Explosive Troubles interviews set to surface?

Brendan Hughes
Brendan Hughes was one of the former IRA men who took part in the project
 
In the bowels of the Burns library at Boston College, some of the most interesting secrets of the peace process, and the violence that preceded it, are held in secure storage.
 

Among the documents are the details of what happened during the decommissioning process.

The British and Irish governments agreed that Boston College, with its enduring interest in Northern Ireland, would be a suitable and safe long-term repository for the controversial papers.

Also held there are a series of candid, confessional interviews with former loyalist and republican paramilitaries, in which they chronicle their involvement in the Troubles, and name names.

The ‘Belfast Project’, was designed to become an oral history of the Troubles, directed by the writer and journalist Ed Moloney, with the interviews carried out by two researchers.

Loyalists were recorded by Wilson McArthur, republicans by the former IRA prisoner Dr Anthony McIntyre, who has since become a writer and academic.

The deal was this: The former terrorists would tell their stories in secret, on the understanding that the recordings and transcripts would only be made public after their deaths.

Their testimonies, according to Boston College, would serve as a historic tool from which the mistakes of the past could be better understood.

Two of those interviewed, David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, and the former IRA Commander Brendan Hughes have since died.

Their stories formed the backbone of a book by the project director, Ed Moloney, and of a television documentary.

In those Hughes made some frank admissions.

He said that he had organised ‘Bloody Friday’, the day on which the IRA detonated over 19 car bombs in Belfast in the space of an hour.

Nine people were killed, 130 were injured. Images of police officers shovelling the mutilated bodies of the victims into bags are some of the most enduring of the Troubles.

Hughes also spoke of his once close friend, the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Hughes named him as overall commander of the IRA’s Belfast brigade.

He also claimed that Mr Adams had controlled his own squad within the IRA, known by the organisation as “the unknowns”.

This, according to Hughes, was the group responsible for the ‘Disappeared’, those who were kidnapped, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams has said he has nothing to fear over the tapes

Mr Adams has strenuously denied the claims, and has pointed out that he and Brendan Hughes came to differ on the route Sinn Fein was taking.

In the latter years of his life Hughes had become an ardent critic of his former friend.

However, another former IRA member later gave an interview to a newspaper journalist, in which she admitted that she had also taken part in the ‘Belfast Project’.

Dolours Price had been one of the IRA gang that blew up the Old Bailey in 1973.

In that interview, she allegedly claimed to have been the person who drove one of the Disappeared to her death in 1972.

Jean McConville was a west Belfast-based mother of 10, who had been accused by the IRA of passing information to the British.

Her remains were found buried on a beach in the Irish Republic, 30 years after she went missing.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland says that it has re-opened the inquiry into Mrs McConville’s murder, and on that basis is seeking the transcripts of the interview Dolours Price apparently gave to Anthony McIntyre and Boston College.

Initial court decisions in the United States have accepted the PSNI’s interest as legitimate, and the tapes of the Price interview and seven others deemed pertinent to an investigation into the disappeared are now in the hands of the US federal court.

On Wednesday, Dr McIntyre and Ed Moloney will make their final arguments to three appeal judges in a bid to have those interviews withheld from the police.

They say that it breaches the agreement struck with the interviewees, that it is a violation of their right to protect their sources, and that any hand-over of the material will place them in danger of attack by republicans.

Boston College is also appealing the decision to hand over the tapes, but separately.

The college says that it has no grounds to protect the anonymity of Dolours Price, given that she effectively ‘outed’ herself in the newspaper interview.

In June, Boston College will however try to stop the handover of seven other IRA interviews, querying their value to any investigation into the disappeared.

All of this has led to a bitter dispute between the researchers on the project, and the college, both of whom accuse the other of bad faith.

Boston College says that it agreed to protect the interviewees as far as the law would allow, and that Dolours Price exhausted their ability to do so by her admissions.

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre feel that Boston College folded without a fight, and that they have been let down by their former employers.

