Moloney’s bizarre accusations sad to witness

Moloney’s bizarre accusations sad to witness
Robert O’Neill
Letters to the Editor
Belfast Telegraph
31 JULY 2013

IN the latest, bizarre accusation, Belfast Project director Ed Moloney claims that materials for the project were “lost” by me, as Burns Librarian at Boston College (News, July 29).

As Ed Moloney well knows, the materials were not lost; rather, they were never received, in clear violation of his contractual obligation.

When this project began, I had a good deal of faith and trust in Ed Moloney. I admired his work and we became friends.

Our relationship was very amicable, but it deteriorated rapidly after the issuance of the Dolours Price subpoenas.

Ed Moloney insisted that the tapes be burned, destroyed, or returned to him. I explained that I could not violate a subpoena and, therefore, refused to return the tapes, as it would have been a crime to do so. That incident severed our relationship.

Since then, Ed Moloney has consistently deflected any blame from himself onto me and Professor Thomas Hachey at Boston College. He has made several false allegations against me.

The Belfast Project was an opportunity to record the stories of paramilitaries, which otherwise would have been lost to posterity. It was a noble effort. It involved a great deal of work and risk for all concerned and it is sad to witness it devolve into a character assassination in which Ed Moloney refuses to accept responsibility for a project he himself was entrusted to manage.

ROBERT O’NEILL
Burns Librarian, Boston College, USA


For contract reference see: Boston College Belfast Project Key Procedure

Boston College Belfast Project IRA Tapes: Row Over Interviewee Identities

Row over interviewee identities
UTV News
Published Sunday, 28 July 2013
The controversy surrounding the Boston College interviews has taken another twist after those involved refused to identify three IRA members who took part in the project.

The tapes were obtained by the PSNI under a court order in connection with the investigation into the death of Jean McConville – one of the Disappeared.

Earlier this month, two PSNI detectives travelled to the US to bring back excerpts of interviews carried out at Boston College as part of their inquiry into the murder of west Belfast woman Jean McConville in 1972.

The interviews were carried out by journalists Ed Maloney and Anthony McIntyre and the project was overseen by the college.

A court ordered the college to hand over the material following the death of one of the interviewees, the former IRA bomber Dolours Price who died in January.

The police want to review the interviews conducted with Price.

It’s believed she alleged that Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams personally ordered the IRA abduction of the Belfast mother of 10.

However, Mr Adams has always denied the allegations and of ever being a member of the organisation.

In the latest twist, it has emerged that Boston College, cannot identify three of the interviewees.

The Sunday Times newspaper has reported that a lawyer for Ed Maloney and Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, wrote to the college declining to help.

He’s quoted as saying his clients’ obligations to the interviewees require them to resist any attempts to help identify those who are still alive.

Writing on his internet blog, Ed Moloney suggested the revelation means that almost half of the nine interviews given by IRA members are now of questionable legal value.

He has suggested one of the interviewees was Dolours Price but said it was not known whether her original contract authenticating the interview was lost or never collected from researchers in Ireland.

It’s reported that researchers could face legal action by the US Government for the entire set of interviews to be handed over.

Latest on Boston College Tapes: Radio Free Eireann interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney

Latest on Boston College Tapes: Radio Free Eireann interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney
Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
Saturday 27 July 2013

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interviews author and journalist Ed Moloney (EM) who provides updates on the Boston College case and comments on the possible presidential candidacy of Peter King. (Eliza Butler (EB) also comments.)

(begins 2:37PM EST)

Sandy Boyer (SB): We do have Ed Moloney, author of Voices From the Grave, on the line. Ed, thanks for being with us.

Ed Moloney (EM): No problem, Sandy.

SB: Ed, there’s a piece in The Irish Times today – and we’ve been covering of course the whole Boston College project where you interviewed the people who actually participated the struggle…

EM: No. I didn’t interview anyone.

SB: You directed the project.

EM: Yes. Yes, indeed.

SB: The Police Service of Northern Ireland has subpoenaed those tapes, or some of them, and now Boston College seems very anxious to hand them over I have to say, but it was revealed that Boston College doesn’t even know who was interviewed. How can that be?

EM: Because the system that we built was designed to ensure the confidentiality and security of the people who participated in the project. That was paramount.

So people who were interviewed were given on the transcripts of their interviews an anonymous identification – usually a letter of the alphabet – A, B, C and all the way through. And then their interviews were then numbered – A1, A2, and so on and so forth.

And that transcript and the tape recordings etc which couldn’t be identified would be fedexed over to Boston College and placed in their archive.

Every now and again the librarian in charge of the archive, a man called Robert O’Neill, would travel to Ireland – which he did regularly because he had a lot of money to spend on buying artifacts and books and material like that for his library – came over to Ireland on a regular basis and he would meet the researchers, that is: Anthony McIntyre, who did the IRA interviews and Wilson McArthur, who did the Ulster Volunteer Force interviews, and collect from them separately contracts – these were contracts that were signed in the names of the people who were A,B,C and D and in that way you were able then to identify “A” and identify “B” and so on and so forth.

Now the rules that we drew up were very strict in the sense that while it was possible to fedex the transcripts and the actual tapes this identifying material had to be carried by hand from Ireland to Boston.

There was no way that you could do it any other way without infringing security.

Now initially I was supposed to be part of that but as you know – for family reasons which I think you’re very familiar with, Sandy – I had to move over to New York very shortly after the project started and therefore could not be involved in this process. And therefore I did not know the names of those who were on the contracts. I never saw the contracts. They were handled exclusively by this character from Boston College, O’Neill, who received these and took them back.

It now appears that a whole number of these contracts either were not collected or were lost in the bureaucratic mess somewhere over in Boston which means that, first of all, Dolours Price’s own interviews – there’s no contract for those. Therefore Boston College does not own those interviews, cannot make any claim to those interviews, cannot publish those interviews and indeed the legal validity of Dolours Price’s interviews as the focus of a criminal trial are now very much in question.

In addition there are seven other interviews which are still the subject of legal wrangling in the courts and we’re going to hear more of that on Tuesday I suspect. But of those seven three of them cannot be identified. They were given letters of the alphabet – I think it’s S, Y and Zed or Z as the Americans call it – they cannot be identified because the contracts don’t exist – either they’ve been lost or they were not collected by Mr. O’Neill.

Boston College is obviously trying to put the blame on myself which is not unusual because that’s been the story of this all along.

But I think an examination of the facts and the history of the whole period along with the fact that this is now thirteen years after this project started – Boston College approved of my move over to New York in the sense that they said: Okay, it’s not ideal but you can continue to run the project or direct the project from New York.

Not once in the thirteen years or so since the project started has Boston College made an issue out of this – come to me and said: Oh, listen – what about these contracts and what about the key to the identities of the participants?

And they didn’t do that because they were happy with the arrangement apparently that we had set up instead.

