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Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConville
22 March 2014
The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.
The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives.
The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ’, was his client.
But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.
“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Grey-haired moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.
Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.
He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.
But Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.
“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.
Judge Henderson said the case was a very “significant and sensitive” one and praised those in court for acting with dignity through the hearing.
She said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.
“I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.
Bell was remanded in custody to appear before court again next month.
He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.
Mrs McConville was dragged away from her children by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.
The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to gardaí.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
After the hearing Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family’s thoughts were with their mother.
“The pain of losing her has not diminished over the decades since she was taken from us murdered and secretly buried,” he said.
“She is in our hearts and our thoughts always. Whatever the future holds nothing will ever change that”.
The Boston archives’ row centres on Gerry Adams’ alleged role in murder. What else does it hold, asks Alan Simpson
25 January 2012
I must confess to having a healthy appreciation of the rich irony of the Boston College Oral History Project handing over to the US authorities, on foot of an order from one of their courts, the taped confessions of some former Northern Ireland terrorists.
Two of the loyalist confessors in the project – William ‘Plum’ Smith and Winston Churchill ‘Winkie’ Rea, both formerly of the Red Hand Commando – urgently want their taped disclosures returned “not due to their content, but on a point of principle”.
As a retired detective superintendent who worked for many years in west and north Belfast, I would be keen, should the tapes be handed over to the PSNI, that they be placed in the public domain – particularly in respect of Rea.
I first encountered Rea one day in February 1973, when, as a very junior detective, I found myself alone in the CID offices at Springfield Road RUC station.
Around lunchtime, a call came through that two Catholic post office workers, Michael Coleman (30) and 38-year-old Joseph McAleese, who had just finished a shift at the nearby Divis Street sorting office, had been making their way home on foot to the Clonard area when a car pulled up and a gunman armed with a sub-machine-gun stepped out and fired several bursts, killing them instantly.
Accompanied by a uniformed colleague and an Army patrol, I dealt with the scene. A large crowd had gathered. Also present was the late Paddy Devlin, who had recently lost his parliamentary seat for West Belfast.
The scene was quite chaotic and I noticed some children kicking around several of the spent cartridge cases and was relieved when Paddy Devlin took this vital evidence from them and handed it to me. I collected the remainder and Devlin then successfully encouraged the crowd to disperse.
The car used in the double-murder was recovered a short time later in the Shankill area and, when forensically examined, a distinct palm print was found on it which was identified as having being made by Rea.
He was duly arrested and, as we could not prove he had actually been in the car at the time of the killings, he was convicted of assisting offenders and received a prison sentence of eight years.
I strongly suspect that the late Frankie Curry, a member of the Red Hand Commando and a close associate of Rea, was the actual gunman. Curry was himself shot dead in 1999 by fellow loyalists.
I had had many encounters with him and managed to put him in prison a few times. Just prior to his murder, Curry confided in a reputable journalist that he had been involved in a total of 13 killings – most of them sectarian murders.
He claimed to have been ‘blooded’ at the tender age of 13 years by his uncle, Gusty Spence, when he took away the weapons from the scene of the Malvern Street shooting.
I wonder did Spence – before his death last September – ever take responsibility for setting his nephew on a road which led to so many killings.
My interest in the Boston tapes is to discover – should they ever be made public – if Rea actually mentions the murder of the two postal workers in 1973.
If he does, has he considered any sort of apology or explanation to their relatives?
My cynical nature believes it is the actual contents of the Boston tapes that is the real reason Rea wants them returned.
And now to the late Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes, former officer commanding of the Belfast brigade of the IRA, who also recorded his memoirs for the benefit of the Boston project.
I only encountered him once, just after his arrest in an IRA safe-house in Myrtlefield Park, off the Malone Road in 1974.
I could see instantly how he earned his nickname as he was very swarthy with thick, black hair and a large moustache. Had I not known his history, I would have guessed he was of Turkish extraction.
During the recording of his experiences in the IRA, he strongly implicated Gerry Adams as the man who ordered the kidnapping, interrogation and subsequent execution by a single bullet to the back of the head of Jean McConville – a mother of 10 – for her perceived sins against the IRA.
Hughes’ allegations against Adams have been corroborated by Dolours Price, who was a notorious and very active member of the IRA and who admits driving the unfortunate Jean McConville to her appointment with death.
It is often said by commentators on the Troubles that there should be no hierarchy of victims, but who for example, would not show greater compassion for a murdered child?
Similarly, the killing of a woman has always had a certain abhorrence throughout the civilised world – never mind a woman who was the mother of 10 children.
Adams, as one would expect, denies any involvement in the killing but in mitigation, if he was involved as alleged, he too must have felt a degree of shame at what could be regarded as a war-crime, as the perpetrators had her body secretly buried to conceal their foul deed and it was not recovered until 30 years had passed.
By Dan Friedman
26 Jan 2012
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., has jumped into a complex legal dispute involving Boston College and the United Kingdom this week, asking the State Department to urge the British to back off a push for the university to release tapes that might help prosecute former Irish Republican Army members for murder.
Boston College compiled recordings of interviews with former members of the IRA and related documents as part of an oral-history project on “the troubles” in Northern Ireland. Participants, including former IRA members, were promised anonymity that the British government now contends the school had no right to give.
British authorities want material regarding two cases. However, attention has focused on the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10, because Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams–a key architect in the Northern Ireland peace accords–is accused of commanding the IRA unit thought to be responsible. Adams denies any involvement.
The U.K. invoked a mutual legal assistance treaty with the U.S. that requires the two nations to share information that could aid criminal inquiries. In response, the Justice Department subpoenaed and took possession of Boston College’s tapes. A legal fight continues as Irish journalist Ed Moloney, director of the project, and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre fight the handover of the material to British authorities.
Boston College is not part of the suit. An Appeals Court hearing is scheduled for March.
In a Jan. 23 letter, Kerry asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to “work with British authorities to reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke the request.”
Kerry, whose name floats as a potential replacement to Clinton if she leaves the post, says his request stems both from constituent interest and his position as Foreign Relations chairman.
The case “has a profound impact on Boston College, a highly respected University in Massachusetts, as well as implications for the confidentiality of other research projects in the state,” he wrote.
Kerry said he is also “obviously concerned about the impact [the situation] may have on the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process.”
According to the letter, Kerry also spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder about the matter late last year.
A Kerry spokeswoman said he has yet to receive a reply from the State Department. A department spokeswoman said State “did receive the letter and are reviewing it. We will respond as appropriate.”
By Travis Andersen
24 Jan 2012
NEWTON – A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit by two developers of a Boston College oral history project who sought to block the release of interviews with former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to British authorities investigating a decades-old murder.
In a brief hearing, US District Judge William G. Young dismissed the suit brought by former IRA member Anthony McIntyre and Irish journalist Ed Moloney, a researcher and director, respectively, of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews with former IRA members and others about the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.
“My big problem is with the standing of your clients,” Young told a lawyer for the men, James Cotter, during the hearing.
Young said the men could not act as parties against the subpoena for the tapes brought by federal prosecutors in Boston on behalf of British authorities, because of a treaty that requires both nations to share information that will aid in criminal inquiries.
