin not going out and shooting these people? Why are they not shooting the British Army?
That was our image in Belfast.
We seen these as foreigners. We seen these people coming in torturing, mass internment, massive injustice. And we fought them.
MF: And for what did you get your term in prison?
AM: I got my term in prison for the killing of a Loyalist, a member of the UVF. I was sentenced to life in prison and I served seventeen years.
MF: And how do you review that now?
AM: Well, I mean I’ve never made a political apology for it because it was a conflict that I was involved in, a political conflict. And I think that if people like me start to politically apologise for being involved in the IRA’s war then if we apologise alone we are blamed alone.
I deeply regret the loss of life – any loss of life I have been involved in. And as I grow older I contemplate on the terrible experiences of the families that I may have left bereaved. Because it’s okay for me to say that I was convicted of the killing of a member of the UVF. But as a member of the IRA I must share collective responsibility for the actions of the IRA.
I was in an organisation that carried out actions even if I did not. So there’s a corporate collective responsibility. There is a shared culpability.
And I am responsible for the actions of the IRA and I cannot absolve myself of responsibility for that. So as an organisation…I had been a member of an organisation that violated many rights and left many, many families bereaved and I don’t feel that I have any right to walk away from it.
MF: Well, accept responsibility, yes – I’m just wondering late at night do you ever think about them?
AM: No. I’m not going to pretend that I do. It has never kept me awake at night.
It hasn’t happened. I mean I have thought – and certainly not what I was convicted for – that may not sound good that I haven’t lost sleep over it – but it is how I feel.
Yes, there have been times when people have been killed by the IRA or by the British or Loyalists and I have stayed awake thinking about the horror of what has happened and I suppose like the way we grieve…I mean…everybody has the same right to life but everybody dies. We don’t go to their funeral. It’s not possible.
We have in-built psychological mechanisms that will affect us in such a way that we grieve for those who were closest to us. So I tend to grieve for people like Bobby Sands and others who died and that kept me awake at night. Whereas when British soldiers were killed I didn’t think of them at all.
But there have been deaths of soldiers and RUC people that made me think long and hard and that caused me a certain measure of distress when I had seen their children.
I mean one can never forget the killing in Lurgan in 1987 on the orders of the IRA leadership that of the two RUC officers who were shot dead on a street in Lurgan and seeing their children cry at the funerals. I think that has a very lasting effect.
And I don’t think that we have faced up to our responsibility when we condemn the people who carry out these actions today.
Because in my mind there’s no difference between the policemen who died in Lurgan and Ronan Kerr who died in Omagh.
The difference is a matter of dates.
So as Republicans in the Provisional IRA our fingerprints, our intellectual fingerprints all over the Ronan Kerr killing and the Omagh bomb and every activity that dissident Republicans carried out because they descended from us, they descended from our ideology.
They descended from the ideology of Martin McGuinness who said: this war will never, never, never end until the British go. They descended from the discourse of Gerry Adams who said…
MF: …Yeah, but they have moved.
AM: Yes, they do not accept the intellectual impact that they influenced the type of thinking that has produced the Republican armed activity of today.
When Mr. Adams said in 1986: if at any time Sinn Féin disown the armed struggle it will not have me as a member. Now that was a clear motivation, a clear call for people to carry on and to carry on armed struggle.
So what happens today is we have a lot of people feel cheated rather the defeated. Is the IRA campaign of the day right? No, it’s not. But we also need to consider how justified our own campaign was.
MF: Well was it all just a waste of life?
AM: Sadly, in my view, yes.
I do not think the result of the IRA’s campaign was worth the lives that were lost and I think we need to look back to 1974, and I think this is why Mr. McGuinness pretends he left the IRA in 1974, because he cannot justify the IRA campaign that he directed after 1974 because the solution that was on offer there, Sunningdale, is the solution that we’ve got today with a few add-ons.
The add-ons don’t make up the deficit in life.
