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Sinn Féin leader says former friend Brendan Hughes was hostile to him over peace process
2 May 2014
Former IRA man Brendan “The Dark” Hughes, in Long Kesh prison with then best friend Gerry Adams. (Photograph: Photopress)
Some 3,600 people died in the Troubles. Many thousands more were maimed, injured and bereaved. Yet the circumstances of the murder of Jean McConville can still leave a cold feeling in the pit of one’s stomach.
She was a 37-year-old woman, a Protestant widow who had been married to a Catholic, and was the mother of 10 children who were left orphaned and desolate.
The campaign to recover her body, which was finally found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in 2003, led to the creation of a North-South commission to locate the bodies of 17 people known to have been “disappeared”. So far 10 bodies have been recovered.
The so-called “Boston tapes”, potentially, are why Gerry Adams is being questioned for involvement in the December 1972 abduction, interrogation, murder and secret burial of McConville.
The Boston College oral history of the Troubles project was the brainchild of journalist and writer Ed Moloney and involved the interviewing of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries based on guarantees their testimonies would not be released until after their deaths.
The early deaths of former senior IRA figure Brendan “the Dark” Hughes and former Progressive Unionist Party leader and ex-UVF man David Ervine, both of whom participated in the project, allowed Moloney publish a book, Voices From the Grave, four years ago.
The book recorded Hughes’s account of how McConville was first lifted by the IRA, allegedly for working as an informer by having a British army transmitter in her flat.
Hughes said she was “let go with a warning” but when another transmitter allegedly was put in her house she was abducted by an IRA gang.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That . . . man is now the head of Sinn Féin,” said Hughes.
As this is posthumous evidence there is a heavy question mark over whether it can have much – or any – legal evidential value.
The McConville family and former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan rejected the informer allegation against McConville.
Regardless, in his account Hughes said Adams and a senior IRA commander agreed that she should be “executed” but argued over whether her body should be left on the street in west Belfast as a warning to potential informers – as regularly happened – or secretly buried.
Hughes said that Adams won the day, and it was decided she should be secretly buried.
“I think the reason why she [was] disappeared was because she was a woman,” Hughes said.
Adams emphatically denied the allegations, and made the point that Hughes, his former friend and an IRA member, was antagonistic both to him and to how the IRA and Sinn Féin had managed the peace process.
But then Old Bailey bomber, the late Dolours Price, who also gave evidence to the Boston College project, made similar allegations, which Adams again denied.
He also pointed out that she was also antagonistic to him and the peace process.
The result was a huge controversy over the PSNI seeking access to the Boston tapes, which could have proved of evidential value to the police investigation, certainly while Price was alive.
The police pursuit of the tapes caused consternation because handing them over would mean that the pledge given to participants of anonymity and non-disclosure ahead of their deaths would not be honoured.
It also triggered a quarrel between, on one side Moloney and his chief researcher Anthony McIntyre, a historian and former IRA prisoner; and on the other side Boston College over how to resist the legal challenge from the police.
They accused the college of weakness.
The upshot was that the PSNI won the legal battle and tapes of Hughes, Price and about half a dozen others were handed over to the police.
All these tapes, it was stated in the legal proceedings, had content relating to the McConville murder.
In recent weeks a number of people have been arrested in connection with the murder.
Some of them were released pending reports being sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which leaves open the possibility that prosecutions could follow.
In March, Ivor Bell, now aged 77, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of McConville.
It was this charging that prompted Adams to offer to voluntarily present himself to the PSNI if it wished to ask him questions. Police sources in the North, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, First Minister Peter Robinson and British prime minister David Cameron, have rejected a Sinn Féin allegation of “political policing” in the questioning of Adams.
“The case is driven by investigative necessity,” said one police source.
In the meantime, the McConville family wait and watch to find out if they are any closer to achieving justice for their mother.
Gardaí investigate after former IRA veteran, 62, dies at home
24 Jan 2013
Dolours Price, left, with her sister Marion in Belfast in 1972. (Photograph: PA Archive/Press Association Image)
Dolours Price, the IRA Old Bailey bomber who later became a bitter critic of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy, has been found dead at her home in north Dublin.
The Garda Síochána are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of the former Irish republican icon in her apartment in Malahide, although she had been in general ill health.
Republican sources confirmed to the Guardian that the former IRA veteran, 62, who was once married to the Hollywood actor Stephen Rea, had died at her home.
Price was involved in a car bombing at the Old Bailey in 1973, which injured more than 200 people and may have led to one person’s death of heart failure. The ex-IRA prisoner, who went on hunger strike with her sister Marion in the 1970s and was subjected to force feeding in English prisons, had struggled with alcohol problems later in life.
She became an arch critic of Gerry Adams, claiming the Sinn Féin president had ordered her to have one of the most famous victims of the IRA – Jean McConville – abducted from her west Belfast home, murdered across the border in the Republic and buried in secret in 1972.
Price alleged that she was given the task of driving McConville, a widow, away from her 10 children in the Divis flats complex to her death on the Co Louth coast. McConville became the most famous of the “Disappeared” – IRA victims whom the organisation killed and buried in secret during the Troubles.
Price claimed Adams had set up a secret IRA unit in Belfast to weed out informers both in its ranks and within the nationalist community who were helping the security forces. The Sinn Féin Louth TD, one of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, has consistently denied her allegations.
In an interview with CBS television in the United States last year, Price repeated her claims about Adams and McConville. She said: “I drove away Jean McConville. I don’t know who gave the instructions to execute her. Obviously it was decided between the general headquarters staff and the people in Belfast. Gerry Adams would have been part of that negotiation as to what was to happen to her.
“I had a call one night and Adams was in a house down the Falls Road and she had been arrested by Cumann [the IRA’s female unit] women and held for a couple of days. She got into my car and as far as she was concerned she was being taken away by the Legion of Mary to a place of safety.
“It wasn’t my decision to disappear her, thank God. All I had to do was drive her from Belfast to Dundalk. I even got her fish and chips and cigarettes before I left her.”
Price was unrepentant about her alleged role in the disappearance and death of McConville.