Cotter argued that the US attorney general did not consider the perils of releasing the materials when he issued the subpoena. He said the First Amendment rights of Moloney, a US citizen, would be violated if the documents are released.
Lawyers for the men have also argued that the safety of McIntyre and his family could be endangered if the tapes are delivered to British law enforcement.
Coincidentally, the hearing was held at Boston College Law School under a long-standing practice of the federal court to bring court proceedings to various law schools.
After today’s hearing, McIntyre’s wife, Carrie Twomey, lashed out at the college, which has distanced itself from the lawsuit brought by the two men.
“Boston College are cowards!” Twomey shouted as she was being escorted from the building by campus police.
The fate of the recordings of the interviews remains uncertain.
British authorities are seeking them to aid in their investigation of the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of ten in Belfast whom the IRA has admitted to killing because she was suspected of being an informant.
Last month, Young ordered BC to turn over recordings of former IRA member Dolours Price, who has admitted to her involvement in the murders and disappearances of at least four people, including McConville.
The university had initially balked but complied with the order, but an appeals court blocked prosecutors from turning over the Price materials to the British authorities pending further review. Further arguments on the Price recordings are scheduled for March.
And last week, Young ordered BC to turn over more interviews from the project, an order that the university has said it may appeal.
In a statement, BC declined to comment on today’s ruling from Young on the lawsuit brought by Moloney and McIntyre.
In a related development, US Senator John Kerry on Monday sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to work with British authorities to “reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke their request.”
Kerry wrote that the peace process in Northern Ireland could be harmed by the release of the tapes, an argument that lawyers for McIntyre and Moloney have also raised.
“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 14 years,” Kerry wrote to Clinton.
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.”
College to review its legal options
The Boston Globe
23 Jan 2012
A federal judge has ordered Boston College to turn over more interview transcripts and recordings from an oral history project on the sectarian killings in Northern Ireland to federal prosecutors in Boston.
However, it remains to seen if that material or an earlier cache will be released to British authorities, who are seeking it. They are investigating the abduction and slaying of Jean McConville, a mother of 10, in Belfast in 1972, who is referenced in the project.
In a five-page ruling issued Friday, Judge William G. Young ordered the college to turn over transcripts from seven interview subjects to prosecutors, who had subpoenaed the items on behalf of British investigators. The Provisional Irish Republican Army has admitted to killing McConville because she was suspected of being an informant.
“We are disappointed with [Young’s] ruling in light of the effect it will have on the enterprise of oral history,’’ BC spokesman Jack Dunn said yesterday in an e-mail. “We will take the time allotted us to review our legal options, which include the right to appeal this decision.’’
A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Boston could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday.
Last month, Young ordered Boston College to turn over interview transcripts and recordings made of Dolours Price, a former IRA member who has admitted involvement in the unsolved killings and disappearances of at least four people, including McConville.
The university complied with that order, but a federal appeals court temporarily blocked prosecutors from turning over the materials to British authorities at the request of two men involved in the making of “The Belfast Project,’’ the BC oral history project about the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland during the latter half of the 20th century.
The men, former IRA member Anthony McIntyre and Irish journalist Ed Moloney, the project director, have argued in court papers that releasing the materials could endanger the safety of McIntyre and his family. The release could also cause further turmoil in Northern Ireland by opening politically sensitive wounds, the men have argued.
All interview subjects were promised anonymity until they died.
On Friday, Young wrote that BC must turn over the additional transcripts to prosecutors three business days after the temporary hold on the Price materials is lifted. Prosecutors and lawyers for Moloney and McIntyre are expected to present oral arguments on the matter in March, court records show.
Price has said that McConville’s murder was ordered by Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, a political party which formerly served as the political arm of the IRA. Adams has adamantly denied the allegation.
In 2006, the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland issued a report asserting that authorities did not begin investigating McConville’s disappearance until 1995. Her body was recovered in 2003.
By Jude Collins
19 Jan 2012
So – what do you make of this Boston tapes thing, eh? You know the project: journalist Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre got together and arranged interviews with a number of former republican and loyalist combatants in our Troubles.
These were recorded and lodged with Boston College, with the promise that they’d not see the light of day until the interviewee was dead. And so, for a time, it proved. When Brendan Hughes died, Ed Moloney wrote a book in which his recorded testimony featured prominently. A lot of republicans were very unhappy with it, because Hughes essentially claimed, among other things, that over half the hunger-strikers in 1981 should not have died and it was all Sinn Féin’s fault. What couldn’t be disputed was that Moloney had kept his promise to Hughes, that nothing would be revealed until he had died.
But now, hard though it is to believe, all bets are off. The US government has laid legal claim to the tapes and may pass them to the PSNI. The assurances of confidentiality have melted away like snow off last year’s ditch.
Anthony McIntyre was on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh on Sunday and made a number of references to the collation of the tapes as “research”. An odd term for the project. As Anthony probably knows, one of the basic building blocks in research is the choice of sample. For example, if you were in the US right now and you got a sample of 30 people to fill in a questionnaire about the race for the White House, the value of your “research” would depend, among other things, on who the 30 people were who filled in the questionnaire. If you’d chosen your 30 because you knew they detested black people in general and Barack Obama in particular, your sample would be skewed and your research worthless. It might be a powerful piece of propaganda but it wouldn’t be research. From what I hear – and I’ll be happy to hear otherwise, if anyone knows – the Boston interviews were conducted with people who, if they didn’t detest Sinn Féin in general and Gerry Adams in particular, were – how shall I say? – some way from supportive of them. If that generally-accepted fact is true, then don’t call it research. Use another word.
Two other points. First, on Sunday’s radio programme, McIntyre conceded that he and Moloney had made an error of judgement in not taking legal advice about their and Boston College’s ability to control these tapes. That I find astonishing. In their shoes, wouldn’t you have worn out your knuckles hammering on the door of the smartest lawyer in town before embarking on a project so controversial? It’s equally astonishing that the people who agreed to be interviewed didn’t first say, “Mr Moloney, Mr McIntyre, show me the legal document that guarantees my words will be kept under lock and key for my lifetime, would you?” If they didn’t, they were very gullible. If they did… I’m stumped there. If they did, what answer were they given? And did the people giving the answer know what they were talking about?
Second point. Anthony McIntyre claimed that if the tapes fall into the hands of the PSNI, his life would be in danger; Danny Morrison speaking on the same programme, said it won’t. I don’t know who’s right, but I do recall an occasion some eight years ago, when I wrote a piece for the Daily Ireland newspaper in which I was critical of Anthony McIntyre. Shortly afterwards I got a long, hostile email from Moloney in New York, accusing me of – you guessed it – putting Anthony McIntyre’s life in danger. I considered the charge daft and time has proved me right. In making up your mind whether McIntyre’s life would be in danger this time, it might be important not to listen to Ed Moloney.
• Jude Collins blogs at www.judecollins.com
THOMAS E HACHEY & DR ROBERT K O’NEILL
19 Jan 2012
OPINION: INTERVIEWEES IN Boston College’s Belfast Project oral history undertaking understood that divulging their participation could potentially compromise the underlying premise that such testimony would remain undisclosed until the time of their demise.