Not only that but the statute of limitations has expired on the contract that I had with Boston College so it’s unenforceable.

And they allowed that to expire even though it expired after the subpoenas were served by the PSNI.

So again, the evidence is there that they were satisfied with the situation and didn’t do anything about it until right now when they have finally discovered at this very late stage that they have lost these contracts and they’re looking around for someone else to blame other than themselves and of course they’ve picked on myself. So we shall see what happens. But that – it’s a complicated story and I hope your listeners will bear with me – but it is fairly simple at the same time.

SB: But Ed, if you read The Irish Times today and they quote Boston College as saying: well, Ed Moloney has the key to this. Now if I were…

EM: No.

SB: That’s what they say and I’m not saying you do – that’s what they say. If I were the Justice Department and I were reading that I would say: well what I need to do is go subpoena Ed Moloney…

EM: They very well may do something like that – I don’t know. We shall wait and see. But they’re really trying to get blood from a stone.

Because the rules of this archive said that these very important contracts could only be transported by hand from Ireland to Boston and because I was living in New York of course I could not be part of that arrangement.

Otherwise the integrity of the project, the security of the interviewees – would all be at great danger and we would actually be breaching our contract with the interviewees if we did that. So I could not be involved in that.

So the DOJ can come knocking at my door but I cannot help them because I was never in receipt of any of these contracts. I do not know who these people were and that’s just the way it is. And there’s not much I can do about that except explain to them patiently and slowly and hope that they understand. And if they don’t…well we’ll just have to wait and see.

SB: Ed, this was tried on you once before when you were in Belfast…

EM: Yes, that’s right.

SB: …to make you testify against a source and you just said: no I’m not going to do that.

EM: It was not to testify – it was to hand over notes of conversations with a man called Billy Stobie who had been involved as a Special Branch informer with the RUC in the background to the murder of Pat Finucane. And I had given that man my word like I had given the interviewees in this project – although not directly but indirectly – my word that their security and their identities would be safeguarded.

So that’s not going to happen. A) because I will not do it but B) because I just can’t. I don’t have the names. You cannot get blood from a stone no matter how hard you try but that doesn’t mean to say that the authorities won’t at least give it an effort. But we shall see.

JM: Ed, I want to finish up….I know you follow the politics here in the United States and God knows there’s been alot of delusional politicians out there in the recent weeks – people keep thinking of Eliot Spitzer or Anthony Weiner but probably the most delusional politician out there is from Nassau County called Congressman Peter King who is contemplating running for the President of the United States.

And as I brought up at the beginning of the show this is the same Peter King who was very favourable to Irish Northern Aid. I’ve talked to people in Irish Northern Aid and he would have met Joe Cahill when Joe Cahill was out here. And now it’s come up in the trial up in Boston that Joe Cahill was meeting with Whitey Bulger and other drug dealers up in the Boston area.

And here is “Mr. No More Immigration” – “Mr. No This and That” – meeting with Joe Cahill – probably at dinner dances here in New York at the Irish Northern Aid – probably was responsible for getting Joe Cahill a visa to come into the United States – and now it’s coming out that he was running up to Boston and meeting with Whitey Bulger in order to get drug money to have IRA weapons shipped over to Ireland. It’s a very strange thing that Peter King actually thinks that he’s going to run for President.

EM: Well that’s only the half of it because Peter King, who I actually have a soft spot for because in his dealings with Ireland he was very honest and very straightforward I think with a lot of people, and he came to the Irish situation not via the usual route – which is the Sinn Féin offices on the Falls Road – but he came over by himself and he made contacts in areas of West Belfast where most of these sort of visitors would never dare go.

And he met genuine IRA people and then he got very friendly with people on the border in South Armagh.

He became very friendly with Slab Murphy who was ultimately Chief of Staff. He was very friendly with Michael McKevitt and his wife, Bernadette Sands, who’s the sister of Bobby Sands. He brought alot of these people over to the United States. He stayed with them in their homes when he visited Ireland. And only very late on in his association with Ireland did he actually get to meet people like Gerry Adams – who I think actually sought him out rather than him seeking Adams out – which is contrary to the usual pattern of these things.

The people that he was knocking around with were heavy, heavy duty IRA people.

I mean McKevitt and Slab were involved in the Libyan arms importation. And while they were one night sitting down for fish and chips with Peter in their home in County Louth a few days later McKevitt would be in Tripoli meeting Libyan intelligence to go through the inventory of weapons to be smuggled over courtesy of Colonel Gaddafi who, needless to say, was never one of America’s closest friends. So drug dealing in Boston for sure but also arms dealing in the Middle East. And these are people he was very friendly with.

JM: (quips) I don’t know if you can use that as a campaign slogan but you never know what works here in this country!

EM: Indeed! Indeed! But given what’s happened in Libya now perhaps that sort of association is even less respectable but we shall see.

SB: Ed, thank you very much and we appreciate your participation on the show and your regular participation and it makes alot of difference to our audience. And so thank you.

EM: You can come and visit me in gaol, Sandy, as well when the DOJ puts me there.

SB: We will probably do that.

EB: It won’t be our first or last guest in gaol.

JM: (quips to Sandy) You’ll be arrested as you’re coming out after visiting Ed and held!

(ends 2:49PM EST)

Boston College Loses Contracts, Throwing Jean McConville Probe Into Disarray

Boston College Loses Contracts, Throwing Jean McConville Probe Into Disarray
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow
July 27, 2013

Boston College does not have in its possession the contract Dolours Price signed with the university that established the authenticity and ownership of the interview about her life in the IRA conducted by researchers from the college, thebrokenelbow.com can now reveal. It is not known whether the contract has been lost or was never collected from researchers in Ireland.

This disclosure follows revelations in The Irish Times this weekend that Boston College also cannot locate the contracts that identify three out of the seven IRA interviews that have been successfully subpoenaed by the PSNI and the United States’ Department of Justice in an effort to solve the forty year long IRA murder and disappearance in 1972 of Jean McConville, a Belfast widow and mother of ten whom the IRA accused of spying for the British military. These interviews are still the subject of legal argument in the United States.

This means that four out of the nine interviews or sets of interviews – nearly half of the interviews successfully subpoenaed as being relevant to the McConville murder investigation – are now of dubious legal and evidential value despite a lengthy and expensive legal battle fought by the PSNI and their allies in the Obama White House over the past twenty-seven months.

These revelations also raise questions about how many other interviewee contracts with participants unconnected with the McConville investigation or who were part of the UVF section of the archive that so far has escaped PSNI attention have been lost or were never collected by Boston College.

Amid efforts, so far resisted by Boston College, on the part of interviewees to get their interviews returned and to force the closure of the archive, legal sources say that the inability of Boston College to prove that contracts exist will result in the automatic return of these interviews to those who gave them.

All these twists and turns add appreciably to the embarrassment of Boston College’s authorities over a project that has been roiled in controversy over assurances of confidentiality that were given to interviewees by the college in order to persuade them to participate.

