LMFM Radio 95.8FM Drogheda
31 March 2014
DOWNLOAD (right-click & "save target as")
Michael Reade (MR) interviews former Sinn Féin publicity director Danny Morrison (DM) as a rebuttal to the interview Michael conducted last week with Dr. Anthony McIntyre, the lead researcher for The Belfast Project, about Gerry Adams' comments on the Boston College tapes.
Thanks as always to the TPQ transcriber.
(begins time stamp 15:20)
MR: Last week we asked the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, to explain why he instructed his solicitor to let the PSNI know that he was available to them if they wished to speak to him about the disappearance and killing of Jean McConville.
During Mr. Adams' explanation of why he was responding to media speculation he also referred to the Boston College Belfast Project – referring to it as a “totally bogus project” and saying that those who were interviewed by it are “avowedly anti-Sinn Féin, Avowedly against the peace process ... against the Sinn Féin leadership.”
'It's a very flawed partisan project', Gerry Adams said. 'Shoddy and self-serving. Not a serious or genuine, ethically based history project.'
And he described both Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney, the key interviewers in this, as “vitriolic critics” and “opponents of the Sinn Féin peace process”.
Subsequently we spoke with Anthony McIntyre and we asked Mr. Adams if he cared to respond to that. Sinn Féin said that they would like Danny Morrison to respond on behalf of Sinn Féin. And Danny Morrison, a writer, political commentator and former director of publicity for Sinn Féin, joins me on the programme this morning. Good Morning to you and thanks for joining us here on the programme this morning.
I'm sure you're aware of the comments that Mr. McIntyre made in response to Gerry Adams' criticism of the project itself and indeed the comments he made about Mr. Adams' membership of the IRA.
DM: Yes. I heard the interview. I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that this project was flawed from the very beginning. The two people concerned, chiefly Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, even prior to the inception of The Belfast Project, even prior to that in their writings, had been attacking Sinn Féin and in particular singling out Gerry Adams, often taunting him.
Then they come to do the project. They don't , for example, I know of no mainstream member of Sinn Féin who was approached for this project. But I do know the identities of many of those, of the twenty-six interviewees - I know their identities. And I can say hand-on-heart that only one person - among those twenty-six that I know of – only one person could roughly be described as neutral or sympathetic to Sinn Féin.
So the rest of them, what we know of the names that have been out there: Richard O'Rawe, Dolours Price, Brendan Hughes and now Ivor Bell has been accused of being one of the interviewees - all of these people are opposed to Sinn Féin.
So … I noticed also Anthony the other day quoting the judge, William G. Young. Now what he left out, what he omitted to say was that the judge himself who reviewed the twenty-six interviews to see which interviews referred to the killing of Jean McConville, he said that a ninth person did not mention Mrs McConville until prompted by Anthony McIntyre.
And this is the reason why people like Professor Richard English, in his review of Ed Moloney's book, which was the Voices From the Grave, which is based on Anthony McIntyre's interviews with Brendan Hughes, he said it was a tendentious, it was a tendentious project and that other people, other journalists, other media people academics, those – from like Tim Pat Coogan, Professor John Brewer, people who interviewed the book in The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times - they all – are these people all wrong? They all came to the conclusion that this was an attack on Adams and Adams' leadership.
MR: Right. You've described this as the worst oral archive project in the history of the world. And we had hoped that Anthony McIntyre would have been available to us again this morning to discuss this with you. but he said on the programme last week that this federal judge, William G. Young, described it as:
a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit. And that the materials are not just of interest but theryre of valid academic interest to historian, sociologist, the student of religion, the student of youth movements, academics who are interested in insurgency and counter-insurgency and terrorism and counter-terrorism. They're of interest to those who study the history of religions.
Is that not an endorsement of the work?
DM: No. Because there's no doubt about it that obviously it would be of interest to put a microphone in front of somebody and then get that person to say: what were you involved in, what did you do?
Of course that would be interesting, of course that would be fascinating to someone like Judge William Young who probably has never encountered such a project especially coming, it coming from another country in other circumstances and another culture in a conflict situation. Of course it's bound to have interests of that nature.
But the fact of the matter is that this was conceived by people who were not, who were opposed to Sinn Féin. It was carried out by two people who have been vocal in their criticisms and denunciations of Gerry, Gerry Adams. The people whom they interviewed, most of the people whom they interviewed, are all hostile to Gerry Adams.
They did not explain in the Donor Agreement to the interviewees that they could only protect this as far as American law went. So these people, the interviewees were actually deceived.
