Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney interviewed on New York radio

Below is a transcript of an interview with Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney on New York radio, Radio Free Eireann, WBAI 99.5 FM , New York City, Saturday 21 April 2012:  John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview Ed Moloney (EM) to get an important update on appeal pending in the federal court in Boston concerning The Belfast Project, the Oral History archive at Boston College.


(1:40 PM)

Sandy Boyer (SB): Welcome back to Radio Free Eireann WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.We’re speaking with Ed Moloney, the Director of the Belfast Project, the Oral History of The Troubles which the US government has subpoenaed on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Ed, thanks for being with us. Ed, can you hear me?

Ed Moloney (EM): Yes I can.

SB: We didn’t get you for a moment. So Ed, there’s new development: after you had two rounds of briefs and oral arguments suddenly the US government has come back to the court of appeals.

EM: Yes, it was an extraordinary incident. Our oral hearing in Boston was on April the fourth and then on April the sixteen, I think it was, a letter was sent to the three appeal judges by the US Attorney’s office trying to raise issues that had been dealt with both in the, to some extent in the written brief and also in the oral argument, and that was the assertion from us, which was really central to our argument that we should be allowed to have a proper say in the court proceedings, that there was no great risk to either to myself or to Anthony McIntyre.

And the US Attorney’s office wanted to put that on record again with the judges and also to dispute the claim that had been made by Eamonn Dornan that the Department of State, that’s Hillary Clinton’s department, had a different view of all of this than Eric Holder’s Department of Justice.

And they claimed in their letter that there was no difference between the attitude of the State Department and the Department of Justice. That was their letter and apparently it’s an unprecedented thing to happen.

Eamonn Dornan eventually wrote back a few days ago and pointed out that there’s nothing in the rule books relating to appeal hearings that would allow something like this.

And he also went on to dispute some of the claims that had been made in this US Attorney’s letter saying that in fact that the State Department had been fully aware of all the dangers and there was evidence there to show that there was concern at that level and just to quote he said: 'the appellants are ready, willing and able to provide evidence of those contacts' (that’s contact between the McIntyre Family, principally, and the US Embassy in Dublin) over any of their security or threat to physical safety arising from these interviews being handed over to the PSNI.

SB: And you’d think that if the government was really happy with the way the case was going they wouldn’t be doing this.

EM: You would think so, yeah. The lawyers that I’ve talked to, the moment they get over the surprise of this thing, and all sorts of adjectives have been used from “extraordinary” to “unprecedented” to describe what has happened here, the next thought that comes out of their heads is that the government must be a little bit worried about the way that it’s going in order to have, as it were, a second bite of the cherry, you know?

Who knows whether that’s a straw in the wind or not but it’s an extraordinary event to happen and apparently has never happened before.

SB: Ed, something else very interesting has come up: one of the key interviews that the government is seeking to turn over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland is an interview with Dolours Price, Marian Price’s sister.

It’s emerged that the Police Service of Northern Ireland could easily have talked to her.

EM: Oh yes! One very important plank in our case is that there was no need for the PSNI to go to the lengths of trying to get interviews extracted out of the archives at Boston College because there were other alternative opportunities to get the same sort of evidence. And one of these occurred in August, 2010 and that is, to refresh your listeners memories on this: the incident which apparently led to the PSNI seeking these subpoenas took place in February, 2010 when Dolours Price gave an interview to a newspaper in Belfast claiming her involvement in or alleging her involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville and a few other incidents like that and also apparently telling. The Irish News that she had also given an interview to Boston College.

That was the basis on which the PSNI sought the subpoenas. In other words, we have evidence that this exists, it’s the only evidence that we have and therefore we want to get hold of it. Well in August, how many months after is that? At least six months after this happened …where was Dolours Price? Appearing in a Newry Magistrate’s Court on a charge of shoplifting (for which, incidentally, she was cleared.)

As you know, the courts in Northern Ireland, particularly like Magistrate’s Courts, are jammed-packed with policemen. The authorities would have known that she had been charged. The authorities would have known that she was appearing. They had an ideal opportunity to say, to come up to her after the hearing and say: “Excuse me, Ms Price, we would like to have a few words with you down at the police station. Would you mind coming down and explaining to us these interviews that you gave to the Irish News?”

And they didn’t do so. And that’s a very important element in our case because it shows really that the police were not on the job here. And it raises all sorts of serious questions about the motivation for the subpoenas.

It’s not about getting evidence against Dolours Price because if they were serious about that they could have gotten it there and then. It’s about something else.

And that something else is, as we have argued consistently, that there is an element there within the PSNI which is seeking revenge against Gerry Adams and the leadership of the Provos for all the changes in policing and so on and so forth. So that opens up that whole issue and that whole question so it’s very important.

That has not yet formally been presented in terms of written evidence but Eamonn Dornan was able to raise it at the oral hearings on the grounds that this was information that we’d only just found out about and that was accepted by the judges.

