CBC Radio: Boston College Project - a former IRA fighter
As It Happens
8 May 2014
A researcher behind the oral history project at Boston College responds to the charge by Sinn Fein that the entire purpose of the program was to bring down its leader, Gerry Adams.
Programme host Carol Off (CO) interviews Anthony McIntyre(AM) via telephone from Drogheda, Co. Louth about the Boston College tapes.
(begins time stamp 26:00)
Announcer: It's a project he wishes he'd never been a part of.
The Boston College Belfast Project was supposed to be about truth and ultimately reconciliation. So when former IRA fighter Anthony McIntyre decided to contribute by recording interviews with twenty-six other fighters from both sides of The Troubles he had high hopes.
Not any more.
Some of those recordings were reportedly used last week by police in Northern Ireland during their four day detention of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.
And yesterday on As It Happens Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told Carol that the Boston College project was a sham, out to get Gerry Adams and out to destroy the peace process. She was particularly critical of the people behind the project including Anthony McIntyre.
We reached Mr. McIntyre at his home in Drogheda, Ireland.
CO: Mr. McIntyre, were you out to get Gerry Adams?
AM: No, I wasn't out to get Gerry Adams.
That's a myth perpetuated by people like Mary Lou McDonald, Vice-President of Sinn Féin. It's a Sinn Féin party line trying to defend themselves against anything that the party considers adverse to its project.
CO: In doing this project they say that you set out to destroy the peace process.
AM: How would an academic project destroy the peace process?
Is the peace process not resilient enough to criticism or people who might have a different view of it?
Sinn Féin persistently claim that all of its critics are out to destroy the peace process.
CO: What was the point of The Belfast Project that you took part in?
AM: The Belfast Project was an attempt to build up an archive and to retrieve as much knowledge as possible before people who participated in the conflict or knew about the conflict, who had knowledge - before they passed away and that knowledge would be lost forever.
CO: But no matter what the intention was it seems that the archive has led to the arrest of Gerry Adams and it has led to a threatening of the peace process. So are you saying these are unintended consequences?
AM: They're very much unintended consequences because the project was never designed, either by Boston College or ourselves, to bring about the arrest of anyone. It was to increase the amount of knowledge pertaining to Republicanism.
The threat to the peace process, if there is a threat, has come from the British Police Service of Northern Ireland which attempted to raid the archive and successfully managed to plunder some of the tapes and the recordings and transcripts.
When the same Police Service of Northern Ireland are not pursuing evidence from elsewhere which would lead to prosecutions against British soldiers and members of the police that were responsible for the murder of Nationalist civilians. This is the type of thing that the PSNI is engaged in.
So when people want to make accusations about what is destroying the peace process or posing a threat to the peace process they need to look at the police rather than look at an academic project.
CO: You say: the PSNI - the Police Service of Northern Ireland. And I heard from – we interviewed Ed Moloney just after Gerry Adams was arrested. He was the man who worked with you on this project in Boston College.
He said that the issue here was that what they're pursuing from the archive didn't really exist in it. That there was nothing that could be used as evidence in the archive to prosecute anyone. Is that your opinion?
AM: Given the fact that Mr. Adams has been released without charge and the evidence that the police would have from the archive is simply hearsay – there is no evidential basis to the arrest of Mr. Adams or any attempt to prosecute him. So that's correct.
Some people have given accounts that Mr. Adams would not like to see the light of day.
But this is what happens in history and it happens in journalism. This sort of intellectual process should not be suppressed by politicians who do not want their political careers or their particular political project caused any sort of harm whatsoever, or viewed in a different light.
CO: Well again, going back to Mary Lou McDonald, the deputy head of Sinn Féin, she said that you and the others who took part in this project, and you were formerly with the IRA, that you didn't want to see the peace process happen. That you and the others who were part of this and those who gave you the interviews were against Gerry Adams and considered them to be sellouts when they engaged in the peace process.
Is there any truth to that at all?
AM: Oh, there's truth in the claim that I have been opposed to Sinn Féin's political project. I have not been opposed to the peace.
In fact, when I was opposing the Sinn Féin/IRA killing of a man called Joe O'Connor in West Belfast in 2000 I was actually opposed to their murder project. And Sinn Féin picketed my house, surrounded it with a mob, intimidated my pregnant wife and then sent the IRA leadership into my house to try and intimidate me.
So they cannot really say my actions have been against the peace.
But that's the sort of thing that the peace process produces. It produces the suppression of intellectual activity and a suppression of other narratives and on occasion it has led to the murder of people opposed to it.
The majority of the people that I would have talked to were not sympathetic to Mr. Adams' political career or his political project. But people like that have to have someone that they trust when they want to talk about their experiences. And if I had have been a die hard Sinn Féin supporter it's highly unlikely that the people who did talk to me, the majority of the people who talked to me, would have felt safe to talk to me.
CO: But doesn't it indicate - what you're saying - is that you were not a disinterested player in this – you had a very strong point of view - and that when you say it was an academic exercise to reveal the truth how can they, Gerry Adams or Sinn Féin, trust that you were actually operating from an objective point of view?
AM: I'm not asking Gerry Adams or Sinn Féin to trust that I was operating from an objective point of view. That doesn't concern me.
I'm not here to try and win Gerry Adams' trust. I for years have not trusted Gerry Adams' narrative.
CO: Do you believe that Gerry Adams was a member of the IRA and that he played a role in the murder of Jean McConville?
AM: I am not prepared to say whether he played a role in the killing of Jean McConville.
But I am prepared to say that he was very much a member of the IRA. And his deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has been critisised in the press quite recently by one of the leading Irish commentators who said she is putting her reputation on the line by continuously coming out in public and saying that she believes that Gerry Adams was never a member of the IRA on the basis of Gerry Adams having stated precisely that.
Now that's an absolute intellectual nonsense to believe that Gerry Adams was never a member of the IRA.
And Mary Lou is speaking as the party politician. It's party political talk. It's not intellectual rigour. It's not intellectual anything for Mary Lou to maintain that position.
CO: Alright, we're going to leave it there, Mr. McIntyre. Appreciate you speaking with us tonight.
AM: Thank you very much, Carol.
(ends time stamp 34:00)