The contracts at the centre of this controversy tell interviewees that their control and ownership of the interviews they gave was absolute until their death, after which ownership and control reverted to Boston College. It was this contract, drawn up by Boston College’s own legal advisers, which persuaded the researchers, Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur, as well as the interviewees, to take part in the project as it seemingly offered protection against official intrusion.

At the outset of the project in 2001 another part of the arrangement, drawn up in contracts, stipulated that the Project Director, Ed Moloney would create a key for Boston College that would identify all the participants who otherwise would only be identified by letters of the alphabet and numbers for the number of interviews they gave.

The key would be created via the contracts which the researchers, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur, would ask each interviewee to sign. The arrangement was very strict about one point: for security reasons the contracts and the key they created could only be hand delivered to Boston from Ireland by the Boston College librarian, Robert O’Neill, who traveled regularly to Ireland on shopping expeditions for the college.

In other words McIntyre and McArthur would provide the signed contracts, Moloney would create a key from them and O’Neill would carry all this back to Boston where the documents would be lodged, at least in theory, in the college archive.

Almost at the outset however the arrangement was altered by changes in the domestic arrangements of Ed Moloney, who was obliged for family reason to relocate from Belfast to New York in the summer of 2001, by which time the IRA part of the archive was just a few months old.

Because the security of the project and the guarantees given to interviewees necessitated that the all important piece of information identifying each participant be taken to Boston only by hand this meant that Moloney, now residing in New York, could no longer be part of this process and it was left to O’Neill, the Boston College librarian and the man in charge of the project, to collect the contracts and create the key. Had Moloney been involved this would have meant that security would have been compromised since the ‘by hand only’ rule would have been breached, with potentially harmful consequences for the interviewees.

It is interesting to note that the subpoenaed IRA interviewees not identified by contracts are all at the end of the alphabet, suggesting that they were started long after he had arrived in New York and when he was no longer in a position to be given copies of their contracts. In practice he was not informed of the names of participants although he did suggest names of potential candidates and needs and did read transcripts which were sent in an encrypted form. However identities could never be sent encrypted or in any other way as the security risk was too great.

Boston College went along with this arrangement. Again for security reasons none of this was described in writing or email but was done orally. Proof that it was acceptable to Boston College lies in the fact that never once, from 2001 onwards, did the college ever demand the key from Ed Moloney. This was because de facto the job was O’Neill’s. During Moloney’s stay in New York he traveled numerous times to Boston College, gave lectures to students and had meetings with those in charge of the project and never once was this issue or problem raised.

Had the college been so exercised by the failure to provide this key its lawyers could have sued for breach of contract but they allowed the statute of limitations to expire in 2012, a year after the PSNI/DoJ subpoenas were served. This suggests that the college was not then concerned about the matter.

It also means that from 2001 until 2013, and even after a foreign police force had requested access to its archive, the fact that a significant number of interviews lodged in Boston College had no contracts attached to demonstrate Boston College’s ownership or to establish the identity of the interviewees went completely unnoticed by the authorities on campus or was not regarded as being of concern.

Collection of the contracts and therefore compilation of the key became the responsibility of Robert O’Neill, the college librarian. Did he collect the contracts and then lose them or ‘forget’ or somehow fail to collect the contracts? We don’t know. It does however seem logical that McIntyre – and also McArthur – did have an incentive to ensure that contracts were signed and collected.

The contracts were the guarantee of security and safety and it was in their interests to ensure that each interviewee was both aware of the text of the contract and had signed them – this was the way, after all, in which they could assure interviewees that it was safe to participate. Equally it was in their interests to ensure that the contracts were lodged at Boston College.

Doubtless aware of how damaging all this extraordinary chapter in the IRA archive story is to Boston College’s reputation, the university has turned on its researchers as it has done repeatedly during this sad story.

This time the reason is clear. Earlier this summer, the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Boston reversed a District Court judgement of 2011 that authorised the wholesale handover of IRA interviews – eighty-five in total. That judgement had said that if interviewee ‘A’ mentioned Jean McConville in only one of 18 interviews then all 18 interviews should be handed over. The First Circuit, very sensibly, said that only that single interview should be conceded.

Following this Boston College appears to have discovered that thanks to the contracts snafu, it cannot identify three of the interviewees. Anxious that once again the college will be exposed as alarmingly bungling and incompetent, Boston College is trying to shift the blame on to its researchers and in particular project director Ed Moloney.

On the foot of what looks like a tip off to the DoJ from Boston College, the researchers’ legal advisers have been warned that the US government may well go into court next week to ask that in the case of those three interviewees their entire set of interviews should now be handed over so they can be identified. Boston College is telling our legal team that we can stop this happening if we identify the three interviewees. Failing that there is the threat in the background of a subpoena, with jail time if it is defied, against the Project Director Ed Moloney.

This is how far Boston College has sunk. And as this happens US academe stands silent, acquiescing and in effect collaborating.

Boston tapes useless in tracing Jean McConville’s IRA murderers

Boston tapes useless in tracing Jean McConville’s IRA murderers
Boston College blames project director Ed Moloney for anonymous voices on key recordings
By PATRICK COUNIHAN, IrishCentral Staff Writer
IrishCentral
Saturday, July 27, 2013

Anonymous voices that can not be identified may render the Boston College tapes useless in the search to find the IRA killers who murdered Belfast mother Jean McConville.

Historian and author Chris Bray claims in the Irish Times that some of the voices on the tapes are of little legal value. An attorney has described the tapes as “meaningless” without the identity of thise speaking.

The recordings, made by journalist Ed Moloney, were claimed by Northern Ireland police after a legal battle in the US Supreme Court.

Bray says the audiotapes from the Boston College archive are supposed to answer questions about McConville’s 1972 murder at the hands of the IRA who accused her of being a British Army informant.

But BC says the voices of the former militants on the tapes are difficult to identify.

The report says the police will receive the subpoenaed material but some of the voices are anonymous.

American lawyer Eamonn Dornan, who was involved in the legal battle over the tapes, said: “It certainly greatly diminishes the value of the evidence.

“If they can’t be identified, they’re meaningless, or almost meaningless.”

The report says the very nature of the tapes, known as the Belfast Project, have contributed to the current issue.

Bray says that in the archives, interview materials were marked only by a coded letter and court documents have used that coding to discuss which of the tapes Boston College is to provide to the Government.

But Boston College does not have a key to connect those coded identities to the real identities of the interviewees.

Boston lawyer Jeffrey Swope, who represented the university in the proceedings, has acknowledged that the school’s archivists have never had that identification key.

The Irish Times also says that no contracts exists for some of the key participants in the project although it does have contracts that identify the subjects of four other sets of subpoenaed interviews.

The American university says writer and filmmaker Moloney was obligated to provide the paperwork under the terms of his contract as the research director of the Belfast Project, which was concluded in 2006.

