The whereabouts of the Boston College tapes is now uncertain, News Letter queries have concluded.
In our interviews with people or organisations who were involved with the so-called Belfast Project, or have since become involved in trying to get access to the material, we have encountered a reluctance to reveal any information as to the latest status of the tapes.
Boston College says the project was “designed to capture the oral histories of individuals who had been directly involved in the Troubles to provide a resource for future generations of journalists, historians and scholars”.
But the tapes ran into difficulty in 2010 after a book was published by Ed Moloney based on two of the interviews, including one by Brendan Hughes, and after a press interview was given by Dolours Price. Hughes and Price both made allegations about the circumstances of the abduction and murder of the Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.
The following year the PSNI requested the interviews with Hughes and Price. A later request was made by the PSNI for all republican interviews relating to the McConville killing.
The latter request was initially upheld by a US federal court, and Boston College was ordered to hand over 85 interview segments with seven IRA interviewees to the Department of Justice. In a notable victory for the college, this was cut on appeal to 11 segments.
This meant that the great bulk of the 26 interviews with republicans under the project were not ordered to be handed over to the PSNI. Nor were the 14 interviews with loyalists, conducted by Wilson McArthur, handed over. The 11 segments were handed over to the Department of Justice in September 2013.
The PSNI has since sought all the material. When we asked the PSNI for the latest on this request, they repeated the line that they have given for several months: “Detectives in serious crime branch have initiated steps to obtain all the material from Boston College as part of the Belfast Project. This is in line with PSNI’s statutory duty to investigate fully all matters of serious crime, including murder.”
The college said in May this year that it had received no such request from the Department of Justice and it had offered to return the tapes to interviewees.
When we asked them for the latest position they gave us information including a timeline that said that transfer of the segments in September 2013 followed the end of the legal process.
They reiterated that they had made the following offer to interviewees: “Upon completion of the legal proceedings, Boston College offered to return the tapes to individuals involved.”
The US Justice Department declined to divulge details: “The request was made through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), and the Department of Justice considers all MLAT requests in light of the terms of the treaty and applicable US legal standards. As a matter of policy, we generally do not comment on specific requests.”
In our interview yesterday with Professor Kevin O’Neill, a Boston College historian who was not involved in the project and critical of its handling, he said of the interviews’ current whereabouts: “I don’t really know, I mean, I know that the university announced that it would return all the files to interviewees who requested them, but as I’m not informed about anything I don’t know.”
However, Anthony McIntyre, whose interview with the News Letter about the saga can be seen in the link below, said of the tapes: “I know what the position is but it is fraught with dangers.
News Letter Special on BOSTON TAPES: Victims speak on saga
Ben Lowry News Letter
IRA victims including members of Jean McConville’s family have spoken about the Boston College tapes saga.
The News Letter has been running a series of articles about the so-called Belfast Project, which interviewed republican and loyalist paramilitaries.
The project ran into crisis when it became known that some IRA interviewees had made allegations about the 1972 murder of the Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville.
Helen McKendry, fourth child of McConville, who was out at the shop when her mother was abducted from her flat, said of the tapes: “Anyone who had a family member murdered has a right to know what happened.
“The PSNI have had the tapes for a while. We thought they were going to make proper arrests and bring people to trial.
“Ivor Bell was arrested for aiding and abetting.”
Helen, 57, who is estranged from her siblings, said: “Dolours Price blew the project when she went to the press and Ed Moloney when he wrote the first book.” She added: “Police have the 11 tapes that mentioned my mother but we won’t get to hear what’s on the tapes unless there is a court case, which is what we want. That is why I am taking civil action against Gerry Adams.”
Her brother Michael McConville, now aged 53, was in the flat aged 11 when his mother was seized.
“I remember that night quite well,” he told the News Letter.
Mr McConville rejected the suggestion by Anthony McIntyre, who interviewed the republicans, that the PSNI had approached the family after the existence of the tapes became public knowledge in 2010.
“We wanted a meeting with police,” he said. “It happened about six months after [news of the tapes]. We wanted to know why they never lifted [Price]. They said waiting on other inquiries coming in.”
But Mr McConville declined to be drawn on the Boston College saga overall. “I have a lot of thoughts on the tapes but I don’t want to talk because of the court proceedings.”
Two victims of IRA atrocities gave us their perspective on the tapes.
Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta was killed in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb, said: “I understand some terrorists have some expectation their interview would not get released until they die. Even if I wasn’t a victim I would want truth to out and justice to prevail.
“If people have confessed to horrendous crimes in an interview and think that they did so in a safe environment that turns out not to be safe for them, that should be their problem, not mine.
“If there are tapes there, I would like them to be in the hands of people who could make use of them, the criminal justice system.
“If some of the interviewees are feeling stress, and having to look over their shoulder because of what they have admitted to, well at least that is some consequence for their actions.
“If the tapes were destroyed, it would be a lost opportunity for justice.”
Alan McBride, whose wife and father-in-law died in the 1993 Shankill blast, said: “Working with victims you have to feel for them. If there is anything that can help them in their search for truth and justice, that information should be made available.
“That said, if I was wearing my peace-building hat, I do see there is some merit in society for story telling projects to find out why things happened, what was going on in people’s heads when they did the things that they did.
“People will not come forward and tell those stories if they thing they are going to be liable for prosecution.
“So it seems that I am saying two different things and in a sense I am. We need to find a way to get to the truth of what happened.”
News Letter Special on BOSTON TAPES: College says no-one can question project intention
Ben Lowry News Letter
The News Letter put Professor Kevin O’Neill’s criticisms (which can be read here) about the tapes saga to Boston College.
Jack Dunn, the university’s director of Public Affairs, said: “The Belfast Project was designed to capture the oral histories of individuals who had been been directly involved in the Troubles to provide a resource for future generations of journalists, historians and scholars.
“Boston College Burns librarian Bob O’Neill and Irish Studies director Tom Hachey hired project director and former Irish journalist Ed Moloney and his interviewer, former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, to oversee the project, with confidentiality always being at the forefront of their concerns and actions.
“In retrospect, the four would likely agree that it was a mistake not to have embargoed the materials for a specified period of 20-30 years. Instead, they agreed in 2000 that the embargo would remain in place only until the death of the participants.
“With the death of Brendan Hughes and David Irvine, project director Ed Moloney pushed for the release of the book and RTE documentary ‘Voices from the Grave’ in 2010. Unfortunately, the release of the book and documentary, coupled with an interview that Dolours Price gave to Irish media in which she implicated herself and Gerry Adams in the abduction of Jean McConville, led the PSNI to invoke the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and Great Britain to subpoena the Price interviews through the US Department of Justice.
“Attorneys for Boston College fought to oppose the subpoena in US Federal Court, but when Ed Moloney gave interviews to US media suggesting that BC ‘destroy the tapes’, the PSNI then sought a second subpoena for all of the IRA interviews that referenced the murder of Jean McConville.
“BC fought the second subpoena and won a significant court victory that reduced the number of transcripts that were ultimately sent to the PSNI from 85 to portions of 11 interviews with seven former IRA members.
“Upon completion of the legal proceedings, Boston College offered to return the tapes to individuals involved.
“As with all projects that attempt to capture controversial historical events, there has been criticism of the Belfast Project that has been directed at all four of the individuals involved, as well as Boston College, the PSNI and the US Department of Justice.
“While, in hindsight, some of the criticism may be warranted, no one can rightfully question the intention of the project, which was to provide a historical archive in support of the movement for peace and reconciliation that emerged in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.”
News Letter Special on BOSTON TAPES: Timeline of the project
Ben Lowry News Letter
2001-2006: Interviews begin of 26 ex IRA members and 14 ex UVF members.
2010: Upon death of IRA and UVF men Brendan Hughes and David Irvine, Ed Moloney publishes Voices from the Grave, based on their interviews.
February 2010: Dolours Price reveals that she had participated in project, and claims that she and Gerry Adams were connected to Jean McConville abduction. McConville relatives reportedly approach PSNI to get information on the murder.