That important need for discretion was honoured by all surviving participants, with the notable exception of one, Dolours Price, who chose publicly to volunteer her involvement, while making some provocative statements. Given how the details she freely disclosed entailed references to a still unresolved crime, the PSNI or some arm of British law enforcement sought to employ an enforceable Anglo- American legal assistance treaty to seek discovery of that material through the issuance of a subpoena by a US federal court.
Despite the fact that the subpoena was in no small part a direct result of this disclosure, and despite Price’s refusal to assist in its efforts, Boston College promptly sought to protect that participant from the consequence of her disclosures by moving to quash the subpoena that sought access to the Price interview materials.
The subpoena also demanded the delivery of the Brendan Hughes interviews, probably because they were thought to contain information related to some of the Price account. The demand for the Hughes material was curious as he was deceased and had previously assented to the posthumous access to his file by those who would use the oral history. It was therefore available for the asking by any creditable researcher or government official.
Presumably at the behest of British law enforcement, a subsequent subpoena was issued in August targeting any materials among the Belfast Project interviews that made reference to the abduction or death of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, and which Price has apparently indicated to a reporter she has some knowledge of.
Boston College again promptly filed a motion to quash. Last month, the court did not agree to quash the subpoenas, but did accept Boston College’s request to fashion a procedure that would both honour the obligations of the US under its treaty with the UK, and recognise the significant interests of Boston College in protecting the integrity of its oral history project.
Despite the US government’s arguments that the court had no discretion in the face of an international treaty, Boston College’s arguments in opposition to the subpoenas succeeded in convincing the court to engage in a “balancing test” to weigh the competing interests of law enforcement against the academy’s interests in maintaining the confidentiality of academic research, through an in camera review of the contested materials.
Thus, the court has articulated a legal and procedural basis for possibly denying the disclosure of the materials. No one knows more about the contents of the interviews of former IRA members than the interviewer himself, Anthony McIntyre, who declined the court’s request to disclose which of the interviews were potentially responsive, thereby requiring Boston College to provide all the IRA interviews to the court for its review.
As of this writing, the court has not acceded to the government’s request that all the responsive interviews be turned over to British law enforcement.
Upon its initial in camera review, the court, which has access to sealed information about the underlying criminal investigation that Boston College does not have, ruled that the Price materials had to be turned over given their relevance to the investigation.
The court has not ruled on the remaining interviews in question, and our hope is that these remaining materials under the judge’s review will not have to be released. That is one reason why Boston College chose not to appeal the court’s decision, deeming this option to be the better course to protect the interests of interviewees and to help preserve the court’s recognition of the important interests in protecting academic research more broadly than had been previously recognised in law.
There have been people who have faulted Boston College for not adopting this or that particular stratagem, and we appreciate how expressions of concern have sometimes been prompted by either an honest difference of opinion over how best to serve all concerned, or simply by the failure to understand the need to respect American law while still seeking the desired outcome.
But the suggestion by former project director Ed Moloney that Boston College, defying the court, should pre-emptively burn the transcripts is an example of just how unhinged the dialogue has become in some quarters.
Universities do not engage in either the burning of books or in the torching of transcripts. Rather, we have engaged in legal proceedings in the hope of securing a favourable outcome.
That is our plan, and we hope that it will prove successful for the sake of the peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland, and the enterprise of oral history in the United States and abroad.
• Thomas E Hachey, university professor of history and executive director – Center for Irish Programs; Dr Robert K O’Neill Burns Librarian, Burns Library, Boston College.
15 January 2012
TERRORISTS who confessed their membership of illegal organisations and their crimes to Boston College researchers may have unwittingly led to the solving of their own crimes.
The man who headed the investigation into the Omagh Bomb, former detective chief superintendent Norman Baxter, said that any confessions on the Boston College tapes would be admissible in court if the PSNI can win a court battle to gain custody of several recordings.
The PSNI is known to have requested several tapes, including those relating to the abduction and murder of west Belfast mother Jean McConville.
But Mr Baxter told the News Letter that the police and the Government had a duty to press for every recording to be handed over if they are serious about solving Troubles atrocities.
And the senior officer, who retired in 2008, said that politicians should be pressing the police to get the whole archive and see whether they can re-investigate scores of Troubles murders.
In a searing article for the News Letter in 2010 in which he compared some IRA crimes to some of those by Nazi units, Mr Baxter called on the chief constable to urgently appoint a senior detective to conduct a proper investigation into the murder of Mrs McConville.
Speaking last night, he said: “Access to the Boston papers is absolutely vital in the process to establish the truth concerning the murders of so many victims in the Northern Ireland Troubles.
“The PSNI are to be commended for commencing the legal process to gain access to this material.
“Justice for the victims demands that every possible action is taken by the authorities to collect information and intelligence on the criminals who perpetrated some of the worst crimes known to humanity.
“The Boston interviews would provide the reasonable grounds to arrest these terrorists for the crimes they have confessed to on tape; and indeed, subject to the rules of evidence, could form the basis of criminal charges against those who have confessed.
“The Boston project should therefore lead to the arrest and potential charging of scores of terrorists and help bring closure to the families of the victims of loyalist and republican terror.
“Politicians should encourage the PSNI to seek possession of all the recordings and statements to help seek justice and truth for the families of the victims.”
Mr Baxter also called on those who had collected the confessions to cooperate fully with the police in solving murders.
He added: “Justice is for all and the law should be applied to everyone including journalists, academics and researchers.
“Everyone who is aware that an arrestable offence has been committed and has information on that crime has a legal obligation to pass this information expeditiously to the police.”
Journalists Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, two of those involved in the project, have said that they will not cooperate with any criminal investigation emerging from the tapes.
On Wednesday the News Letter reported their fears that the PSNI’s success in the court action – which to their fury Boston College has declined to appeal – will now stop any paramilitary from telling the truth of what happened during the Troubles.
Both men have now initiated their own legal action in an attempt to keep the tapes secret and a hearing at the end of this month is expected to decide the case.
Mr McIntyre, a former IRA man who is now a trenchant critic of Sinn Fein, conducted the republican interviews.
He said: “No one would have been interested in giving frank interviews unless there were stringent guarantees and I would never have been involved without those guarantees.”
Mr McIntyre said that the relationship between those who conducted the interviews and Boston College had now broken down and accused the Jesuit-founded university of “putting the institution ahead of the interviewees”.
He and Mr Moloney have now called for the destruction of the archive – something which would destroy what may be some of the most historically significant artefacts relating to the Troubles.
Mr Moloney has suggested that the British Government is not keen to win the court battle and would like it to “go away”.
And he called for an amnesty for past terrorists – something which unionists have made clear they would oppose – in an attempt to help people talk openly about what happened in past decades.
The New York-based journalist and author said: “It is one thing pursuing people who are continuing to oppose the process but there is a distinction between them and those who said they were ending this with a compromise that a lot of their people didn’t like but they were going to do it and the assumption – and practice – was until recently that there would be no retribution.
“But that’s not happening, according to this.
