Boston Tapes Lead Researcher Comments On Winston Rea Case

Boston Tapes Lead Researcher Comments On Winston Rea Case
Jason Murdock
Off The Record
27 February, 2015

The PSNI has been granted access to the recordings of former loyalist prisoner Winston Rea, however due to an appeal from Rea’s lawyers to the Supreme Court, the tapes from the Boston College archive will remain secret pending further legal proceedings.

UTV News report thatthe tapes will remain in secure storage at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast until Rea’s final legal options are exhausted. PSNI detectives had been in court ready to take possession of them in the same bag in which they were brought back from the United States. Rea was among dozens of loyalists and republicans who provided testimonies to Boston College researchers compiling an oral history of the Northern Ireland conflict

I contacted the former Lead Researcher of the Boston College’s ‘Belfast Project’, Anthony McIntyre, who alongside journalist and Project Director Ed Moloney, set out to compile an oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The project featured oral testimonies from both loyalists and republicans with the assurance that the recordings would not be released until the subject had passed away. Mr Moloney previously wrote about his time with the project on Off the Record here.

Mr McIntyre told me the judicial decision was “no surprise”.

“Again it shows the extent to which the PSNI is a player in thwarting truth recovery by its manipulation of the legal process to restrict the emergence of truth by hounding those who might come forward with it. I would describe the PSNI stance as one of prosecuting truth rather than procuring truth. Where it does seek to procure truth it does so in a very limited and partisan fashion, concentrating on non-state actors and shielding state actors.”

When asked about what is likely to happen next Mr McIntyre said that “the ball is out of our court”.

“If the cops decide to charge Winkie Rea or even arrest him to balance up the political stunt they pulled with Adams, it will add to what is already a diminution in confidence in policing and justice within loyalism.

I think the role of Relatives For Justice in seeking to attach itself to the PSNI attempts to secure the Rea interviews will enhance the feeling within loyalism that the legacy issue is very much a political football used for recrimination rather than reconciliation.

These are all destabilising particles being sprayed over the political atmosphere which serve only to pollute rather than purify.

How they settle or what they form into is beyond my predictive powers. There is nothing to suggest they will reach a point of critical mass but they help maintain the simmer for no societal advantage that I can see. But the penumbra that emits from them more resembles crisis building measures than Confidence Building Measures.”

Speaking at the hearing on Friday, Lord Justice Coghlin affirmed that the tapes will remain secret until Mr Rea’s legal options run out, saying “there will be an order that the materials are not disclosed to the PSNI, and be kept where they are at the minute in a secure place in this building.”

What is the Boston College Belfast Project?

The project, launched in 2001, set out to record the oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It featured testimonies from both loyalist and republican paramilitaries about their roles during this dark time in Northern Ireland’s history. The initial deal was that these testimonies were to be kept secret until those involved had passed away. After the death of former IRA commander Brendan Hughes the content of his recordings came to light via books and documentaries. They implicated Gerry Adams in events including the death of ‘the disappeared’ Jean McConville. The PSNI engaged in a long court battle to gain access to the recordings and this eventually led to the arrest of Mr Adams just before the 2014 local and European elections. The Sinn Féin President was released without charge.