May 2011: Boston College is issued a subpoena by the US Department of Justice on behalf of PSNI requesting the Price and Hughes interviews. Moloney suggests Boston College destroy the tapes
August 2011: Boston College receives second set of subpoenas requesting all remaining IRA interviews regarding McConville case. Citing protection of academic research and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, College lawyers try to quash the subpoenas
December 2011: US District Court Judge William Young concludes that Price interview directly relevant to McConville probe and orders it be given to Justice dept. Boston College conclude they have no grounds to resist first subpoena
January 2012: Judge Young orders on second subpoena that 85 interviews with seven IRA people be turned over because relevant to the McConville
July 2012: Moloney and McIntyre’s appeal rejected by the US Court of Appeals in Boston. Bid to get before Supreme Court rejected
January 2013: Price found dead in her Malahide home
May 2013: US First Circuit Court of Appeals rules on College’s appeal of the second subpoena. Cuts the order to the release of 11 segments of 85 interviews with seven former IRA members that the District Court had deemed relevant. The 74 other interviews no longer subject to release
July 2013: PSNI detectives travel to US to obtain the Price interviews
September 2013: Appeals Court rejects US Government’s request for rehearing. Boston College transfers the 11 interview segments to Dept of Justice
May 2014: It emerges that the PSNI is now seeking all interviews, not just that relating to the McConville
Dec 2014: College, PSNI, Justice dept silent about how that bid is progressing
The Belfast Project That Students Forgot
Delphina Gerber-Williams The Heights
22 September 2014
In the past year, we have witnessed our country plummet in its Global Press Freedom Ranking, the U.S. Supreme Court refuse to step in on behalf of a Pulitzer Prize-winner facing jail time for protecting a source, and concern over Internet freedom growing. We’ve discussed freedom of the press, feared the NSA, and worried about all of our Facebook conversations going public. But where were we, the Boston College community, when confidentiality, protection of sources, and the integrity of academic freedom were being fought over by the U.S. Department of Justice, three senators, six congressmen, and three nations, right here on our campus?
Last May, BC announced that it would return recorded interviews from the controversial Belfast Project to its participants. This not only marked the end of a string of legal disputes involving BC, the UK, and the U.S. Department of Justice, but also the death of a groundbreaking research project.
Starting in 2001, the Belfast Project was aimed at documenting the three-decade ethno-nationalist conflict that wracked Northern Ireland from the 1960s to 1998, known as the Troubles. Organized by Executive Director of the Center for Irish Programs Thomas Hachey, then-Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill, Irish journalist Ed Moloney, and former Irish Republican Army (IRA) member and historian Anthony McIntyre, the project consisted of interviewing 46 former paramilitary fighters from both sides of the conflict. The project directors intended each interview to remain sealed until the death of the respective interviewee.
In 2010, the first interviews were published in the book Voices from the Grave, by Ed Moloney. These interviews, with former IRA leader Brendan Hughes and former Ulster Volunteer Force member David Ervine, were only made public because of their deaths in 2008 and 2007, respectively.
Shortly after, the British government contacted the U.S. Department of Justice, seeking two interviews from the project that might shed light on a murder committed during The Troubles. After deliberation, the University agreed to hand over Hughes’ interviews, but kept the interviews of Dolours Price on the grounds that she was, at that point, still alive.
Eight months after the initial subpoena, the British government issued a second subpoena, now requesting all of the interviews in the BC archive that contained information about the abduction and death of Jean McConville.
The subpoenaing of the tapes threatened the project. One of the first academic endeavors to reveal new details on the Troubles through interviews with former IRA and unionist members, and the only of its scope, the Belfast tapes had the potential to shed light on the sensitive and complex problem of sectarian violence.
The possible ramifications of the subpoenas, however, ran far deeper than the tapes. Traditionally, academic research is granted higher protections from the law so that knowledge and truth can be pursued for the advancement of society. These subpoenas threatened this notion and challenged the idea that academic freedom is essential to the vitality of our society.
The subpoenaing of the tapes also threatens further research. As University Spokesman Jack Dunn told WBUR radio, reported by NPR in May, “Clearly, this could have a chilling effect on oral history projects.” Without protection, researchers will face uncertainty from those who gather information from confidential sources and the sources themselves.
In defense of his own work and academic freedom, McIntyre even claimed that a researcher is actually obliged to destroy his or her material before giving it to a person who could bring it harm, according to an article by Beth McMurtrie published in The Chronicle of Hgher Education in January. He also offered to take the archive into his possession in order to keep it from law enforcements, risking jail for the sake of research.
Initially on the same page as McIntyre, BC attempted to protect the files, appealing the subpoenas several times. As proceedings continued, the administration decided to distance itself “from the reckless rhetoric of Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre,” as Dunn put it in an interview with McMurtrie for the aforementioned article.
While BC was distancing itself from McIntyre and Moloney after the second subpoena, Senators Chuck Schumer, Scott Brown, and John Kerry, along with six other congressmen, wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for a withdrawal of the subpoena.
And the students of BC remained silent, uninformed. When I questioned my peers about the project, I got the resounding response, “What’s that?”
As academics across the nation followed the fate of these tapes this spring, where were the BC students?
It is our full-time job as students to learn, to immerse ourselves in the pursuit of knowledge. We are the next generation of researchers. And yet, there were no big conversations on campus about the project that might redefine future research. Why weren’t we concerned with the questions circling our campus, the future of our own academic freedom?
Furthermore, why has BC refused to be open with its students about the project? The University never participated in a dialogue with students over the legal disputes.
The Belfast tapes case raises many questions. What degree of freedom should academic research have? How responsible are researchers and their universities in protecting interviewees who reveal sensitive information? At what point does the pursuit of justice supersede the pursuit of truth and knowledge?
I am not suggesting that the student body of BC had the ability to decide the fate of these tapes, but we should have at least known and taken part in the discussion.
Despite McIntyre’s efforts, the relevant tapes were turned over. “There has been a shadow cast over this type of research,” Richard English, a professor of politics at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, told The Chronicle for the aforementioned article. Many scholars, English said, have expressed apprehension about pursuing projects like this, for fear of it coming to naught. The Belfast Project is dead now—there will be “no more books, no more revelations,” as McMurtrie put it in her article. And for McIntyre, “It is the single most devastating thing that ever happened to me,” he told The Chronicle. “It can never be used now. It’s all done for nothing.”
A further response to the comments of Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn
Carrie Twomey The Pensive Quill
29 July 2014
Carrie Twomey, wife of researcher Anthony McIntyre, with her second piece taking Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn to task over his comments in a recent WGBH radio interview.
Professional Public Relations Spokesperson Jack Dunn complains that Boston College’s “narrative” hasn’t been able to gain any traction with the media, and he doesn’t understand why. This isn’t the first time he has registered this complaint. The problem explains itself, though, doesn’t it?
Boston College’s handling of the subpoenaing of the Belfast Project oral history archives is not a “narrative”. The subpoenas are a real event in real people’s lives that have a very real, continuing, and frightening impact. What has happened is not a matter of “spin”, and that is where Boston College’s approach has failed the institution, the research and researchers, and the wider field of historical study in general. It is where powerful institutions always fail: when the instinct to protect an image overrides the morality of protecting what is really important – people, principle, integrity.
Kevin Cullen’s work in the Boston Globe shows why Boston College’s “narrative” fails. Journalists, like historians, seek to get to the truth of things, via investigation, first-hand information, sources, and evidence. PR men, like Dunn, seek to skew perception via spin, guff, sleight-of-hand, and the assumption that they will never be challenged. Kevin Cullen, unlike anyone at Boston College, actually came to Ireland to speak to people involved with the project. He went to Belfast. He spent hours in our kitchen going over every aspect of the case he could think of. He is not the only reporter to have done this.
Boston College’s Irish Institute, based in Dublin, is about 30 minutes down the road from our home, and a couple hours from Belfast. Not one representative from Boston College has appeared. I flew from Ireland to Boston to attend court hearings, one of which was held on the Boston College campus. No one from Boston College spoke with me, and when I approached Jack Dunn after the hearing he literally turned his back and refused even to acknowledge me. Instead of being able to introduce myself, and arrange to meet with him and the College administration while I was in Boston, I was escorted out of the building by security. In tears of frustration I shouted at his receding back that Boston College were cowards.
Had Boston College really been interested in defending the oral history archives to the best of their abilities, I suspect we would have been treated quite differently. I doubt I would have been left to cold call Congress members on my own initiative and meet with Senate staff on my own, as I did. The consistent feedback I received from Washington DC – whether it was from the Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department, or Congress – was very different from the “narrative” presented by Jack Dunn in his interview with WGBH. Boston College was not to the fore in any political activity or lobbying to protect the archives; in fact they were conspicuous by their absence.