“If this goes forward, anyone in the PSNI who is capable of reading a book or a newspaper is going to realise that this will involve in some way the leadership of organisations like the Provisionals who were the architects of the peace process.”
Last week, the family of Mrs McConville made clear that they want to see the police do all within their power – including accessing the tapes – to bring her killers to justice.
By Jennifer O’Leary
13 Jan 2012
Martin McGuinness has said he was ‘disturbed’ to learn that documents detailing paramilitary decommissioning are held in a Boston College archive.
The deputy first minister made his remarks at the British Irish Summit in Dublin Castle on Friday.
Boston College has said that documents in its archive will remain confidential for 30 years.
The body which oversaw paramilitary decommissioning in Northern Ireland presented its final report in 2011.
The entire process was monitored by the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).
In a statement to the BBC, Boston College said: “There is no conceivable reason why the British or Irish governments, which set the terms for the IICD papers when they were sent to the college, would break those terms.”
Martin McGuinness conceded that it was “probably very unlikely” that the documents would “see the light of day in the course of the next 30 years”.
But he said separate legal action involving Boston College over interview transcripts of former paramilitaries has “made people nervous”.
“As someone who was very much part of breaking the deadlock on how armed groups could put their weapons beyond use, I am as disturbed as anyone else about the fact that against the backdrop of what we have been listening to, that we now have a situation where the IIDC body, obviously with the support of governments, lodged the results of the decommissioning process with Boston College.”
“At the time when it was mooted, I expressed my clear disapproval of such an approach and made it absolutely clear that the information should have been held by both governments,” he said.
His comments come after Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said it was of “major concern” that the IICD documents were being held at the US college, describing the decision as “potentially damaging to peace and reconciliation”.
“These papers catalogue the details of the engagement of paramilitary groups with the decommissioning process and for reasons of security and safety it is imperative that these papers are not made public for a sufficient period of time,” he said.
“What is of major concern is that these papers have been given to an institution outside the island of Ireland which is now involved in a major controversy about protecting the integrity of its sealed archive.”
In response, the Republic’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter said such comments were “disingenuous, inaccurate and misleading”.
In a statement he said the IICD detailed the different arrangements made by them for storage of their documentation.
“Papers from political parties setting out their views on decommissioning and other private correspondence received from individuals was deposited by them for safe-keeping in Boston College, subject to an embargo on their disclosure for 30 years,” said Mr Shatter.
“Details of the quantity of arms decommissioned by the various paramilitary groups were placed with the US State Department to preserve their security and confidentiality on the basis of the commission’s assessment that the time was not right for them to be made public.”
Minister Shatter also said that both the Republic’s department of justice and the Northern Ireland Office have been monitoring the situation in relation to the current legal proceedings in Boston, pertaining to the oral archives and “will remain in contact about the matter”.
“However, there is no reason to believe that there are particular grounds for concern about the arrangements made by the commission, after consultation with the then governments,” he said.
Boston College is the subject of a legal challenge by the British authorities who have requested that the college hand-over interviews with former republicans and loyalists.
What was termed the ‘Belfast Project’ took place over five years from 2001 and involved academics, historians and journalists conducting interviews with former republicans and loyalists about their activities during the Troubles.
In return for honest accounts, those who were interviewed were promised that their identities would be kept confidential and that the interviews would be released only after their deaths.
As part of a legal challenge by the British authorities, transcripts of interviews that former IRA member Dolours Price gave have been received by US officials.
Writer Ed Moloney and republican researcher Anthony McIntyre, who carried out the interviews, are trying to stop the material being handed over to the British authorities.
The people who Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre interviewed spoke only with the caveat that the material would not be made public until after their deaths.
Boston College has said the project was “based on a contract between Boston College and project leader Ed Moloney, which stated that they would be kept confidential until the death of the participants to the extent American law allows”.
**This is an article I was alerted to by Helen McClafferty via email and which was originally found here: bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com
Posted on 12/01/12 by Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD today described the decision to export highly sensitive documents relating to the Irish Peace Process as ill-considered and potentially damaging to the interests of peace and reconciliation. He also questioned the effects of the move on future Irish historical research.
The Fianna Fáil leader has called on the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD to clarify why exactly he agreed to donate documents from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), the body appointed in 1997 to oversee the process of putting ‘beyond use’ weapons used in the Northern Ireland conflict, to Boston College.
Deputy Martin commented, “The papers relating to the workings of the IICD are highly sensitive given the nature of the organisation’s work. These papers catalogue the details of the engagement of paramilitary groups with the decommissioning process and for reasons of security and safety it is imperative that these papers are not made public for a sufficient period of time. What is of major concern is that these papers have been given to an institution outside the island of Ireland which is now involved in a major controversy about protecting the integrity of its sealed archive.”
Mr Martin referred to ongoing legal proceedings in the United States involving Boston College’s archives. He said that arising from a court action in the United States, Boston College may be compelled to open their archive on the Northern Ireland Oral History Project. He said that clarity is now urgently needed as to whether this has implications for the papers of the IICD also deposited in Boston College.
He continued, “Boston College is an excellent institution with an excellent track record of interest in and support for Irish affairs. However, the fact that there is a question mark over the ability of Boston College to protect sensitive political papers in their archives from premature release is an issue of real concern. Alan Shatter needs to clarify on what basis he agreed to give hugely sensitive papers relating to the decommissioning process in Ireland to Boston College rather than entrust them to the Irish National Archives. He needs to explain whether there are implications for the decommissioning papers arising out of the legal proceedings ongoing in the United States.
“I am calling on him to clarify what measures he has taken to protect the integrity and security of the decommissioning archive.”
Mr Martin also said he disagreed with the decision to give the IICD papers to Boston College from a historical research perspective. He said that he believed that these papers should have been given to an archival institution on the island of Ireland.
“These papers are integral to the history of the Irish peace process and will be of immense historical significance. I strongly believe that they should have been kept on the island of Ireland as they are a key component of our modern history and, in particular, to an understanding of the resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
“There are a host of suitable archives on the island where he could have deposited the papers and which would have been delighted to receive them. I want Alan Shatter to explain why he did not insist on these important records being kept in Ireland. His decision not to keep the papers in Ireland is a bad one in terms of access for future historians and students of the Irish peace process. It means that anyone in the future wishing to undertake serious research on the peace process will, most likely, have to have the financial means to visit Boston. I believe Alan Shatter has shown little regard for Irish historians or the many fine archives we have on the island and he should explain his position.”
11 January 2012
TWO years ago I visited the Burns Library at Boston College and interviewed Professor Thomas Hachey – custodian of the archive – about the project’s significance.
Professor Hachey, director of the Irish Institute at the Jesuit college, explained as candidly as confidentiality allowed what the archive entailed and the sort of people whose interviews it contained.
The genial historian said that scores of interviews with loyalist and republican paramilitaries had been conducted on behalf of the university over the previous nine years.
Each of the individuals whom Boston College had approached agreed to speak frankly on the understanding that their account would not be released until after their death, he stressed.
No one other than those involved in the interviews knew who had spoken to the academics, with the exception of two dead men – senior IRA member Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes and David Ervine from the UVF, whose accounts were about to be published in Ed Moloney’s book Voices From The Grave and eventually made into an RTE documentary.
