This morning Sinn Fein released a statement in which its leader, Gerry Adams, slammed both Boston College’s Belfast Project and two of the researchers, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney. This afternoon Anthony McIntyre delivered his response to the Sinn Fein statement.
May 6, 2014
Mr Adams complains that he was offered no opportunity to respond to claims made in the Boston College oral history project.
Mr Adams has time out of number availed of the opportunity to assert that he had no hand, act or part in the abduction and killing of Jean McConville and that he played no hand, act or part in the IRA.
The courtesy of responding to accusations was something never granted to Jean McConville. Mr Adams has had many opportunities that she was denied and will always be denied.
His seeming objection that only a minority of the interviewees was sympathetic to his parliamentary career and political project is valid. Yet it does not invalidate the value of the exercise. Boston judge, William Young who read all the republican interviews, described the project as a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit.
One purpose of an oral history project is to capture a number of narratives that would otherwise be unobtainable. That they might not conform to Mr Adams’ worldview is not a consideration for the historian. Mr Adams’ concern is that there are republican narratives which depict him as a Pinochet rather than a Mandela and for that reason he would rather see them smothered.
Truth recovery is a complex and difficult procedure as was demonstrated during Mr Adams’ evidence in a recent Belfast rape trial. There is no one size fits all template for the procedure. The Boston College project is one among a number of methods that can legitimately be employed. Mr Adams is absolutely free to record his history of a life outside of the IRA. On many occasions he has.
Boston College’s decision to offer to return the interviews to the people who donated them is something the institution could and should have done when urged by myself and Ed Moloney to take action of this type or something similar once it was clear that the college was in possession of an endangered archive. Instead Boston College denied the right of return for material not subject to subpoena. Its wilful refusal to take such measures led to a number of interviews subsequently being handed over to the British police by the college in the wake of a second subpoena.
The decision to ask for their material to be returned is solely a matter for the interviewees.
The one point of agreement between myself and Mr Adams is that the British state is not in the slightest interested in dealing honestly with the past.
Unfortunately, neither is Mr Adams.