WGBH Boston interview with Anthony McIntyre and Carrie Twomey

WGBH Boston Public Radio
89.7 FM Boston, MA
2 May 2014

Jim Braude (JB) and Emily Rooney (ER) interview Dr. Anthony McIntyre (AM) and Carrie Twomey (CT) about the Boston College tapes and the arrest of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

(begins time stamp 1:10:00)

JB: Coming up in a second: Emily and I started the show talking to Tom O'Neill about the Belfast tapes. Tapes were recorded at Boston College – interviews with members of the IRA and others who talked about the history of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The commitment that was made to these people was that until people were dead they would never be disclosed to the public.

Well, it turns out the British government requested that Barack Obama's Administration get these records, because they believe crimes had been committed - violent crimes – they subpoenaed the records. Ultimately, a federal judge ordered Boston College to turn over the records - which they eventually did and as a result of that, one of the results of that, is Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Féin, was arrested on Wednesday and could possibly be charged with the murder of forty years ago.

We are joined on the phone by somebody who's intimately involved in all this. Anthony McIntyre went to prison when he was in his teens. As an adult he was intimately involved in years with this Belfast tapes project. I believe he interviewed somewhere in the neighbourhood of twenty-five or twenty-six people. And is his wife on the phone as well, Chelsea, Amanda, - are they both on the phone here?

We're joined on the phone by Anthony McIntyre and his wife, Carrie ...I hope...is it Twomey – is how you say it, Carrie?

CT: Yes. Carrie Twomey.

JB: Thank you both very much for joining. We appreciate it.

ER: So this morning we interviewed Mr. Ed Moloney who suggested that Boston College really blew it here by allowing the government to come in and essentially seize the tapes. And you were part of this project – you were part of this interview project.

The tapes were supposed to remain secret until the key parties were dead.

As we know Gerry Adams is not dead. Now he has been implicated in this murder of a woman forty years ago – a woman who had ten children, “disappeared”, was mutilated, tortured, murdered, and IRA suggesting that not only was Gerry Adams part of the IRA but he was actually part of this murder.

First of all - on the releasing of the data from Boston College: How do you feel about that?

JB: Anthony, let's start with you if we can.

AM: Hello and what is the question? I just didn't get it.

JB: How do you feel about the fact that Boston College after, they contend, fought as long as they could with the courts decided to surrender some of the material where confidentiality, at least for a certain period of time, had been promised.

What was your reaction to that, Anthony McIntyre?

AM: Well, I have been disappointed with the stance that Boston College took from the very outset.

It seemed clear to me that when Boston College tried to conceal from both myself and Ed Moloney that the subpoena had been issued by the British that they were considering just simply folding.

Ed Moloney discovered this as a result of a conversation with a member of the Boston College staff who broke rank and told him. Ed suspected that something was afoot and phoned The New York Times. He contacted The New York Times and explained to them what the British were seeking to do.

After that the Boston College position was one of deliberating on whether or not to resist. That to me was a clear abdication of responsibility. There was only one place to go – no deliberations about whether to resist - just deliberate about the manner in which that resistance would take place.

Then Boston College hired a lawyer but I don't think over the run of events that Boston College put up the fight, particularly in the political arena, that it could have and should have done. So I'm deeply disappointed.

CT: I'm delighted to see Thomas O'Neill stepping in now and I only wish that what he is saying now was said the moment the subpoenas arrived.

Emily may recall the interview that she did with me a few years ago; this has been going on for years.

When I was in Senator Kerry's office for trying to get help to stop these subpoenas from going through - saying much the same things that Thomas O'Neill is putting forth and he's one hundred percent correct.

I only wish that that had been Boston College's position from the getgo. We may not be where we are today had it been so.

JB: Anthony McIntyre, would you have gotten involved in this whole project if you knew there was a possibility down the line that Boston College would not honour its commitment to you and others involved in it?

AM: No. I would not have gotten involved.