Swope said: “Under the agreement between Boston College and Mr Moloney, Mr Moloney promised to provide a ‘key’ to the code assigned to each interviewee that gave the interviewee’s name. Mr Moloney failed to do.

“Mr Moloney did provide Boston College the donation agreements for some, but not all, of the interviewees.”

Moloney replied that the project ended in 2006, the subpoenas were served in 2011 and only now has Boston College realised that its archivists do not know what is in, or has gone missing from, the college’s own archive.

He said: “Not once in all these years did the college ask me for the key to these interviews and that is because they knew that when I moved to New York at the outset of the project, for family reasons, I could not be involved in a process which stipulated that, for security reasons, contracts could only be taken by hand from Ireland to Boston.

“This is an attempt to divert attention from the college’s own incompetence, one of many during this sad saga.”

The report adds that Boston College is trying to find out whose tapes it has in its archives.

The college has asked Moloney to provide them with the missing identification key.

Swope added: “Mr Moloney has refused to do so.”

Value of Boston College tapes diminished by anonymous voices

Value of Boston College tapes diminished by anonymous voices
Chris Bray
Irish Times
July 27, 2013

There are voices and they talk about the death of Jean McConville. It may not matter. After two years of legal proceedings in the US, a set of audiotapes in a Boston College archive are supposed to answer questions about McConville’s 1972 murder by members of the IRA, who claim they suspected her of informing for the British army in Belfast.

The voices on the tapes are said to belong to former militants from the organisation that took McConville from her home, shot her dead and then buried her on a beach in the South.

But the prolonged court battle may produce evidence of questionable legal value, as Boston College now says it is unable to identify some of the interviewees.

Assuming no further legal wrangling in the US, police in Northern Ireland are set to receive subpoenaed material in which unidentifiable voices anonymously discuss a decades-old murder.

“It certainly greatly diminishes the value of the evidence,” says Eamonn Dornan, a lawyer who has participated in some of the American legal proceedings involving the subpoenas. “If they can’t be identified, they’re meaningless, or almost meaningless.”

The inability of Boston College archivists to identify some interviewees from the venture known as the Belfast Project grows from apparent failures in a system that was designed for the very purpose of masking the identity of research subjects.

In the archive, interview materials were marked only by a coded letter and court documents have used that coding to discuss which of the tapes Boston College is to provide to the Government.

Among the interviewees who discuss McConville’s death, which American courts have concluded from a review of the material, are those known as S, Y, and Z.

Nowhere, however, does Boston College have a key that connects those coded identities to the real identities of the interviewees.

Jeffrey Swope, a lawyer in Boston who represents the university in the proceedings over the subpoenas, acknowledged this week that the school’s archivists have never had that identification key.

In some instances, university archivists are able to identify Belfast Project interviewees by the research contracts they signed. For the subjects known as S, Y, and Z, however, Boston College acknowledges that it doesn’t have interview contracts, although it does have contracts that identify the subjects of four other sets of subpoenaed interviews.

The American university is blaming an Irish journalist for the missing documentation, saying that the writer and filmmaker Ed Moloney was obligated to provide the paperwork under the terms of his contract as the research director of the Belfast Project, which was concluded in 2006.

“Under the agreement between Boston College and Mr Moloney, ” wrote Swope in an email on Wednesday, responding to questions, “Mr Moloney promised to provide a ‘key’ to the code assigned to each interviewee that gave the interviewee’s name. Mr Moloney failed to do. Mr Moloney did provide Boston College the donation agreements for some, but not all, of the interviewees.”

In response, Moloney said that the project ended in 2006, the subpoenas were served in 2011 and only now has Boston College realised that its archivists do not know what is in, or has gone missing from, the college’s own archive.

“Not once in all these years did the college ask me for the key to these interviews and that is because they knew that when I moved to New York at the outset of the project, for family reasons, I could not be involved in a process which stipulated that, for security reasons, contracts could only be taken by hand from Ireland to Boston,” says Moloney.

“This is an attempt to divert attention from the college’s own incompetence, one of many during this sad saga.”

Forced to turn over interviews with research subjects it can’t identify, Boston College is trying to find out whose tapes it has in its archives. The university has asked Moloney to provide them with the missing identification key. “Mr Moloney has refused to do so,” according to Swope.

Swope also provided a copy of Moloney’s contract with Boston College, noting that it required the research director to provide the identification key.

He did not respond to subsequent queries asking why Boston College was bringing the absence of that key to Moloney’s attention in 2013, seven years after the end of the project he ran.

Several Boston College officials, including archivist Robert O’Neill and spokesman Jack Dunn, also did not respond to phone calls and emails this week. Neither did officials at the US Department of Justice.

Dornan, who represents Moloney in litigation over the subpoenas, said this week that neither the US Department of Justice nor Boston College are likely to succeed in any effort to force a key to interviewee identities from the former Belfast Project director.

Moloney won’t co-operate and his long-expired agreement with the university is unenforceable due to the statute of limitations on contractual obligations.

As for American prosecutors, Dornan says, the law only permits them to subpoena “documents which are in existence”. And the identity key doesn’t exist. Other avenues may be available to the Government, including a subpoena forcing Moloney to testify in court, but “there are a lot of procedural difficulties” .

Those legal hurdles will be complicated, Dornan adds, by a new political climate in the US following two years of controversy over the subpoenas.

Whatever legal developments come next, they are unlikely to be resolved quickly. The death of Jean McConville is, 41 years after the event, a story that still resists its ending.

Chris Bray is a historian and journalist.

Moloney and McIntyre seek access to British regiment’s war diaries

Moloney and McIntyre seek access to British regiment’s war diaries
Documents could assist in establishing true details about murder of Jean McConville, they contend
Gerry Moriarty
Irish Times
Mon, Jul 15, 2013

A journalist and former IRA prisoner are to lodge a freedom of information inquiry with the British government in an effort to cast further light on the IRA murder of Jean McConville.

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre have invited members of the McConville family to join them in the freedom of information request to access the war diaries of the British army’s First Gloucestershire
Regiment who were operating in west Belfast for periods in 1971, 1972 and 1973.

The diaries, which record daily military events during a regimental tour, cannot be opened until January 2059. They are the only regiment to have served in Divis in west Belfast around that period and whose war diaries have been embargoed in this way, according to journalist Mr Moloney and former IRA prisoner and academic Dr McIntyre.

They have approached the McConville family seeking their support for the request while former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Baroness Nuala O’Loan has told them that in principle she would support the opening of the diaries if they served a useful purpose.

“The First Gloucesters served in the Divis Flats area of west Belfast at the time Jean McConville came under IRA suspicion of working for British military intelligence and was subsequently abducted, murdered and her body hidden in a secret grave,” Moloney and Dr McIntyre said in a statement yesterday.

They said they wanted to access the diaries to see if they contained any information which might indicate what happened to Ms McConville, the widowed mother of 10 who was abducted from her apartment in the Divis Flats, shot and buried in a Co Louth beach.

