Ed Moloney RFÉ 23 March 2019

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Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

John McDonagh speaks to award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, about the new documentary film, I, Dolours, which was co-produced and co-written by Mr. Moloney.
(begins time stamp ~16:13)

John:  Right now we’re going to a trailer of a movie that everyone out there must see – the people that are in it you would have heard here on Radio Free Éireann throughout the years – it’s called I, Dolours, and when we come back from the trailer we’re going to have on Ed Moloney. I don’t know exactly, he’s one of the producers – but he did the interview with Dolours Price who was on hunger strike in England back in the ’70’s for planting a bomb at the Old Bailey.

Poster for the film, I Dolours

She was on hunger strike a hundred and fifty-seven days, she was force-fed by the British government then repatriated back to the Six Counties. And the irony of that: Because it was so horrific the British government did away with that so in 1981 when Bobby Sands went on hunger strike they didn’t even have that as an option, they just let him die so there’s that weird synergy of what Dolours did affected the hunger strikes after that. Right now we’re going to play the trailer which everyone out there can get now. There’s no excuses – it’s not in my theatre – those days age gone! You get on your computer – you can watch it.

Audio:  Trailer for the film, I, Dolours, is played.

John:  And that is the trailer for a movie which did very well over in England, Ireland and has been doing the film circuit around the United States; it’s up on a few platforms. And we have on Ed Moloney, author of A Secret History of the IRA, and was part – Ed, what exactly was your role in this movie? I know you did like one of the last interviews with Dolours Price.

Ed:  Yeah, it’s based on an interview that I did with Dolours back in 2010 and I co-produced and co-wrote the film – the documentary that is.

John:  And Ed, what exactly is the movie about? It is just – it features on Dolours Price or is it just?


Ed Moloney

It’s the story of her life as someone who grew up in a Republican family. Her father was in the IRA and had gone with the IRA in 1939-1940 to bomb England and she got involved the civil rights movement and from that graduated into the IRA, the Provisional IRA, and became a member of the brigade, Belfast Brigade Intelligence Staff, and as such was drafted into a group called The Unknowns which was an organisation, a small unit, that had been created by Gerry Adams and specialised in mostly intelligence-based operations. And then she, of course, she went to London with a group of about eight or nine other IRA people to plant car bombs there to coincide with the referendum that was being held on whether The North wanted to stay British or become part of the rest of Ireland. And she was arrested and sentenced to a lengthy term imprisonment, went on hunger strike, was force-fed for over two hundred days and that’s how the, you know, that’s basically the story but, of course, a lot of the interest in Dolours’ story centres on her role in ‘disappearing’ people as part of The Unknowns. She was given the job of transporting the first four people to be ‘disappeared’ by the IRA starting with a guy called Joe Lynsky and ending with the Jean McConville ‘disappearance’ so that was part of, obviously a very important part of, the film and obviously that’s attracted a great deal of attention.

John:  And Ed, you have the bizarre scenario of Gerry Adams always claiming that he was never in the IRA but everybody that we’ve had on Radio Free Éireann from Brendan Hughes to Marian Price, all saying that, you know, he gave the orders for them to go over to London, he gave them the orders to take Jean McConville – I mean, how does this square when he can just brazenly just say that – and I know the one thing to do, and what he does do, is blacken the names of the people that he would have been former friends with.

Ed:  Oh well, that’s true, yes. But I mean he’s, I mean he’s done it. I mean, what can one say? He’s denied, he’s denied more than that. He’s denied, obviously, being in the IRA, which I think most people who know the situation regard as absurd, and therefore, it’s logical for him to deny involvement in all of these matters. And of course, it’s the sort of thing which drives people to distraction who were part and parcel of the same organisations he was and it’s part of the reason, I think a major part of the reason, for Dolours’ mental deterioration in her final years leading to her being an alcoholic and also being addicted to all sorts of pills and those were the instruments by which I think, effectively, she committed suicide at the end of the day with an overdose of both of those. So yeah, I mean you know, Adams has done it. He’s denied all of this stuff. What can one do? No one believes him. And there you are! But you know, history will judge all of this I guess, you know?