MF: So you say it was indeed all was a waste of life.
And yet those who disagreed with you all down the years were dismissed when they said “this is waste of life” – whether it’s a Protestant, a Catholic, a Jew, a dissenter, a British soldier, a member of the police force – that they are all human lives that were wasted.
AM: We were totally hostile to those people who criticised us.
We criticised the SDLP and the Fianna Fáil for being traitors when they were merely saying what Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams are saying today.
We were totalitarian. We were intolerant. And I think it’s a nasty, vicious strain within Republicanism and I in my own way have sought to combat it for many, many years.
I’m not coming into this studio as an angel. I mean people may well depict me as the devil – and that’s a matter for them.
MF: Say with the rest of the people – because I don’t think that the names of anybody else that you did the interviews with are known yet.
AM: Well, there’s some names known. The one I can state is, for example, Richard O’Rawe.
MF: Oh yes.
AM: Richard O’Rawe who you interviewed at one time.
MF: Yes. Yes, I did.
AM: (Richard O’Rawe)…was called all sorts of liars. At that time Richard O’Rawe did not reveal to you that he was a Boston College interviewee he merely spoke about his book.
But that’s the type of knowledge that Boston College was revealing. Not the fact that Mr. Adams was running about organising bombing campaigns or “disappearing” people to the extent that that is true or not true. It was about knowledge – crucial knowledge.
And Richard O’Rawe has completely shaped the discourse and reshaped our understanding of that 1981 hunger strike. For that reason he’s hated, too. He’s hated in the same way that we used to hate Fianna Fáil and the SDLP for criticising us.
Sinn Féin don’t do dissent very well.
MF: It’s interesting what you say in terms that they don’t do dissent. That’s why it is to outsiders like me amazing that you persuaded people to do the interviews in the first place.
AM: Well, not everybody is…in any organisation you will always get people who dissent, no matter how harsh.
Even in Nazi Germany, and there’s no comparison between Sinn Féin and the Nazi Party, but within the Germany society there were people who quite courageously dissented.
And the task of the historian trying to produce more knowledge or one of the tasks of the historian trying to produce more knowledge is to talk to those voices who give you something other than an answering machine.
Now I have been seriously criticised by Sinn Féin today because I carried out academic research which took me to the dark side of Sinn Féin.
MF: And what happens now? When did it first dawn on you all the deals done with Boston College weren’t strong enough?
I mean one of the things was – as I was reading through the various papers on it – that one of the contracts talked about protection “to the extent that American law allows”.
AM: That’s very true.
MF: It seems to me to be a crucial part of that contract.
AM: This was a contract signed by Ed Moloney and everything is permissible to the extent any law allows and had that not have been there we could not have proceeded.
Because Boston College stated very clearly in Ed Moloney’s contract that I would be given a donor consent form to be handed out to each interviewee stating “to the extent American law allows”. So any contract that they gave me had to be predicated on the extent to which American law allows.
Otherwise they were obliged to tell me and I was obliged to tell the interviewees and write it into the interviews not about about what American law allowed but what American law prohibited.
Had that line been in Ed Moloney’s statement had been: to the extent that American law allows and anything else or is prohibited by American law – it would have been a very different matter.
Myself and Ed Moloney would not have got involved.
But Boston College in the post-contract assurances were absolutely certain – absolutely adamant – that American law did allow this.
I think the whole wording of the contract shows you know – had they not had said that this is permissible to the extent that the American law allows…. Why would we have done it? It was madness!
MF: So you thought that you had it in cast iron. And just again to remind to our listeners:
The idea was that your interviews would go in there. The Loyalist interviews would go in there – sealed -not available -only perhaps available to academics in the short term or whatever.
And then it transpired that there was a treaty of sorts between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
AM: The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty which we refer to as MLAT for short.
MF: Say it again?
AM: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. M-L-A-T. Its just referred to colloquially as MLAT.
