As If The Peace Process Never Happened

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview award-winning journalist and author Ed Moloney (EM) via telephone about the machination of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland in the case of Ivor Bell. Thanks to TPQ transcriber who struggled with a bad line to master this one.

WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio

New York City

13 June 2015 

(begins time stamp ~ 35:22)
SB:  And we're talking to Ed Moloney, the Director of the Boston College oral history … that tried to document the history of The Troubles through people who actually fought it ~ from the UVF and the IRA ~ seems like a reasonable effort. Unfortunately, as our regular listeners know, those tapes have now been turned over (inaudible…)

EM:  ...Boston College archives because Boston College have lost the identifier for the interview which is only known by the code that was given by us, myself and Anthony McIntyre, when we put together this archive and that was the letter zed, or “Z” in America. And the contract, which is a piece of paper that would actually identify who zed is was lost by the Boston College librarian, Bob O'Neill. We don't know when. One of many contracts that he lost both in the Republican archive and the Loyalist archive. And it has caused the authorities considerable difficulties because there's no way that they can link that interview to Ivor Bell without some other piece of evidence and my information is that they don't as yet have that evidence.  And it's puzzling to work out exactly what is the basis for this charge going ahead ~ you know, it was delayed and delayed. I mean, Ivor Bell was arrested way back in March 2014 and we are now in June 2015, more than a year later. And only now are they saying that they're going to go ahead with a trial but even then we're not entirely sure ~ and it kept on being put back and put back and put back. And it was clear that there were a lot of problems in the way of this trial.
And in addition to that of course, the Prosecution Service, which is now headed by Gerry Adams' former lawyer, a man called Barra McGrory ~ whose father, Paddy, was a very good friend of mine and an esteemed human rights lawyer ~ has come under enormous criticism for all sorts of screw-ups. And there is, there is one theory that when they went ahead with this announcement that they were going to prosecute ~ not to do so would have been the straw that would have broken the camel's back in the Prosecution Service and probably would have led to Barra McGrory's resignation. And people involved in the case have said that it's by no means certain that this is going to go ahead and it could take a very long time with the difficulties they have in the way of even identifying the guy ~ you know, it's very much a doubtful case. but we shall see.  
The other case is this guy ~ a Red Hand Commando, which was a small sub-group of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a man called Winston Rea ~ or as he's better known in Belfast, Winkie Rea. He's another one of these geriatrics that Barra McGrory is pursuing. He's actually in hospital at the moment and has been in hospital for a matter of two years. He had a hip transplant a few years which back which went bad. He then had a second hip transplant which also went bad. He suffers from blood poisoning and he's got this terrible lung disease, COPD, and he's dying! 

But that has not stopped the PSNI, not stopped the Prosecution Service from pursuing this man and they're doing it, they’re doing it ~ I believe ~ on the basis of balancing out Ivor Bell. In other words, the criticism that was coming from respectable Irish-America from people like (former Massachusetts Democratic Senator Thomas P.) “Tip” O'Neill's son who wrote an Op-Ed in The Boston Globe saying this ~ from Boston College itself is that: This is unbalanced. The Brits are only going for Republicans. Why aren't they going for Prods?

Of course, that was an invitation just to do precisely that in order to balance it up and then therefore silence this bit of criticism from that section of Irish-America, which considers such things important, which is that element, the sort of SDLP ~ now-the-Sinn-Féin-supporting part of Irish-America. It's a deeply cynical move against a man who's dying done purely for the optics ~ it's disgusting. And as all of this is happening we are being told in startling and scary detail about the extent to which the British state was colluding, colluding with gunmen; turning blind eyes to using informers to kill innocent people … to kill Republicans - none of this is being investigated and being followed-up by the authorities. There will be no prosecutions ~ there will be no trials of these people. So it's the same old story. It's as if the peace process never happened.
SB:  Ed, I want to come back to Ivor Bell for a moment.  

EM: Yeah. 

SB: Now, from what I read in the papers, which is all we really know, they're only moving to a preliminary hearing and they said they need six weeks to prepare for this preliminary... 

EM:  Well, one of the...
SB:  Sorry?... 

EM: (scoffs) the next hearing is to set the date for the preliminary inquiry! And the preliminary inquiry is like only providing the evidence to the other side, essentially. So we're not even at that stage ~ it's ludicrous! You know some people are saying to me that if there is a trial ~ and I have my doubts that there will be one ~ but let's say there will be a trial,  it's going to be maybe 2017 before it happens which is absurd and disgraceful! 

SB:  Ed, I've talked to a number of solicitors in The North who aren't involved in this case who told me flat out: this is never coming to trial ...

EM: Yeah Yeah 

SB: ... and everybody else thinks so, too.
EM:  Sorry, could you say that again, Sandy? 

SB:  I said I talked to a number of solicitors from The North who are not involved in this case and they said flat out: This case is never going to come to trial. 