Marion Price, also a fierce critic of the direction the IRA and Sinn Féin took during the peace process, is in Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland, where she is facing terrorist-related charges.
By Nic Robertson and Ken Shiffman
25 May 2012
Editor’s note: Watch how Northern Ireland’s dark past could threaten the peace process as victims look for closure from tapes made by former combatants on both sides of the sectarian divide. “World’s Untold Story” on CNN International at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET on Saturday May 26, or Sunday at 6 a.m. ET.
Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) — Audio recordings locked inside a college library in the United States might help solve a decades-old murder mystery, but the release of those tapes could damage the fragile peace in Northern Ireland.
In December 1972, the widow Jean McConville was taken from her home in Belfast and her 10 children.
“They came about tea time and they dragged her out of the bathroom and dragged her out,” remembers McConville’s daughter, Helen McKendry, who was then a teenager.
Ever since, McKendry has been on a 40-year quest for answers.
“All I ever wanted was to know the reason why they killed my mother,” McKendry explained.
“I’ve lived all my life in fear,” McKendry added. “They destroyed my mother’s life, my family life.”
McKendry believes tapes locked away in Boston College’s library may hold the truth about her mother’s fate. But there are fears that the tapes may also cause embarrassment or worse for Gerry Adams, the prominent Catholic politician who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland.
The recordings were made as part of the Belfast Project, which is a collection of interviews conducted with former Northern Irish paramilitary fighters. They provide an oral history of the decades of sectarian fighting that became known as The Troubles.
Northern Ireland is part of Britain and Protestant fighters wanted to keep it that way. Catholics were fighting to force the British out and reunify the north with the rest of Ireland.
The former combatants believed that their recorded interviews would be kept secret until their death. But that may no longer be possible as Northern Irish police are asking the United States government to hand over some of the tapes.
The police say they were alerted to the secret archive by the book, “Voices from the Grave,” written by Belfast Project archive manager Ed Moloney, which is based on transcripts from two of the recorded interviews. One of those featured is Brendan Hughes, a now-deceased former commander of the Irish Republican Army or IRA, a Catholic paramilitary.
Hughes told his interviewer: “I have never, ever, ever admitted being a member of the IRA, ever. I’ve just done it here.”
And he talked about Jean McConville’s murder, stating: “I knew she was being executed. I knew that. I didn’t know she was going to be buried or disappeared as they call them now.”
Hughes went on to allege Gerry Adams was involved: “The special squad was brought into the operation then, called The Unknowns. You know when anyone needed to be taken away they normally done it. I had no control over this squad. Gerry had control over this particular squad.”
Hughes added he regretted what happened: “Looking back on it now, what happened to the woman was wrong.”
Hughes said in his taped interview, McConville was killed because the IRA believed she was working with the British army. The McKendrys do not believe she was a spy, saying she was too busy looking after her 10 children to be an informer.
Gerry Adams, leader of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party, refused to be interviewed by CNN for this story. But, he has said many times before that he was never in the IRA and never involved in the death of Jean McConville, and has labeled as libelous any allegation he was involved in the McConville murder. His spokesman goes further, labeling Adams’ critics as anti the peace process.
Adams’ denial of IRA membership angers his old comrades like Hughes. “It means that people like myself had to carry the responsibility of all those deaths,” Hughes said on the interview tape. “Gerry was a major, major player in the war and yet he’s standing there denying it.”
The Northern Irish police vow to “follow the material in the Boston Archives all way to court if that’s where it takes them … they say detectives have a legal responsibility to investigate murders … and follow all lines of inquiry.”
The British government’s most senior politician on Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson told CNN that no one person is above the law.
“There can be no concept on amnesty, so we have to support the police to have complete operational independence in pursuing every line of inquiry in bringing those who committed crimes to justice,” Paterson said.
Right now the Boston archive manager, Ed Moloney, is furious with Boston College for initially giving in too quickly to subpoena’s demanding they hand over some of the tapes to a U.S. judge. He says it puts lives in danger, damages the future of truth recovery, oral histories and academic research.
Moloney — who is appealing to try to stop the court from handing the tapes it has to police — wants the tapes handed back to the people who told their stories.
“Boston College is no longer a fit and proper place to keep these interviews,” Moloney insists. “The archives should be closed down, and the interviews should be returned to the people who gave them because they’re not safe.”
But there seems to be little chance of that, Boston College’s spokesman Jack Dunn blames Moloney.
“From the beginning, we said to the project organizer, who approached us with this idea, that there were limitations regarding the assurances of confidentiality under American law,” Dunn said.
But what worries Moloney is that if the police get tapes relating to Jean McConville’s murder, they could quickly find other crimes to investigate implicating more political leaders and the police could soon demand all the tapes in the archive.
Few believe the police will get Adams to court in part because he is inoculated from prosecution by his central role silencing IRA guns and delivering peace, and in part because the tapes alone cannot secure a conviction.
Former IRA man Richard O’Rawe recorded a statement for the Boston College archives and says lawyers told him under UK law the tapes cannot be used in court.
“I find it just imponderable, why the police are going down this road when they must know that there is no chance of obtaining any convictions at the end of this,” O’Rawe says.
Like many other Catholics, O’Rawe thinks the police are biased against them, trying to settle old scores and bring Adams and others down. But for Helen McKendry, herself a Catholic getting access to the tapes is about so much more.
For her, it’s not only about justice but a release from the pain of never knowing the truth.
“They tried to destroy what life I have now,” she says. “They are the people who committed the crimes in this. They should be worried.”
17 Apr 2012
It seems likely that large sections of the Boston College’s Belfast Project will be transferred to Police Service of Northern Ireland detectives investigating the murder of Jean McConville.
There was no worse murder in the troubles. Mrs McConville, a widowed mother, was abducted in 1972, bundled into a car, taken across the border and murdered by the IRA. Her body was then secretly buried and her ten children told nothing. This was in the run up to Christmas and it was only when her eldest daughter, Helen, went to the Civil Rights Association that they were taken into care.