Moreover I would not have gotten involved had I had been made aware that even if Boston College were prepared to put up the fight of their lives to prevent the subpoenas from succeeding I would not have gotten involved had I been made aware that a subpoena could in fact actually be issued.

Boston College made it clear to us that under no circumstances under which a court order to acquire, to gain access to these interviews. And not only did they make it clear to myself and Ed Moloney they also made it clear to the Loyalists who confirmed this independently of anything that we have said.

JB: Anthony McIntyre what I started to say was: Do you feel at risk yourself as a result of these disclosures?

AM: I feel every time that an incident like this comes around where people are arrested, and particularly the arrest of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, I feel that it certainly enhances the level of discomfort and within that discomfort zone there is the potential for an increased risk. So I feel there's always that possibility, yes.

CT: When the project is described as “malicious”, when it's described as “anti-Republican”, when the people behind the project, like my husband and Ed Moloney, are described as a cabal consorting with the “dark side” as Martin McGuinness has described it, when graffiti such as “Informer Republican Boston College Touts” goes on the walls of the Falls Road as happened this morning -

Yes, we are at risk. And it's not just us, my family, my husband and my children that are at risk it is all the people that participated very bravely in this project.

ER: Onto the bigger issue, Anthony and Carrie, the accusations that Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin was involved in the murder of this McConville woman, did you find that credible when you listened to that testimony? Anthony, did you find that credible?

AM: I think in a war situation that anything is credible.

One has to presume the legal innocence of Mr. Adams until such time that he's proved legally guilty or otherwise.

But this is not what the project's about.

The project was about getting the narrative of people who had participated in the conflict.

I am not going to say that Gerry Adams is guilty of the killing Jean McConville. What I am saying is that Brendan Hughes has made that allegation, Brendan and Dolours, which is Dolours Price, and I think that the information that Boston College obtained through confidentiality should have been protected totally.

And I don't think that the British government have any grounds whatsoever for the political pursuit of Gerry Adams.

CT: It is not the job of the historian to police society.

And it is not the job of the police to criminalise history - which is what this subpoena has effectively done. It has criminalised Ireland's history.

This project was done in good faith because the 1998 Good Friday Agreement allowed for peace, and conflict to be put in the past and peace to start to take root. People could come forward, and needed to come forward, to tell their own life stories. And now with the subpoena, because the police can't do their own work they're trying to use work of historians. It's criminalised history and it's a chilling effect. And Boston College really could have done and should be doing a lot more rather than throwing its researchers under the bus.

JB: Yeah but Anthony and Carrie you've both spoken, particularly you Carrie – well you've both of you have spoken about the abdication of their responsibilities, as you see it, on the part of Boston College. They would have never been put in this position had the Obama Administration not agreed with the British government to pursue subpoenas.

CT: Absolutely!

JB: So what's your take on John Kerry at the State Department and Barack Obama? What's your take on their involvement in this? Carrie starting with you.

CT: Can I say? - I think that Carmen Ortiz - there's an interesting thing – her pursuit of Aaron Schwartz went along side of the Dolours Price archives.

Both Dolours Price and Aaron Schwartz died within weeks of each other.

The stress of the case that was taken against them really took a toll on their mental health. And Carmen Ortiz' office was aware, made aware in both cases, that the people she was pursuing, Dolours for the archive and Aaron Schwartz for the MIT aspect, were vulnerable people.

And these are also two Boston academic institutions that were faced with the problem of: Do they cooperate with the authorities and compromise their research or compromise their academic freedom?

Or do they protect what they are supposed to be bulwarks for?

So I think Eric Holder and Carmen Ortiz, they looked at this as purely criminal. It's my understanding that they didn't consult with the State Department when this arrived - they just ran with it.

And they are undoing – and this is not good for the Obama Administration – they're undoing the good work of American policy that started under Clinton, continued under Bush, in trying to stabilise and bring peace to Northern Ireland.