I would have loved to work with Boston College on the issue, as I believe we would have been stronger and more effective working together, especially with Boston College’s resources. As it was, everything we did was on our own, without any support whatsoever from the College. What has been protected has been hard fought and won by shaming Boston College into action they did not want to undertake, and still begrudge.
That may not be Mr Dunn’s “narrative” – but it is the truth. And those that take the time and make the effort to investigate the case of the Boston College subpoenas know the difference.
A response to the comments of Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn
Carrie Twomey The Pensive Quill
27 July 2014
Carrie Twomey, the wife of researcher Anthony McIntyre, with the first of two pieces taking Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn to task over his comments in a recent WGBH radio interview
Jack Dunn unwittingly hit the nail on the head in his snide reference to my husband’s 18 years in Long Kesh as an IRA prisoner. He called the difference in approach to protecting the oral history archives of the IRA held at Boston College a clash of cultures. He couldn’t be more right.
Interrupted on his Cape Cod vacation to deal with responding to the fears of participants of the project, who now feel they are living under threat of death as documented by Kevin Cullen in the Boston Globe, he left his beach bonfire of marshmallows while in Belfast the bonfires of hate ignited effigies of Gerry Adams, images of Stormont, and Irish flags defaced with slogans like “Kill All Taigs [Catholics]”.
In Belfast, the government turns a blind eye to these displays, and ignores – in some cases even facilitates – the intimidation of the gunmen. It is left to the isolated few to raise their voices, resist, and call attention to the wrongs that need righted.
In Boston, or at least in Boston College as explained by Mr Dunn, questioning the action of the governments is not needed nor even countenanced. Ironic that, in the birthplace of the American Revolution. But this is not just evidence of a clash of cultures between Boston and Belfast, resistance and compliance; the clash over the handling of the history of the Troubles is also very much a clash of the decisions of a powerful elite and the powerless people who have to live with the consequences of their arrogant and entitled ignorance.
Jack Dunn’s Ivory Tower is very far removed from the reality that led to the creation of the archives and the reality that needs those archives to both exist and be protected. It explains why he and those in the Boston College administration don’t seem to have a clue at the disaster they have wrought. And sadly, what we are experiencing in this case is not that different from what many on the powerless side of the widening gap between the realities of the Jack Dunns of this world and the rest of us go through every day.
The Belfast Project documented the lives of resisters – both Republican and Loyalist. No matter Boston College’s illustrious past of involvement in Ireland and its peace process – Jack Dunn has exposed how out of touch the College is with reality. Naively entrusting the voice of the powerless and a history of resistance into the hands of the powerful blasé was one of the biggest mistakes of all in this ongoing nightmare.
Boston College is quite content to adorn itself in Ireland’s Troubles as long as it brings prestige and lucrative funding. It makes a fortune off of the US State Department doing so, and used to refer to the Belfast Project as the ‘crown jewels’ of the Burns Library. But when it is time to pay the piper for the Wearing of the Green, Jack Dunn shows exactly what BC’s true colors are made out of: the blood red of Ireland’s past and the yellow streak of Benedict Arnold.
Jim Braude (JB) and Margery Eagan (ME) interview journalist Ed Moloney (EM) the director of the Boston College oral history project about the impact of the fallout of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) subpoenas for the project’s archives.
(begins time stamp 0:30:40)
JB: We’re going to try to give you the latest developments and back story to the Boston College Belfast oral history project in maybe forty-five seconds or fewer.
For five years as you probably know BC collected interviews with those who were part of the sectarian violence that ruled Northern Ireland. These interviews were done with assurances given to the interviewees that everything would remain confidential.
But as you probably know in 2011, the federal government subpoenaed BC and ultimately the school handed over some of these interviews to the British authorities who are investigating the murder of a widowed mother of ten, Jean McConville, and ultimately resulted in the arrest of the leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, and threatened, according to many, a still fragile peace.
Globe columnist Kevin Cullen went to Belfast to follow-up on the repercussions of the oral history project run amok. Many of the participants feel that their lives are threatened. Kevin joined us last week fresh from his trip to Belfast.
And one of the arguments Cullen made was that BC, because of something called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the US and Britain, could have exercised political exemptions which would have enabled, according to Kevin, BC to resist the subpoena. The next day the Director of Public Relations from BC, Jack Dunn, joined us to dispute some of Cullen’s assertions.
And after that broadcast we heard from Ed Moloney. Ed’s the man who spearheaded and directed BC’s Belfast Project. He joins us possibly to set the record straight hopefully at least to better align it.
ED, welcome to Boston Public Radio – thanks for your time.
EM: My pleasure.
ME: Hi Ed, thanks for joining us. I just want to play a clip from Jack Dunn from Boston College who was on with us as Jim just said. And Jack Dunn said that the blame should be spread around for this terrible situation to many people including you. Let’s hear a piece of that sound:
(Audio clip played)
Jack Dunn:I think the blame for this should go to all those who were involved and the attempt by Mr. Moloney and Mr. McIntyre to deflect blame from themselves and put it on the hands of Boston College doesn’t hold up to the light of scrutiny.
(Audio clip ends)
ME: Do you think that’s an unfair statement, Ed Moloney?
EM: I do. Yes, I do. Not surprisingly and not just because we’ve been on the receiving end of Jack Dunn’s tirades since this subpoena business started.
But there are valid reasons for thinking that we were misled by Boston College at a very crucial stage going into this project. When, if we had been treated properly and honestly, we would not have gone into this project…
JB: …Ed, let me be clear. Ed, if I can be clear. When you say misled…
EM: …Can I explain, please?
When we drew up the Donors contract, which is the contract that the interviewees would sign which guaranteed their confidentiality and said to them that they were the only people who would be allowed to open or read these interviews outside of Boston College until their deaths, I asked the Librarian at Boston College, Bob O’Neill, to run this wording past the college lawyer to make sure that we were in accordance with all our legal responsibility.
And I was given assurance that he would and that eventually that he did.
We have learned in the last few months or so, after three years of this subpoena fight, that in fact Bob O’Neill was lying to us. That he never ran the wording or the contract past the lawyers.
That the contract should have included wording which made it clear that there were legal limits as to confidentiality.
And I can assure you, and I’m talking on behalf not just of myself but also of Mr. McIntyre but also of Wilson MacArthur, who did the interviews for the Ulster Volunteer Force interviewees, that if that wording had been as it should have been put in as Bob O’Neill had a responsibility to ensure that it was put in we would not have participated in this project.
And we would not be sitting here today having this conversation. Sorry, now I interrupted you…
JB: …Oh, no, no, no. It’s fine. I’m glad as I was just going to ask you to explain and you did, Ed Moloney, who obviously was head of the project, you also contend – and we had this discussion in some depth with Jack Dunn when he was here last week – that Boston College didn’t fight hard enough, the subpoenas.
And for those who haven’t been paying attention to this: it was initiated by British authorities, went through the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and ultimately the subpoenas were issued.
Jack Dunn told us that he thought they fought as hard as they could. You’re not in the same place as he is, correct, sir?
EM: Oh, absolutely not.
I mean first of all when this whole thing started the signals from Boston College quite clearly, quite loudly were that they would have given up the interviews without any sort of legal fight.
I discovered the existence or the serving of the subpoena entirely by chance when a friend at Boston College rang me up to let me know that the subpoena had been served.
But also to warn me that I was not to endanger his privacy by revealing that I’d been told this by him because the atmosphere at the college was such that no one was going to know about the subpoenas except the college authorities which meant, essentially, that those who had been involved in the project, as well as the people who had given the interviews, would not know about these subpoenas except for this one phone call.
The first that we would have heard, I suspect, of the subpoenas, would have been when people were arrested in Belfast because I strongly suspect that Boston College was preparing to hand over these interviews until I got that phone call.
I then made repeated attempts to contact Nora Fields, who is one of the Boston College attorneys dealing with this, and was eventually told – and of course I only had one question to ask her really aside from asking: How on Earth this thing had happen? It wasn’t supposed to have happened.
But the main question after that would have been: Is Boston College going to fight?
The message I got back from her was that she did not want to speak to me. And that set the tone for the relationship between ourselves and Boston College ever since.