They were later told that their mother had deserted them to run away with a British soldier. It is not surprising that, even forty years later, the PSNI should leave no stone unturned in pursuit of her killers. That is why their ears pricked up when they read an interview with Dolours Price, a former IRA prisoner, in February 2010. Ms Price gave details of the abduction, accused Gerry Adams (who denies it) of involvement and, to cap it all, said that she was one of a number of former paramilitary activists who had given an interview for the Boston archive on condition it should remain closed till her death.
Was she crazy to out herself like this? Well, a smart lawyer could argue that she was not playing with a full deck if she was ever brought to court. Ms Price has received treatment for depression and post traumatic stress, she has been treated in mental facilities and she has been involved in both substance and alcohol abuse.
If, despite this, it was felt she was a good witness, she could have been interviewed in the republic – she now lives near Dublin – or arrested on one of her frequent trips north. For instance in August 2010 she was in court in Newry where she was acquitted on charges of stealing a bottle of vodka.
There was no problem with the PSNI interviewing her – which is why their first recourse should not have been to an historical archive. Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State, has himself has praised the Boston archive as a model which could be copied in Northern Ireland.
If material is handed over to criminal investigators, future oral history projects will be undermined. And it is unlikely to bring justice to the Jean McConville’s children.
April 18, 2012
This article appeared in the April 17, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.
By DENISE LAVOIE
3 Apr 2012
BOSTON (AP) — An attempt by British investigators to get recorded interviews with former members of the Irish Republican Army has turned into a complicated court battle. And for Carrie Twomey, the legal fight is personal.
She’s the wife of Anthony McIntyre, a former gunman for the IRA who conducted the interviews for an oral history project at Boston College. Twomey has played a key role in trying to sway U.S. politicians that turning over the recordings could endanger her family.
“This isn’t just some dusty old papers in a library,” Twomey says. “This is people’s lives. This is my family.”
Twomey has managed to get backing from some powerful people. Seven U.S. politicians, including Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York, have written letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging them to persuade British authorities to withdraw their request for the recordings.
McIntyre and Irish journalist Ed Moloney, who directed the project, are asking a federal appeals court to block the handover. Arguments are scheduled Wednesday before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
The history project, which began in 2001 and was completed in 2006, is intended as a resource for journalists, scholars and historians after the death of the participants. But Northern Ireland police probing the IRA’s 1972 killing of a Belfast woman want access to the interviews for their investigation.
Moloney says the recordings are explosive enough to damage Northern Ireland’s unity government, in which Sinn Fein represents the Irish Catholic minority. Its stable coalition with the British Protestant majority is the central achievement of the 1998 U.S.-brokered peace accord.
Moloney has said that the interviewees include many IRA colleagues of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and that public release of the testimony could lead to a victims’ lawsuit against Adams, the conflict’s leading guerrilla-turned-peacemaker.
Twomey worries her husband and other former IRA members could be attacked or killed if the recordings are turned over and then used in prosecutions. Some in Ireland have already branded her husband as a “tout,” an informer, because of his role in the Boston College project, she says.
“My husband isn’t an informer, nor are the people who participated in this project — it’s a history project — but police using it as evidence, that changes it dramatically and makes it very dangerous,” says Twomey, 41.
“Traditionally, the penalty for informing is death.”
Twomey grew up in southern California. She met her husband about 12 years ago after reading critical commentary he had published on the way the peace process was being managed and wrote him a letter. They’ve been married for almost 10 years and have two children, an 11-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.
McIntyre spent 17 years in prison for killing a Protestant militant in a 1976 drive-by shooting.
The couple initially lived in West Belfast but moved to the south five years ago when McIntyre found a job in construction in Drogheda. McIntyre, who left the IRA when the 1998 Good Friday agreement was signed, said their neighbor’s house in Drogheda was smeared with pig excrement in 2010, after portions of the memoir of former IRA member Brendan Hughes — one of the people McIntyre interviewed — were published in a British newspaper.
The vandals probably meant to send him a threatening message but got the wrong address, McIntyre says.
“Carrie wasn’t involved in the project, nor were our children,” McIntyre says. “Her fear and my fear, too, would be the morphing of research into evidence substantially changes the ballgame and would open up the possibility of an attack.”
Twomey’s husband is not allowed to travel to the United States because of his IRA conviction. So for the past three months, she has shuttled between the United States and Ireland, hoping to pressure the U.S. government to drop the bid to turn the recordings over to Northern Ireland police investigating the IRA’s killing of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 who had been branded as a British Army spy by the IRA.
Kerry and other U.S. politicians say they are concerned that release of the recordings could undermine peace in Northern Ireland.
“It would be a tragedy if this process were to upset the delicate balance that has kept the peace and allowed for so much progress in the past fourteen years,” Kerry wrote in his Jan. 23 letter.
Prosecutors declined to talk about the case before Wednesday’s hearing.
In an interview in January, Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil said American authorities must provide IRA testimony about McConville’s killing to British authorities as part of treaty commitments to aid each other’s criminal investigations.
“The UK is investigating serious crimes: murder, kidnapping, McNeil said. “The court has already found that it’s a bona fide investigation and that there’s no other source for this material.”
McIntyre and Moloney say Boston College promised the interview subjects strict confidentiality until their deaths, while Boston College officials say they made it clear they would protect the confidentiality only to the extent allowed under U.S. law.
Boston College initially tried to quash subpoenas from U.S. prosecutors seeking the recordings but later decided not to appeal a judge’s order to turn over the interviews of convicted car bomber Delours Price. The same judge dismissed a separate lawsuit by Moloney and McIntyre.
Spokesman Jack Dunn said Boston College decided not to appeal because Price had given a widely distributed newspaper interview in which she implicated herself and Adams in McConville’s abduction and murder. Adams has denied that.
The Irish Emigrant
27 Mar 2012
On Thursday Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) waded into the Boston College Belfast Project controversy, when he urged US federal officials to block a subpoena that would divulge the secrets of the college’s confidential oral history project which featured many former IRA operatives.
Senator Schumer said in a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the request from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for tapings raised “significant issues of journalistic confidentiality and academic freedom”. On top of that, he said, the Northern Ireland peace process itself could be put in peril.