John:  And Ed, it almost seems that just the timing of your movie coming out now with a New York Times best-seller – it’s actually number seven again this week on the Hardback Nonfiction – Patrick Radden Keefe, we had him on a couple of weeks ago, and he details a lot of what went on with Jean McConville which then goes into Dolours Price, Marian Price and Brendan Hughes. What was your take on the book because a lot of the references used in the book came from the Boston Tapes and a lot of the research you’ve done.

Ed:  Incidentally John, I’ve heard that you said that this was the best book on The Troubles so far. Is that right?

John:  Well, one of the best. Yes. I did like it. It read like a novel and it just featured on one of the books, right.

Ed:   I mean, how can you compare it to books like Bandit Country or Killing Rage and stuff like that? I mean this book that Patrick Radden Keefe has written is, it’s almost – you know, it’s taken from Voices From the Grave but he doesn’t credit Voices From the Grave at all. It’s taken from the interviews that I had with Dolours Price which, in retrospect, foolishly I gave him which he barely acknowledges as such. It’s a very controversial book from that point of view. I’m going to say much more about this at a later date when I get my thoughts together and put it all on paper but I certainly don’t regard it as one of the best books that have been written about The Troubles.

The Dirty War by Martin Dillon
Available everywhere in paperback and as an eBook

I see it as a book that leans very heavily on other people’s work – not just my work – Martin Dillon’s book, The Dirty War, which was based also on interviews with Brendan Hughes – he leans on that enormously heavily. And there are whole chapters there which, you know, first appeared in Voices From the Grave which are not credited at all in the book, in Keefe’s book. It’s as if he had unearthed the Brendan Hughes interviews himself and he’s writing up the contents of it. And two of the chapters, at least, are based upon material that has already appeared in Voices From the Grave and has already appeared in the documentary of the same name which won a prize for Irish, the Irish Television Awards, the equivalent of the Academies for documentary films. So you know, I don’t have the same view as you do about this because I’m much more intimately involved in its genesis. I know what happened. I know where he got this material from and I’m, to be honest with you, very pissed off about it.

John:  But you cooperated with the book.


Available everywhere in paperback and as an eBook

I did. I did. But I assumed that he would have the decency, for example, when he was using the Brendan Hughes interviews which Anthony McIntyre did for the Boston College Project, that he would at least say that these interviews, which form, as I said, the basis for at least two of his chapters, were originally appeared in Voices From the Grave but Voices From the Grave, in relation to that material, doesn’t get a mention at all and the untutored reader leafing these pages in his book would assume that he, himself, got hold of this material and this is the first time that this material has ever seen the light of day which is not the truth at all – this stuff has been out for the best part of ten years and yet it appears that most people accept that this is like a stunning exclusive by Patrick Radden Keefe when it’s nothing but a rip-off.

John:  But would you’ve had a different view if he gave you credit for all those things – and taking stuff from your book?

Ed:  Oh, yes! I think he should have. I think he should have said…

John:  …But, but would you look at it differently had he given you the review?

Ed:   Yes, of course because that’s the way you normally do it. Look at the way that he’s written the footnotes in this book. It’s done in a way which you can’t really trace what material comes from where. But in those chapters, which were lifted from the Brendan Hughes interviews, they appeared, those stories were told already in Voices From the Grave ten years ago and he doesn’t credit Voices From the Grave in that respect and I’m saying that is unacceptable behaviour.

John:  We’re speaking with Ed Moloney and we veered off onto a book that’s on the best-seller list but he has a movie out called I,Dolours – and I hope you don’t mind, I think it’s one of the best movies about The Troubles – it’s on many platforms. Ed, how can people get this movie?

Ed:  Well it’s, as you say, it’s on various platforms at the moment. It’s on Hulu, it’s on Amazon and it’s on iTunes and one or two other platforms that I can’t remember. In the UK it’s available on Netflix UK. So it’s available – either you pay two or three dollars or four dollars for it or if you’re a Netflix or Hulu subscriber you get it free but you can watch it on those platforms at the moment.

John:  Alright. Thanks, Ed, for coming on…

Ed:  …No problem….