The McConville family has always insisted that their mother was not carrying out such work and that she was killed by the IRA because she had comforted a British soldier who had been wounded outside her door.

Baroness O’Loan in her 2006 investigation found that Ms McConville was not acting in any informer capacity for the British army. She questioned what value the diaries might be as the First Gloucesters were not actually in west Belfast when Ms McConville was abducted sometime in late November/early December 1972. They served from December 1971 to April 1972 and from April 1973 to August 1973, she said.

Nonetheless, Baroness O’Loan added that if it could assist the murder investigation such documents should be handed over to the PSNI while, with possible redactions because of threat to life considerations, they could also be made available to Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre. “Anybody who has any information about what is a murder investigation should hand that information over,” she said.

Could Boston interview tapes spell trouble for Adams?

Could Boston interview tapes spell trouble for Adams?
by Peter Geoghegan
Sunday Business Post
14 July 2013

In October 2010, Voices From The Grave appeared on Irish television screens. The RTE documentary gave a unique glimpse into the history of the Troubles as seen through the eyes of two leading protagonists, loyalist David Ervine and his republican counterpart Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes.

But more than two and a half years after it first aired, Voices From The Grave continues to haunt Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Hughes, a former IRA commander in Belfast, claimed that Adams ordered the killing of mother-of-ten Jean McConville in 1972, allegedly for being a British spy.

Voices From The Grave, which was also a best-selling book, was based on interviews given by Ervine and Hughes as part of the Belfast Project, a larger oral history project involving numerous loyalist and republican prisoners and conducted by researchers under the auspices of Boston College.

Ervine and Hughes died in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Accusations of Adams’s involvement in the killing of McConville resurfaced last week, as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed that tapes of interviews with IRA bomber Dolours Price, which were being held by Boston College, had been handed over to them.

Price died last January. Before her death, she claimed that Adams was her IRA officer commanding in the early 1970s, and was responsible for ordering McConville’s disappearance.

Adams has always denied that he was a member of the IRA or that he played any role in the death of McConville, whose body was found in a beach in Co Louth in 2003.

“I have consistently rejected claims that I had any knowledge of, or any part in, the abduction or killing of Jean McConville,” Adams said in the Dáil last week.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on Adams to make a statement about McConville’s disappearance. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil: “Nobody except Deputy Adams believes he wasn’t in the IRA.”

Ed Moloney, erstwhile director of the Boston College project, said that there had been a “very political element” to the PSNI’s determination to get hold of the interviews with Dolours Price and others, conducted as part of the project.

“The PSNI knew that, at the end of the road, they would end with Adams,” Moloney told The Sunday Business Post. “There is an element there of going down this road knowing it will cause [Gerry Adams] an awful lot of trouble.”

Moloney, who was the Irish Times northern editor during the Troubles and is now based in New York, fears that the US court decision to have the tapes released could lead to issues for Adams and other senior political figures that could undermine the political situation in the North and also inhibit attempts to learn more about exactly what happened during the Troubles.

“The only way we are going to get a truth recovery process is if there is a guarantee that there won’t be prosecutions. Prosecutions just keep the war going,” he said.

The issue of the past has been centre stage in the North in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the Policing Board said that it had no confidence in the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which was set up to re-examine deaths during the Troubles.

The Policing Board said that the HET was investigating deaths involving soldiers with less rigour than cases with no state involvement. Moloney agreed, saying it was “a way of dealing with the past that says that there was only one guilty party – the paramilitaries, not the state. The state is left out of it completely.

“Fear of prosecution will prohibit people entirely from saying what they know and it will keep the war going in another guise, and that is what has been happening in recent years,” he said.

Moloney’s viewpoint has support on the other side of the Atlantic. Last week, the chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Robert Menendez, raised concerns about the impact of handing over the Price tapes to the PSNI.

In a letter to US secretary of state John Kerry, Menendez said that the release of material could “still have the effect of threatening the precious peace won by the Good Friday Agreement”.

In his letter, Menendez appealed for State Department experts on the North to examine whether the details contained in the interviews could “run counter to our national interests”.

Dealing with the past is expected to be top of the in-tray for Richard Haass, the US’s new peace envoy to the North. Haas, who was George W Bush’s envoy to Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2003, will head talks aimed at resolving troubling issues, including flags and parading. He is expected to report his findings by the end of the year.

In the North, opinions are divided on whether the release of the Boston College tapes to the PSNI will have any significant impact on the political situation on the ground.

Mick Fealty, editor of the influential blog site Slugger O’Toole, said that it would be difficult to prevent the PSNI or the HET going after other interviews in the Boston College archive, but that criminal prosecutions as a result of evidence from the tapes were “highly unlikely”.

“I don’t see material evidence coming out of this,” Fealty said. “[Dolours Price] can’t be interrogated; she can’t be brought before a jury.”

Fealty said the Boston College tapes could prove less damaging to Adams than other issues. “Adams has far more challenging stuff coming down the tracks. His brother’s trial [for child sex abuse] is coming up later this year. There is the stuff about mishandling of sex abuse within Sinn Féin.”

Irish News columnist Newton Emerson also believes there is little prospect of a criminal conviction arising from the Boston College interview with Price. “There is absolutely no conceivable possibility of this stuff being used in court,” he said. “The witness can’t be cross-examined. I’d be very surprised if you can even get this heard in court.”

The big concern for Adams would be a civil case being taken against him, said Emerson. “If you were a particularly determined grieving relative, you could decide to make the last ten years of Gerry Adams’s life miserable, even if the civil case had little chance of success.”

“Ultimately, the big issue is the assumption of a de facto amnesty that can never actually be delivered. The dam will break with a civil case,” he said, adding that there were tens of thousands of people in the North who could be motivated to bring a civil case against the republican leader.

Emerson draws parallels with other world leaders who were initially celebrated by sections of the international community, but who spent the final decades of their lives battling civil actions from relatives of victims killed by his regime. “It still all ended up in the courts. It’s very hard not to imagine that happening here,” he said.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson refused to discuss the prospects of civil cases arising from the Boston College tapes.

Emerson is sceptical about claims that the tapes could destabilise the political situation in the North. “Why would misfortune for Adams be a threat to the peace process? It’s very hard to believe the Provos kicking off again because Gerry has a hearing,” he said.

“I just can’t see any actual revelation from the Troubles bringing people out on to the streets in armed fury. It’s just too far away. Half the people in Northern Ireland have no living memory of the Troubles. When you talk about something that happened 40 years ago to a 20-year-old, it’s like talking about something that happened in the 1930s.”

………………………

Belfast Project timeline

Funded by Boston College, the Belfast Project was coordinated by Ed Moloney, the Irish journalist now based in New York.

Anthony McIntyre, a former republican prisoner with a PhD in history, and former loyalist prisoner Wilson McArthur conducted interviews with leading figures in the IRA, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

Crucially, all interviewees were promised that their recordings would not be released until after their deaths; – now these testimonies could provide evidence for criminal proceedings.