The increasingly acrimonious saga has run since last May, when US authorities acting for the PSNI demanded access to 26 interviews given to BC by former IRA members for the project on Northern Ireland’s Troubles, undertaken by former IRA man-turned journalist Anthony McIntyre and Bronx-based journalist Ed Moloney.
In total the project included interviews with around 50 republican and loyalist paramilitaries gathered between 2001 and 2006, under the condition that they would not be released until the interviewees had passed away.
The PSNI investigation is focusing on interviews given by Dolours Price and the late Brendan Hughes, both former IRA members. Both have in the past accused Sinn Fein president Adams – who denies ever being in the IRA – of running a secret death squad which conducted the kidnappings and disappearances of at least nine people during the early 1970s, including mother of 10 Jean McConville.
A Boston court previously ordered that all information from the interviews of Dolours Price be handed over to US authorities, with a final decision on whether or not these are given to the PSNI set to be made next month. Boston College has lodged an appeal against a ruling that it hand over testimony from seven other paramilitaries, which is set to be heard in June.
29 Feb 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has decided to support two journalists who are fighting release of interviews they conducted for the Belfast Project at Boston College, an oral history of the tumultuous times in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.
The ACLU filed legal arguments yesterday with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit opposing release of the interviews, saying the journalists had a right to argue on their behalf and that the release of the information would jeopardize their integrity.
The ACLU also argued that the journalists and their subjects would be labeled informers and subjected to violence by a paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, pointing out the Irish Republican Army’s rules forbidding disclosure of information.
“The forced turnover of interview materials will convert the interviewees and their interviewers into informants,’’ the ACLU said in legal arguments.
In December, a US District Court judge ordered BC to turn over the documents to the federal government, which had subpoenaed them on behalf of British authorities investigating crimes during the sectarian fight for control of Northern Ireland. England and the United States have a treaty that requires each of them to furnish materials that would aid in criminal inquiries.
British officials are looking into the killing of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10 who disappeared in 1972 and whose body was recovered in 2003. The IRA has admitted to killing her because she was falsely suspected of being an informer.
The Belfast Project journalists guaranteed their sources anonymity until death.
But British officials were specifically interested in the interviews with former IRA member Dolours Price. Price and Brendan Hughes, another former IRA member, have said in other interviews that the abduction, execution, and burial of McConville was ordered by Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which had served as the IRA’s political arm.
US District Court Judge William G. Young agreed to order BC to turn over materials related to the Price interview. He later ordered that other interviews be released as well. BC said that it would not appeal the ruling related to the Price interview, but that it opposed release of the remaining interviews.
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has agreed to review the decision, specifically Young’s refusal to let the two journalists, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Molony, argue against the release of the information.
Moloney has said that he moved forward with his own legal action because BC had not addressed the effects that release of the information could have on the political scene in Ireland and the safety of McIntyre, who lives in Ireland.
By Jim Dee
28 February 2012
Ironically, for a case sparking huge interest on both sides of the Atlantic, there are times when following the Boston College IRA tapes court saga is akin to watching paint dry.
Last week, Boston College appealed against a judge’s ruling that it surrender to US prosecutors (acting on Britain’s behalf) interviews conducted a decade ago with seven former IRA members – interviews deemed, to varying degrees, of relevance to the IRA’s 1972 murder of Jean McConville.
In December, Judge William Young had ordered the college to hand over interviews conducted with convicted Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price, in which she allegedly implicates Gerry Adams in Mrs McConville’s murder.
That ruling was appealed by two lead researchers of Boston’s oral history project on the Troubles, journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, who argue the peace process will be imperiled if the PSNI ultimately obtains the material and initiates prosecutions.
However, it may be that the fate of the interviews may be decided via quiet diplomatic back-channels rather than a courtroom.
Judge Young said in December there were few grounds for flexibility regarding America’s obligations under the 1994 US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.
The only one with potential relevance in the Price case is if the US was to deem any of its “essential interests” at risk. Moloney and McIntyre argue, given Washington’s long-term involvement in it, the Irish peace process qualifies.
Professor Jim Cohen, a criminal law expert at Fordham University in New York, said the “essential interests” clause could play a pivotal role. “No question about that,” said Cohen. “[The court] would have to defer to the sovereign – the sovereign being the State Department, as representative of the United States.”
Cohen added that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could also make a statement that, while stopping short of declaring that America’s essential interests are at stake, “would allow a court to conclude that and thus take the weight off the executive branch”.
The State Department’s role has always been a wild card. Several Washington sources, told the Belfast Telegraph that ‘State’ – and even Clinton herself – must have signed off on the Justice Department’s decision to pursue the British subpoena.
The question now is whether or not opposition to the subpoena by Irish-American groups and some senior members of Congress will be enough to persuade State to weigh in on behalf of Boston College, Moloney and McIntyre.
One insider, who’s long had a hand in Irish affairs, said a State Department intervention is by no means certain. “They may decide the peace process is healthy enough to survive on its own,” he said. “But if they decide this is a problem to be solved, then I think the problem will be solved quietly, behind closed doors.”
As an example, he cited the case of three IRA prisoners who escaped from the Maze prison in September 1983 and were later arrested in the San Francisco area.
Years of British attempts to secure their extradition from the US followed. But after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Britain scrapped the effort.
“And the reason they withdrew it was that the Clinton administration let it be known that they really didn’t like it,” said the insider.
Whether or not history repeats itself may well determine the victor in the Boston College saga.
By John R. Ellement
22 Feb 2012
Boston College is now fighting a federal judge’s order that it hand over some of the transcripts from The Belfast Project, an oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, to British law enforcement investigating the 1972 disappearance of a suspected British informant.
US District Court Judge William G. Young wrote that he reviewed 176 transcripts compiled from interviews with 24 people, but only a handful even mention Jean McConville, whose death is now being investigated by British authorities in Northern Ireland. The body of McConville, a mother of 10, was recovered in 2003.