For his part Mr Adams insists he has nothing to fear from any disclosure, and denies all of the accusations levelled at him.

WITH MANY THANKS TO : Andy Martin BBC News.

 

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How a noble exercise became a political act

How a noble exercise became a political act

A federal appeals judge will decide next week whether to overrule a court decision to approve the release of IRA statements made to a Jesuit university in the city

IT HAS BEEN A YEAR since the subpoena from the US attorney’s office arrived on the august campus of Boston College, an annus horribilis for the Jesuit university founded by Irish immigrants a century and a half ago.

Boston College has spent considerable time and resources building a reputation for being not just an academic observer but also an active facilitator of the Northern Ireland peace process. It has hosted, at its own expense, scores of politicians, civil servants, journalists and others from Northern Ireland and the Republic over the years. Its Dublin office, overlooking St Stephen’s Green, frequently welcomed visitors from the North. And among US universities its Irish studies programme was considered the most plugged-in and influential.

It was in that spirit, and with the belief that the Belfast Agreement of 1998 had ushered in a new era of reconciliation and reflection, that Boston College embarked on an ambitious effort to collect the oral histories of paramilitaries on both sides of the divide. Those former paramilitaries recorded their stories with the understanding that they wouldn’t be made public until after they died.

But that subpoena, delivered by US prosecutors acting on behalf of British authorities, has put everything at risk, including Boston College’s well-earned reputation for being a force for good in the peace process. What began as an academic exercise with noble intentions has degenerated into the sort of fingerpointing and recrimination that dogged the North for so long.

US prosecutors want any and all information contained in the oral histories about the 1972 disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, a Belfast widow whose 10 children were scattered after the IRA accused her of informing. At least two of the 26 former IRA members interviewed for the project accused the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams of giving the order to kill McConville, a charge Adams categorically denies. A judge has ruled that seven other interviews contain information germane to a PSNI investigation into McConville’s murder and should be turned over.

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Boston will hear arguments from the researchers Boston College hired to gather the oral histories.

It is, according to lawyers, the last, best chance to preserve the confidentiality that the former paramilitaries who told their stories believed they had. But it is a legal effort separate and apart from Boston College.

When the US government first demanded access to just two of the oral histories, the university and its researchers, the journalist and author Ed Moloney and the former IRA prisoner turned academic and writer Anthony McIntyre, were unified in their opposition to what they called a cynical government fishing expedition. The idea that an American university was being used as an intelligence or evidence gathering arm of a foreign government was widely considered outrageous.

But there were cracks in that unified front from the beginning. Boston College officials were keen to address the matter quietly, and were miffed when Moloney, the longtime Belfast-based journalist now living in New York, helped the New York Times break the news about the subpoena.

There was an even more fundamental disagreement. Moloney and McIntyre saw the demand for the records as a crass political act, one meant to embarrass if not prosecute Adams after his election to the Dáil. They believed the legal fight against it should be just as political, especially given the role the US played in brokering the Belfast Agreement. Boston College’s lawyers took a different tack, and when they agreed to let a federal judge review some of the records in private, the break between the two sides was irreparable. Moloney and McIntyre accused Boston College of folding without a fight, of abandoning them and those they interviewed without using its considerable resources to stand up to the US justice department and, by extension, the British government.

College officials say they had no choice, given that the initial demand was for the accounts of Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price. Hughes had died in 2008, and so with him did the pledge of confidentiality.

Price, meanwhile, had given an interview to the Irish News in Belfast, saying she had made her allegations against Adams known to Boston College, in effect outing herself.

Even before the college agreed to let US district judge William Young examine the archive in private to determine what should be turned over to authorities, Moloney and McIntyre had concluded the college’s interests were not theirs and mounted their own defence, stressing the danger they said McIntyre and his family, those interviewed and the peace process itself would face if the oral histories were made public.