When he spoke to the News Letter in early 2010, Prof Hachey explained that the Troubles oral history project began in 2001 when the late Irish-American businessman Tom Tracy – known for his love of, and visits to, Northern Ireland – gave the college a large donation for the research.
“He was indisputably a remarkable man of considerable means who came over to Northern Ireland as your typical, I would say, Irish-American nationalist who didn’t understand anything about the situation very well,” Prof Hachey said.
“But he was a very sharp businessman and wasn’t there very long until he came to appreciate that there is a cultural divide [in Northern Ireland] – it’s not a political divide and the sectarian issue is really just the surface.
“He came back to the States with an appreciation that this was a conflict that had two sides to it and he started to think of the means by which he might make a contribution to the peace and reconciliation process.”
Prof Hachey, who is director of the Irish Institute at Boston College, did not say what new information about some of the Troubles’ atrocities will be contained in the accounts, but made clear that those who spoke to the college knew what they were talking about.
“The people that we went out and interviewed were not gophers – people who were simply sent out on missions and had no idea who was sending them or why – nor was it the upper echelon, which is to say whomever the leadership may have been on the loyalist side or nationalist side.
“That sort of thing has been done by the BBC, NBC…this was really about the operational level. This first book which will be published does include two very prominent people – all [in the archive] won’t be equally prominent but all will have played similar roles.
“We began this oral history on the understanding that the documents would be sequested and embargoed in the archives at the Burns Library here in Boston.
“That seemed to be very reassuring to a number of people.
“We’re doing this not for ourselves but for posterity. But, by the same token, one would like to think that it would be possible to assess and analyse this at a time when there are still people around who are contemporary to this and can make judgments as to whether this was a fair reflection of what took place.”
Prof Hachey said he believed that many of those who agreed to be interviewed had done so to unburden themselves.
“It’s a catharsis for some of them when they’ve suffered so much…I’d like to think in most cases they were motivated by wanting to tell their story but for some of them it was probably to settle old scores and they would give a very jaundiced account. But that’s true of all oral history.”
He said that there would likely be more books in coming years as those who were interviewed died.
At the interview it was clear that the archive was significant (and the News Letter reported its existence on our front page) but there was no suggestion that the police would attempt to access the tapes.
Indeed, it was more than 12 months later before a request to access the files would be filed on behalf of the PSNI.
A US courtroom battle to make public secret recordings of former paramilitaries could have significant unforeseen consequences for the Stormont Assembly, writes SAM McBRIDE
11 Jan 2012
THERE is increasing interest in the Stormont corridors about a legal battle 4,000 miles away which barely made the headlines in Northern Ireland when it began last May.
The PSNI’s attempt to obtain secret recordings of paramilitaries held in a Boston College vault could even threaten the future of the seemingly comfortable DUP/Sinn Fein-led administration in Belfast, some now claim.
That appears unlikely, given how much each of the parties of the current settlement have to lose if it fails.
But the mystery surrounding the tapes – the identity of the paramilitaries, what they said and even the number of tapes is known only to a handful of people – has increased interest in their contents.
The Belfast Project, as Boston College named its undertaking, was overseen by one of the most respected authors on the Troubles and their aftermath, Ed Moloney, who began work on it in 2001.
Though until recent years few were aware of it, Boston College had since then been quietly assembling the archive (believed to contain at least 80 interviews) which may hold the most honest account of the Troubles from those involved in the vast majority of murders – the terrorists.
Members of the IRA, UVF, UDA and various other terrorist groups were particularly honest, the college said, because each of the interviews was given on the strict understanding that it would not be made public until after each individual’s death.
That pledge, and the fact the archive was to be stored outside the UK in the US, meant that fears of prosecution were, in the minds of participants, removed and they could speak candidly without fear of incriminating themselves.
Almost two years ago Mr Moloney, a former northern editor of The Irish Times, published a book based on two of those interviews – former IRA commander Brendan Hughes and former UVF bomber and PUP politician David Ervine.
It was the testimony of Hughes – a senior IRA figure in 1970s Belfast who was closely linked to Gerry Adams before they fell out – that Mr Adams had ordered the west Belfast murder of Jean McConville (claims which Mr Adams strenuously denied) which first led to calls for police to see if there was fresh evidence which could solve some of the Troubles’ most barbaric crimes.
Subsequent newspaper articles identifying that former IRA bomber Dolours Price had deposited an interview with the college and her admission that she drove Mrs McConville to her death, led police to subpoena her tape.
Former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre (who in recent years has been a fierce critic of Sinn Fein) was employed as a researcher for the project to interview republicans.
Both men have now sharply fallen out with Boston College, which initially fought the case in the US courts but last month announced that it would not appeal an initial legal defeat and has now handed over a number of transcripts to the court to allow the judge to decide whether they should be released.
Mr McIntyre says that no one was pressured into speaking about their past but that in every case the Boston College assurance of complete confidentiality until their death was crucial.
“No one would have been interested in giving frank interviews unless there were stringent guarantees and I would never have been involved without those guarantees,” he says.
The Louth man had “absolutely no fears” over the security of the interviews until the first subpoena arrived on May 5, 2011.
However, he soon developed serious concerns about the college’s determination to fight the attempts to access the archive after discrepancies between what the college was saying publicly and telling him privately.
He and Mr Moloney were concerned about further attempts to access more of the interviews and suggested to the college that the archive be temporarily transferred to his custody in the Republic of Ireland, where they calculated political and legal factors would make it more difficult for the PSNI to obtain.
Mr McIntyre confirmed that he had made clear he was prepared to go to prison rather than surrender the interviews.
However, in a June 2 email to Mr Moloney, Professor Hachey declined the offer, stating that “under no circumstances would BC allow the documents to be sent to an alternative site (be it in the US or Ireland) as they [the college’s lawyers] felt that did violate the understanding that we had with participants re: the safe deposit of their recollections”.
Mr McIntyre dismisses this and says that the college has itself broken confidentiality by giving the interviews to the court.
He says that the college’s approach – both in refusing to take steps to protect the archive and then handing many of the interviews to a court – demonstrates selfishness.
“It was very short-sighted and self-serving. What they have done certainly has not had the interests of interviewees at heart.
“After the first subpoena, the archive was endangered and they made no moves to protect it. A researcher’s duty is to protect sources from any harm.
“I believe that their behaviour has selfishly put the institution ahead of the interviewees.”
The relationship between the project workers and the college has now broken down, he says, and they have now called for the destruction of the archive – something which would destroy what may be some of the most historically significant artefacts relating to the Troubles.
Last week Mr Moloney told the BBC he possessed information that the British government “does not want to own…quite the reverse, there is a wish this thing would go away”.
Asked to expand on what he meant by that, Mr Moloney told the News Letter that the UK authorities had made a mistake in pursuing the case “in the sense that they really didn’t fully grasp what they are doing and its implications”.
The author, who now lives in New York, said: “The damage done to Northern Ireland’s ability to deal with the past, which I think is a very vital part in assuring that the future remains peaceful, is going to be [such that it is] almost impossible because of this.