John:  …and I recommend people get out there and watch this because anybody that’s been familiar with Radio Free Éireann would have heard these voices for years, and particularly Dolours and Marian, talking about their time in a British prison in London and going on hunger strike. (ends time stamp ~ 29:22)

Ed Moloney RFÉ 28 April 2018

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Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City

John McDonagh speaks to award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, via telephone from Toronto, where Ed’s new documentary on the life of Dolours Price, I, Dolours, will make its world premiere tonight at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. (begins time stamp ~ 17:31)

John:  Well Radio Free Éireann over the years have interviewed many people, many Republicans over in Ireland – one of them particularly, at one stage there we had her on every week, was Marian Price and the trials and tribulations that were going on with her. But her sister, Dolours Price, was interviewed at some stage by Ed Moloney and they’ve done a documentary about her life, I guess, in the Republican Movement – it’s been made into a documentary, it’s up at a film festival. Ed Moloney, author – used to write for the Irish Tribune, the Irish Times. He has a book, A Secret History of the IRA, and I would recommend – I can’t recommend it enough – that people should read that book and Ed, you have this documentary that already the Belfast Telegraph has been writing about and it’s just going to air at six o’clock tonight up in Toronto. What’s the documentary about?

Ed:   Well it’s about Dolours Price’s life – growing up in Belfast all the way through to her final years and embracing her progress towards the IRA and her career in the IRA but also a lot about her family life. It’s a complete picture of Dolours Price’s life that was put together in this documentary which I think people will find interesting and unusual.

John:   Well Ed, you would think in certain circles, particularly in Irish Republican circles, things like this should be praised. Martin interviewed last week Cormac O’Malley, he was talking about his father, Ernie O’Malley, who had a book out They Will Talk to Me. You’ve been involved with the Boston tapes and trying to gather up what people, what they did during the past thirty years within the Republican Movement. Now it seems that some people are allowed to tell their stories but some people are not. And the main reaction they’re getting right now is that she tells the story about what happened with Jean McConville, who’s become notoriously involved with what’s known as ‘the disappeared’. Maybe you could tell about this is what’s getting the most reaction about out of Dolours’ life.

Ed:   Yeah, inevitably that’s going to be the case given the high profile of the Jean McConville killing but you know there were lots of other people killed in The Troubles and Dolours was involved in ‘disappearing’ more than Jean McConville and was involved in more IRA activity than that. I mean I think the one ‘disappearance’ that really affected her and pushed her over the edge and which led, in a very complicated way, to this documentary – and the background to that, incidentally, I have explained on my blog, The Broken Elbow dot com, and it’s a piece called I, Dolours – The Back Story which explains why and how this particular interview happened which was never planned – it happened because of events made it necessary to do this interview.

The ‘disappearance’ that really affected her most of all, and I think actually pushed her over a psychological edge, was the disappearance of Joe Lynskey, who was Belfast IRA Intelligence Chief who, without going into all the details (it’s a long story), he was sentenced to death by an IRA court martial and she was given the job of taking him across the border where he was going to be killed and ‘disappeared’ – and incidentally, his is one of the bodies that has never, ever been recovered. And Joe Lynskey was one of these guys who really believed in the IRA and believed in its ethos and its rules and he went willingly to his death – an extraordinary story.

Photos of the 3 remaining ‘disappeared’ as of 28 April 2018.
(L-R) Robert Nairac, Joe Lynskey and Columba McVeigh
Photo: Irish News

I mean, it was just her and him in the car and he was quite, you know, quite a strong man. He wasn’t a big man but he was strong enough – he could easily have over-powered her and she talks about how, driving him down, you know – she kept on thinking, you know, would he please like hit me and knock me out of the car or should I drive him to the ferry and tell him to get the hell out of the country but at the end of the day her loyalty to the IRA, like his, was just too strong and she completed the journey. I don’t think she ever recovered from that particular episode. And when it emerged that Joe Lynskey’s name had been left off the list that the IRA had given the two governments of the ‘disappeared’ victims and it was publicised that he was one of of the other ‘disappeared’ who’d never, never been mentioned at all I think that had a profound impact on her.