Slowly but surely, Moloney and McIntyre have attracted a stable of prominent supporters. Earlier this year, McIntyre’s wife, Carrie, an American citizen, spent time in Washington DC, New York and Boston, pleading with politicians and Irish-American groups for backing. The lobbying paid off, nowhere more prominently than with Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee. Kerry has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block the subpoena on the grounds that turning over the records to UK authorities undermines US foreign policy.

Last week, the New York senator Charles Schumer joined the chorus, saying the records grab contravenes “the spirit of the Good Friday Accords . . . Many have taken enormous risks in the name of moving Northern Ireland away from war and towards peace, and requests like this can have the effect of undermining that effort,” Schumer said in a letter to Clinton and the US attorney general, Eric Holder.

Kerry and Schumer say the treaty between the US and UK that authorities have cited in demanding information relevant to a criminal investigation “is not intended to reopen issues addressed in the Belfast Agreement, or to impede any further efforts to resolve conflicts in Northern Ireland”.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has also filed a brief in support of Moloney and McIntyre. Harvey Silverglate, a well-known civil-liberties lawyer who first raised the prospect of the civil liberties union getting involved, is critical of the college. “Boston College’s haphazard and half-hearted defence of the fundamental importance of academic freedom has embarrassed the institution, threatens to harm academics everywhere and, not so incidentally, endangers the lives of people brave enough to reveal, for posterity, important historical truths.”

Silverglate suggests the problem in crafting a unified front is philosophical. He says no one at the college was willing to risk legal sanction, including jail, to defy government intrusion.

Journalists, he said, consider doing such things a badge of honour.

Moloney, in fact, stared down police in Northern Ireland when threatened with jail if he didn’t turn over his notes about a murder more than a decade ago. He refused, and the police eventually backed down.

Jack Dunn, a Boston College spokesman, declined to respond to Silverglate’s charges. He said the college had handed over the material of Hughes and Price because it had no legal recourse but that it was still fighting an order to turn over seven other IRA interviews.

It is unclear whether all this new-found support for Moloney and McIntyre will convince the appeals court to overrule the decision by a district judge to approve the release of the records to the British government.

But it’s their only shot.

WITH MANY THANKS TO : The Irish Times.com, KEVIN CULLEN in Boston.

Create a PageBoston College Subpoena News

McConville death secrets in Boston archive

McConville death secrets in Boston archive

January 24, 2012 Leave a Comment

McConville death secrets in Boston archive

Boston College Logotype


Newsletter
Published on Tuesday 24 January 2012

SEVERAL former terrorists did speak about Jean McConville’s murder on secret tapes held in Boston College, an American judge has dramatically confirmed.

The contents of the tapes were meant to remain in a vault at the US university until each paramilitary’s death, but the judge deciding whether they should be given to the PSNI has revealed some details of what they said.

The revelation comes as Northern Ireland’s former Police Ombudsman gave her backing to the detectives’ attempts to access the tapes – a bid that appears more likely to succeed in light of Judge William G Young’s written ruling.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan told the News Letter that police have a duty to pursue all avenues of inquiry when attempting to solve crime and that there should be no amnesty for terrorists.

The solicitor said that there was no legal basis on which academics or journalists could tell former terrorists that information about murders would be kept away from the police.

The secret recordings of former terrorists speaking candidly about their actions during the Troubles were given on the belief that they would be held in a vault at the American university until after each individual’s death.

However, a PSNI legal bid to access the archive in an attempt to solve the 40-year-old murder of Jean McConville is on the verge of being successful. A final appeal, lodged by two of those involved in the interviews, journalists Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, is due to be heard in the coming days in what may be a final bid to prevent the tapes’ release after the college declined to appeal an earlier judgment in favour of the PSNI.

In his ruling, Judge William G Young said: “…only six interviewees even mention the disappearance of Jean McConville that constitutes the target of the subpoena.

“One interviewee provides information responsive to the subpoena. Another proffers information that, if broadly read, is responsive to the subpoena.