So that’s now there and hopefully going to be part of the consideration when it comes to making a decision about whether we should be allowed our own opportunity to argue our case.

John McDonagh:

 (JM): Ed, what’s going on in Boston and the court system is really going to have world-wide implications!

I was speaking to the people at The Ulster American Folk Park. And even though they’re not involved politically, they’re involved with migration, but they’re following it very closely they said because it will have an effect to all museums – to all college around the world who want to do recordings like this and record histories…that now, any police force anywhere in the world can file papers, say here in America,
or we can file papers in Germany or whatever…who’s going to speak and do this?

EM: Exactly!

What this is going to do, if this is successful, is to stifle historical research or rather confine the recording of history to very limited groups of people. And my argument has always been that, for reasons which absolutely totally confound me, the participating parties in the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive, and this includes Sinn Fein, have allowed the interpretation of the past to be handed over to this Historical Enquiries Team which is part of the PSNI. And the PSNI are the successors of the RUC.

The RUC and the PSNI are participants in The Troubles!

Those of us who are old enough can remember when The Troubles started and the Civil Rights Movement and so on and so forth, the reason why the civil rights movement got such a boost at the very start was because of police brutality at places like Doire on October the fifth, Burntollet, and so on and so forth. And that continued.

And they were major participants in The Troubles. And the idea that their successors should be allowed to be the people to collect and interpret the history, which has happened here is just obscene!

My attitude I would have to say would be exactly the same if it was handed over to the let’s say, The Orange Order, to record the history of The Troubles or to Provisional Sinn Fein or anyone like that.

Anyone who was actually involved in The Troubles is not a neutral party. They’re not objective, they can’t be objective and that job should be handed to somebody or organisation or people who are regarded as much more objective and don’t have a dog in the fight, as we say in this country. But the HET does. And one of the effects of this action, if it is successful, is to say well, the HET really is the only group in Northern Ireland society that’s allowed to record this history. And the only other people of course will be those who have got various axes to grind from all sorts of political directions.

So a true, bottom up, grassroots-type of history of what happened in The Troubles, the sort that we were trying to collect, will be rendered impossible after this.

And that happens anywhere in the world because let’s say look at, if this is successful here in the United States … people who want to do an Oral History of the US involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan … they won’t be able to do that because they would be looking over their shoulders all the time at the possibility that the Iraqi government could come and use exactly the same legislation or treaties to collect evidence against people that they want to charge in Baghdad or people who were involved in the American military and so on.

And you can continue this through all sorts of examples of the sort of important social, political history that you really want to chronicle and what have you and it’s going to have a devastating effect on it.

The people who are responsible for these subpoenas are … they have a huge burden of guilt in relation to what damage they are doing to human beings’ abilities to collect their own history.

SB: I want to get back to Dolours Price for a moment. I mean, Why? Are they just so incompetent that they didn’t find out that she was going to be in court or….?

EM: I’ve absolutely no idea. It’s possible. I don’t know. I really don’t know. The point is though is that she was well known. It was well-known that, apparently that and I wasn’t obviously covering the story at the time being over here in New York, but when she was arrested and what have you, that was apparently a story that appeared in the newspapers. She’s a figure of some, if not notoriety, she’d certainly be well known as The Price Sisters are major characters in the history of The Troubles; it’s not as if they’re like unknown people. Dolours Price and her sister were convicted of the The Old Bailey Bombings, the first IRA bombings of London during the current troubles; they’re extremely well-known.

And the idea that someone like her could appear in court and be charged and what have you and it would go unnoticed by the authorities is a stretch, I think, at the very least. The point is though that they had that opportunity. They also, of course, had the opportunity of going to the newspapers who interviewed Dolours Price because there’s a tape recording involved in that.

She gave an interview to this woman, Allison Morris of The Irish News.That interview was tape recorded. The tape recording was then passed on to another newspaper called the Sunday Life. Both of those newspapers used material based on the Irish News tape recorded interviews.

And from what we know and what we’ve been able to piece together, the police didn’t even bother going near any of those newspapers until more than two months after they had served the subpoenas on us. They served the subpoenas on us in May and I think it was July by the time that they went round to the Irish News and the Sunday Life offices to ask them about these tapes. And only because we had pointed this out in our court documents. Otherwise the police were not going to bother at all going anywhere near these people.

So it’s an extraordinary lapse and one has to ask: Why? And there are very serious implications in the possible answers that come out of that. We hopefully will have the opportunity, if we win this appeal case, to raise all of these issues because it demonstrates a fundamental weakness and flaw in this treaty that the United States has signed and agreed with countries like the United Kingdom, and they’re not the only one, there are many other countries with similar treaties, in as much as that US citizens end up having less rights under these treaties than they do under their own Constitution.

In other words, the PSNI is able to do more to a US citizen than that person’s own government. Which cannot be right.

SB: Ed, thank you very much and we’ll be getting back to you as soon as there are any new developments in this case.