The Belfast Project began in 2001 and ended in 2006, but it remained a secret until 2010, when Moloney, with Boston College’s imprimatur, published Voices from the Grave, a book based on interviews given by former IRA officer commanding and hunger striker Brendan Hughes and former Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine.

In May 2011, British authorities issued Boston College with a subpoena, demanding tapes of interviews with both Hughes and Dolours Price, after the latter gave an interview to a Northern Irish newspaper intimating her role in Jean McConville’s disappearance. In August, a second subpoena followed, this time calling for all interviews that contained any information relating to the McConville case.

In December 2011, a Boston federal court judge upheld the first subpoena. Boston College criticised the verdict but surprisingly declined to appeal. Instead the case was taken to the US appeal courts by Moloney and McIntyre.

The researchers also called for Boston College to destroy all tapes of the interviews.

“The archive must now be closed down and the interviews be either returned or shredded since Boston College is no longer a safe nor fit and proper place for them to be kept,” they said in a statement.

Price died in January this year. On April 15, the Supreme Court reduced the amount of material to be handed over from 85 interviews (roughly half of the archive) to segments of 11 interviews.

Last month, the PSNI travelled to Boston to collect tapes and transcripts of interviews given by Dolours Price. However, Jack Dunn, director of public affairs at Boston College, denied claims that the university had handed over the tapes.

“The Dolours Price tapes have not been handed over to the PSNI by Boston College,” Dunn told the website Irish Central.

“If they have been given to the PSNI, they have been supplied by the Department of Justice. It has been inaccurately reported that PSNI detectives came to Boston over the weekend and took tapes from us. That is completely untrue.”

Moloney told The Sunday Business Post that Boston College had “abandoned” Belfast Project interviewees.

“This is a disgraceful episode in American academic history,” he said. “My advice to anyone interested in setting up a controversial research project is to avoid American universities because they will sell you down the river as soon as look at you.”

Could British war diaries help solve the Jean McConville murder?

Could British war diaries help solve the Jean McConville murder?
The diaries are under embargo until 2059.
Sinead O’Carroll
The Journal.ie
14 July 2013

THE FAMILY OF Jean McConville may submit a Freedom of Information request to the British government to release a number of war diaries of regiments stationed at the Divis Street flats at the time of the mother-of-ten’s disappearance.

The diaries, the existence of which was discovered by journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, are embargoed until 2059 but may hold a key to unlocking the truth about the 1972 abduction and murder.

Moloney, who is behind the Boston Tapes project detailing the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, believes the diaries should be released in the search for the truth and in the name of fairness.

Tapes of interviews with convicted IRA bomber Dolours Price that were recorded during that research, are due to be handed to the PSNI following a court wrangle in the US.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme today, Moloney said that the accusation that McConville was an informer “will just not go away”, despite her family’s insistence and a Police Ombudsman’s report which proclaimed her innocence.

“If she wasn’t an informer, we deserve to know that,” he said, adding that “contemporaneous documents are very convincing”.

However, he also said that if the diaries reveal her to be an informer that was caught or confessed, then the British Army could be accused of exploiting her by returning her to activities.

Former Police Ombudsman’s Nuala O’Loan, also interviewed by RTÉ Radio One today, said there is a duty on the PSNI to seek any information which is relevant to a crime and that the diaries should be released to investigating officers if they haven’t already seen them.

She said she does not know if the documents were available to her team during her 2006 probe.

“I don’t know whether we had access to these particular documents. I do know that we had access to contemporaneous military records at the time,” she said.

“There’s always a possibility of additional evidence coming forward in respect of any investigation,” she continued. “What I can say, categorically, is that all the information saw Jean McConville was not an informant.

“What was interesting to me was that there was no reference to her in any of the archives prior to the incident which occurred at some point just before she was murdered where a woman was found in a distressed stage in the street in west Belfast having been beaten by the IRA. And, that appears to be the first mention in any records.

After her death, there was no information apart from her children reporting that she had been abducted. We don’t know when she was abducted…the IRA haven’t even told her family that.

The deceased’s son Michael has indicated that he might jointly launch the FOI request in the search for more information about his mother’s murder.

Documents such as the war diaries are usually released under the 30-year-rule but those from Divis Street in the early 1970s have been exempt.

FOI Request for British Archive War Diaries

PRESS RELEASE FROM ED MOLONEY & ANTHONY McINTYRE
July 14th, 2013

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre are today announcing their intention of lodging a Freedom of Information request with the British government archive at Kew, Surrey seeking the lifting of an 84 year embargo on the war diaries of the First Gloucestershire Regiment compiled in 1972 and 1973. The diaries, which record daily military events during a regimental tour, cannot be opened until January 2059.

The First Gloucesters served in the Divis Flats area of west Belfast at the time Jean McConville came under IRA suspicion of working for British military intelligence and was subsequently abducted, murdered and her body hidden in a secret grave.

They are the only regiment to have served in Divis in these years whose war diaries have been embargoed in this way.

Moloney & McIntyre have approached the family of the late Jean McConville seeking their support while former police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan has said she would, in principle, support the opening of the war diary.

The detailed case for lifting the embargo on the First Gloucestershire Regiment files is outlined by Ed Moloney below.


FOI Request for 1972 War Diaries
Bid For British Army Papers
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow

Today myself and Anthony McIntyre are extending an invitation to members of Jean McConville’s family to join with us in lodging a Freedom of Information request at the British government’s archives at Kew in Surrey to obtain the release of the war diaries of the First Gloucestershire Regiment, which served in Divis Flats at the time, in early 1972, that Jean McConville allegedly came under IRA suspicion as an informer for the military.

The First Gloucesters, one of the oldest and most battle hardened regiments in the British Army, was the only one of the nine regiments to have served in the Divis district of West Belfast during the early 1970’s whose war diaries have been embargoed and closed to the public, in that regiment’s case for an exceptional 84 years, until the year 2059. Under the 30 year rule the war diaries should have been made available by now but an extra embargo of over 50 years was imposed. It is our understanding that the British Ministry of Defence has the final say in such decisions.

We are also planning to ask that the war diaries for 39 Brigade of the British Army, that is the Belfast command of the military, between August 1st, 1971 and September 30th 1971, and between June 1st 1972 and June 30th 1973 be opened for scrutiny. These documents have been embargoed for between 84 and 100 years.

We will be filing the requests in order to see if the war diaries, which are a daily account of a regiment’s military activity, contain any information which might indicate what happened to Jean McConville, the widowed mother of ten who was abducted from her apartment in the Divis Flats complex by the Provisional IRA in December 1972, taken across the Border to the Dundalk area, shot dead and her body secretly buried in a beach on the edge of Carlingford Lough.

Questions

In particular the request might settle for once and for all the question of whether the IRA killed Jean McConville because she worked as an intelligence source for the British Army.