And it planted a very strong seed of suspicion in my mind in the minds of the other researchers that Boston College was getting ready to hand these interviews over. And because of that suspicion and to force Boston College’s hand I then leaked the story to The New York Times.
The New York Times had the story on the front page the very next day and within a few days Boston College had been obliged to hire a lawyer to resist and to fight the subpoenas.
But I wonder whether they would have ever taken on that lawyer if I had not taken the step of contacting The New York Times.
Then when we did get to the legal fight it went in front of Judge William Young at the federal district court in Boston. Boston College lost at that point.
Jack Dunn then announced to the world that Boston College would not be appealing – would not go to the First Circuit Court of Appeals – would not take it any higher than Judge Young.
Obviously what was open to Boston College was a route that went all the way to the Supreme Court if they could get there.
But no, they decided at that very early stage that they were going to give up.
We then, we who were the only ones who were really campaigning publicly, and this is against the background of Boston College trying to gag us, warning us that we’d be cut off from all flows of information if we continued going to the media with our campaign.
We created such a fuss that Boston College was obliged to go back into the fight.
Not to re-open the whole case but to fight on almost a technicality which was about the number of the interviews that had been handed over or were going to be handed over. Not the principle of handing over the interviews but the number of interviews that were to be handed over.
And Jack Dunn has dishonestly characterised that ever since as Boston College putting up a huge fight…
JB: …Well, let’s hear. I actually want people to hear. Actually if I can, Ed, I want to play what Jack said about that. We’re talking to Ed Moloney who was the director of BC’s Belfast Project.
Here is Dunn last week with us suggesting that BC did do everything it could do within the bounds of the law to protect the project.
Listen to him: (Audio clip played)
Jack Dunn: We fought a vigorous defence over two years and we won a significant court victory that protected some seventy-five to eighty interviews from being sent overseas.So Boston College did what it could legally. The criticism from Anthony McIntyre and project director Ed Moloney is that we didn’t do enough.
I think it’s a cultural divide, Margery. I think they don’t understand, particularly Anthony McIntyre who spent most of his life incarcerated in Northern Ireland, they don’t have respect for the legal system. We do. We engaged the legal system. The legal system rendered a verdict. We had to accept that verdict.But we won a significant court victory so the narrative that we didn’t do enough is specious. (Audio clip ends)
ME: That was the voice of Jack Dunn. We spoke to him last week. He’s the representative of Boston College. Ed Moloney’s on the phone with us now. He’s the director of the Boston College Belfast Project.
Ed, it’s obvious that Boston College has taken a huge public relations hit in this whole situation. So what I don’t get is: What would be their motive? Why would they stonewall you like this? Why would they do what they did? You allege.
EM: Well, you’ll have to ask them that question. I cannot understand it for a moment.
I mean, one of the stories that I heard about the college president, Father Leahy, was that he had been a very strong critic of Cardinal Law over his handling of child sex allegations, paedophile allegations, related to the clergy in the Boston Diocese.
And that he had said that Cardinal Law should have listened to his heart and not to his lawyers so much.
Well in this case I think if Father Leahy had listened more to his heart and not to his lawyers we would not be in this situation now.
I think Father Leahy, if he had decided to fight this all the way, had mobilised all the resources that Boston College could have mobilised: all their alumni, all their political contacts, all their contacts throughout the rest of American academia – to make a real principled stand and fight as hard as you could all the way up to the Supreme Court to try to protect these interviewees who had taken a huge risk in giving Boston College a very valuable archive, an historically valuable archive and have been rewarded in this shameful fashion.
I think now Father Leahy would be a hero amongst American academia.
And instead, Boston College has been soiled by this affair not least by their utter failure to stand up for the rights of people who participate in research projects. This is an affair that’s going to have enormously negative implications for American academic research generally.
I mean who in their right mind now who let’s say is involved in a controversial episode in political life is going to take part in a research project such as this, an oral history project such as the one that we ran at Boston College, in any American university knowing that this is the way that you’re likely be treated at the end of the day?
ME: The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen offered a theory that we did this because of Britain’s help with us during the Iraq war – that they are our ally in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is there any credence to that do you think?
EM: I think there probably is.
I think a lot of people were struck by the fact that when Gerry Adams was being questioned by the PSNI at Antrim police station about the kidnapping and abduction and murder of Jean McConville, Abu Hamza was appearing in a New York federal district court charged with Al Qaeda-linked offences. And he had been extradited from the United Kingdom at the request of the US and I think you probably are seeing this working out.
But it’s an unthinking working out of this relationship, a quid pro quo relationship, because what the impact and the effect of the American decision to submit to these British requests is to undermine a peace process which was one of the very few diplomatic triumphs for peacemaking and peaceful negotiation undertaken by the United States in the last fifteen or twenty years.
It’s having a very negative effect. I think we can see that in the way that attitudes are hardening in Northern Ireland.
It’s becoming almost impossible now to get agreement on dealing with the past because a lot of Unionists, hardline Unionists, are rubbing their hands with glee and anticipation at the prospect of more dirt and prosecutions affecting the leadership of Sinn Féin, people who they are obliged to share power with and who they don’t like sharing power with and it’s having this very, very negative effect.
And that’s only happening because the American government is going along with this.
And whoever took these decisions in the Department of Justice just did not do minimum research into this.
If they had spent ten minutes on the internet researching the case of Jean McConville they would have realised that the police who started this hunt for the Boston College archive were fully aware that at the end of the day the road that they went down would lead to the door of Gerry Adams and that would have very calamitous, potentially calamitous, consequences for the peace process. They must have known that but why didn’t the American government, why didn’t the DOJ, why didn’t Carmen Ortiz discover these things?
JB: Ed Moloney, last question from me: Our first involvement with this topic on the radio was when we were talking to Tom O’Neill, son of (former Senator) Tip O’Neill. And Tom’s deeply involved in Boston College.
During that conversation, Anthony McIntyre, who’s name we’ve mentioned and with whom you’ve worked, and his wife, Carrie Twomey, called us from Northern Ireland during the discussion.
And Carrie Twomey specifically said, as did many of the people with whom Kevin Cullen met when he was in Belfast a couple of weeks ago, that they really feared for their lives because of the release of these documents.
Do you think those fears are well-founded?
EM: Oh, absolutely! There’s no doubt in my mind that the people who have been exposed as a result of these subpoenas are under a threat of death.
I mean, it is the rule inside the IRA – and make no mistake the IRA still exists as an organisation – it is a rule inside the IRA that if you are caught betraying the organisation’s secrets then you are liable to be killed under the justice system that the IRA upholds. And that’s not something that one can take very lightly.
And I’m not suggesting for a moment that someone’s going to knock on Anthony McIntyre’s door and put a bullet in his head. But he could be walking down the street one day when someone pushes him into the path of an oncoming car. That’s the sort of danger that we’re facing as well as the direct danger and threat of violence.
So yes, I am taking it very, very seriously indeed. And everyone who knows the situation in Northern Ireland knows how vindictive the leadership of this organisation can be in these circumstances.
Don’t forget these tapes have led to the arrest and embarrassment of one of their iconic leaders. You cannot treat these things lightly.
JB: Ed, I said it was the last question – this one really is the last question as we only have a couple of seconds. Dunn, when he was here said everybody shares some of the blame. BC – and I’m paraphrasing – BC made some mistakes, too. Obviously you don’t think “some” is not the appropriate adjective there.
Do you take any responsibility personally at all for the mess, any share of the mess that this thing’s evolved into?
EM: The thing I regret above all else was leaving research of the legal situation entirely to the Boston College end.
I think that was a mistake because it left us open. We were too trusting. We took people’s word and the consequences of that is what we’re living with now I’m afraid.
JB: Ed Moloney, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
ME: Thank you for being with us. Ed Moloney was the director of the Belfast Project.
Jim Braude (JB) and Margery Eagan (ME) interview Jack Dunn (JD) the Director of Public Relations for Boston College about the impact of the fallout from Boston College tapes subpoenas.
(begins time stamp 1:37:45)
JB: For five years as part of an ambitious oral history project Boston College collected more than forty interviews with former militants who were part of the sectarian violence that ravaged Northern Ireland.
These interviews were done with assurances from those who did them that everything would remain confidential. But in 2011, the federal government subpoenaed BC telling them to hand over some of these interviews to British authorities who were investigating the murder Jean McConville.
