Danny Morrison in his Boston Globe letter, September 1, 2011, has sought to reassure the British police as they pursue part of Boston College’s oral history archive pertaining to the Irish conflict. Not knowing what is in the archives currently held by the college has not prevented him from arguing on behalf of the British police that the deposits ‘contain potentially incriminating taped evidence by Irish Republican Army volunteers about unresolved killings during the Irish conflict.’ Yet, for all his undoubted fealty a knighthood will elude him. ‘Arise Sir Daniel Dudley Morrison’ is not going to happen no matter how hard he tries to reinforce the thin blue line or how often he bows to Prince Charles at Glastonbury.
In spite of his charge, the discipline of rank hypocrisy, in which Morrison should hold a first class honours degree, has no bearing on the observation by Ed Moloney and myself that the release of the material ‘could be immensely destructive to the peace process in Northern Ireland’ and that the subpoena appears aimed at damaging Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein’s ‘remarkable electoral comeback in the general election in the Republic of Ireland.’
Morrison who, on much more tenuous grounds, has long promoted this very theme of British police foul play in respect of the peace process, now seems to have abandoned it, presumably because he currently supports the British police and wishes to row in behind them.
For our part we have never subscribed to that thesis with any degree of enthusiasm, given our firm knowledge of how the British security services were shepherding Sinn Fein through the peace process. However, we have taken account of opinion from ‘respected historians, reviewers, and commentators’ that at this specific juncture the most plausible explanation for the anti-Boston College assault is that it is being driven by a small element within the British security services, eager, as Niall O’Dowd suggests, to exact revenge on Gerry Adams. Tellingly, Rita O’Hare in her own letter to the Boston Globe would seem to agree. If Morrison has a better explanation he should share it.
Moreover, as both I and Ed Moloney contended in our motion to intervene to the US court handling the case, the attempt by the British police to secure the embargoed materials, were it to succeed, would shake down that vital institutional organ of the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement, stripping it of some of its more positive attributes.
Contrary to what Morrison might wish for, it is not the task of journalists to protect the peace process from free inquiry. But it would be ludicrous for us not to flag up the absurdity inherent in any action by Boston College that might lend itself to weakening the very peace process the college long championed. Boston College’s remit is in the field of knowledge procurement not evidence gathering for the British police.
Ed Moloney’s critique of journalists who did not put their journalism before the needs of the peace process continues to hold good. How could the public understand the peace process if knowledge about it was to be suppressed? In this current saga Moloney is not seeking to protect the peace process from uncomfortable truths but is, in full accordance with the inviolable principle of shielding sources, seeking to protect uncomfortable truths from the British security services who might, inter alia, use them to undermine the peace process. A crucial difference but one which Morrison unsurprisingly lacks the ability to grasp.
What is more alarming than the perceived existence of danger to the people associated with the oral history project is Morrison’s brash assertion that no such threat exists. More known for standing at Silly Point than at its Archimedean counterpart, as demonstrated by the sheer number of times he has been wrong on just about everything else associated with understanding Northern Irish politics, his assurances give little cause for confidence.