Boston Critics Don’t Know What They Are Talking About

Ed Moloney refutes some of the smears levelled at the Boston College oral history project. It featured in The Broken Elbow on 18 May 2014.

  • UPDATE – I forgot to include Richard O’Rawe in the list of interviewees. He revealed his involvement in Afterlives, published three years ago. Apologies to Richard. Excluding Richard from the project would deprive the world of knowing about the secret history of the 1981 hunger strikes. Another ‘bona fide academic exercise’?

Sometimes you just have to repeat things over and over, so that the message gets through. This is especially necessary in the case of all those critics of the Boston project out there who accuse those involved in compiling the interviews of having an anti-Gerry Adams, anti-peace bias.

The basic truth is that they do not know what they are talking about because they have not read the archived interviews in full, nor do they know – no matter how much they try to guess – who was interviewed for the project.

There are only three people who can honestly say that they have read the interviews. I am one, Anthony McIntyre is the other and the third was a man who has no dog in this fight, Judge William Young of the Boston District Court.

Not even Boston College has read the interviews. That is if an affidavit produced in Judge Young’s courtroom in January 2012 is to be believed. The affidavit was sealed, apparently to save the college embarrassment, but its contents leaked out in exchanges with Young. It said that the college librarian, Bob O’Neill, who was the curator of the archive, had not read the interviews and therefore could not help the judge decide which interviews were responsive to the subpoena.

Let us take this frankly unbelievable statement at its face value and assume that BC is telling the truth. That makes just three people who know what is in the archive. Yet everywhere journalists and commentators are pronouncing on the archive and judging its contents from a position of almost complete ignorance.

So, once again, what did the only man who does not have a dog in this fight say about the over 180 interviews that constitute the archive? What did Judge William Young say about the archive?

Here, again, are his words:

This was a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit.
 [These materials] are of interest – valid academic interests. They’re of interest to the historian, sociologist, the student of religion, the student of youth movements, academics who are interested in insurgency and counterinsurgency, in terrorism and counterterrorism. They’re of interest to those who study the history of religions.

I don’t think you could be clearer than that.

And let us examine the background of those whose identities have been revealed as interviewees or who have admitted such and work through the implications of the criticism directed at their involvement.

The list so far is Brendan Hughes, Dolours Price, Tommy Gorman and Anthony McIntyre.

Are the critics seriously suggesting that any serious effort to collect the life stories of IRA activists during the Troubles should exclude Brendan Hughes, a former Belfast commander and leader of the 1980 hunger strike? Or Dolours Price, who led the first IRA bombing team to attack London? Or Tommy Gorman, who swam to freedom from the prison ship Maidstone? Or Anthony McIntyre whose PhD thesis examined the development of the IRA in the 1970’s?

Are the critics seriously suggesting such people should be forbidden and banned from taking part in a project like the Boston one, simply because they have a beef with Gerry Adams, even though they were central in different ways to the story of the Provisional IRA?

The extension of that argument is equally alarming. It is that only people who have no beef with Mr Adams, or better still are his allies and friends, who should be allowed in front of a microphone even though you would probably end up with an archive full of interviews which say ‘Gerry was never in the IRA and Martin left in 1974’.

Just tell me, critics, is that what you think ‘a bona fide academic exercise’ should look like?


  1. good stuff. moloney, i presume you saw dirematt farter waffling about journalistic priorities the other day in the ...erm... newspapers.... hahahha.. what a class A gimp, the one man who is never off the fuc*ing telly, radio or papers is talking about journalistic priorities. keep her lit moloney.