Young said that just one person “provides information responsive’’ to the specific request by British authorities for information about McConville. Six other interviews make references to McConville and some even mention a “shadowy sub-organization with the Irish Republican Army that may or not have had anything to do with the disappearance.’’
Still, while skeptical that British law enforcement will get the answers it had hoped to find, Young ordered BC to hand over a total of seven interview transcripts, a demand that the Newton college has now decided it wants to get overturned.
“The University is seeking further review of the court’s order to ensure that the value of the interviews to the underlying criminal investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland outweighs the interests in protecting the confidentiality of academic research materials,’’ BC spokesman Jack Dunn said in a statement.
British authorities have sought the information as they investigate the 1972 abduction and killing of McConville in Belfast. The IRA has admitted to killing McConville because she was suspected of being an informant.
The Globe has reported that former IRA members, including Belfast Project subject Dolours Price, have said that the abduction and killing of McConville was ordered by Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which had served as the political arm of the IRA. Adams has adamantly denied the allegation.
In his order, Young indicated that even with the disclosure, the BC records are unlikely to shed much light on the McConville case.
“No other materials from Boston College’s archive need to be produced … and in view of the paucity of information unearthed after extensive review by this Court, it declines to review the ‘very few’ audiotapes not yet transcribed,’’ Young wrote.
Separately, the journalists behind the project, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney, are asking the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to completely block the request by British law enforcement. A hearing is set for March.
In a statement, McIntyre and Moloney said they regretted that the college has only now decided that it will fight the forced release of the transcripts, especially since BC has already agreed to hand over the project’s interview with Price.
“We would like to welcome Boston College’s decision to lodge an appeal against the subpoenas served against seven of our interviewees but regret that the college finally took this decision too late to include the interviews of Dolours Price,’’ the men said in a statement. They were joined by Wilson McArthur, who interviewed Loyalists.
In the statement, the men said “we will continue our fight to protect all our interviewees, Republican and Loyalist, including Dolours Price.”
John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com.
17 Feb 2012
THE COMMISSION to find the North’s “disappeared” has expressed concern about the effect on potential sources of Boston College’s release of IRA interviews to authorities.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains yesterday assured an Oireachtas committee that information it received would never be passed on to authorities.
The commission will come to the end of its planned searches in April, it told the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Commission investigator Geoff Knupfer said the Boston College issue had been flagged by republican intermediaries who told them it was going to cause “enormous problems”.
In December Boston College was ordered by a judge to turn over some interviews with former IRA members which were part of an oral history project on the Troubles. The US prosecutors were acting on behalf of British authorities investigating Jean McConville’s disappearance.
Mr Knupfer said the commission’s archives and records would “always” be maintained by it and “never passed on to any other body”. Records were ”absolutely safe and secure for the future”, he added.
Commissioner Sir Ken Bloomfield said “our business is our business”, and people should be in no doubt about that. “We don’t prepare files or papers for DPP,” Commissioner Frank Murray added.
The commission has located 10 bodies since it was established in 1998, with seven of “the disappeared” still missing.
Commissioner Bloomfield said he had received assurances from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that there was “no question” of a cutback in the body’s resources. The commission had cost some €4 million in the past four years.
Once the commission finished its “active phase” of work, the structure would remain in place to continue investigations in the future, Mr Knupfer said.
By EAMONN McCANN
13 Feb 2012
Norman Baxter may find policing in Kabul these days more congenial than policing in Belfast. The former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendant is one of a number of senior Northern Ireland police officers who have decided that the new, reformed force is not for them, have taken redundancy and signed up with a private firm of “security consultants” with a contract from the Pentagon to help train the new Afghan police force.
Since leaving the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2008, Baxter has spoken and written of his anger and frustration at changes which have seemed to him to belittle the sacrifices of Royal Ulster Constabulary in the long fight against the IRA and at policies brought in under the peace process which he believes now hamper the force in its continuing fight against terrorism. A year and a half ago, Baxter joined New Century, founded and led by Belfast-born Tim Collins, a commander in the Royal Irish Rangers who became a star of the British tabloid press in 2003 for a stirring speech he is said to have delivered to troops in Kuwait on the eve of their advance into Iraq. (The only record comes from an embedded Daily Mail reporter who claims that she took verbatim notes of the desert oration.)
The inclusion in New Century of a contingent of former NI police officers, as well as British soldiers with experience in covert operations in the North, indicates that Collins’ involvement in Iraq and now in Afghanistan hasn’t occluded his interest in affairs back home. Writing in the Daily Mail a few days after the Real IRA gun attack in Co. Antrim in 2009 which left two soldiers dead, he declared: “The emasculation of the old Royal Ulster Constabulary, once the world’s most effective anti-terrorist force, is largely to blame for this shambles…In its new guise as the PSNI, the force is so riddled with political correctness that many good old-fashioned coppers…have simply been sidelined. Nowadays, these old RUC professionals who haven’t been driven out work for MI5 as collators or clerks but take no part in operations. This is a disgrace.”
Collins’ rationale for throwing the doors of New Century open to those in the RUC/PSNI who hankered after the old days and the old ways is easily understandable. He will have anticipated that the techniques and experience which the RUC and British security services developed over 30 years combating the Provos and other paramilitary groups will have equipped them with the special skills needed to mentor Afghans training to fight the Taliban once Nato forces have left.
Baxter, a high-ranking officer who had become chief liaison officer between the police and MI5 in the North, will have been a natural. He has been joined in the upper echelons of New Century by a cluster of colleagues, including Mark Cochrane, former RUC officer in charge of covert training; David Sterritt, a 29-year RUC/PSNI veteran and specialist in recruitment and assessment of agents; Joe Napolitano, 25 years in the RUC/PSNI, retiring as a Detective Inspector running intelligence-led policing operations; Raymond Sheehan, 29 years a Special Branch agent handler; Leslie Woods, 27 years in the RUC/PSNI, with extensive Special Branch handling the selection, assessment and training of officers for covert intelligence-led operations. And many others.
Experience in the North is the single most common factor among recruits to senior positions with New Century.