EM:  Yeah, I mean I've heard that as well. The precedent that exists for using evidence of this sort is very, very thin indeed. And yes, you're right - a lot of solicitors, a lot of legal opinion is that this is nonsense. But you see I believe that the reason why this thing started in the first place was not to get a criminal prosecution at all. It was in order to get hold of the material and then hand the stuff over to the McConville family so they could then have a civil case which would drag Gerry Adams into court. That's the purpose of it. And it was done by former RUC elements who are now still working for the PSNI in the historical section and all of them have been identified by Amnesty, that's Amnesty International, and the whole thing is a damned disgrace! 

JM:  (station identification) ... And we're speaking with Ed Moloney of, you could say, with the Boston tapes and trying to record, record the history of the forty years. Ed, during, during the week I went to see a play at BAM, a South African play about the truth and reconciliation committee and I was just shaking my head because it was about someone in the police forces of apartheid ~ they went out and killed a lot of people ~ being questioned by someone that supported the ANC. And what's going on now ~ even with the Boston tapes ~ is trying to deal with the past. and I was saying after the play there isn't a hope of having a truth and reconciliation committee in The Six Counties because first of all you have Gerry Adams who doesn't even admit he was in the IRA. You have the Loyalists who really don't believe they did anything wrong ~ on some level ~ and with the security forces ~ there'll be no arrests of MI5 agents or MI6 - that operated in The Six Counties. So it just seems like it's going to keep going over and repeating the past and talking and not dealing with the past like say maybe the South Africans did. 

EM:  Well yeah, but there's a major difference between South Africa and Northern Ireland. And that is that, in a very real sense, the ANC won and the Provos did not. I mean in the sense that they are, I mean they basically accepted the existence of Northern Ireland and the Principle of Consent and the police force and the Parliament and all that sort of stuff. It's as if ~ the equivalent would be if the ANC accepted apartheid rule. But they didn't ~ they overthrew apartheid rule so they were able to set up something like the Peace and Reconciliation Commission which, you know, by all accounts, didn't work terribly well anyway and it's certainly not going to and it's certainly not going to happen here. So I mean I think what you're going to get is prosecutions of this sort conveniently directed at people who are not supportive of the Adams strategy on the Republican side and ailing and largely irrelevant figures on the Loyalist side. and it's all about optics. And the hidden motive in terms of trying to discredit Gerry Adams on the part of old forces, like Special Branch and so on and so forth, you know. 

SB:  I want to come back for a minute to Winkie Rea from the Red Hand Commandos: Now at least with Ivor Bell they have said we want to try him for the killing of Jean McConville ~ whether or not he had anything to do with that is another question. But as far as I can read they're not even saying anything that specific about Winkie Rea.   

EM:  Well, no, no, first of all to be fair they have only just got hold of the interviews so they're at the stage they were at with someone like Ivor Bell in 2012 or something like that so they've got a long way to go yet. I presume they haven't even read the interviews yet or properly digested them. so that's a major difference between the two things, you know? 

SB:  But at least with Ivor Bell they said: you did an interview and we want to see if you said anything about Jean McConville. As far as I can tell, they're not saying even the equivalent of that with Winkie Rea. 

EM:  Oh, No...they just said, they just said we believe Winkie Rea was involved in this crime and that type of crime and the other type of crime and therefore hand the stuff over. And Boston College ~ and there's a story yet to be told about all of this but leave that for the time being ~ and Boston College just meekly obliged, they didn't challenge it in the courts, even though it was actually just a fishing expedition on the part of the PSNI ~ no resistance at all from Boston College ~ totally disgraceful! Absolutely appalling ~ the cowardice on the part of American academia. 

JM:  Ed, I just wanted to get into a little hypocrisy of Sinn Féin: You would have Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness saying: if you know of anything that happened in the past forty years go to the PSNI and tell them what you know ~whether there's bodies buried or who was killed. The Boston tapes come out with essentially people that went on tape and said: this is what I was responsible for - and then the slogans go up in Belfast ~ the hypocrisy about telling other people to go to the PSNI and when they tried to do it through the Boston tapes to explain what went on they're considered informers. But not the people that Sinn Féin are asking now to go to the police force. 

EM:  Well, yes but of course there's a qualitative difference between what sort of information Adams and McGuinness are expecting their people to give to the PSNI. You know, they will come up and say Gerry Adams was never in the IRA and I know 'cause I was there when he wasn't in it, you know. That's the type of information that they're really talking about. They're not suggesting to them that they go to the authorities or go to whoever and say: Listen, here's the real story of what happened to Joe Lynsky, or here's the real story of what happened to Kevin McKee, or here's the real story of what happened to Jean McConville ~ who were all “disappeared” by the IRA. Most certainly not - never mind here's the real story about what happened to Mountbatten, eh?  No. That's not what they're looking for.  It's just optics and they don't mean it anyway ~ it's for journalists to write down a report and for people to read it in the papers and believe it if they want to. 

SB:  We've been talking to Ed Moloney, the author of Voices From the Grave and the Director of the Boston College oral history project. Ed, thank you very much for being with us. 

EM:  No problem. 

SB: And I'm afraid we're going to be back to you on this story again. 

EM:  Yes, I think you will. Okay, bye!

(ends time stamp ~ 49:35)


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