Ed Moloney RFÉ 18 November 2017

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

Martin Galvin speaks to award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, via telephone about the status of and the recent actions in the still ongoing and utterly despicable Boston College tapes case.

Where’s the audio?   Unfortunately it could not be downloaded from WBAI’s site. To listen along as you read please click here. (begins time stamp ~ 14:29)

Martin:   With us on the line we have a journalist, he’s the author of A Secret History of the IRA, Voices From the Grave. He is a journalist. He’s been with the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Times, a great political commentator and also the person who puts together one of the top blogs about The North of Ireland, The Broken Elbow, Ed Moloney. Ed, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.

Ed:    Hi, Martin. Hi. Thank you.

Martin:   Alright. Now, we wanted to bring our listeners up-to-date about what’s happening in terms of Anthony McIntyre in particular and the Boston College tapes. Now the Boston College tapes, of course, that was a project that you worked on with others, people like Anthony McIntyre, like Brendan Hughes, like Richard O’Rawe and others gave interviews about what it was like to be an IRA Volunteer, why they had joined, what it was like to be a part of that struggle. And it was an effort to preserve a truthful history – one that wasn’t controlled by anybody with a political group or political agenda and Boston College had guaranteed that the tapes would not be released until those who gave interviews had passed away, that happened when Brendan Hughes passed away, and then suddenly the British government went after those tapes, the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) they tried to use it to break that archive. Many of the interviews had to be returned. But still, Anthony McIntyre is being pursued. He is having to fight to get his tapes back. What’s going on? Why is Anthony McIntyre being persecuted in this act of vindictiveness as you call it on The Pensive Quill – sorry, on The Broken Elbow?

Ed:   Well first of all the project was both Republican and Loyalist. We had an archive on Republicans who had been active in The Troubles and also UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) and we had two separate researchers – Wilson McArthur was the UVF researcher and Anthony McIntyre was the Republican researcher who conducted the interviews – which were not exclusively Provisional IRA by the way, they included INLA (Irish Republican Liberation Army) people, Official IRA people as well as Provos. Well, I think the reason why he is being pursued in all of this is because of – well two reasons I think – first of all, he embarked on a project which was not approved by, for want of a better word, the ‘peace process machine’, ie, the various governments, the British and the Irish governments, the administration up at Stormont and of course as far as the Republican Movement was concerned, the leadership of Sinn Féin, the leadership of the Provisional IRA. It was, therefore, not under their control and I think they were worried that this set a bad precedent because the demand would be, I think, if this project had succeeded that any other oral history project would have to be equally candid and equally independent. That has not happened and I don’t think it’s going to happen.

And I think Anthony McIntyre is paying the price partly for that reason but also because when Boston College handed over the subpoenas and Mackers, as everyone knows him, was one of the most stringent critics of both the college and the authorities for doing this and, as you know, he can be a very witty and cutting critic and I think this is quite literally I think it’s an act of revenge and also it’s an indication that the assault on the Boston College archive is, essentially, a political assault because not only has he been singled out but just before Gerry Adams was arrested to be interviewed for his part or alleged part in the ‘disappearance’ of Jean McConville a member of Tip O’Neill’s family, who sits on the trust of Boston College and is also a very prominent businessman in Boston, wrote an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe in which he criticised the PSNI for only concentrating on the Republican side of this archive and that they had left alone the Loyalists. And that was something, that was a terrible thing to say because that was essentially encouraging the police to go for the Loyalist side and it’s something we had always tried to persuade Irish-Americans not to do – to criticise it on those grounds because the ‘get out’ for that is very simple: They go for a Loyalist – which is precisely what the PSNI then did. They went for a guy called Winston Rea. Now the point about both Winston – another point about Winston Rea and Anthony McIntyre’s interviews is that they had been held back. There came a point when the American authorities refused to hand over all of the tapes, which is what the PSNI wanted to do at one point, and so at that stage Boston College then contacted the various interviewees and told them that if they wanted their interviews back they could have them. And some people had died, other people, some people didn’t ask for them back but those who did ask for them got them back except for two people: Anthony McIntyre and Winston Rea. And they were being held back. And I suspect they were being held back deliberately. And therefore that’s why I say this is not an act that’s consistent with, you know, criminal justice systems or a criminal justice policy that is fair and equal and applies to everyone, this is an act singling out people for political reasons or for non-legal or non-judicial reasons; Anthony McIntyre being one and Winkie Rea being the other.