New Century’s presence in Afghanistan and the involvement of veterans of the Irish conflict briefly surfaced in the mainstream British media last June when a former RUC man working for the company was killed in action in Helmand. Ex-RUC officer Ken McGonigle, 51, a father of four from Derry, died in an exchange of fire with two escaped Taliban prisoners.
Baxter had been a relatively well-known policing figure in the North for some years, regularly interviewed to provide a police view on security matters. His most prominent role had been to head the investigation of the Omagh bombing in August 1998, the most bloody attack of the Troubles. It is widely accepted now that the Omagh investigation was botched to an embarrassing degree – although there is no agreement on where blame lies. Baxter is not alone in believing that political considerations and the protection of security service “assets” North and South were major factors in the failure to bring the case to a conclusion
After leaving the PSNI in 2008, he was able to speak out with less restraint. He took a particular interest in the alleged involvement of senior Sinn Fein figures in IRA activities in the past.
The fact that the policing changes had been specifically designed to coax Sinn Fein into acceptance of the Northern State and thereby into a share of Executive power did nothing to sooth the disgruntlement of police officers resentful of reform. Baxter’s particular animus against Gerry Adams came through in a column in the Belfast Newsletter on March 30 2010, in which he urged the PSNI to launch a new investigation into the Sinn Fein leader’s alleged role in the 1972 abduction and killing of Jean McConville, the mother of 10 whose “disappeared” body was finally located on a beach in Co. Louth in 2003. He appears to have been the first figure of any note – certainly the first with a media presence and extensive police connections – to call publicly for action to subpoena video tapes held by Boston College, Massachusetts, in which two ex-IRA members claim that Adams, as a senior IRA commander in Belfast, had ordered the killing of Mrs. McConville and others of the “disappeared”.
Baxter’s intervention came within 24 hours of the publication on March 29 of “Voices From The Grave ”, the book by Ed Maloney based on interviews with senior IRA figure Brendan Hughes and UVF leader and Progressive Unionist Party politician David Ervine. Both men had recently died, allowing Maloney to publish the material: he had given assurances that none of it would be used while they were alive. The same assurance had been given to more than 20 other former paramilitaries, most of them ex-IRA, who had been interviewed by Maloney and his researcher Anthony McIntyre – himself a former IRA prisoner – and the tapes lodged with Boston College.
In the book, Hughes, once a close personal friend and paramilitary comrade of Adams, told that the man who was now an internationally respected figure had orchestrated the abduction and killing of Mrs. McConville.
“Although Brendan Hughes is now dead,” wrote Baxter in the Newsletter, “his evidence, which was recorded, may provide evidence which could lead the police to build a case for criminal proceedings.” His intense personal feelings were evident in his description of a recent appearance by Adams in a Channel 4 religious programme as “sickening” and in a suggestion that Mrs. McConville may have heard herself condemned “from the lips of a demon of death”.
The level of hatred – it is not too strong a word – of Baxter and many of his colleagues at the new status of individuals they had striven to extirpate from Northern Ireland society was unconcealed. “Sinn Fein and the IRA have a record of human rights abuse that would equal some Nazi units in the Second World War, and yet they currently wear the duplicitous clothes of human rights defenders with such ease.”
The pursuit of Adams and others will be seen by Baxter and his colleagues as unfinished business.
Baxter will have been well aware that a taped record of a conversation with a man who had since died is no basis for charging a senior political figure – or anyone – with murder. In the Newsletter, he urged Mrs. McConville’s family to try instead, or as well, to bring civil proceedings – where the standard of proof is less daunting than in a criminal case. Referring to Mrs. McConville’s daughter, he made a public appeal: “Helen McKendry should not be left in isolation to seek justice for her mother through civil proceedings. Civic society and democratic politicians should come together in a campaign to financially and morally support the McConville family.”
His bitter experience heading the Omagh investigation might have put the option of civil proceedings in Baxter’s mind. He had come to believe that shadowy forces had contrived to thwart his efforts.
At Omagh library in February 2006, Sam Kinkaid, the most senior detective in the North, told a meeting of relatives of the victims that MI5 had known months in advance that a bomb attack was planned for either Omagh or Derry, that one of those involved was an Omagh man whose name was known and that the bombers would use a Vauxhall Cavalier. MI5 passed this information to the gardai in the South, he went on – but not to the PSNI in the North. Baxter was seated alongside Kinkaid as he spoke, nodding vigorously. Kinkaid resigned from the PSNI the following morning.
Meanwhile, the Garda Special Branch had been running an informer who supplied information about a series of planned cross-border bomb raids by the Real IRA. Gardai decided to let a number of bombs through so as not to compromise the identity of the informer. Police in the North were not told about this. So there were no special security measures in place in or around Omagh when the bomb in a Vauxhall Cavalier was parked in Market Street on August 15, 1998.
Even after the explosion, with 29 people dead, none of this information was passed to Baxter’s investigation either.
The only person eventually charged with the Omagh atrocity was Sean Hoey, an electrician from south Armagh. He was acquitted in November 2009. The trial judge, Mr. Justice Weir, then launched a scathing attack on the investigation, accusing the police of “a slapdash approach” and condemning two named officers for “reprehensible” behaviour.
Remarkably, however, none of the relatives of the victims interviewed afterwards blamed Baxter or the men under him. Victor Barker, whose 12-year-old son James had perished in the blast, placed the blame much higher: “It is the appalling inefficiency of (Chief Constable) Sir Ronnie Flanagan that has meant that Chief Superintendant Baxter has not been able to secure a conviction”.
Many of the families were at one with Baxter in believing that the investigation had systematically been stymied by senior figures in policing and politics who had reason to be nervous about the full facts emerging and whose political agenda may have taken precedence over the safety of citizens and the pursuit of the perpetrators.
A number of families took Baxter’s advice and initiated a civil case for compensation against four men they believed had been involved in the bombing. In 2009, the four were found to have been responsible. Two were cleared on appeal. But the families were able to express some frugal satisfaction that at least they’d seen somebody held publicly accountable for the devastation which had befallen them.
