Betrayal and bloody-mindedness
Betrayal and bloody-mindedness

Participants in Boston College’s ‘Troubles Archive’ project have demanded the return or destruction of all of its taped interviews after parts of the archive were delivered to the British Crown forces.

The call was led by authors and project workers Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney. It came after court documents revealed that many of the interviews, given on the basis that they would remained sealed and used only the purposes of conflict studies, may already be in the hands of British military intelligence.

The project comprises between 60 and 80 interviews recorded between 2001 and 2006 with former IRA Volunteers as well as a number of loyalist paramilitaries. Participants had been assured that the tapes would stay sealed until their deaths, but portions of the archive recently became the subject of a US subpoena initiated by the PSNI police in the north of Ireland.

The project’s director, New York-based journalist Ed Moloney, has now demanded that all the interviews be destroyed.

“At earlier stages in this process in the wake of the subpoena we made suggestions to Boston College on ways that would put the archive out of the reach of the PSNI or whoever is seeking this material but we were rebuffed,” a statement read.

“We are... strongly of the view that the archive must now be closed down and the interviews either returned or shredded since BC (Boston College) is no longer a safe nor fit and proper place for them to be kept.”

A number of participants have now called for their interviews to be returned. Former loyalist paramilitary William ‘Plum’ Smith said he had taken legal action to have his interview given back.

The row has also seen a curious public response from Boston College. Jack Dunn, director of public affairs at Boston College, told journalists he had “not heard of any requests for materials to be returned”.

He also insisted Moloney had been told that the archives could be subject to legal action.

“Mr Moloney was informed by Boston College that the materials were protected only to the extent that American law allows.

“Boston College has no intention of destroying materials. Mr Moloney seems to lack an understanding of the American legal process.”

While most media attention has surrounded the potential embarrassment to Sinn Fein leaders, such as party President Gerry Adams, it seems likely that the British government will also attempt to use the material to justify the further internment of ‘dissidents’.

Anthony McIntyre said he felt “betrayed” by the university. He feared his actions would be seen by some in Ireland to have assisted the Crown forces in gathering intelligence against them.

Last week McIntyre and Moloney gained a temporary block from the Federal Appeals Court of the release to US prosecutors of interview material. However, Boston College moved with such haste to hand over the material, it is feared that much of the material is already in the hands of British intelligence.

Court documents dated December 21 and December 27 indicate significant material has been turned over, including: transcripts of 13 interviews by veteran republican Dolours Price; 3 DVDs containing interviews with her; and 176 transcripts of interviews conducted with 24 other former IRA members.

The detailed interviews of Dolours Price were the main target of the PSNI’s subpoena. A sister of internee Marian Price, Dolours suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result of being subjected to a brutal force feeding for over 200 days while on hunger strike in England in 1973.

In addition, fifteen transcripts of interviews with now deceased IRA man Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes were handed over several months ago. Hackles were raised last year following the publication of a book by Moloney, ‘Voices from the Grave’, in which the interviews by Hughes were featured. However, there was no great attempt by the Crown forces to imprison republicans on the basis of the allegations contained within those interviews.

Moloney slammed Boston College for refusing to appeal the December ruling to hand over interviews.

“They have let down and betrayed all the people who were involved in the project, which they assured us would be protected as much as they could. And they’ve broken their word,” Moloney said.

He said the US Government and US Attorneys Office, and through them the PSNI, have told Boston College “Jump” and the college’s reply has been “How high?”.

Moloney insisted that, regardless of whether convictions resulted, the potential initiation of prosecutions against members of the Sinn Fein leadership or anyone else as a result of the PSNI obtaining the interviews, could undermine the peace process – and put the lives of Anthony McIntyre and the former IRA interviewees at risk.

McIntyre said he was “very angry” with Boston College. “They abandoned the researchers and the research to protect some institutional interest rather than the human beings at the centre of this.

“Before this whole project started, I asked how it would work and I was told that nothing would be taken into Boston College’s archive until such time as they were absolutely certain there would be no legal repercussions.

“This was confirmed twice before the project started in 2001 and so I was never afraid of the legal side of things. I was concerned, not that the interviews were legally secured, but how physically secure it all was.

“So when this whole legal case started out I was absolutely gobsmacked. I was amazed.”

The former blanketman said he had been approached by some of those with whom he carried out interviews.

“I am bound by a confidentiality agreement so I do not want to say too much about that but people would be very concerned,” he said.

“I can’t be so selfish as to be concerned about myself and my family without being concerned for the interviewees.

“I was the first point of contact with the interviewees but now feel these people need to knowthat I will not be deserting them.

“Boston College has abandoned its duty of care to these people but I will not be doing that.”

He linked an incident at his neighbour’s home last year to the project, and said he feared his family home might now be subject to attack.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News