“People will be very reluctant to come forward in almost any forum if they feel there is going to be a penalty – if they are going to be hounded or put on trial.”
On Monday, Secretary of State Owen Paterson convened talks between the local parties on ‘dealing with the past’.
But Mr Moloney is scathing about local politicians for abdicating their responsibility to deal maturely with such a difficult issue: `“There has been a failure of politicians in Northern Ireland to face up to dealing with the past in a way which allows people to honestly tell stories without fear of recrimination.
“It is one thing pursuing people who are continuing to oppose the process but there is a distinction between them and those who said they were ending this with a compromise that a lot of their people didn’t like but they were going to do it and the assumption – and practice – was until recently that there would be no retribution.
“But that’s not happening, according to this.
“If this goes forward, anyone in the PSNI who is capable of reading a book or a newspaper is going to realise that this will involve in some way the leadership of organisations like the Provisionals who were the architects of the peace process.”
However, last week the family of Mrs McConville made clear that they want to see the police do all within their power – including accessing the tapes – to bring her killers to justice.
Mr Moloney says that he understands their viewpoint but that the police have to look to the wider public interest – the reason why, he says “the authorities in the past haven’t pursued various lines of inquiry”.
He said that what happened to Mrs McConville was “unforgivable and should not have happened…they deserve to know the truth but the truth in this way is all about revenge and recrimination and the consequences for the wider community are profound”.
The former Irish journalist of the year said that he has no doubts about the need for “some form of amnesty”, something which he said should have been negotiated formally as part of the Belfast Agreement to cover everyone – the paramilitaries, soldiers, the intelligence services and others.
That suggestion – put forward by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley before their infamous 2009 report (which did not include it) – led to a furious response from many unionists.
And as recently as Monday senior DUP figure Arlene Foster (whose party has called for the Boston files to be released) warned that “the need for justice is still absolutely vital” and specifically committed her party to opposing any process which includes “any amnesty or proposal which could allow some individuals to escape justice for their actions”.
As it is, anyone convicted of a Troubles-related crime would only serve a maximum of two years before being released under the Good Friday release scheme.
Mr McIntyre says that The Belfast Project proved that if people are guaranteed they will not be prosecuted then many will open up about their role in the Troubles.
“We know that people will not be forthcoming about the past if there are threats of prosecutions but we also know they will be forthcoming about the past if there aren’t prosecutions.”
The secretary of state has suggested that the Boston College template of academics and historians interviewing former paramilitaries about their involvement in the Troubles may be the best method of getting to the truth of what took place in Northern Ireland.
But Mr McIntyre says that the current police attempt to get the interviews means that Mr Paterson is “sabotaging his own logic”.
“What historian or academic would get information from former combatants under the current situation?
“It makes me think that at some level within the British state there is strong opposition to truth recovery because of the impact which it would have on them.”
Mr McIntyre says he can understand why victims want the police to pursue all avenues which may lead to a prosecution of their loved one’s murderers, but adds: “The problem here is: How many victims are going to find out the truth?
“Truth gathered for prosecuting purposes will be inconsequential compared to the truth gathered here.”
When asked whether truth and justice are now irreconcilable, he says: “It depends on how people define justice. If people are able to reconcile justice with truth and bringing it out, then yes. But if justice is the arbitrary and indiscriminate selection of people to prosecute, then certainly no.”
So does he believe that in persuading former paramilitaries to talk, the damage has already been done or if the current court challenge succeeds will others be persuaded to talk candidly?
“I don’t think it is too late if the tapes are not handed over, but people just wouldn’t be as confident. There would have to be much, much stronger cast iron guarantees given in any truth recovery process but if we win the case it certainly enhances the chances [of former paramilitaries speaking].”
Both Mr McIntyre and Mr Moloney have a considerable vested interest in the archive staying secret until the interviewees die – not only have they invested personal credibility in persuading former paramilitaries to talk candidly on tape, but Mr McIntyre has said that he fears for his life if the tapes get out.
Nonetheless, given that so few people know what is on the tapes and considering the dramatic testimony of Hughes in one of the two tapes to have been released, their concerns cannot be dismissed out of hand.
If, as Mr Moloney suggests, the British government has become embarrassed by the entire affair, then the court battle may already be going through the motions.
Many unionists, and even some republicans, believe that is the reason why serious allegations against senior Sinn Fein figures have never appeared to be investigated.
Just last week the 1981 cabinet papers revealed a suggestion by the UK’s most senior military officer to arrest Mr Adams, which appears to not have been acted upon.
However, if the UK government is prepared to press ahead with prosecutions against those accused of Troubles crimes, many victims of terrorism will be delighted.
But no one can know the consequences.
8 Jan 2012
A man who conducted the interviews into the Boston Project has said he fears for his and his family’s safety.
One of the men who conducted interviews for the Boston College ‘Belfast Project’ archive has said he fears for his safety and that of his family after the college handed over the archive to a US Federal Court at the request of the British authorities.
Anthony McIntyre said he fears “revenge” attacks on his home and he said he also has concerns for the safety of the people he interviewed if the details of what they discussed or their identities enter the public domain.
Boston College gave the archive to a federal judge, which could result in much of the material being handed over to British Authorities.
The archive contains dozens of interviews with republican paramilitaries.
Mr McIntyre told RTÉ’s This Week that the actions of Boston College and the British authorities in seeking the information has increased the level of risk to him, his family and the interviewees.
It is thought British authorities are seeking the material as part of an investigation into the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville.
Mr McIntyre said he and Ed Maloney regret their involvement in the project because of the danger it has placed the interviewees in.
He said that whilst the project was worthwhile, Boston College was not the institution with which to pursue it.
Mr McIntyre said he would not be co-operating with any investigation into what may arise out of the archive being released to British authorities.
He said he would rather go to jail than abdandon his sources who had agreed to be interviewed for the project.
In an affidavit seen by RTÉ News, the head of the Irish Institute at Boston College, Prof Thomas Hachey, said he was told by the US Consul General in Belfast not to travel to Northern Ireland last October.
Prof Hachey was due to attend a Stormont reception but officials said his safety could be at risk “in the present environment”.
Boston College Spokesperson Jack Dunn has told RTÉ that the College fought the court order in so far as it could.
He said it hoped that Federal Judge William Young would only release interviews with republican interviewee Delours Price and no other material.
He said that the college wished that the project could have been maintained as an archive but a subpoena issued by a federal court meant that was not possible.
Mr Dunn said that the Government, through the federal court, refuted the contention of Anthony McIntyre and Ed Maloney that they would be at risk if the archive was given to British authorities.
The Boston College spokesperson said it tried to protect the archive and had “fought the fight and the fight was lost”.
By Liam Clarke
Thursday, 5 January 2012
The PSNI Historical Enquiries Team is behind the US court battle over terrorist testimonies held by Boston College, it has emerged.
The wrangle originates in a HET investigation into the 1972 IRA murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.
A PSNI spokesman rejected claims that the US court case had been started by a small group of detectives or that it had a political agenda.
“This was a corporate decision,” he said.
“This investigation was referred by the Historical Enquiries Team in line with agreed protocols about legacy investigations in which current lines of inquiry have been identified.
