Unravelling The Boston College Debacle: An Interview with Carrie Twomey

Today The Pensive Quill carries an interview that first featured in Irish American News Online and was conducted by Sabina Clark

Carrie Twomey doesn’t mince words. She is furious at Boston College for failing to protect their archives. Carrie is the American-born Orange County, Southern California wife of Belfast-born author, journalist, ex-Irish Republican Army volunteer and former prisoner Dr.  Anthony McIntyre. And, she is on a mission for her husband who cannot enter the U.S. because of his IRA past.

McIntyre and journalist and author Ed Moloney are in the eye of the storm in Boston College’s oral history debacle. They have now parted ways with the university and are filing a joint lawsuit against the U.S. government’s release of the Dolours Price archive to the British Government’s Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI.

The oral history project covers the time span of the Troubles in Northern Ireland from the late 1960’s up to the present and was originally suggested by Professor Paul Bew, a visiting professor from Queen's University in Belfast, who felt this could be accomplished since it was ‘such a short period of time in the overall conflict.’

Then Boston College agreed and reached out to journalist Ed Moloney in New York to facilitate the project and Moloney reached out to Anthony McIntyre in Ireland. The interviews with former Irish republicans were conducted in Ireland by Anthony McIntyre, an academic from the republican community and interviews with former unionists were conducted by Wilson McArthur, an academic from the loyalist community from Queens University in Belfast.

All participants were guaranteed confidentiality until the Historical Enquiries Team, HET, at the bidding of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, requested archives relating to a reopened criminal investigation into the murder of IRA informant Jean McConville dating back to 1972.  The murder investigation that had been botched from the start and lain dormant for years was suddenly urgent.

The following interview with Twomey answered some questions and corroborated some things I already suspected.

What do you think about this sudden urgency and renewed interest in the McConville case?

First of all, I do not think this is a bona fide criminal investigation. This crime has not been properly investigated for more than 30 years. In 2006, the police ombudsman was very critical of the way the case was handled and the Chief Constable admitted there was no chance of a prosecution in this case. We believe they are trying to use this as criminal evidence and then turn around and use it in a civil case. In terms of a criminal case, this is unsworn testimony and is not going to be corroborated by anybody in court. Dolours Price, Adams’ accuser, is not going to give sworn testimony.

It seems apparent that the purpose for all of this is to get Gerry Adams and to try to embarrass or discredit him, since these allegations have been unproven.

Yes, both my husband and I believe that Adams is at the root of all this. They want to embarrass him; they want to expose him. There is that element of the unionists who are not happy with the peace and are not happy with the republicans being in power.

Both you and your husband are vigorously opposing the release of the tapes to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Would you say your efforts are in sharp contrast to Boston College?

Definitely. We are very disappointed in Boston College’s position on this. They were dragged into the fight unwillingly. They were shamed into filing a lawsuit when Ed Moloney went public that the subpoena was served. They were not inclined to fight the original subpoena to begin with. Then when the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, came onboard and when we came onboard, they had to do something. I think it is despicable what Boston College is doing, frankly. I don’t have the words to describe the anger and disappointment that I have. They are a university and a university is built on its research. They should be protecting their research and they are not. They are the Penn State of research. They are protecting their institution at the expense of doing the right thing.

How is your appeal going?

We are fighting to keep the Dolours Price materials from being handed over to the British. The rest of the archive that the judge had ruled be handed over are with the U.S. Court; but the Dolours Price material is with the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. It has not been turned over to the Brits because we won a motion to stay pending our appeal which has frozen everything in place. Our hearing is April 4th and we are really hoping that we prevail in that and that none of the material will be handed over. Boston College has not joined us in this particular appeal regarding the Dolours Price material. They did not appeal the first ruling which turned over Dolours Price’s interview. This did not help us in our appeal to prevent the handover of the Price archive to the British. In fact, the government’s response to our appeal cites the fact that Boston College did not appeal the first ruling which turned over the Dolours Price archive as justification for why our appeal should not be heard. And it is only because my husband and Ed Moloney have sought to fight this without Boston College that the material has not yet been handed over to the British.

What is happening with the Boston College lawsuit?