Martin:   Ed, just to note for the audience: Some of the interviews did really make history or just shed totally new light on the nature of the struggle…

Ed:   …Yes, they did…

Martin:   …Brendan Hughes, in particular…

Ed:   …Yes.

Martin:   …when that was released it became a documentary or part of a documentary along with David Ervine on Voices From the Grave. I have actually still have people ask me: Gee, why did Brendan Hughes say things that were critical of Gerry Adams or others and I had to tell them: That’s what he said and believed through his whole life – he had conversations with me, with anybody who knew him, would have said much the same things. Richard O’Rawe’s dramatic story or statement, or revelation, about there being an offer during the hunger strike…

Ed:   Yes, that came out via this…

Martin:   …I believe that that came out during an interview…

Ed:   Yes…

Martin:  …and he decided to do the books that did come out, to mention it in books as a result of those interviews. So just in the short time that those interviews were being compiled and the few, the small percentage of them, that were being released, they did have a dramatic impact, a dramatic contribution, to truth and knowledge.

Ed:   Well that’s my point, you see. That is exactly my point. These were revelations that the peace process machine did not want to be made. And we know particularly who didn’t want those to be, to come out – and that was the leadership of the Provos. It did not want a Richard O’Rawe’s account of what really happened or what he says really happened during the hunger strike.

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They did not want Brendan Hughes’ account of Gerry Adams’ career in the IRA; his role in, for example, the ‘disappearance’ of Jean McConville. They did not want this type of revelation being included in an officially sanctioned oral history archive. They wanted something that would be more under the control of the organisations and they would decide who would get interviewed and what they would say. And because Anthony was the researcher on the Republican side and was very prominent, also, in his attitude towards the Provos I think he’s been singled out, quite clearly, for non-legal reasons, for non-judicial reasons – just to make an example, to punishing him just for ‘badness’. And what it tells you as well is that the policing system, which was supposed to have been reformed as a result of the peace process, in other words, not made or the criticism that was made of the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) was that it was, essentially, an arm of the Unionist government. Well you know, the PSNI, doing stuff like this, are essentially still an arm of government – it’s a different government but they’re still being manipulated or controlled or influenced by people in government – in the, let’s say the spy agencies, for example, and that’s another lesson from all of this…

Martin:   Anthony – Ed, just one of the people who is being prosecuted as a result or a claim that he is a person who gave an interview is Ivor Bell…

Ed:   …Yes, yes…

Martin:  …just to back up your point who is also somebody who wouldn’t be considered a part of the peace process, who would actually, as you documented in your book, A Secret History of the IRA, had, was at one time very close to Gerry Adams and to Brendan Hughes but would have left because of disagreements, political disagreements, about the…

Ed:   …Well he was court-martialed and expelled, actually, for trying to lead a rebellion against the Adams leadership in the 1980’s so and then he was silenced with threats thereafter. So yes, you’re right I mean you know, we shall see what we shall see at the end of the day but this story’s far from over – that’s all I’ll say.

Martin:   Okay. One other thing just to back up your point: You had also done a piece on The Broken Elbow about Alex Gibney’s film, No Stone Unturned. I don’t know if you’ve had an opportunity to see it…

Ed:   …No, I haven’t, no.

Martin:   …I saw it last week. Actually, after the programme, I did a couple of announcements, it’s right down, I had to pass by the theatre just on the subway train I just got off after a couple of stops and was able to see it – I actually am in it shaking hands with Gerry Adams when he comes to New York, very briefly but how and ever, but in the film they do a great job in terms of documenting just the point that you were making about the PSNI: Is it a political arm of the state just the way the RUC is? And in that film what they do is document – here is an atrocity. People are just simply watching a soccer, as we would call it, football match, international football match between Ireland and Italy, and individuals go in with guns that they get with the help of British agents, with information they have from the help from British agents where it seems that, at least, one or more of the people involved were an informer. Where there now it’s released that the people were known to the RUC, now known to the PSNI, they’re pictured by Alex Gibney, film is taken of them in the film in which a car is destroyed, other items that they were able to obtain which would have lead to clear evidence – that’s never used, no one is ever arrested and the film takes the name, No Stone Unturned, people in that atrocity were promised that there would be no stone unturned left by the RUC to keep from arresting the people involved and it seems that what happens instead is every stone was put down in front of any kind of prosecution. And you talk about that in your blog- you go one step further, you say: Why is it that an American film maker has to go to the trouble of documenting this collusion, the role of the state in the cover-up, the cooperation and collusion between the British Crown Forces and members of Loyalists in these killings – why is it that that has to be done by an American film maker and released in the United States first before it could be covered by the BBC, by journalists in Ireland? Why do you think that is, Ed?