And this acceptance of the subpoena and cooperation with the British authorities on this when they had the opportunity to say: No, this is contrary to our policy – our foreign policy - the cooperation is actually unraveling the peace process and this is under Obama's watch.

JB: I want to get to that in a second because that's obviously arguably one of the most important bottom lines. But Carrie, just to continue with what you're saying - by the way we're speaking to Anthony McIntyre who was intimately involved in the research and interviews for The Belfast Tapes which are now centre stage in Boston and Ireland and around the world. And Carrie Twomey, his wife, is on with us as well. From what you say, Carrie, you seem to be suggesting that you lay blame, at least on the governmental end, purely on the Justice Department.

Do you really believe that Eric Holder instructed Carmen Ortiz, the US Attorney here, as to what to do without consulting with John Kerry's department – without consulting with anybody higher up in the Obama Administration? Is that what you're suggesting?

CT: Well, it wouldn't be above government bureaucracy to play pass the buck.

So absent of Freedom of Information requests and being able to legally obtain correspondence and whatnot I will never know who said what and who dropped the ball
and who gave the go ahead.

The subpoena itself was sealed.

JB: Understood.

CT: But using common sense, using chain of command - and the people who have been helpful and the people who have not been helpful my conclusion would be yes, I think that Holder's office and Ortiz' office – they looked at this as their territory - criminal justice and you know...State Department? If I can use the term it's “territorial pissings” and Ireland's paying the price for that.

Because the Obama Administration, who have yet to appoint an Ambassador to Ireland – we're still without an Ambassador here - does not rate Ireland as a priority for his foreign policy, this has gone under the radar and it's blowing up in their faces. And we've spent the last three years begging anybody to come forward and stop this train wreck from happening.

ER: Carrie, you mentioned Tom O'Neill in the beginning of the discussion saying that if what he's saying now had been said previously before these tapes were released that this never would have happened. I think you probably know Tom O'Neill is also defending Boston College saying that their hands were forced. They had no choice.

CT: Well, it's about time Boston College is doing that and I'm glad. I'm not going to begrudge it. I am glad that Boston College is finally stepping up to the plate. And I hope heads will roll at Boston College....

ER: ...(through crosstalk) They won't, no, no. No. No. We're saying the opposite. That Tom O'Neill and people are defending them saying they did the right thing. Boston College is defending themselves saying they had no choice. They had to release these tapes.

CT: No. That is not true.

A subpoena - you can put in the motion to deny and you can fight it. As Anthony pointed out, when it arrived they took way too long to decide to even fight it.

Their strategy was: These guys are just terrorists. We don't want to be associated with terrorists. How do we get out of this?

You can take a principled stand. Now I understand as an institution it's different from an individual journalist who will say I will go to gaol to protect my sources.

But as we can see with the reaction that Thomas O'Neill has brought from high-level people because he is such a powerful figure there was a lot more that Boston College could have done politically to move things than what they did.

AM: I would like to add something to this.

JB: Please.

AM: After the first subpoena was issued I alerted Boston College - warned the Boston College staff – that the second subpoena was very, very likely.

And that in the meantime, the interim period, what the Boston College staff needed to do was to protect an endangered archive by getting it out of its custody immediately and sending it over to my custody whereby I would insure its protection until such time it was safe to put it back into Boston College.

The staff there, and we have a record of this, informed us that the second subpoena would not be issued. They had taken advice from people formally schooled in international law.

Then the second subpoenaed came through.

So Boston College left an endangered archive on its campus, vulnerable to the second subpoena, and so it did not do what it could have done.

CT: And don't forget, the second subpoena contained a fourth category of materials.

It sought any material that was in the archive at the time of the first subpoena and had since been moved. Now, either somebody at Boston College told the Department of Justice these people are looking to move the archive out or, as Edward Snowden has revealed, communications between our lawyers and Boston and whatnot, electronic and otherwise, are compromised.