Significantly, Nuala O’Loan, the former NI Police Ombudsman who investigated the Jean McConville ‘disappearance’ and whose report challenged suggestions that she had been a British Army informer, told thebrokenelbow.com in a phone interview this weekend that she had never heard of these war diaries until now.

She said that she would be ready to lend her support to our efforts to get the embargo lifted. “I am always ready for documents to be examined but I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know why they have been embargoed. I think I could be supportive of getting the documents out. I think there may be issues attached, there may have to be sections redacted. But I think that would be my only proviso.”

We wish to stress that we are not conducting this exercise to prove that the IRA was telling the truth when it claimed that Jean McConville was killed because she was working for the British Army. We have enormous respect and understanding for the family’s view that their mother was killed and disappeared for reasons unconnected to any military exigency on the part of the IRA.

Nor do we wish our proposal to be regarded as an attempt to vindicate this heinous act by the IRA. What happened to Jean McConville was not only unjustified but was callous, cynical, barbaric and unnecessary and both of us are on public record repeatedly as saying so. I have also written that in my view her killing was a war crime; so has Anthony McIntyre. Strikingly, a significant number of former IRA activists have told me this is their belief also, and that they are ashamed that this act was carried out in their name.

There is no doubt either that certain key figures in the IRA of that time have lied about their part in Jean McConville’s disappearance and have done so repeatedly and grossly. Nor can there be doubt that such lying has infected the IRA’s account of Jean McConville’s death and the reason for her murder.

At the same time two credible IRA figures have come forward both to denounce that lying and also to say that her role as an informer was the reason Jean McConville was killed. Both Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price are now dead and cannot be quizzed about their versions of events but they both gave lengthy, credible and coherent accounts, Hughes in the book Voices From The Grave, which was derived from his interviews with Boston College, and Price in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

On the other hand, the former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan has reported that from her inquiries in security circles she could find no evidence to verify the allegation that Jean McConville worked as an agent for the military or any other branch of the British security apparatus. But she has declined to go into detail and has, for instance, refused to say who in security world she spoke to or at what level.

No-one can doubt Nuala O’Loan’s integrity, nor that what she reported she genuinely believed to be the truth. But at the same time, if the IRA account is true, some in the British Army and others in the intelligence and political hierarchy may have had as much reason to lie and dissemble to the Police Ombudsman as does the IRA’s then Belfast leadership to the people of Ireland.

Remember Brendan Hughes’ account. According to his version, Jean McConville was uncovered as a spy when a radio transmitter was found in her apartment. According to Hughes she admitted her role when confronted with the evidence but because of her family situation, she was given a so-called ‘Yellow Card’ by Hughes and let go. But later the IRA discovered evidence she had resumed spying and that sealed her fate.

Nobody knows whether Brendan Hughes’ account is accurate but if it is, it means that the British Army continued to use as an agent someone whose cover had been blown, thus putting the agent’s life in great peril. And, if Hughes’ account is accurate, the army would have known Jean McConville’s cover was blown because her radio had been confiscated by the IRA.

If all this is true the British Army contributed significantly to the series of events that led to her murder. If all this is true the British Army acted recklessly and selfishly and was at least partly responsible for ten children losing their mother. If all this is true then British soldiers, possibly senior ones, had good reasons to lie and to keep these facts from the public and the McConville’s. And the McConville family have good reason to seek the maximum redress.

It should also be remembered that the British Army has a track record of telling lies, in one notorious case a massive lie, about its intelligence operations. When John Stevens, the former Cambridgeshire Deputy Chief Constable was sent to Northern Ireland in 1989 to investigate intelligence leaks to Loyalist paramilitaries he was told at a high level military briefing that the British Army ran no intelligence agents in Northern Ireland.

In fact, as he soon found out, the army not only ran agents but it had an entire dedicated detachment, the Force Research Unit, which did nothing else except run agents. The British Army lied then to cover up its role in the UDA murder of Pat Finucane; in such a context it is not inconceivable that they may have lied to cover up the death of Jean McConville.

Conflicting Accounts

So we have conflicting accounts, dead witnesses, lies told by one side and possibly lies told by the other. What we do not have enough of is truth that can be backed up by independent, contemporary evidence. That is why today we are announcing our plans to seek the opening of British Army files and asking the McConville’s to join us.

We are seeking only the truth. It may be that the files contain nothing of interest or significance and if that is the case, then so be it. It may be that the files support Nuala O’Loan’s suggestion that Jean McConville never worked for the British Army. It may be that they show she did but that her handlers exploited her and helped usher her to an early death. If that is the case, then so be it.

Over the past two years, the PSNI and the British government have sought to obtain interviews lodged in the archive of the Belfast Project at Boston College in their search for facts in the investigation of Jean McConville’s murder and disappearance. We also seek to obtain files lodged in the UK’s archives at Kew in our search for facts in the investigation of Jean McConville’s murder and disappearance.

With the appointment of Dr Richard Haass as the new US Special Envoy with the brief of charting a way to deal with the past, it is becoming clear that any effort to find out what happened during the Troubles will be fatally flawed unless there is absolute balance between competing sides, between paramilitary groups and security forces. The leadership of the Historical Enquiries Team is currently learning the hard way what happens when a process of investigating the past become tainted with double standards.

And so, if the PSNI is to be allowed access to Boston College’s files by the US courts, then we who were responsible for creating them should be allowed access to the British Army’s archive. Otherwise we have an investigatory process that is doomed to be one-sided and whose conclusions will be respected by only one part of the community. Such an outcome can only breed mistrust and further division.

So, why do we single out the First Gloucestershire Regiment in this Freedom of Information request?

The first reason has to do with the unusual act of requesting an embargo on the regiment’s war diaries and the length of that embargo, eighty-four years. This means that unless the embargo is successfully challenged the diary will not be opened until January 1st, 2059, by which time most of those reading this article will be long dead.

To put the embargo into context, it is the same length or just slightly shorter than the embargo placed on 39 Brigade war diaries at a time when the Brigade commander was Brigadier Frank Kitson and he was busy creating the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a super secret undercover unit which allegedly was involved in a series of drive by shootings and killings in Belfast.

In other words to qualify for an 84 year or 100 year embargo as 39 Brigade has, the activities in question need to be the sort that you really don’t want the world to know about, at least for a very long time, and long after those responsible have shuffled off this mortal coil.

The full list of 39 Brigade embargoed war diaries is below. By contrast British Army brigade war diaries in Europe and Britain are open for public inspection:


So what was it that soldiers from the First Gloucestershire Regiment did in Divis Flats in 1972 and also in 1973 that they want hidden until 2059?