Because of the public pressure surrounding this case and the criticism of how they have handled the case, they have filed their own appeal which will be heard in June or July.  But, it is only for part of the material that the judge ruled to be handed over. It is not for the whole of the archive.
How many subpoenas were served?

There were two subpoenas; the first subpoena sought Brendan Hughes’ (deceased ex IRA prisoner) material and Dolours Price’s material. The second set of subpoenas sought everything in the archive that related to the McConville case. So, the judge issued two rulings. He ruled that all of Dolours Price material be handed over to the U.S. Attorney and five complete archives should be handed over and selections from two other archives should be handed over. Those two archives are with the U.S. Court because our motion for stay applied at that point.

What is the public sentiment in Dublin over this?

I’ve had several meetings in Dublin, They are very unhappy about this because the decommissioning papers are at the same library under a 40-year embargo because it is politically sensitive information. The U.S. Attorney Eric Holder is arguing that there is no such thing as academic protection and that the first amendment does not apply.

What is your purpose in coming to the U.S.?

I am coming here to ‘go public’. This is our only protection. I also hope to get support from U.S. politicians and the U.S. news media. I am finding a very receptive audience here. This is my second trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress. I have also met with the staff of Congressman Richard Neal; Senator Barbara Boxer; Senator John Kerry; Senator Robert Menendez; and Senator Richard Luger.  Senator John Kerry has been very vocal against the release of the tapes as have been Senator Menendez and Senator Luger. I am hoping to meet with Senator Scott Brown when I go to Boston and I will be travelling to New York to meet with politicians and Irish American organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, AOH.

Your husband was a former Gerry Adams supporter, why did he break with Adams?

He saw the Good Friday Agreement as a republican defeat and not the victory it was presented as. He has never been against the peace but against the process of it and the lies and the betrayal. The war was fought for British withdrawal; it wasn’t fought to take place in Stormont. It wasn’t fought to decommission all weapons.

Ed Moloney whose book Voices from the Grave is based on interviews with senior IRA figure Brendan Hughes and Ulster Volunteer Force, UVF leader and Progressive Party politician David Ervine, both now deceased— profited from his  book.  Other than this, do you think he had a hidden agenda regarding Gerry Adams since he has always been an Adams critic?

Ed Moloney is an historian; not a propagandist. He acknowledges that the Peace Process would not have happened without Gerry Adams.

Was your husband part of the Hunger Strike?

Anthony was in Long Kesh Prison for 18 years. He was not on the Hunger Strike but was “on the blanket” and the “no wash” protest for 4 years. He finished his first degree in prison and completed his PhD degree in Irish republicanism, which is basically the history of the Provisional IRA, upon his release.

How do you feel about your husband’s involvement in this project?

Part of what makes his participation in the oral history project so valuable is that he is the foremost expert on the Provisional IRA and Irish Republicanism. Also, he was an IRA volunteer and his prison experience is very important. He is also an academically trained historian.

Do you think your husband is in danger now?

I feel that my entire family is in danger. You don’t know if a petrol bomb will be thrown through the window.

Do you think Ed Moloney is at risk in New York?

I believe he is at risk but not facing the type of danger that we are facing. 

For the little known backstory, not reported in the mainstream U.S. news media, Twomey referred me to an online article by Derry activist and journalist Eamonn McCann titled Getting Gerry Adams that gives the history of the sudden renewed interest in the 40 year-old McConville murder.

McCann traces it to a former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter who had a ‘particular animus towards Gerry Adams.’

Baxter, it turns out, is one of several senior Northern Ireland police officers who left the force disgruntled and unhappy with the changes brought about in the police force after the Good Friday Agreement.

Now in Afghanistan, Baxter is with a private security firm with a contract from the Pentagon training the Afghan Police Force.

Within twenty-four hours of reading Ed Moloney’s book Voices from the Grave, Baxter contacted and urged British authorities to initiate legal action to recover the Boston College archives relating to the McConville murder which implicated Gerry Adams.

The unsworn testimony given by Brendan Hughes prior to his death, is inadmissible. Yet, the other accuser Dolours Price, who also participated in the oral history project, is alive. She has yet to give
sworn testimony in court.

Both accusers are former comrades of Adams who had a falling out with him over the Good Friday Agreement.