It is hardly fanciful to trace Baxter’s loud advocacy of civil proceedings against Adams back to the Omagh experience which had confirmed his belief that “the world’s most effective anti-terrorist force” had been prevented from winning its war against the IRA by the machinations of people with no stomach for the fight. Getting Adams now, whether by civil or criminal proceedings, was a part of getting even.
It was against this background that the British authorities launched legal action to recover the Boston tapes. The suggestion came from the Historical Enquiries Team, established in 2006 to re-examine more than 3,000 unsolved cases of Troubles-related murder. The 100-strong team included Mike Wilkins, head of the Special Branch in Warwickshire in England until seconded to the HET in 2006. He had become HET chief investigations officer by the time he left in September 2010 – to join Baxter as training coordinator for the Afghan project. This was six months after Baxter’s call in the Newsletter for a new police investigation into the McConville case. The interconnections between these events have, inevitably, provided fodder for fevered speculation in Republican circles and on blogs and websites over recent months.
To the dismay of Maloney and McIntyre, Boston College decided not to contest a lower-court order to hand the tapes over. The archive is now in the custody of the court while Maloney and McIntyre continue legal action to try to prevent the material being passed on to the PSNI. It is a matter of speculation what the implication will be for Adams and others who have left paramilitarism behind if the tapes are handed over.
As he looks back on more than 30 frustrating years policing in the North, even as he assumes his new and more wide-ranging – and enormously more lucrative, one imagines – role in the global war on terror, Baxter may take grim satisfaction from the fact that he has some of his old enemies still in his sights. He may be cheered, too, by the thought that he won’t be confronted by the same defeatist attitudes and dark maneuvers in the freewheeling fight in Afghanistan as he faced in the constrained circumstances of Northern Ireland, that this time the good guys will get to win. Of course, he could be wrong about that.
Jean McConville’s daughter has said interviews given to Boston College regarding her mother’s death should be handed over to the PSNI.
29 Jan 2012
**RTÉ Radio 1 audio onsite
The daughter of Belfast woman Jean McConville, who was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA in 1972, has said interviews given to researchers at Boston College regarding her mother’s death should be handed over to the PSNI.
Helen McKendry was 15 when her mother Jean McConville was taken from her home at the Divis Street Flats in Belfast before being murdered and her body buried close to a County Louth beach.
This week during a court case relating to the release of the interviews given by former republican and loyalist paramilitaries, it emerged that six of the interviewees in the archive made reference to the murder and disappearance of Ms McConville.
Judge William Young said that two of the interviews he had listened to contained information responsive to a subpoena by the British Authorities which requested interviews from the archive relating to the murder of Ms McConville.
Judge Young said that some of the interviews contained references to the death but it was not possible to say whether the interviewees were repeating stories they had heard or had actual knowledge of the event.
The judge also revealed in Court that two interviewees made reference to what he called a “shadowy sub-organisation” within the IRA which was operating in Belfast.
The two men who conducted interviews and oversaw the project, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Maloney, are trying to block the release of the interviews.
They say assurances given to those who partook in the project that the interviews would not be released until after their death should not be broken.
In an interview with RTÉ’s This Week programme Ms McKendry said that she “wants to know” what people had to say about her mother in the interviews.
She said “there might be someone on the tapes telling the full story, who was actually there”.
She said that not knowing what happened was “torture”.
Ms McKendry has written to the US Attorney General on the issue and has appealed for him to see the family’s side of the story and hand over the interviews to British Authorities as requested.
She argues that the release of the material will actually enhance the peace process and not threaten it as has been argued by those trying to block the release of the controversial archive.
Ms McKendry revealed how her house was under 24-hour police surveillance and her children constantly subjected to abuse by people telling them their grandmother was an informer.
She says she wants to clear her mother’s name and hopes the release of the archive might confirm that the IRA got it wrong when it shot her because it was thought she was an informer who was co-operating with British Authorities.
By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press
17 Jan 2012
DUBLIN (AP) — A trans-Atlantic legal showdown could determine whether Gerry Adams, the Irish republican chieftain long at the center of Belfast war and peace, faces trial over his IRA past.
Police probing the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 killing of a Belfast mother of 10 want to seize taped interviews with IRA members that Boston College hoped to keep locked up for posterity. Researchers fighting the handover in court next week warn that disclosure could trigger attacks against IRA veterans involved in the secrecy-shrouded project and undermine Northern Ireland’s peace.
The case of Jean McConville, a 37-year-old widow, commands special attention among Northern Ireland’s nearly 3,300 unsolved killings because of allegations that Adams, the conflict’s leading guerrilla turned peacemaker, commanded the IRA unit responsible for ordering her execution and secret burial.
Adams denies this.
But the researchers who collected the interviews say they include multiple IRA colleagues of Adams from 1972 — testimony that, if made public, could fuel a victims’ civil lawsuit against the Sinn Fein party leader.
“Imagine if these interviews are delivered to the police and their contents come out in court. There’ll be a hue and cry for Gerry Adams’ political scalp,” said Ed Moloney, a former Belfast journalist who directed Boston College’s oral history project on Northern Ireland.
Moloney and the former IRA member who collected the interviews, Anthony McIntyre, go to court next Tuesday in Boston seeking to persuade Judge William Young to let Boston College keep the audiotapes out of the hands of Belfast police.
Moloney said the material was explosive enough to damage Northern Ireland’s unity government, in which Sinn Fein represents the Irish Catholic minority. Their surprisingly stable coalition with the British Protestant majority is the central achievement of the U.S.-brokered Good Friday peace accord.
McIntyre won the IRA veterans’ confidence by promising their confessions would remain confidential, beyond the reach of British law and order, as long as they lived. IRA members normally never talk openly about the underground group — partly because the IRA reserves the right to kill such people as traitors.
But posthumous testimony isn’t admissible as evidence.
Young last month ruled that the interviews of one living IRA veteran, convicted car bomber Dolours Price, should be surrendered because she discusses her role in the McConville killing. The judge also ruled he would personally review interviews involving 24 other Irish republicans, and more than 100 transcripts, to determine if others should be sent to Belfast police for the same reason.