None of the other military units that served in Divis during these years felt that way. According to records compiled by our resourceful researcher Bob Mitchell, nine British regiments served in Divis Flats between October 1970 and April 1975. The list can be seen below in the graphic and it records that only one regiment cannot be traced in the Kew archive, the Third Battalion Light Infantry. Of the other eight, all can be traced and aside from the Gloucesters, none asked that its war diary(ies) be embargoed or were ordered by the MoD to be embargoed even though some of them, like the Royal Green Jackets and the Royal Anglian Regiment were posted to Divis during the worst periods of violence.

So what was it that the First Gloucesters were involved in, in Divis Flats that made them so different from seven of their brother regiments?

Our research also brought us to journals and magazines produced by British regiments during the 1970’s which describe in sometimes fascinating detail their activities while posted to Northern Ireland. The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ) Chronicle is a particularly rich source of information.

The RGJ were posted to Belfast for the second time in August 1973 and a single company, ‘B’ Coy, was sent to Divis where, according to the account produced in that year’s Chronicle, priority was given to cultivating sources in the local population. While the Chronicle makes light of the way this was done, it seems that female residents of Divis were especially targeted. The account, which can be read in full below, concludes: “….by the end of the tour, all sections had established a friendly contact here and there.”

Standard Practice

So cultivating and recruiting intelligence sources from the population of Divis Flats, and possibly from female residents, appears to have been standard operating practice for British units, which common sense suggests would be the case. It is something the British would have done as a matter of course and not just in Divis.

A key part of Brendan Hughes’ story concerned the radio that was allegedly discovered in Jean McConville’s flat and with which she is supposed to have communicated with her handlers in Hastings Street RUC station which had become the British Army’s local HQ. In his interview with Boston College, Hughes did not describe the radio in any detail but it appears that it was what most people would know as a walkie-talkie type radio, small and compact, easy to hide and use.

The problem is that some people have raised doubts about whether the British Army had access to such equipment in the early 1970’s and that the only radios in use at that time were heavy, bulky sets totally unsuitable for use by an agent such as Jean McConville. In fact that is not true and the source for this is the Saville report on the Bloody Sunday killings of January 1972.

Paragraph 181.13 of the report reads:

“We should also record that there is evidence that before Bloody Sunday some of the resident battalions were, at platoon level only, using portable Stornophone radios in place of Larkspur radios. A number of former soldiers serving in Londonderry recalled having Stornophone radios available on 30th January 1972. Often nicknamed “Stornos”, these radios, like the Pye radios discussed above, were a commercially produced system purchased by the Army. There is little doubt that the use of Stornophone radios was a consequence of the fallibility of Larkspur radios in built-up areas.”

Stornophone radios were ideal for agent use. Manufactured by the Norwegian Storno Company, the average set was 10” long. 2.5” wide and 1” thick, it had a rechargeable battery pack and a simple ‘push to talk’ operation. The question then is whether Stornophone radios were available to British troops in Divis in early 1972 and the answer is yes.

The answer comes from the ‘Soldiers of Gloucestershire’ website, which is dedicated to all things to do with the Gloucestershire Regiment, including a massive collection, dating back to the 18th century, of paintings, prints and photographs of the regiment during its various campaigns and wars, including its various tours to Northern Ireland.

One photograph shows a soldier from the Gloucesters on patrol in Divis Flats in 1972 holding and maybe using a Storno-type hand held radio.

Here is the photo:

be9divis-patrol-c-apr-1972

So a hand held walkie-talkie type radio of the sort that Brendan Hughes said was found in Jean McConville’s flat was in use by soldiers from the First Gloucestershire regiment in Divis Flats in 1972, the year she was abducted & killed, and the war diary for that tour has been embargoed until 2059. A cloud now hangs over the Gloucestershire regiment which can only be dispelled by full disclosure of the unit’s archives.

Military Sources

There is one final issue that arises out of the Police Ombudsman’s report on Jean McConville’s disappearance. It derives from a section of her report dealing with intelligence reports on the whereabouts of Jean McConville after she disappeared from Divis. That section was summarised in a press release dated August 13th, 2006 from the Police Ombudsman’s office. Here is the relevant section:

“There is no intelligence about or from Mrs McConville until 2 January 1973. An examination of RUC intelligence files show that the first intelligence was received on January 2 1973 when police received two pieces of information which said that the Provisional IRA had abducted Mrs McConville.

“On January 16 1973, Mrs McConville’s disappearance and the plight of her children were reported in the media. A police spokesman was quoted as saying that although the matter had not been reported to them, it was being investigated.

“RUC intelligence files show that the next day police received two pieces of information about the disappearance: One claimed that Mrs McConville was being held by the Provisional IRA in Dundalk. The other also alleged that the Provisionals were behind the abduction and suggested it was related to drug dealing.

“The RUC intelligence files also show that the police later received two separate pieces of information from military sources which suggested that Mrs McConville was not missing: The first was received on March 13 1973 and suggested that the abduction was an elaborate hoax. The second piece of information, which was received 11 days later, said that Mrs McConville had left of her own free will and was known to be safe.”

There is a clear pattern here. Intelligence coming in to the RUC in the first weeks after her disappearance was remarkably accurate. The Provisional IRA had abducted her. Check. Jean McConville was being held in Dundalk. Check. A second report again said that the Provisonals had abducted her. Check. The same report claimed a drug connection which was clearly wrong. But this is the only piece of inaccurate intelligence coming into the RUC at this time.

But then in mid-March the story changes dramatically. Two separate pieces of intelligence from military sources throw cold water on the abduction explanation. One, on March 13th, says that the story of Jean McConville’s kidnapping was “an elaborate hoax”. A second report on March 24th claimed she had left Belfast of her own free will and was safe.

So who were these military sources?

Nuala O’Loan does not tell us. But here is an interesting coincidence. On April 2nd, 1973 the First Gloucestershire Regiment arrived in Belfast for a four month tour – their second since late 1971, early 1972 – and two days later took over duties from the Queens Lancashire Regiment.

It was standard operational procedure for advance parties to arrive several weeks ahead of the main regimental force and included in them would be an intelligence unit. This was done so that the new regiment would be able to ease in to its new duties. So an intelligence unit from the 1st Gloucesters would likely have been in West Belfast when those reports were sent to the RUC saying that Jean McConville was safe. Did the 1st Gloucesters create those intelligence reports or have any hand in them? We don’t know. Perhaps the information is contained in those embargoed War Diaries. That’s another reason they should be opened.

As I say, the war diary may reveal absolutely nothing about Jean McConville at all, in which case her surviving family have everything to gain by knowing this. And so do the First Gloucesters, whose name deserves to be cleared if the regiment is innocent of any suspicion attached to it.

But if the diary does reveal information that the family would probably regard as unwelcome then they and everyone else will have to deal with it. We need to know the truth about what happened to Jean McConville. Hiding facts behind embargoes is unacceptable when others are being forced by legal measures to disclose theirs. Equally, lying about the past by those involved in these events is as intolerable as continuing to exploit an agent whose cover has been blown.

One way or another we need to know what is written in the embargoed War Diaries of the First Gloucestershire regiment.