“Three others make passing mention of the incident, two only in response to leading questions. It is impossible to discern whether these three are commenting from personal knowledge, from hearsay, or are merely repeating local folklore.

“In context, the sixth interviewee does nothing more than express personal opinion on public disclosures made years after the incident.

“The court concludes that the full series of interviews of the five interviewees first mentioned above must be disclosed and that the interview with the sixth need not be produced.

“Moreover, two other interviewees mention a shadowy sub-organisation within the Irish Republican Army that may or may not be involved in the incident.”

However, Judge Young said that the references were “so vague” that it was almost inconceivable that UK law enforcement did not already have the information.

In the House of Lords, Baronness O’Loan – who sits as a crossbench peer but whose husband Declan was until last year the SDLP MLA for North Antrim – said that the Boston College tapes could be recovered by the police.

Baroness O’Loan raised the Boston College tapes in the context of the difficulties in “managing the past”. She cited it alongside the recent release of 1981 hunger strike Government papers which “appears to indicate that lives could have been saved”.

“Despite the facts that some of those involved [in the hunger strike] are still alive; there is no threat of prosecution; and that no amnesty is required – we do not have an agreed version of what happened,” she told the Lords.

“The second involves the recent controversy surrounding the British application for the tapes recorded by former IRA member Dolores Price and stored in an archive at Boston College in the United States.

“Since making that tape, Ms Price has indicated that she drove a number of the Disappeared to their deaths at the hands of the IRA. Police investigating the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of 10, require access to the tapes for investigative purposes.

“The Boston project was predicated upon assurances that the tapes would not be disclosed until after a period of 30 years, or the death of the individual.

“It is obvious that such assurances could not lawfully be given. Journalists and academics are subject to the rule of law, as the rest of us are, and material can and will be recovered by the police according to the law for investigation purposes.”

Speaking to the News Letter, Baroness O’Loan said that the police were right to ask for the tapes.

“The police are under a duty to seek evidence if it can be secured and they are complying with that duty,” she said.

“This is a perfectly proper request on the part of the police. I think that if we have rules of law then the application of that law should be applicable to everyone — that should be the beginning and the end of it. Let the courts decide.”

Baroness O’Loan also told the Lords that the Government needed to “establish the rule of law” so as to deter recruitment by both dissident republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

And she said that suggestions of a truth commission — something supported by Sinn Fein and the Eames-Bradley report — were deeply problematic.

“It is now being suggested that the only way to deal with the past would be a truth commission, with an amnesty for all individuals who appear before it.

“To suggest this is to ignore international law, which provides that you can have no amnesty for gross violations of human rights.

“The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is often held up as a model, would not satisfy the requirements of international law. If we did what it did, we would have to establish an amnesty committee that would sit in public, before which people would have to appear to seek amnesty, and in the course of which they could be cross-examined by victims and their families.

“In South Africa 7,000 people applied; 849 were granted amnesty. Such hearings in Belfast could hardly be expected to consolidate the peace process.

“The consequential truth commission would hear testimony from individuals who chose to appear. Experience to date suggests there would be a very low participation rate.”

Caught in a Tug of War

Caught in a Tug of War

January 24, 2012 Leave a Comment

Caught in a tug of war
By Kevin Cullen
Boston Globe
JANUARY 24, 2012

Carrie Twomey left her home in Ireland to attend a court hearing about Boston College oral history project about the conflict in Northern Ireland for which her husband Anthony McIntyre was a researcher. She says her family will be in danger if the tapes are given to British authorities.

Carrie Twomey got off a train at South Station yesterday and walked down the platform of Track 5 enjoying, just for the moment, something she’d give anything to have permanently: total anonymity.

Her grandfather was from Lynn and her relatives worked at General Electric and the shoe factories. She grew up in California and married an Irishman named Anthony McIntyre and they made a life together in Ireland, first in the North, now in the South. She came to Boston because she believes the only way that life will be secure is if a bunch of tape recordings remain secured at the Burns Library at Boston College, and not turned over to the British government.