I actually have no problem with someone sitting down with Anthony McIntyre, doing an interview and saying this is what I did if that's what they want to do. But I have major objections to someone sitting down and doing an interview and incriminating other people.
For example, when Ed Moloney published his book – and he published it to capitalise on the fact that Brendan Hughes had died and therefore the tapes could be released. But apparently he has exclusive rights to the tapes. At least that's what I was told when I wrote to the library asking: could I hear the tapes?
Because in that book, Voices From the Grave, there are about eleven or twelve references to me - and this is, this might seem as a very minor point - but Moloney prints Brendan Hughes as saying that Danny Morrison fell out with his Uncle Harry.
My Uncle Harry had been sentenced to death in the 1940's. he was a veteran IRA man. and Hughes makes that statement and other statements about me. I was never given the opportunity by Ed Moloney to say: Danny, this is what we're going to be saying about you in the book. Is this true? And nor were other people.
And what I would like to know also, which I find very, very interesting: How come Ed Moloney redacts some names from the book but includes others? And the others that are included happen to be, just happen to be accidentally, mostly people who support Sinn Féin?
MR: Is it possible for those of us who weren't involved in the IRA to determine who's telling truth in all of this because it's a case of “he said she said” to some degree is it not, Danny Morrison?
DM: No. Well, let's go back to ... he refers to Richard O'Rawe who wrote a book and who made allegations that there was a deal agreed between the British government and, and Sinn Féin and particularly Gerry Adams ordered the prisoners to, not to accept it.
Now the fact of the matter is that Richard O'Rawe who made that allegation, never left the cell, never met the Governor, was never in the prison hospital, never met the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace. Whereas I was in the prison on, on a particular day in July, 1981 and - when you're saying there can we prove it instead of a “he said she said” - the fact of the matter is that under the Thirty Year Rule British documents were released two years ago. and particularly they carry a transcript of phone calls between Brendan Duddy in Doire and London. And Brendan Duddy was a go-between at this particular crucial time. And it states quite clearly in this, in the transcript that Danny Morrison is in the gaol.
So I'm in the gaol visiting the hunger strikers. Duddy says to the British contact: what, what is on offer to the prisoners? And written down in this document is: we are not prepared to prepare anything for Ministers until after Morrison's visit.
But the whole premise of Richard O'Rawe's book and his allegations is that I'm bringing a deal in. Whereas no offer had yet been made.
And in fact no offer was made until Monday night, half past eleven Monday night, thirty six hours, thirty-six hours later. But in O'Rawe's book he has Gerry Adams ordering the prisoners not to accept this offer on Monday afternoon.
So there are, there are documents there which totally disprove - and what these people rely on is hitting you with detail and overwhelming you and so that you're not in a position... you don't feel confident challenging them.
But Because I was there and I was involved I know exactly what I am talking about.
MR: But when you hear an iconic figure such as Brendan Hughes speaking on tape as we did and implicating Mr Adams in the killing of Jean McConville it's a statement that a lot of people would take very seriously. Equally they would take what you say, Danny Morrison, very seriously and would be seen in iconic terms by many Republicans around the country as well. But therein lies the problem for people does it not in trying to decide who's telling truth and who's not?
DM: Well, had Ed Moloney, when he was publishing that book, come along to the people who are, in my opinion, slandered and I'm definitely slandered in the book, but had he come along he could have put that, he could have put questions to various people. But he didn't. The whole thing was conceived in secrecy. And there's absolutely no doubt about it that, it was a flawed project.
Had, for example: it's supposed to be an oral history of the IRA. Twenty-six people are interviewed and nine of the interviews are, relate to the death of Mrs. Jean McConville who was killed in 1972. So, there was many other things happened in the course of twenty-five – thirty years. But nine out of twenty-six interviews happen to touch upon Mrs. Jean McConville. And we have the judge himself saying that in the ninth case, in the ninth case the interviewee doesn't even mention it until prompted by Mr. McIntyre.
MR: Do you believe that Gerry Adams was a member of the IRA?
DM: I’m not, well, first of all I wouldn't answer questions like that when I was in Castlereagh being questioned by, by the RUC. I think the bulk of the people understand Gerry Adams' position and his, and also the predicament here. And the fact of the matter is, were Gerry Adams to admit IRA membership he could be charged. He could be charged yet.
But what Gerry Adams said is that let's have a level playing field. Let everybody, both sides – The British, who were also involved in the dirty war against our community. Let's put, let’s come, let’s have an international truth commission and let everybody come out and state what needs stated for the sake of the victims and their relatives.