To the fury of Moloney and McIntyre, Boston College accepted Young’s judgment. They say university officials should have appealed or risked a contempt order by destroying the whole archive.
“If they weren’t prepared to fight to the bitter end like us, then why did Boston College get involved in this kind of project at all?” Moloney said.
Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn insisted Young’s judgment was the best they could expect, given that some tapes include confessions of involvement in crimes.
“We would never want anyone to think that Boston College was obstructing a murder investigation,” he said.
A Boston appeals court has blocked any handover of IRA material to British authorities pending the resolution of two Moloney-McIntyre lawsuits.
McIntyre said his family home could be bombed, or he could be run over in the street, if his work ends up inspiring criminal prosecutions against those he interviewed or a civil lawsuit against Adams.
“I’m already being labeled a tout, an informer. That’s a death sentence in Irish republican circles,” said McIntyre, a Belfast native who spent 17 years in prison for killing a Protestant militant in a 1976 drive-by shooting. Today he lives in Ireland with his American wife, 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.
“Of course I’m concerned what might happen to me,” said McIntyre, who is barred from traveling to the United States because of his murder conviction. “But I’m much more concerned about the safety of my wife, my children, and the people I interviewed.”
He, Moloney and Boston College officials all say they felt ambushed when the U.S. attorney’s office, acting on behalf of the British government and Northern Ireland police, last year filed subpoenas seeking all audiotapes in which IRA members discuss McConville’s disappearance.
Dunn said the researchers and key university staff a decade ago naively presumed that the risk of any British legal action was low, given that the Good Friday accord emphasized the need to draw a line under a conflict that had left 3,700 dead in the previous three decades.
That did little to mute cries for justice for Northern Ireland’s victims. The police there in 2005 formed a special “cold cases” unit, called the Historical Enquiries Team, that promised to re-examine all unsolved political killings since 1969. The Boston College archive represents a potential gold mine for its work.
Boston College has already handed over the tapes and transcripts of IRA member Brendan Hughes, a one-time Adams confidante who died in 2008. Moloney made Hughes’ posthumous testimony the foundation for his 2010 book “Voices From the Grave.”
Hughes told McIntyre he oversaw McConville’s “arrest” for allegedly being a British Army spy. He said Adams commanded a unit called “The Unknowns” responsible for making McConville and several other West Belfast civilians disappear.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed,” Hughes said. “That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did.”
The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston so far has received 13 interviews involving Price, who reportedly drove McConville from Belfast to the Irish border for her execution, but has yet to hand them to the British.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil said American authorities must provide relevant IRA testimony to British authorities as part of Anglo-American treaty commitments to aid each other’s criminal investigations.
“The UK is investigating serious crimes: murder, kidnapping. The court has already found that it’s a bona fide investigation and that there’s no other source for this material,” McNeil said.
Adams’ spokesman, Richard McAuley, said Adams has nothing to hide.
“As to the specific allegations against Gerry, he’s consistently denied them,” McAuley said. “The truth is nobody knows what’s on the tapes. We only know the innuendo and insinuation.”
McConville’s eldest daughter Helen McKendry, who since 1994 has campaigned for the IRA to admit the truth of her mother’s execution, said she has no doubt Adams is responsible.
“Gerry Adams has come to my home and claimed he’s got nothing to do with my mother’s murder. But he couldn’t look me in the eye and he couldn’t say her name. He’s a liar,” she said.
McKendry was 15 in 1972 when several IRA members came to their Catholic west Belfast home to abduct her mother. The 10 children never saw her again, were told she’d abandoned them and were scattered into different foster homes.
The IRA didn’t admit it killed McConville until 1998. Five years later, a dog walker on a Republic of Ireland beach 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Belfast spotted McConville’s skeletal remains protruding from a sandy bluff. Forensics officers found she’d been shot once in the back of the head, with the .22-caliber bullet still lodged in an eye socket.
“I really hope people in Boston back us up on this,” McKendry said. “Murder is murder. Release the tapes.”
• Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Boston legal documents: http://bit.ly/yZwEaT
Northern Ireland’s ‘cold cases’ police team: http://bit.ly/zAQbyA
British-Irish commission for finding victims’ remains: http://www.iclvr.ie/
Boston College Library: http://bit.ly/zT0lSH
9 Jan 2012
The US Department of Justice has decided not to oppose an application to postpone the handing over of interviews conducted with former republican paramilitaries to the PSNI.
A full hearing on the matter will now take place on 24 January.
The application had been made by those who conducted the Belfast Project for Boston College.
That was writer Ed Moloney who was the director and republican researcher Anthony McIntyre.
Last year, the PSNI launched a legal bid to gain access to interviews with former republicans and loyalists held by Boston College.
They are being sought by detectives investigating cases of people murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.
At the heart of the case is the 1972 IRA murder of Jean McConville.
US prosecutors have demanded anything in the Boston College archive relating to the death of the Belfast mother of 10, one of the so-called “disappeared”.
Police in Northern Ireland are seeking accounts from former IRA members who accused Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams of running a secret cell within the IRA that carried out the kidnappings and disappearance – something Gerry Adams has denied doing or having any knowledge of.
This is the first time police have tried to use the Boston College oral history collection to build criminal cases.
The college has already turned over tapes of interviews given by Brendan Hughes, a former IRA member who died in 2008. A subsequent documentary led to calls for the other interviews to be handed over.
Dolours Price was one of 26 former IRA members to give a series of interviews – between 2001 and 2006 – as part of the research study, called the Belfast Project.
Police want to hear her interview relating to the abduction and death of Mrs McConville.
The material has already been handed over to a US court following an earlier ruling.
The people who Mr Maloney and Mr McIntyre interviewed spoke only with the caveat that the material would not be made public until after their deaths.
BBC journalist Andy Martin who has been following the case said: “The interviewees feel they have been let down by Boston College and by the American authorities. The college has a reputation as a centre of law and holds the documentation relating to the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.
“Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre feel they have been let down and Anthony McIntyre feels that his life is in danger.
“Then, there is the victims’ lobby which feels that the interviews should be handed over.”