The fate of those tapes, in which former Irish Republican Army members discuss what they and others did during the war in Northern Ireland, has been cast as a legal drama, a precedent-setting case with potentially chilling effects on oral history and the peace process. But it is also very much about a family, about Carrie Twomey, her husband, and their two kids, a 10-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.

Anthony McIntyre, who served 18 years in prison for IRA activity before getting his doctorate in history, was the researcher hired by Boston College to interview former IRA volunteers for an ambitious oral history project. He did this after BC guaranteed him and those he interviewed that those tape recordings would remain sealed until their deaths.

But last year, police in Northern Ireland started fishing for details in the BC archives about the IRA’s 1972 abduction, killing, and secret burial of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10 accused of being an informer.

US prosecutors, acting on a British government request, demanded BC turn over the tapes. At first, BC said it wouldn’t. Then its lawyers claimed it had to, at least those of Dolours Price, a former IRA volunteer who told a newspaper that she had told BC that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams ordered McConville’s slaying.

Adams has denied this, and whatever Price or anybody else told McIntyre for an academic project will not stand up in court, but that’s not what this is about anyway. It’s not about justice, it’s about revenge, and Carrie Twomey’s family is caught in the middle of pure politics masquerading as a search for truth.

US District Court Judge William Young occasionally holds motion hearings at local law schools, so students can get a sense of the real world. By sheer coincidence, today’s hearings, which include one on the BC tapes, will be held at BC Law School, and Carrie Twomey will be there.

She hopes part of that real world experience will include acceptance of the real possibility that her family is in danger if these tapes make it into the hands of British authorities and lead to either public disclosures or public prosecutions. For carrying out research for an American university that has been cynically turned into an intelligence-gathering operation for a foreign police force, her husband has been branded an informer by some in a culture where that can get you killed.

“Anthony’s been made into a hate figure,’’ she said. “Someone with a grudge, someone who wants to make a name for themselves, someone who’s unstable, that’s who we have to worry about.’’

She is not here to testify as a witness but to bear witness, to let the lawyers know there are real people involved. She says BC is too busy worrying about its institutional concerns to advocate for her family.

“I’m here to show that this isn’t just dusty old legal papers,’’ she said. “This is a real family.’’

Beyond the danger to her family, Carrie Twomey worries about the prospect of truth and reconciliation in a country where truth has become a political football, that Seamus Heaney’s poem about Northern Ireland will become self-fulfilling: Whatever you say, say nothing.

Complaint for Judicial Review

Complaint for Judicial Review

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
———————————————————————xED MOLONEY AND ANTHONY MCINTYRE,Plaintiffs,-
vs. -ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., ATTORNEY GENERALOF THE UNITED STATES, and JOHN T. McNEIL,COMMISSIONER IN RE: Request from the UnitedKingdom Pursuant to the Treaty Between theGovernment of the United States of America and theGovernment of the United Kingdom on MutualAssistance in Criminal Matters in the Matter of Dolours Price.Defendant.:::::::::::::::::::
ECFCOMPLAINT FORJUDICIALREVIEW UNDERTHEADMINISTRATIVEPROCEDURESACT, FOR ADECLARATORYJUDGMENT, WRITOF MANDAMUSAND INJUNCTIVERELIEF
28 U.S.C. §220128 U.S.C. § 13615 U.S.C. §70228 U.S.C. §1331———————————————————————x
 PLAINTIFFS’ COMPLAINT FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW UNDER THEADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES ACT, FOR DECLARATORYJUDGMENT, WRIT OF MANDAMUS AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
Plaintiffs Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, by and through theirattorneys, Dornan & Associates PLLC, and the Law Offices of James J.Cotter III, as and for a Complaint against the Defendants, the AttorneyGeneral of the United States, and the Commissioner so described, herebymove the Court for judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act,5 U.S.C. §702
et seq,
as well as a Writ of Mandamus under 28 U.S.C.
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