MF: And then how did it all happen that they knew that you had done did the tapes even…Oh well, yeah, carry on, yeah?
AM: Boston College I discovered two days ago on radio knew about the existence of MLAT. They did not tell me. They did not tell Ed Moloney.
Their defence is that although they knew they did not anticipate anything happening or the British authorities seeking this material.
One of the interviewees, Brendan Hughes, was adamant that he wanted his interviews released while he was alive. I had to persuade him this couldn’t be a runner because it would have jeopardised the whole project. And Brendan agreed but he agreed after I’d given him an undertaking that if he ever died – because Brendan suffered from ill health – physical ill health – that if he ever died, I used to joke with him about it – we used to joke – Brendan would say:
Look, if you don’t put this out big Gerry Adams will be at my funeral carrying me up the Falls Road and pretending that I loved him and that I was a great supporter of his peace process, whispered in his ear that I agreed with everything he had ever done. And it was joking and it was facetious.
But he insisted that his material be put out.
When he died a member of his family approached me and asked me had I had material because Brendan had said that he had left tapes and the member of the family suspected that I or Ed Moloney had them.
I told him that I couldn’t discuss these matters. He told me that he had some material that he may want to release himself and I had sort of advised him that it may be a bad move to make – in that it may only create a partial account of Brendan’s life.
So then Boston College were asking of Ed Moloney that something be published as they wanted a flagship for their work. And they, true to form because of their long history with the peace process, decided that they wanted something that would not just be about Brendan Hughes but which would bring the two….
AM: …now I don’t want to talk about sides while leaving out the British side…bring the two sides in Northern Ireland together in a book.
So they concentrated on two former leaders that they had in the archive, Brendan Hughes and David Ervine.
So Ed wrote the book and then Boston College accused him of writing it for profit and that he was the only one who made any money out of it. And he ignored everything.
And Ed, strangely enough, was not going to release the details because he thought he was doing wrong by maybe sinking these people at Boston College. And I told him there were no circumstances in which he could not release the detail.
But the detail that he did release was that the royalties were shared fifty percent with Ed Moloney and twenty-five percent each to the personal accounts of Boston College staff.
And these two clowns wrote the forward for the book. So Boston College, despite pretending that the book shocked them, simply were being disingenuous.
They wrote the forward for the book – these two professors – how did they not know it was coming out? And at that time they gave no advice that this could lead to a court order.
So if Boston College thought there was any possibility of a court order being issued why didn’t they say it then? That was the time to flag it up. They didn’t flag it up. And nobody else seemed to flag it up.
There was a former member of the RUC pressing at that time for the materials to be used but even at that we weren’t that concerned because we did not think the guarantee was in anything other than cast iron.
MF: And then the business about Dolours Price and the fact that she had given another interview, maybe two, and that she had implicated, it is alleged, Mr. Adams – that’s what brings us all to where we are here today.
Can I ask you a question: When you did the interviews – as you say you hung onto them and didn’t let them out of your sight – What did you do with them then? Did you do transcript? Did you send…
AM: The interviews were transcribed.
MF: In Ireland?
AM: In Ireland. Transcribed.
The reason that they had to be transcribed in Ireland was if we left them to somebody in America the cadence, the inflections would not be picked up. I check every one so that I could pick up on what the transcriber did not pick up on. And then I would index them and I would send them off to Boston College.
And we had an arrangement with Boston College every week that they were picked up from a safe house. They were never picked up from my house. They were picked up from a safe house. They went to Boston. There was a back-up tape sent although the back-up tape was not sent the same day in case the plane went down…I mean, we were allowing for these possibilities.
Then I would encrypt it and send it off to Ed Moloney so that Ed Moloney would then come back and he might be critical, he might say: you didn’t emphasise this or you’ve asked a leading question. And on occasion Ed did criticised me for asking leading questions and he said look, don’t be asking leading questions. And others had felt I asked leading questions although in relations to things like when I would say: surely the Falls curfew lead to people joining the IRA.