“It is now being conducted by detectives in serious crime branch who have the skills, the experience and the resources to progress the investigation with full corporate approval,” he added.
Boston College holds an archive called the Belfast Project in which former terrorists spoke frankly about their careers on condition that nothing would be revealed in their lifetimes.
The first to die was Brendan Hughes, a Belfast IRA leader, who gave alleged details of Mrs McConville’s abduction.
Dolours Price, another former IRA member, then let it be known that she had given interviews to the project and that she had knowledge of Mrs McConville’s murder.
The PSNI has now applied, under a 1994 Mutual Assistance Treaty between the UK and US, for all material in the archive bearing on the case to be released to it.
As a result, all the papers have been handed over to a US judge, William Young.
He is considering an application from Ed Moloney and Dr Anthony McIntyre, who worked on the project, to halt the process and not pass the documents on. They argue that the disclosure could derail the peace process.
However, legal experts believe he will hand over all relevant material in a few weeks’ time.
Last month the judge said that, given that the criminal allegations at issue include kidnapping, false imprisonment and murder, “they weigh strongly in favour of disclosing the confidential information”.
Professor Jim Cohen, a criminal law expert at Fordham University in New York, said he believed the Justice Department would consult with the State Department, which handles foreign policy, before reaching a decision.
“If I were a judge, I’d want to know what the hell the State Department had to say about this,” he said.
If reports of the contents of the archive are correct then Gerry Adams, who has always denied any involvement in the McConville case, could face police questioning.
However the testimony of Ms Price and Mr Hughes is not sworn so a conviction is unlikely.
By Liam Clarke
4 January 2012
**Poster’s note: I have a simple question: Why should the truth of the Troubles be covered up? Who gives anyone the right to keep silent when they know such things? The whole premise of this project is faulty as far as I am concerned. First we have the originators going on about how sacrosanct these oral histories are. Now they want them destroyed so the information contained in them will not get out. What and who does this remind you of?
A controversial US project which contains the testimonies of Troubles era terrorists should now be wound up, according to the men who founded it.
The three men involved in the oral history project have said Boston College’s decision to hand over material to the US authorities after requests from the PSNI has betrayed the trust of those involved.
Investigative journalist Ed Moloney is the former director of the project that aimed to document the conflict through the eyes of those involved.
Dr Anthony McIntyre interviewed former IRA members, while Wilson McArthur spoke to former loyalist paramilitaries for the archive under promise of confidentiality until death.
They said: “We are, all three of us, now strongly of the view that 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.
“We made a pledge to our interviewees to protect them to the utmost of our ability and we will stand by that pledge firmly and unalterably.”
All three are bitterly resentful of Boston College for releasing incriminating tapes, transcripts and DVDs without exhausting all possible legal channels.
The material was requested by the British Government on behalf of the PSNI after a Historical Enquiries Team review of the murder and secret burial of Jean McConville by the IRA in 1972.
Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre have now won a stay of execution while the American courts consider whether to hand the tapes over to US attorneys, who will give it to the British.
They are arguing that doing so would endanger the researchers’ lives and impact on the peace process.
They also believe it could breach laws which prohibit the extradition of people accused of Troubles era offences from the US.
William ‘Plum’ Smith and Winston Rea, two former loyalist prisoners, have already said that they want their testimonies back.
However, the Belfast Telegraph has learned that Boston College has already handed the entire archive over to the US courts to decide what is relevant to the McConville investigation.
“I was appalled,” Mr Moloney said.
“The college was asked for relevant material and said that the librarian had not read it. So the court got everything.”
He hit out at Boston College for not going far enough to protect the material in his view.
“Implicit in the pledge of confidentiality was that it was non-negotiable,” he said.
“Boston College therefore had a duty to fight to preserve it to the utmost, in effect to challenge any adverse legal decisions all the way up the legal chain, as far as the Supreme Court if necessary.
“BC’s failure to appeal in my mind robs the college of any moral right to hold on to the archive.”
Boston College Belfast Project controversy …
Your questions answered.
Q What is Boston College’s ‘Belfast Project’?
A The archive contains the testimonies of around 30 former Northern Ireland terrorists in which they recounted their careers in the belief that it would not be made public until after their deaths.
The project was an initiative of journalist Ed Moloney and Lord Bew, a Queen’s University professor of history.
It was funded by Boston College and is housed in the college’s Thomas Burns Library.
The republican interviews were carried out by Dr Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner, while Wilson McArthur carried out the loyalist interviews.
Mr Moloney also carried out some video interviews, for instance with the former IRA bomber Dolours Price, which were not formally part of the archive.
Q Why is it in the news at all?
A Boston College has handed over parts of the archive relating to the murder of Jean Mc Conville to US attorneys acting, ultimately, on a warrant issued by the PSNI.
Mrs McConville was a west Belfast mother-of-10 abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1972 on suspicion of being an informer.
The material handed over included the testimony of Brendan ‘the Dark’ Hughes, a local IRA commander now dead, and Dolours Price, an IRA activist at the time.
Both accuse Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, of involvement in the planning of the murder and the decision to secretly bury her, though Mr Adams has consistently denied this, just as he denies ever being in the IRA. He says Mr Hughes was a friend and fellow republican, nothing more.
Q Wasn’t it meant to be confidential?
A Dr Mc Intyre said: “People spoke frankly to me on the strict understanding that nothing they said would be revealed in their lifetimes without their written authorisation. I wouldn’t have been involved without legal assurances.”
Interviewers and interviewees signed an undertaking not to “disclose to third parties the existence of the project without the permission of the sponsor”.
Q How did the news leak out?
A There were rumours about the project when the interviews were being carried out.
After Brendan Hughes, the IRA leader, and David Ervine, a loyalist politician and former UVF bomber, died Mr Moloney wrote a book entitled Voices From The Grave based on their testimonies.
Later, Dolours Price gave an interview in which she revealed that she had made a tape which was in the archive.
Q Who could be affected by this?
A If reports of the contents of the archive are correct, then Gerry Adams and others could face police questioning.
3 Jan 2012
Author and researcher Ed Moloney has said Dolours Price has been “badly let down” after Boston College handed over transcripts of interviews carried out with the former IRA member to the police.
Along with 25 other IRA members, Dolours Price spoke at the US school as part of an oral history project.
Now prosecutors in America have demanded access to any information contained in the interviews which relates to the murder of mother-of-ten Jean McConville, who was disappeared by the IRA in 1972.
At a recent court hearing the judge recommended Boston College appeal the decision to allow police to gain access to the transcripts, however the college did not continue with an appeal.
“From our point of view that was astonishing and deeply disturbing because it was not what we expected or wanted and we feel very badly let down as a result.”
He added that the interviewers and their subjects are “deeply alarmed” by the consequences of revealing the texts to authorities.
Mr Moloney, whose discussions with Brendan Hughes and David Ervine formed his book Voices from the Grave, said the interviews were only carried out on the basis that it was legally safe, and the subjects had a “pledge of confidentiality [that] is utterly non-negotiable”.