How would the Department of Justice know that there was a proposal on the table to move the rest of archive out? That's what precipitated the second subpoena.

JB: Anthony McIntyre, who did many of the interviews for The Belfast tapes and Carrie Twomey, are on the phone with us from Northern Ireland where they're calling.

Anthony, could you just go back to something you said a couple of minutes ago that I want to be clear on.

You're saying that prior to any of this you and others were assured by Boston College that no subpoenas could or would ever be issued in a matter like this. Can you fill in the blanks there just one more time if you would?

AM: Boston College were very clear.

When I first met the Boston College staff I was told by a professor that ... or sorry, Dr. Bob O'Neill, that there were no circumstances that the university would take into its library any material if that material posed any threat or chance of legal repercussions for the donor, for the interviewee.

JB: Understood.

AM: Now at that time Bob O'Neill did not feel able to give the assurances, this was in June of 2000 in Belfast, that the material would be able to resist a court order. But he did feel that given the American values of free speech and the First Amendment...

CT: ...and the Fourth Amendment.

AM: ... it was highly unlikely that any court order would be able to access the stuff.

Now that was not good enough for myself and Ed Moloney because we wanted cast-ion guarantees – we didn't want anything else.

So Boston College then went away and came back after that - a month later - and gave the green light for this.

We then helped draft a donor consent form and Ed Moloney insisted that the donor consent form, which guaranteed absolute control and total protection, would be run passed the Boston College legal council. Now Bob O'Neill promised to do that before moving on with the project. He later admitted to The Chronicle for Higher Education, Beth McMurtrie, that he did not do that.

So this is where the project started to come off the rails - at the very start - at that crucially important stage - and he did not reveal to us that he did not have this legally checked and that therefore there was no existence of a firewall preventing the British state accessing this material.

At a later date they told - the Boston College staff met with the Loyalists and told the Loyalists the same thing: that not even a peek, a “sneak-peek” on the part of the PSNI would be permissible.

The Loyalists had asked again: Was there any possibility of a court order? And they were told no. They asked would the PSNI be able to monitor it or even have a look? They were told no - under no circumstances.

And if we watch the whole discourse throughout, Tom Hatchey's writing, they were very,very clear that there were no circumstances under which this material could be handed over without the approval of the interviewee.

There was no room for ambiguity on this.

CT: One of the listeners called in earlier and pointed out that if an academic institution is taking on this kind of research they have the obligation to protect it - otherwise don't take it on.

Boston College took on this project in full awareness of what it was: it could not be anything other than former combatants of the Northern Irish conflict giving their oral history of their perspective. Well, that is obviously highly sensitive material.

If they were not going to protect it when problems arose they should not have taken it in. They folded and left us to defend it. And it's just...

Your listener was right.

JB: Well, Anthony McIntyre and Carrie Twomey, we really, really appreciate your time and filling in many blanks for us. Thanks so much for calling in. We appreciate it.

CT: Thank you.

ER: Thank you both.

AM: Thank you very much. Much appreciated. (ends time stamp 1:31:12)


  1. The danger is, up until a few months back three people knew what was contained in the vaults of Boston.

    Today the PPS know, PSNI know, Gerry Adams knows (so do PSF)...

    And they'll spin it and even make things up that weren't said..

    @Gerry Adams, you say you want truth etc and you are a leader..


    It's not complicated Gerry. While you are reading this..Why haven't you taken Billy McKee's offer up of a face to face with him and deny PIRA membership?

    I'll stand over what I said last week..You are more afraid of Billy McKee than the PSNI..

    McKee, now in his 80s, reacts angrily when Gerry Adams' persistence in denying he was ever a member of the IRA is put to him. He calls on Adams to "come up to me and say that to me face to face".

    The IRA's 'disappeared' return to haunt Adams

  2. If Boston College wasn't working for the US/UK Government all along, then they should get paid for their services rendered. And this wouldn't be the first time American academics sold their souls for Uncle Sam.