Ultimately, BC decided to return everything to the people who participated in the project. This however has not put an end to anything.
The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen who was with us yesterday, went to Belfast to follow-up on the repercussion of the oral history project run amok. Many of the participants feel their lives are threatened.
Today joining us for a different angle on the same story is Jack Dunn. Jack is the Director of News and Public Affairs at Boston College. Jack, it’s good to see you.
JD: Thank you for having me.
ME: We’d like to point out how wonderful it is that Jack would come in from his vacation on Cape Cod to come up and talk to us about this.
You know Jack Dunn, the Belfast Project was a great idea, seemed like a great idea to get these histories. But then of course you were subpoenaed by the Department of Justice, Boston College was, to turn the information over although the people that ran the project gave these confidentiality assurances to the people that they interviewed.
Why did you do it? Reporters all the time get subpoenaed by the government to turn in sources. They don’t do it. Why did Boston College do it?
JD: Because academic institutions don’t have the same protections that journalists have and this case has underscored that.
I think it’s astounding that the narrative has been established that Boston College somehow was forced to comply with the subpoena. We’re an academic institution and number one: We don’t burn academic records as Anthony McIntyre has suggested. We don’t burn research. We don’t destroy…
JB: …Anthony McIntyre, one the the leaders of the project. And by the way he and his wife, we’ll hear from them in a minute, called in from Northern Ireland a couple of months ago when we were discussing this. But go ahead, Jack, I’m sorry.
JD: We were faced with two federal subpoenas.
We fought a vigorous defence over two years and we won a significant court victory that protected some seventy-five to eighty interviews from being sent overseas.
So Boston College did what it could legally. The criticism from Anthony McIntyre and project director Ed Moloney is that we didn’t do enough.
I think it’s a cultural divide, Margery. I think they don’t understand, particularly Anthony McIntyre who spent most of his life incarcerated in Northern Ireland, they don’t have respect for the legal system. We do. We engaged the legal system. The legal system rendered a verdict. We had to accept that verdict.
But we won a significant court victory so the narrative that we didn’t do enough is specious.
ME: But one thing on that: There is no reporter shield law in Massachusetts, some states have them lots of states don’t. There’s no federal shield law either.
So many reporters, I mean some of my colleagues when faced with a subpoena from the government have said: Well, I’m not going to give up my source. I’m going to go to gaol.
JB: James Risen from The New York Times who was with us a couple of months ago in the same situation…
ME: Right. An almost inevitably the government backs down. You chose not to back down at Boston College.
JD: We chose to fight the court – to fight through the courts.
We attempted to quash both sets of subpoenas and we fought a vigorous two year defence that won a significant court victory.
In fact, the Department of Justice was furious that Judge William Young of the federal court here in Boston even heard this case. They said that given the MLAT treaty, the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, a college had no right to infringe upon that treaty claiming that it had some degree of academic freedom that it was trying to preserve.
So we won a victory for academic research. It wasn’t a full victory but it was a significant victory for the enterprise of academic research.
JB: (quips) You know Margery and I, as I’m sure you know, Jack Dunn, are experts on treaty law. I’m sure you’ve a …(all laugh)
He said that this treaty that you’re describing has political exemptions – that if there are political prosecutions.
And he says the potential prosecution of Gerry Adams, who obviously was arrested and interviewed for a handful of days, arrested by Northern Ireland’s standards – not formally charged with a crime – interviewed for days that that clearly in his mind would have been a political prosecution and you could have claimed the exemption which would have caused you to have been able to resist this subpoena.
One: Did you? And if you didn’t why didn’t you?
JD: That’s Kevin’s contention. I have great respect for Kevin. I think in terms of American journalists he’s the most versed on Irish affairs.
The MLAT Treaty, the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that exists between the United States and Great Britain, is on criminal activity and the treaty was invoked because of the horrific abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of ten who was…
JB: …widowed mother of ten.
JD: …Sure. Who was taken right in front of her kids from her home in Belfast, brought across the border, shot in the back of the head and buried in a beach.
So it was the MLAT treaty on criminal activity, this particular horrific crime, that was invoked. So while Kevin claims, and I’m sure he’s right that there’s a political exemption, there was no exemption for the criminal activity of the murder of Jean McConville.
JB: Let’s just get back to the line of questioning that Margery was involved in a minute ago: Taking everything you’ve said in response as legit, were there internal discussion about non-compliance?
You fought as hard as you could. As you say, you believe you protected as much as one possibly could – whatever you said, seventy-five percent.
Were there discussions with the president and others saying: Hey, listen, even though we’ve done as much as we can legally, we have to protect academic research. This could do great damage not just to us but to whole notion of oral histories and that sort of thing. Other people in the future might be more resistant – maybe after Iraq or Afghanistan or something else – may be more resistant to participating in something like this.
Were there those discussions?
JD: There were. We considered every opportunity, every option and we determined that this was our best course of action.
Simultaneously, we worked with the State Department to try to secure some relief from the State Department, from the United States government, because the United States government had invested so much in this peace process.
But ultimately, given the climate post-9/11, there seemed to be no desire in Washington to appear to be coddling terrorist activity and the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force are terrorist organisations.
So there was no sense in Washington that people wanted to help.
The courts did what they could. We did the best possible…we did as well as we could on behalf of oral history by fighting through the courts and that was the best outcome we thought we could achieve.
JB: You know, one of the things we discussed with Kevin and obviously going home – you read the piece and you’ve discussed the piece when he went to Belfast about the fear that some people lived through…I mentioned that when Tommy O’Neill, is he currently on the Board of BC? (Ed Note: The Board of Trustees for Boston College)
Here’s what Twomey said, the wife, question put as to whether or not they feel that their lives have been put in danger by information Here’s what Carrie Twomey, the wife, said that their lives have been put in danger by disclosure of this information:
(Audio clip played)
Carrie Twomey: When graffiti such as “Informer Republican Boston College Touts” goes on the walls of the Falls Road which has happened this morning – Yes, we are at risk. And it’s not just us, my family, my husband and my children that are at risk it is all the people that participated very bravely in this project. (Audio clip ends)
JB: I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know what the word “tout” ’til Kevin explained it to us – it’s a snitch is what we talk about.
JB: When you hear that, even again if you think you’ve done everything you can, what do you and your colleagues at BC feel when there are people who legitimately feel their lives are at risk because of this?
JD: The reality of this case is that the project director, Ed Moloney, signed a contract with the Burns Librarian at Boston College to conduct this archive project in which the contract stated specifically that confidentiality would be limited to the extent that American law would allow.
As part of the court records one can easily find the facts that Bob O’Neill sent to Ed Moloney saying I cannot guarantee, for example, that this would withstand a federal subpoena if one were to be issued.
The reality that Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Moloney don’t share is that no one thought it would come to this.
Given the investment of the Irish government, the British government and the American government in forging the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 no one thought that the Police Service of Northern Ireland would ever take this step.
JB: Yeah, but the guy from your own library is quoted in one of the earlier stories by Peter Schworm saying it wasn’t even run by the lawyers at BC. You have some regret about that I assume?
JD: There were mistakes that were made but the biggest mistake from our perspective was that Anthony McIntyre gave assurances of confidentiality to the interviewees that he was in no position to make. That it an issue that hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves. It’s important…
JB: …By the way McIntyre, I think, disagrees with you. Here is McIntyre when he called us about the issue whether or not he was promised complete secrecy. Here’s Anthony McIntyre:
(Audio clip played)
Anthony McIntyre: (They were very,very) clear that there were no circumstances under which this material could be handed over without the approval of the interviewee. There was no room for ambiguity on this. (Audio clip ends)
JB: Is he wrong?
JD: He’s absolutely wrong. And it’s important to note that it was Anthony McIntyre who spoke with the IRA interviewees. No one from Boston College ever spoke with any of the interviewees. I don’t even know who they are.
JB: But they worked for you…
JD: No, they didn’t. McIntyre was hired by project director Ed Moloney to conduct interviews…
JB: …Yeah, but it’s a BC project, Jack, I mean it isn’t like there’s…
JD: …True. I agree. And I’m not trying to….people at Boston College who were involved made their share of mistakes.
But it was clearly the mistake of the project director and Anthony McIntyre who gave assurances of confidentiality that they were in no position to give.