Ed:   Your guess is a good as mine but you know my experience of the media while working in Northern Ireland was that you know, courage was in, in a lot of times, was in short supply and to do this film, to make this film, required mounting a very, a very dangerous, from the point of view of the authorities, a very dangerous assault on the integrity of the state institutions. In other words, the police and the intelligence agencies, who are supposed to be impartial and supposed to be hunting everyone who breaks the law, and you know it was bad enough during the years of the peace process – sorry, before the peace process – I mean when the war, when the IRA’s war, was still be fought and there was still violence and killings and bombings and shootings – it was difficult enough to do proper journalism without getting yourself a name for being a trouble maker or a fellow traveler or a sympathiser or whatever – the sort of stuff that would be thrown at people who probed a bit too far or who – you know, I can remember people being appalled at the idea that journalists would even talk to someone like Gerry Adams back in the 1980’s and 1990’s – I mean respectable journalists just did not do that – so you can imagine how that was translated into the coverage. Well since the peace process and the ending of the violence, preserving the peace process is now considered the most imperative and important thing to do and journalists who cover areas or cover stories which maybe highlight some of the contradictions that still remain, peace process or no peace process, are not exactly going to be showered with praise from The Establishment and that’s what this film did. And I understand that this film was supposed to have been screened by the BBC but that the BBC, once they saw it, withdrew from it. The wanted changes made by Alex Gibney and he had a Northern Ireland person working who was with him and they both refused the BBC’s demands and so the BBC refused to and has refused to screen it. And not only that but when the film came out there was virtually no coverage of the event which was a news event on both sides of the Atlantic as you know very well, Martin, you know? And they just behaved as if the thing had never happened and there’s the rest of the world reacting with horror and shock at all these revelations and it’s total silence on the BBC.

Martin:   Well, I’m told that they did begin to cover it now after a lot of the pressure from the United States, a lot of the pressure from Ireland or an outcry for it but this is a film, the producer of that film, they essentially dared people to sue them. They named the people who were involved in the killing, they talked about his wife’s writing a letter basically admitting who was involved and made other references, filmed them, they dared those people to sue if they want to contradict what was said – I don’t think that’ll ever happen because the evidence of their guilt in a court room would be overwhelming and I think just – Alex Gibney, all the people, Niall Murphy, who we did an interview with about the film and plays a very prominent part, as well as all the Loughinisland families – deserve a great congratulations and support for everything that they’ve done.

Alright. Ed, I know that Anthony McIntyre has sued, there’s a ruling in the High Court, there’s supposed to be some kind of ruling if the PSNI cannot satisfactorily show the court why those interviews should not be returned to him (and sadly a lot of those interviews are now being destroyed because of the actions against them) and we await to get that ruling back and, hopefully, he’ll get his interviews back and this’ll end for him, sadly, in the way in which some of those interviews are lost but which he’s not prosecuted any further.

Ed:   Yes, yes, hopefully. And your listeners also should know that the application under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) by the PSNI to the Boston authorities, to the US Attorney in Massachusetts, listed the crimes for which they suspected Anthony McIntyre had talked about in his interviews. One was membership of the IRA – which was actually something he had been charged with and acquitted years before in Belfast – but they were going for this charge again when it’s impossible to do that in law – and another one was a bombing that took place in South Belfast which they say Anthony McIntyre took part in when in fact it was a Loyalist bomb on him and he was the target! I mean, that’s how bad this application for this, this legal application is – it’s actually scandalous! And I think it’s horrified the judges in Belfast who’ve now said to the PSNI: Okay, boys, you’ve got two weeks in which to justify this and if you can’t justify this then these tapes are going back to Boston. And from there of course they, hopefully, will end up back with Anthony McIntyre so let’s just hope that that does happen.

Martin:   Well the sad thing is is, that at one time, applications like that, whether it’s extradition, whether it was deportation, whether it was applications like that would have been fought very vigorously; the whole Irish-American community would have been on top of that. Boston College would have had to be on top of it and now…

Ed:  …Yeah, not now…

Martin:   …it just goes right through. Alright, Ed, we want to thank you for that and look forward, again, Ed’s blog is The Broken Elbow, it’s – he has pieces there, additions to it all the time – I try to check it every day. I’d recommend it very highly. Some of the things that you’ve just heard him talk about were detailed and documented in that blog. Thank you very much, Ed Moloney.

Ed:   Okay. Bye-bye now. (ends time stamp ~ 33:07)