Marian & Dolours
Armagh Gaol

So you know, there’s the story of her extraordinary ordeal on hunger strike and forced feeding which, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind, caused the psychological problems that she had. And indeed, if you go back and you read the history of forced feeding in Irish jails you’ll find that an awful lot of the people who went through that experience never recovered psychologically from it and I think it really, really pushed her over the edge as well. So it’s an extraordinarily sad story about her – a lot of people will be outraged at that things that she did, of course, you know, but – it’s a story of the times. And you know, she went through the same experience that a lot of her contemporaries went through – the civil rights movement was regarded as a hopeful venture which could, perhaps, reach out to ordinary Protestant working-class people and you could make common cause with them over issues like bad housing and jobs and stuff like that. That disappeared in her mind, and indeed in a lot of minds, at Burntollet, and that led her, eventually I think, to join the IRA. So it’s a story of her life. And it’s a story of The Troubles. And it’s more than about Jean McConville.

John:   Yes, but the one thing they keep bringing about Jean McConville is who ordered her to bring Jean McConville down South to be executed and that was Gerry Adams. Now, you often had Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness going on TV stating that anybody that had any information on any part of The Troubles that they should go to the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and tell them about it. And now that this is happening – everybody: Oh! Well, why is she doing that? And you know, Anthony McIntyre having graffiti put up in Belfast that he’s a tout and you being hammered in some of the papers for: How dare you do something like this! But there is a hierarchy of what stories can be told and what stories can’t be told.

Ed:   And also how they are told – that some stories are not truthful. Some stories are embroidered. Some stories are covered in cosmetics and the truth is just not getting out. There’s a control-freakery involved in all of this which is why I think it was necessary to do something like the Boston College archive – to do it independently of these people. Independently of the state – because you can’t trust the state, either, to do this job in an objective way because they have their own dirty secrets to hide and you can’t trust the organisations themselves, really, to tell the story truthfully and honestly – they’ve got too many dark secrets to hide, perhaps. And it’s necessary for ‘outsiders’, in a sense, to do that as objectively as you can. And what the police did when they moved against Boston College archive was to destroy that possibility altogether and it does make you wonder about their motives in all of this, you know?

John:   And didn’t they get these tapes, too, off Dolours? Did the PSNI get the?…

Ed:   …Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because once – they weren’t part of the Boston archive – this is the important aspect about these tapes but I had told her that the tapes would be, they would be put away – the master tapes, which is like the film and stuff like that – that was different. That was kept in a secret place in Ireland and I never knew where it was until we came round to actually doing the documentary but copies of those tapes were lodged at Boston College as part of the guarantee that I gave her that it would remain secret until she died. And this was, really, just basically an attempt to stop her talking about this stuff. She had given one interview to the Irish News and she was threatening to give other interviews including one to The Guardian and if she was not stopped then goodness knows where it would have all ended up. So the deal, essentially, that I made with her was that we would do, we would make theses tapes, we would then put them away and she would have the guarantee that her story would be told. But you know, she would be dead at that stage – but her story would get out. And I also made a personal promise to her that if I was alive and if I was capable, physically and mentally, of doing it I would get her story out. So that was the, that was, essentially, the basis of the interviews taking place.

John:  So what is the festival today and will it be making its way to the United States and over to Ireland – so what is the process now?


Poster for the film, I Dolours

Well what is happening now: It’s appearing at three documentary festivals: One in North America, in Toronto, at the Hot Docs today so that would be the sort of world premiere, if you like, of the film. And next it goes to Sheffield, which is another big, prestigious, apparently prestigious, documentary festival although I must confess I don’t know much about these things. And then it’s going to the Galway festival, the Galway Fleadh, the film fleadh, in July and what happens thereafter I don’t know. I imagine it’s going to go on general release in Ireland and whether it’s shown in America depends on whether there’s any interest by anyone to screen it – we shall see. Hopefully people will get the opportunity to see the film. You now, obviously I’m biased – I helped to make the thing – I’m very proud of it but I think it’s an extremely important film. People who have seen it have been blown away by it, they really have been impressed by it, so I hope that’s an accurate reflection of the reality.

John:   Well thank you and Ed Moloney – if you want to read more about this documentary, which hopefully makes its rounds around down here, go to The Broken Elbow dot com, that’s one word: thebrokenelbow, and you’ll see Ed Moloney’s latest writings about the documentary, I, Dolours. Thank you, Ed.

Ed:    No problem. Bye-bye. (ends time stamp ~ 28:50)