ME: You know Jack Dunn from Boston College, you’re the spokesman for Boston College you’re I guess we could call it somewhat in the PR business and you think about optics and how things look. Suppose it had been different? Suppose…Father Leahy is still the president of Boston College?
ME: Suppose Father Leahy had gotten on the steps up there in Chestnut Hill and said:
We have a very fragile peace process in Northern Ireland. If we release this information people’s lives will be at stake, the process that we spent decades trying to achieve could totally fall apart. I’m standing here on behalf of Boston College. I will go to gaol rather than turn these over.
The President of Boston College with the political power of the Irish in Massachusetts, the Irish in Boston, the Democrats…
What do you think would have happened? I know what would have happened.
The Department of Justice would have backed down.
Just like the government backed down in almost every situation I can think of when a reporter said “I will go to gaol” because the government looks like a big bully.
And I guess, maybe not Leahy – maybe you could have gone to gaol – but you know what I mean?
What would have happened if BC had dug in its heels and made that statement and said: We are protecting the citizens of the peace process and the citizens who gave their confidential information whose lives are at stake?
JD: Again, we sought through diplomatic channels to achieve that end.
I don’t think it needed to be as public and dramatic as you stated. We sought through diplomatic channels to achieve that end but there is no appetite in Washington right now to appear to be coddling terrorist activity of any form and that’s the and that’s the reality in Washington post-9/11.
JB: Was one of the diplomatic channels John Kerry?
JD: I don’t think it’s fair for me to say specifically who it involved but I think it’s easy…John Kerry has a connection to Boston College and so he is one of many people that the college reached out to to seek their assistance.
ME: And you think when we talk about terrorists in 2014 – I don’t think we’re talking about the IRA in the 1970’s in Ireland. Do you think they’re all lumped together?
JD: I do.
That was our sense when seeking assistance from Washington that there was no appetite to protect any form of terrorism.
JB: Jack, last thing from me and then you can return to vacation: Here’s a piece from Kevin’s column on Sunday – I guess it was reporting of the prior Sunday – “Boston College meanwhile, did more than any American university to engage both the political and civil society on both sides of the Irish border.”
I think there’s a consensus well beyond Kevin there’s no American university that’s been more important in the history of The Troubles and beyond.
“BC has hosted” …..This is Kevin still… “BC has hosted hundreds of politicians, journalists, civil servants, and peacemakers from Northern Ireland over the years. But, in all this bitter recrimination the Boston brand has suffered in Ireland.”
So again, even if you think as you said – we made some mistakes, everybody did, we did the best we could under the circumstances – how do you, the president, how do people react to that? I mean that’s real that there is…He has the great line from Anthony McIntyre…the horrible line from Anthony McIntyre at the end of his piece saying: I can’t even listen to More Than a Feeling by Boston, the band, because I don’t want anything with “Boston”.
I mean there is some…a negative impact in a place I know you all care a lot about about BC.
JD: The history of Boston College has been inextricably linked with Ireland and Northern Ireland. We were heavily involved in securing the Good Friday Agreement.
In fact our conflict negotiators, one of our Jesuit priests, was involved in bringing the sides to the table, our political scientists worked closely to help form the new government by telling people how to share power.
So we have been heavily involved in that and I think our reputation is solid. People understand that we hired individuals who weren’t the best fit for us to conduct a project to reside in our library to provide a resource for historians.
Mistakes were made. Things happened that people didn’t think would happen.
So if the BC brand has suffered then we’ll re-double our efforts to improve that brand and to do the work that we’ve always done moving forward that puts BC in the spotlight as being America’s leading university in Ireland.
But again, I think the blame for this should go to all those who were involved and the attempt by Mr. Moloney and Mr. McIntyre to deflect blame from themselves and put it on the hands of Boston College doesn’t hold up to the light of scrutiny.
ME: Jack Dunn, thank you for coming. I’m sure this has been a fun couple of days talking about this especially during your vacation and I appreciate it very much your coming in.
JD: Thanks for having me.
ME: Jack Dunn is the Director of News and Public Affairs at Boston College.
Kinda makes you miss Ted Kennedy, doesn’t it, Jim?
Boston Public Radio interview with Kevin Cullen WGBH
9 July 2014
Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen talked about his recent trip to Belfast and the simmering tensions in that city over an oral history project at Boston College.
Jim Braude (JB) and Margery Eagan (ME) interview Kevin Cullen (KC), The Boston Globe columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of the book, Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, about the effects the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s subpoenas for the Boston College tapes have had in Ireland – not only on individuals but on the peace process itself.
JB: It’s a complicated geo-political who-done-it that could have been plucked straight out of John le Carré’s imagination: A political leader celebrated for brokering peace among political foes gets arrested for a murder that happened over forty years ago and the arrest is based on information that was supposed to remain under lock and key.
That’s the real life story of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams but this is just the beginning of a story that is still unfolding and reverberating from the Boston College campus all the way to Belfast.
ME: Well, thanks so much for coming in, Kevin. As Jim just said the information here was all supposed to be under lock and key. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
So tell people that haven’t followed this story what The Belfast Project is – what the idea was.
KC: It happened Margery in sort of the heady days after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 effectively ended what the Irish in their penchant for understatement called “The Troubles” – the war in Northern Ireland.
And BC was very influential in the peace process. They went out of their way to host people from Northern Ireland – both civil society but also paramilitaries.
I remember when the Loyalists called – the Protestant paramilitaries – called off their armed struggle in 1994 the very first place six of them came to talk about it in America was Boston College. So Boston College has always been invested in the peace process and very much involved in Ireland.
So somebody at BC had the bright idea: Hey, why don’t we start an oral history project?
And what we’ll do is take the oral histories of people that fought the war – the combatants – both on the Republican side, that would have been the Irish Republican Army, and on the Loyalist side in this case, the Ulster Volunteer Force. So in that respect it was sort of a noble and inspired idea.
And I can tell you that knowing people at BC and listening to them explain themselves they never believed for a minute that what they compiled would then be sought by people in law enforcement.
Now I personally think that’s extremely naive knowing the political nature of policing.
Policing in Northern Ireland was always what the issue was.
I mean when the war, as we would call it, really broke out in the late 60’s it was because civil rights demonstrators on the Catholic/Nationalist side were literally beaten off the streets by police.
If the police had done their job it never would have happened.
So policing is still political. It’s very political.
When Ed Moloney, who BC hired to direct the project, wrote a book and more or less told the world: Hey! By the way we have all these interviews with these guys…
And in this case, Brendan Hughes – who is now dead, said that Gerry Adams ordered the abduction, murder and secret burial of a woman named Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten – that was see ya later!
Then the cops – it was only a matter of time before the cops went after them as far as I’m concerned.
JM: Before we get back to the naievté of BC and what they should do, Kevin Cullen, what representations did BC make to the participants in this project about the confidentiality, about the secrecy of the documents, the interviews – all that sort of thing?
KC: If you look at the actual agreements I think BC did not promise more than it could deliver in some respects.
The problem is it got lost in translation over the Atlantic Ocean.
Everybody who spoke to them, and I just was in Belfast and interviewed a number of people who gave oral histories, they were absolutely guaranteed. There were, absolutely.
In their minds, nothing would ever pry this out of the hands of BC until they were dead. And then if you look at the papers, and Boston College has shown them I mean Jack Dunn has waved it for everyone to see.
But this is also where we really get into muddy ground here, Jim.
Because the police – and then the British authorities – contacted the Justice Department citing a treaty that the UK and the US signed saying that if we have information for them in criminal matters that we will turn it over to them and vice versa. It’s a two-way street.
But there is a political exception in there.
It makes clear, this treaty says if they are political offences or there could be political ramifications then either government could opt out.
And clearly this was political. There was politics all over this.
When the leader of the largest Nationalist party in Ireland is the target of a criminal investigation – that is political – by any definition.
So I don’t think this thing should have been turned over.
ME: So the reason this all is in the news right now – and I assume part of the reason you went over to Belfast to do this great story you did about the repercussions in Belfast – is because in May the leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, was arrested. Now what was that about?
KC: He was arrested. In the UK and in Ireland in those jurisdictions arrest is not what we think of it.
When you’re arrested in America you are charged. It’s one in the same.
In Ireland and the UK when you’re arrested you’re arrested for questioning.