But I mean my own view of an interview is: there’s no purpose in asking a question that doesn’t lead to something. Why bother?
MF: Were there copies made?
AM: There were no copies made for me to keep. I didn’t want them about me. I wanted to get rid of them and I sent them away. So I made sure that I didn’t keep any copies.
On occasion people who asked to read through them, their own interviews, we did provide copies for them but we told them once we provided them copies they had to be ultra-cautious with them and we advised them to destroy them. But this was in a few cases.
MF: Now, during the whole hoo-haa and your battle with Boston College, yourself and Ed Moloney, one of the suggestions that Ed made was that Boston College should burn the rest of them or destroy the rest of them. And there was another suggestion that they should go back to you because you’d go to gaol rather than hand them over.
AM: This is true. This was in the early stages of the battle before we got Eamonn Dornan to represent us. We ceased to trust Boston College at that point and totally trust broke down. We’ve got an absolutely brilliant lawyer in Eamonn Dornan who fought this case tooth and nail with the aid of Jim Cotter, a Boston lawyer.
And prior to that Ed had suggested in an off-the-cuff remark: yeah they should be burnt. Even though it was off-the-cuff I agreed with it. I think that the first obligation of a researcher when they engage in confidential interviews is to protect the research participant from the effects of any harm that may accrue.
MF: At the end of it all one can see how invaluable it would be to get insights into all of the areas covered. What do you regret about the whole thing most?
AM: I regret getting involved with Boston College.
I think that this type of history gathering is essential otherwise a large swathe of the historical narrative will have disappeared and will be lost to us forever. But I deeply regret getting involved in a college that was not prepared to be honest from the outset.
I don’t think it meant any harm or bad intent. I think it wanted to get this information and it didn’t do its homework. And I regret getting involved in it because I don’t believe it put up the fight that it could have put up.
MF: Do you regret being involved in the IRA?
AM: No. I don’t because I’ve met too many good people in the IRA. I cannot regret ever meeting people like Bobby Sands, Brendan Hughes, Dolours Price…
MF: …And about Dolours Price: I mean, you gave her the advice, she would appear subsequently, did interviews, it was suggested that she was very bothered by the whole thing.
In a way, now I know what you say about fudge and peace and truth and all that, there is a quality of life for youngsters in Northern Ireland now that wasn’t available when you were a youngster; they’re getting on with their lives and they’ve got a possibility of getting there.
If, if by any chance the Dolours Price thing managed to do damage to that peace process and unpick it would you regret that?
AM: I would regret it.
But at the same time I don’t think that it’s the job of the academic to calculate in terms of their research what impact it will have on the peace process or Mr. Adams’ career. I think that ne’er the twain shall meet.
That academics and researchers have to try and do their job.
But I think at all times that if Dolours Price was to advocate return to armed campaigning I feel I’d have an ethical obligation to strongly oppose it.
Yes, we do have peace. Yes, it’s better than it was. But as we’ve seen by the arrest of Mr. Adams the day after the British government slapped down a demand for an inquiry into the mass murder in Ballymurphy in 1971.
We see that we still have political policing. We have internment. We have MI5 involvement.
I mean, the society up there…it’s not a settled society. It may be a peaceful society but not a society at peace with itself.
We have power splitting not power sharing. There’s no generosity.
MF: Can I ask you a very, very quick question because I have to move on: If you’re subpoenaed should any case arise – somebody else has been arrested – Mr. Adams is arrested and so forth…should there be a court case and you’re subpoenaed – Will you attend?
AM: If I’m forced to attend I will. I will certainly not say anything.
This is one horse that the British may be able to lead to water but they’re not going to make it drink from its corrupt pool.
MF: Okay. Anthony McIntyre, thank you very much indeed for talking to us.
AM: Thank you, indeed.
(ends time stamp 51:00)