MR: Okay but Anthony McIntyre was making the point that if Gerry Adams could deny membership of the IRA for so long well then it's only logical to assume that Mr. Adams will and, can and will lie to protect himself from those charges that you say would be forthcoming if he was to make such an admission.
And if that is true well then it follows that it's questionable as to whether he had any involvement in the killing of Jean McConville or that his denial of it is questionable.
DM: I don't think you can extrapolate that at all. It's quite understandable. If you go back...say we're talking about 1920 and three IRA Volunteers in County Cork or County Kerry are just coming up they'd just planted a land mine and they're stopped by the British, British Army and they're asked : did you plant that land mine? Do you want them to tell the truth or do you want them to lie? Of course in a struggle people have to engage in various tactics. So it's quite understandable why people have, would have to defend themselves.
And by the way – this whole project – we're now being told – was heavily influenced by the fact that people were upset that Gerry Adams didn't say he was in the IRA. So now what we have is a huge can of worms. We have got people living in fear of arrest. We have people who believe they've been betrayed by these researchers and by its project manager. And people are going to gaol. People are getting arrested.
MR: What about the point that Anthony McIntyre was making about a trial being used as a truth commission or a truth tribunal, and if there would be support from Gerry Adams or Sinn Féin for that matter for such an approach to be taken?
DM: No. Because it's one sided. It isn’t - we had, we had a situation here where a British government set up a tribunal, the Saville Tribunal, into the killings on Bloody Sunday. Simultaneously, another British government department, the Ministry of Defence, was destroying the weapons that were involved in order to reduce the forensic evidence at the Saville Enquiry.
So what we have to have here is an international element. Some, something that we can all subscribe to. Something that we can all trust in. It can't be me going into a British court and saying this and saying that. Because you would still, you still you would still be prosecuted. And the other thing is of course is that there's a war, a propaganda war, going on over the cause of the conflict.
The Unionists to this day refuse to accept that what they did on the Nationalist community for fifty years you know was in some way related to the outbreak of the IRA's armed struggle here in, in the early 70's.
Of course they were related. What happened to the people, the burning down of houses in 1969, the shooting of people, the gassing of a whole community in the Falls Road and the Falls curfew over three days in 1970. Even before the IRA fired their first shot dozens of Catholics are killed by the state forces.
So there's a battle going on over that and for me to singularly just turn around and say: well, you know, I was responsible or we were responsible it then tends to suggest that you were culpable in causing the conflict. I didn't cause this conflict. I didn't cause the conflict.
So that's the war that's going on. Until we get agreement that the British are prepared to open their files and let me Michael, let me just give you one example: Sir John Stevens, the head of the Metropolitan Police, came over here in 1990 thinking that he was going to spend a few months investigating allegations of collusion between state forces and Loyalist paramilitaries. He ended up coming back and forth fifteen years. We were told that when he published his report we would be able to read it about what's going on. He was only allowed to publish seventeen pages out of a three thousand page report. So that's the other side of it – the dirty war – what the British were involved in, what they were provoking, the people who they were running.
So until we get a commitment from the Brit, the British authorities that the rules apply to them as well then I don't think we're going anywhere.
MR: Alright let me just ask you one final question about a question that I asked earlier of you and indeed a question that has been asked of Gerry Adams repeatedly over a number of decades at this stage and as to whether he was a member of the IRA ... that's a question that you didn't answer and said....
DM: ...Well, wait, wait...listen... I can only answer for myself…
MR: ...No. No. No. No. Well, if I could just ask the question about that question because it is or would seem at least pointless asking over and over the same question, but would it better to be able to answer that question ... to say yes, he was a member of the IRA or to be able to say no, he wasn't a member of the IRA but that people would be able to answer those questions without fear of retribution?
DM: I live, I'm phoning you now from Andersonstown in West Belfast where Gerry Adams, from 1983 onwards, apart from one period, was elected MP continually with a huge majority.
He now topped the poll when he stood in Louth in the last elections down there.
I think people, ordinary people, have a common sensical approach to this. They understand the issues. They understand the subtleties and the complexities. So. I don't think people are that exercised over this question.
MR: Okay well, we'll leave it on that note. And thank you indeed for joining us here on programme.
DM: Thank you.
MR: It's very much appreciated. That’s Danny Morrison, writer, political commentator and former director of publicity for Sinn Féin. (ends time stamp 32:30)