And he was held for four days of detention. He says he was interviewed thirty-three separate times over a period of ninety-six hours and that they kept coming back – everything that they talked to him about was based on things that was told to BC researchers.
So Gerry Adams came out of there and very publicly rubbished the Boston College project, said that Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre were biased, that the history they compiled was biased because they were opposed to Adams and the way he handled it.
And Adams has some legitimate points frankly on that thing.
But the other thing – and I really did pick this up when I was in Belfast talking to all these old IRA veterans – they were saying: Hey! Wait a minute. When people say this is not a legitimate history it is – it’s our history – and we are not in with the Sinn Féin leadership – no one will tell our story – so it is important that we put down what we say we experienced and what we thought of the whole conflict.
And frankly most of these guys, which I think is the other interesting thing, they’re not saying: Oh, we gave up too easy and we compromised.
These guys are saying: The war was not worth it for what we settled for.
If you’re an Irish Republican you can’t call yourself an Irish Republican and recognise the partition of your country – it’s just mutually exclusive. And so they have legitimate points of views, too.
The thing that I did…and the whole idea…it was Mark Morrow’s idea, the editor…not my idea to go over there…just said see what the feel is on the ground and what I sensed is people in some respects are very afraid.
JB: What’s a “tout”?
KC: A tout is just the local idiom for “informer”.
And it is a very loaded term in that culture and that’s what happened…I think you’ve probably seen the photographs of it…
KC: …that right after Gerry Adams was arrested people started painted on the gable walls – either a whitewash or a black on a white wall – and it said: “Boston College Touts”. Now that’s a very loaded term.
And believe me, it’s directed at Anthony McIntyre. It’s directed at a guy like Tommy Gorman, an IRA veteran who was publicly identified as giving an interview. It’s directed at Ricky O’Rawe.
It’s directed at a number of guys that gave interviews. As they told me they are afraid because when you get called a tout in Ireland you very often end up dead.
JB: You know speaking of Anthony McIntyre we were discussing this whole project with a former board member actually – I don’t know if he’s still on the board (Ed Note: The Board of Trustees for Boston College) – Tommy O’Neill – a couple of months ago on the radio and Anthony McIntyre and his wife, Carrie Twomey, actually called us from Northern Ireland and he did say to us that he feared for his life.
Here’s what else he said: This is Anthony McIntyre describing how BC, in his opinion, failed to protect the archives from the British authorities:
(Audio sound bite from the interview is played)
Anthony McIntyre: What the Boston College staff needed to do was to protect an endangered archive by getting it out of its custody immediately and sending it over to my custody whereby I would insure its protection….So Boston College left an endangered archive on its campus, vulnerable to the second subpoena, and so it did not do what it could have done.
(Audio sound bite ends)
JB: You know speaking of what Anthony McIntyre just said, Kevin Cullen from The Boston Globe: “sending it over to my custody”. They didn’t do it when McIntyre would have liked it to have been done. They did it after the cat was out of the bag.
You open your piece this week with this beautiful story of this guy who gets a FedEx package. Tell that story for us please and what he does with it.
KC: That’s Ricky. Ricky O’Rawe. Ricky was actually one of the “blanketmen” in the IRA; when they were demanding political status they refused to wear prison uniforms – they wrapped themselves in a blanket.
Ricky was also the spokesman for the hunger strikers in 1981 and was very close to Bobby Sands, the first hunger striker who died.
Ricky got his stuff back when BC said we’ll give it back if you want it. He goes: Send it back!
So it went to his lawyer’s office. He picked it up. He didn’t know quite what to do with it and then he said: Am I going to hold it? Am I gonna give it to my kids?
And then when the police announced, under I think under political pressure, they wanted everything – not just stuff related to Jean McConville – they wanted everything in the file – the whole archive – that’s when Ricky said he opened a bottle of fine Bordeaux, he goes: I lit a nice fire and then he goes: it was a nice Bordeaux it was a nice fire, too.
JB: Very, very good!
KC: A funny thing – I didn’t put this in the story – but I said before I said…because he told me the story, I said: You know Ricky if I put that in the paper you could be found in contempt of court. He goes: I am in contempt of that court!
ME: Is Ricky, who had his nice fire – is he assured this is the only copy of these tapes? That’s what I was thinking to myself.
KC: That’s a good question, Margery.
ME: You know, he burned them and hoping they’re done but…
KC: That’s a good question. He was mad, too, because his stuff – he said he knew nothing about the McConville case because he was in Ballymurphy and that was done by the Lower Falls unit – that would be Company D in the Lower Falls for the IRA – so he didn’t know anything about it.
So he didn’t know why his stuff was turned over to the court in the first place. So Judge Young has seen Ricky’s stuff.
ME: We’re talking with The Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen who has written this fantastic piece about the reaction in Belfast to this whole…the arrest of Gerry Adams back in May and the allegations that he was involved in the murder of Jean McConville.
Kevin, tell people about Jean McConville. You didn’t get into this in your story but this is a really horrifying story – what happened to her.
KC: It might be the most – one of the most horrific, I mean there were more than thirty-five hundred people killed in what we call “The Troubles” and hers is one of the most disturbing.
It was 1972.
1972 was actually the bloodiest year of The Troubles – more than five hundred people were killed and we’re talking about a place roughly the size of Connecticut with about 1.5 million people. And she was accused of being an informer. It’s very, very murky.
She was a Protestant. She married a Catholic guy and so she was suspect in that – she would have been seen as a “Prod” or one of “them” – and that was all suspicious.
So anyway she was abducted…she was dragged from her…in front of her kids…
ME: …And the husband was dead already.
KC: …Yeah. He had died the year before.
ME: So she was the only support of these ten children.
KC: That’s it! And they described…I mean I talked to one of her sons who described that they were literally holding on to her leg as the IRA guys were dragging her out of the house. And those kids were scattered – like so many orphans – all over the place and had very tough lives after that.
Now obviously what was unusual about the Jean McConville case is that in…you know, Jim asked about ”touts”…
And touts were, informers were very, very publicly humiliated and executed and left in the side of the road for people to see.
But I think somebody in the IRA decided killing a widowed mother of ten might look a little bad.
So what they decided to do was they shot her and then they buried her on a beach in County Louth on the Irish Republic side of the border because I guess somebody in the IRA decided this would just look too bad if we are blamed for this murder.
And so the IRA actively promoted the myth that she had just run off to England with somebody – that she couldn’t take the stress of having ten kids and no husband. They did not find her body until 2003. And like I said it’s always been one of the most horrific deaths of The Troubles.
That said, the police did absolutely nothing to solve that murder.
They never interviewed anybody. They never opened a file. They never did anything.
It’s only when the Boston College tapes became aware somebody in the police said: Hey! We can go after Adams.
Now I’ve always questioned: What’s the evidentiary value? This stuff was not given with warning. It was not taken under oath. It’s just people telling stories. And there’s no way to verify most of this information – it’s just “he says she says”.
Adams says the people that have been publicly identified as saying he was involved in the murder of Jean McConville, one being Brendan Hughes, “The Dark”, who was a very famous IRA guy and very close to Adams actually during their time in the IRA, and then Dolours Price, who has also died, she claims that she actually when to get to drive Jean McConville to her interrogators who killed her.
So Adams says these are just political enemies, people that fell out with him and they figured the best way they could get back at him is to try and pin a murder on him. So that’s what he says.
JB: We’re talking to Kevin Cullen who has written a wonderful piece in The Globe about what he’s calling “The New Troubles”. You know, staying the the Adams thing for a minute…
ME: …Before we leave that story I just want to tell one quick story because I happened to be over in Dublin when Adams was arrested and you saw the children interviewed constantly on television – Jean McConville’s surviving children.
And one of the things they talked about which shows the level of terror: that some of their neighbours, they claim anyway, where they lived, were involved in abducting their mother but because they were so afraid for their own lives – some of the people were hooded and masked and some of them weren’t – they never told who those neighbours were because they were afraid they’d be killed if they did.
JB: Is why Adams and why not people on the other side of this conflict.
KC: Exactly! Like I said I think that’s why the police launched this “we want the whole thing” – because they were being criticised as being very selective in their prosecution.
JB: But that hasn’t changed…
KC: No, it hasn’t in the sense that the idea – and I put it in my story – while the police want these BC records they are refusing to turn over their own records to the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland who is trying to investigate at least sixty cases of police and military collusion in the murder of what would be mostly Catholics/Nationalists.
