To The Victor Goes The Spoils: The Boston College Belfast Project

Mick Hall speaks out against the ongoing PSNI attempt to sabotage the Boston College oral history project. 

Anthony McIntyre with his wife Carrie Twomey.

When wars end, as the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils, and one of the most precious of spoils is to write the history of the conflict in the victors favor. At the end of the long war between the British state and Irish republican organisations which was fought in the latter part of the 20th century, an innovative project was set up to circumnavigate this truism. The Boston College’s (BC) Belfast Project was an attempt to allow Irish paramilitaries who fought in this war to give their memories and opinions about the role they played.

The main stipulation was none of the tapes would be released until the individuals whose memories were recorded were dead.

Senior members of Sinn Féin believed it was naïve to trust the tapes to Boston College, having said that they had their own agenda to oppose the project as they believed it would stir up unnecessary attention from the mainstream media, the police and the security services.

Which is exactly what happened when Ed Moloney published extracts from Brendan Hughes and David Ervine's interviews in his book Voices from the Grave. Following its publication the British police with help from Mi6 set in motion a scheme to get their hands on the Tapes.

Since then the U.S. Department of Justice has received numerous subpoenas requesting the interview material from the United Kingdom. They allegedly claim they're continuing to investigate crimes that occurred during the conflict.

They have wasted UK taxpayers money to get their hands on tapes, which even if it resulted in convictions those found guilty would be covered by the amnesty which is within the Good Friday Agreement. There is little doubt the British government's decision to get their grubby hands on the tapes has been a fishing exhibition, an attempt to dig dirt on republicans who are active politically today, plus an attempt to intimidate Irish republicans from giving their side of the war.

Anthony McIntyre acted as the primary interviewer for the project, assuming that the material, and the people who took part, would be protected to the fullest legal extent. Since then he has fought tooth and nail to ensure Boston college lived up to its pledge to each interviewee the archive would be sealed until their death.

As Malachi O'Doherty points out below he is still fighting a rearguard action. If anyone comes out of this palaver well it is McIntyre and his wife Carrie Twomey. There tenacity and determination in fighting for the privacy of the tapes has been truly heroic.

Yes, in my view they may have been somewhat naïve in believing a US university, or any western education establishment would keep its word when a nation state in the loop came calling. But this project was a valiant attempt to allow soldiers of Óglaigh na hÉireann, who fought one of the most powerful armies in the world for four decades and at its end were still standing, to leave a message for history, a message I might add which history would judge.

That the British state were not even willing to allow this tells one a great deal about those who rule that divided Nation.

More information can be found here about the The Belfast Project, Boston College, and a Sealed Subpoena.

Malachi O'Doherty reports; Anthony McIntyre's partial victory against the PSNI is welcome but the Boston College Tapes a priceless historical resource is at grave risk. 

Mick Hall blogs @ Organized Rage.

Follow Mick Hall on Twitter @organizedrage

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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