“We’re reassuring them that if there is any attempt to groom any of us into any sort of criminal process by the PSNI, or whoever is behind this, then they can go and knock on other doors because they’re going to get no satisfaction and no joy from us.
“Our cooperation with the authorities on this will be non-existent and zero,” he added.
Speaking to UTV, Mr Moloney said the action taken by the PSNI has “destroyed all possibility now of any truth-telling process”.
“There is no way that anyone with sane mind is going to take part in any sort of process of truth recovery about the past while the PSNI are behaving like this.
“Whoever did this within the PSNI should now reflect on the foolishness of their actions.”
Mr Moloney denied claims that the publication of his book, in which Brendan Hughes claimed Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was implicated in Jean McConville’s murder, led to police demanding access to the other interviews.
“It was the culmination of a promise that was made by ourselves to Brendan Hughes that we would, as soon as possible after his death, make his interviews publicly available.
“In my view it wasn’t this that led to the subpoenas, it was something entirely different, another event involving other newspapers which led to this and we’ll talk about this at some other stage,” he said.
“At this point, we’re intent on putting all our energies into the process, we’ve got a stay and some very good lawyers working on this.”
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said Ed Moloney’s decision not to pass evidence to authorities is “unacceptable [and] intolerable”.
“Those who practice journalism are like professionals in any other field whether it is doctors, nurses, lawyers or anyone else. Any assurances given to people that their interviews would not be shared with the lawful authorities have no legal force whatever.
“If Ed Moloney has information that could assist in securing justice for innocent victims he has a moral as well as legal obligation to hand the same over.”
“We must remember that this involves the withholding of information relating to terrorism. These are crimes of the most serious nature,” the DUP MP said.
UUP Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea says US authorities should hand material contained in the archives of Boston College over to the PSNI.
“If we must confront the past in order to clear the pathway to the future, then the material contained in the Boston College archive is extremely relevant and not part of some abstract or historical academic exercise and several implications flow from this,” he said.
“There are serious implications for certain individuals, as to who was really a member of which terrorist organisation, what role they played, who gave who orders and what those orders were.
“I have no doubt that the PSNI will be extremely interested in the information contained in the Boston College archive.”
4 January 2012
POLICE are confident of putting at least some of those responsible for the murder of Jean McConville before a court, her family said last night.
The potential breakthrough — which comes after police won a US court battle to access secret recordings by senior IRA figures — comes almost four decades since republicans abducted, murdered and secretly buried Mrs McConville.
The recordings of interviews with scores of senior loyalist and republican terrorists are believed to be explosive and were only to be released from a vault in Boston College when each terrorist died.
However, a PSNI court case to access all material in the archive which may help put Mrs McConville’s killers behind bars could see those candid private testimonies released.
The journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA man and writer Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, have now accused Boston College of not doing enough to stop the tapes’ release and lodged their own appeal after the college declined to appeal a court judgment which ordered the tapes be released. They have warned of reprisals and a threat to the “peace process” if the recordings are made public.
But last night Mrs McConville’s son-in-law, Seamus McKendry, disagreed. The McKendrys, who formed the group Families of the Disappeared back in 1995, have been helping police with their investigation.
In 2010, former IRA bomber Dolours Price told The Irish News that she drove Mrs McConville to her death, under orders from Gerry Adams. The Sinn Fein president has always denied any part in the murder.
Mr McKendry told the News Letter: “The police are confident that they can bring a prosecution and we would dearly love to see the prosecution being bigger than Dolours Price, of course.”
Asked if the police had given indication about examining the actions of those beyond Dolours Price, Mr McKendry said: “Obviously they aren’t going to say too much. Privately they have told me stuff but I wouldn’t be at liberty to divulge it.”
In 2006 the then Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said that a successful prosecution “in any case of that age” would be “highly unlikely”.
Mr McKendry, who has worked as a freelance journalist, said that the case to release the tapes went against his instincts to protect sources but added: “From that point of view I was a bit concerned but having said that we’re not talking here about someone stealing a handbag; we’re talking about murder and they still should face the full wrath of the law.”
Mr McKendry said that his wife, who was just 15 when her mother was abducted, has been “really upset” in recent days as debate over the tapes raged.
Two years ago the man in charge of the vault which holds the recordings, Professor Thomas Hachey, told the News Letter that it contained scores of interviews with loyalist and republican paramilitaries which had been conducted over a nine-year period.
Professor Hachey, who is director of the Jesuit-founded college’s Irish Institute, said that no one other than those involved in the interviews knew the identities of paramilitaries who spoke to the college.
“The people that we went out and interviewed were not gophers – people who were simply sent out on missions and had no idea who was sending them or why – nor was it the upper echelon, which is to say whomever the leadership may have been on the loyalist side or nationalist side.
“That sort of thing has been done by the BBC, NBC…this was really about the operational level.”
No one other than those involved in the interviews knows who spoke to the academics, with the exception of three people — Ms Price and both senior IRA member Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes and UVF commander David Ervine, whose accounts were published in 2010 in Mr Moloney’s book Voices From The Grave.
By Jennifer O’Leary
3 Jan 2012
US officials have received transcripts of interviews that former IRA member Dolours Price gave to an oral history project at Boston College.
The BBC has learned that 13 transcripts have been received by US officials and the material is being held by the Office of the Assistant US Attorney.
It follows ongoing legal action in the United States on behalf of British authorities who want the material.
The court asked that US government officials file a response by 9 January.
US prosecutors have demanded anything in the Boston College archive related to the 1972 IRA abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10, Jean McConville.
In a statement, the PSNI said: “This is a ruling by the US Court of Appeal. The police investigation remains ongoing.
“We look forward to an early conclusion with respect to this judicial decision.”
Dolours Price was one of 26 former IRA members to give a series of interviews – between 2001 and 2006 – as part of a research study, called the Belfast Project.
The project was funded by Boston College, which hired three researchers, including journalist Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, a former republican prisoner.
In return for honest accounts, former republican and loyalist paramilitaries were promised that their identities would be kept confidential and that the interviews would be released only after their deaths.
Mr Moloney told the BBC said he is hopeful the interviews will be returned to Boston College but insisted he won’t co-operate with any future criminal prosecution.
“We are determined to fight this all the way,” he said.
“If whoever has intitiated this action inside the policing structures persists in any sort of attempt to bring criminal charges, then they can expect absolutely no co-operation from me or the interviewers.”
He claimed he has information that the British government “does not want to own this… quite the reverse, there’s a wish this thing would go away”.
However, the DUP’s Ian Paisley said: “There is an important distinction between this case and others that must be borne in mind.
“What we are dealing with here is not the protection of an anonymous source. We know who the interviewees were – this has been put into the public domain.
“There is no issue of source protection at stake, rather the withholding of evidential material.”
In December, Boston College was ordered by a federal judge to turn over recordings, transcripts and other items related to Dolours Price to federal prosecutors acting on behalf of British authorities.
An appeals court decision last Thursday temporarily prevented US officials from handing the documents over to British authorities.
Three DVDs of interviews conducted by Ed Moloney in 2010 which were not part of the Belfast Project have also been received by US officials.
US prosecutors have demanded anything in the Boston College archive related to the 1972 IRA abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10, Jean McConville.