One, which really intrigued me, one of those sixty murders the Ombudsman wants is of an RUC man, a police officer, and there’s allegations that his own people set him up to be killed by the IRA.
It’s very explosive stuff but the cops won’t turn that stuff over.
The other thing, Jim, about this whole thing it just shows that we are in a post-conflict society and they don’t know truth and reconciliation.
They don’t know how to get there. They don’t know how to find truth.
The sad part is I think the BC thing was a very idealistic idea to get this out there and then thirty or forty years historians would see this stuff. Unfortunately, people found out about it and it became this political football that will not go away.
JB: Well let me continue my naiveté – beyond the lives of the individuals who feel threatened as touts or whatever it is, you write: “Some worry the personal disputes, and fear of potential prosecutions, that the BC interviews have given rise to could do serious damage to Northern Ireland’s hard-won, much-admired, but still-evolving and ever-fragile peace process.”
So the trickle-down or trickle-up or trickle-sideways implications of this disclosure are huge – well beyond the lives of the individuals.
KC: And the dissent groups there are basically riddled with informers themselves – the police do a fairly good job on them.
But you know what they’ve been trying to do in recruiting kids who know nothing about this stuff – to get fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year old kids who are just angry – and they don’t like growing up with – they’ve been recruiting them on the grounds that: Hey, nothing has changed. The Brits are still lying to us.
And say Adams is charged with this crime and is brought to trial I can guarantee you there’s going to be real political fallout – there’s going to be problems – there’s going to be more people going to the dissident groups because they’ll be able to say: See! Nothing has changed.
And it also allows the dissidents to go back at Sinn Féin and say: You guys bought this hook, line and sinker from the Brits. Nothing has changed. They go after us. They don’t go after their own people that do things wrong. So there’s an awful lot at stake here.
Now there is another case involved: Ivor Bell, who was an IRA Commander, who actually had a big falling out with Gerry Adams in the mid-80’s and was more or less drummed out of the IRA.
He has been arrested and is still facing trial for his involvement and the allegation in court was he was charged based on evidence that was included in the BC archive.
So this is serious stuff.
JB: You know as the only non-Irishman in the studio at the moment and not a life-long Bostonian like you guys…well, you’re a Fall River kid who became a Bostonian…
KC: …Same thing.
JB: I have to say I’m pretty proud of the role as you described it Boston played in this whole thing but you end your story about saying how tarnished the reputation of Boston…
You quote Anthony McIntyre – you were talking about him saying he was listening to the radio and the song More Than a Feeling by Boston, the group, came up. He said it used to be one of my favourite songs but when it came on the other day I was like: Screw it. I hate it. I don’t like anything that has “Boston” in it.
What is the spillover in terms of Boston’s reputation?
KC: I think first of all BC always had a very good reputation particularly in The North but also in the Republic of Ireland as a “player” – as a force for good – as an honest broker – whatever you want to call it.
And there’s no doubt that that image has been tarnished.
Everywhere I went in Ireland people asked me the same question: Why did BC give up the records? Why didn’t they fight?
JB: What was your answer to them?
KC: My answer is: I don’t know. Because I mean, Jack Dunn and other people at BC have publicly stated they couldn’t be in violation of a court order.
But our great friend, Harvey Silverglate, has made it very clear that why couldn’t Father Leahy or somebody at BC come out on the stairs and say: You will get these things over my dead body and if you want to put me in gaol – put me in gaol.
JB: Speaking of that by the way – let me read Harvey’s quote which I think was quite great, I dunno, a month or two ago – he says – he talks about it – if an academic institution’s going to get involved in this – he says:
“it is better that an academic institution not agree to exert control over them.” (If you’re not going to protect them.) And then his line, his takeaway, is: “that should be left to individuals willing to risk the consequences of adhering to conscience.” – which is pretty heavy.
ME: Like a reporter in a way with a source, right?
KC: Marjery, you and I both know that – Manna from Heaven! Imagine if we got thrown in the can?
ME: No. I can’t. I can’t! (all laugh)
KC: No, seriously! (quips) First of all, you know it’s not that bad down at Nashua Street anymore…
ME: Oh, jeez…speak for yourself!
KC: No, but say I got throw in the can. I’d be a hero. I’d be celebrated. I’d probably get a bonus. (quips) Well no, I probably wouldn’t get a bonus – but then again…(all laugh)
No, seriously people would say – and there’s no doubt I would go to the can – I mean I’ve been brought in – it’s never got to the push to shove – but I’ve had cops coming after my notes before on murders and stuff…
JB: So speculate about why….
KC: …I don’t know. Like I said I think it’s cultural like Harvey says. I think people in academia aren’t willing to go that extra mile whereas I think journalists not only are willing to do it they would welcome it because it would be – you’d stand up for your principles and say: I am not a gatherer of information for a law enforcement agency!
JB: Well how about then Carmen Ortiz – you mentioned this political exemption a couple of minutes ago to this treaty – so the police there contact the United States government saying we want this information. Based on your interpretation of this treaty, Kevin…
KC: They should have said “no”. They could have.
JB: Ortiz could have said – either – what’s his name…
KC: …Holder. It was Holder’s call.
JB: Eric Holder or then in turn, Ortiz, could say we’re not issuing these subpoenas.
Why didn’t they do that?
KC: I can only speculate that after ten years of standing with us in Iraq and Afghanistan we basically – somebody in Washington said: we owe the Brits this.
I do not think they looked at this very closely.
As other people have written and as I’ve have suggested in some columns, we’re actually undermining American diplomacy by doing this.
The Americans spent billions of dollars and untold political capital – poor George Mitchell had to live there for God’s sake for about five years and get this thing done. And frankly it’s been something that – it started with the Clinton Administration but Bush did a good job with it, too. They’ve stayed right with it.
Richard Haass, who is Bush’s person, is still deeply involved and is still trying to help them get past some of the legacy issues.
And yet we, our own government, basically facilitates something like this that can undermine what we just spent a generation accomplishing. It makes no sense to me and I can only speculate that it was the people who made the decision made it on: They’re our allies – they want it – we’ll give it.
One thing I think is also interesting – when John Kerry was Senator John Kerry he thought this was a terrible idea…
Then John Kerry becomes Secretary of State – nada!
JB: Has he said nothing?
KC: He hasn’t said anything about it.
ME: Well, you’ve partially already answered my last question but I’ll ask you anyway: Because so many people in Ireland as you well know are worried about the peace being broken and there being a return to what there was – let’s hope not – many years ago but is there any sort of “higher authority” kind of trying to mediate things and intervene so that the peace…?
KC: Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan from Harvard. She’s over there, too. They have been, for the last year, have been trying to help the people in Northern Ireland confront their legacy issues which also involve triumphalist marching which we’re going to see in the next week…
ME: …Triumphalist marching?
KC: The Orangemen. That’s The Orange Order. It’s a fraternal organisation. Protestants.
They want to march through neighbourhoods where they’re not welcome basically.
And that’s an issue – and Nationalists say they have the right to say “no” – Orangemen say they have the right to march what they call the Queen’s Highway.
It’s an issue that won’t go away.
And I can guarantee you…what day is it? In a week they’ll be stories all over the place. You guys will have it on the NPR News of fights and all kinds of crap breaking out in Northern Ireland. It’s an annual ritual of sort of tribalism that hasn’t gone away.
I know Haass is very – I haven’t talked to him personally, but I’ve talked to somebody just last week who works with him – and said he’s utterly frustrated that the Irish can’t seem to get beyond these issues.
Now you have to remember that Northern Ireland is still incredibly segregated – ninety percent of people live in neighbourhoods where everybody is just like them. I mean, it sounds like America now that I come to think of it!
But it’s actually…no…it’s more segregated even than in America and the peace process has done nothing to address that.
When the Good Friday Agreement was signed about five percent of kids in Northern Ireland went to integrated schools – that number has not moved one iota in fifteen years.
JB: Kevin, great to see you. Terrific piece! Thanks for your time.
ME: Okay. Not very optimistic there, Kevin. I hope things work out better.
Kevin Cullen is a columnist from The Boston Globe. His latest book along with Shelley Murphy, and this is a great book – you and Shelley did an awesome job, Kevin Cullen – I loved it! – is Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice. Thanks again for being with us, Kevin. (ends 1:52:20)