Researchers Weigh In On Belfast Project Legal Drama
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
“Clearly from the outset, the concern of people who were going to be involved from the interviewing point of view was the security and safety of the archives,” Moloney said. In a meeting between Moloney, McIntyre, and O’Neill that occurred in downtown Belfast at the start of the project, Moloney emphasized that the two were promised confidentiality.
“Essentially, the outcome of that meeting was that this project would not get underway unless Burns Library could be absolutely sure that the material was not in any sort of risk at all of being swallowed up by security people in one form or another, and that was the basis upon which we then moved forward,” Moloney said.
McArthur, whose interviews were not subpoenaed, argued the same in an e-mail with The Heights. In a separate meeting from that mentioned above, McArthur, “accompanied by someone with considerable influence” in the area where his research was to take place, also met with O’Neill.
“I was given, personally by the Burns Librarian, guarantees of confidentiality that were both unambiguous and unconditional,” McArthur wrote in an e-mail. “Every discussion I had with both the Burns Librarian and the [Executive] Director of Irish Programs centered on how the project was developing and on each occasion the issue of how confidentiality underpinned everything was discussed. It could not have been more clear in all discussions with BC staff that this project would never have been possible without the absolute guarantee of confidentiality which predicated the whole thing.”
In response to the promise of confidentiality, McArthur stated that he specifically asked about the possibility of a subpoena on behalf of the PSNI. “I was told categorically, and this is confirmed by the third person at the meeting, that BC had taken legal advice on this and the guarantee of confidentiality was iron clad; that there was no possible way this material could be accessed or used by anyone outside the terms of the donor agreement (i.e., death or consent),” McArthur wrote in an e-mail.
Moloney emphasized to a great extent the appearance of legitimacy on behalf of BC’s claims. “We were dealing with a prestigious college in North America, a college which had been very deeply involved in the Irish peace process,” Moloney said. “These were, from our point of view, all very honorable people, so we had no reason to doubt these assurances that we were given.”
“The interviewees were given a contract drawn up by Boston College that stated that they had the ultimate power of release,” McIntyre said in an interview.
On the other hand, Dunn stated that the University made no such promises, and in fact informed Moloney and McIntyre of the risk of subpoena and the danger such a situation could pose to the archives. He admitted that the language “to the extent that American law provides” was not found exactly in the donor agreement, but stated his belief that the contract was drawn up by Moloney, not BC.
“BC warned Moloney and McIntyre explicitly of the threat of a subpoena,” Dunn said. “However, BC could not extend the warning to the interviewees because we did not interview them, and we never met them.”
Moloney said that he and his two lead researchers proceeded with the project interviews on the basis of confidentiality.
Throughout the early 2000s, at least 24 interviews were conducted with former members of the IRA by McIntyre, who has a Ph.D. in the history of Irish Republicanism. Those involved in the project, including interviewees, were sworn to secrecy about the project’s existence and scope. When the interviews were completed, they were securely transported to Burns Library and locked away. The archives were undisturbed for nearly five years.
After the death of Hughes in 2008, Moloney authored a book, based partially on Hughes’ interviews with Belfast Project researchers, called Voices from the Grave, published in March of 2010. The book detailed Hughes’ experiences during the Troubles, and brought much attention to the Belfast Project in general. “The book was meant to be the unveiling of the archive, the announcement that it existed,” Moloney said. On the other hand, Dunn claimed that the University planned no such unveiling, and pointed out that Moloney was the sole person to profit monetarily from the book.
In 2010, Price gave an interview to a Belfast-based newspaper, The Irish News. At the time, she was under psychiatric treatment and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her experiences during the Irish hunger strikes and as an IRA member. The Irish News decided not to go forward with the story, but a Belfast tabloid, Sunday Life, wrote articles based on the interview.
Frustrated with Gerry Adams, an alleged former IRA member and current leader in the Irish republican political party Sinn Fein, and his denial of IRA membership, Price spoke critically of him in the interview. “During the same interview she also sensationally claimed Gerry Adams masterminded the disappearance of Jean [McConville] and three other IRA murder victims whose bodies have not yet been found,” the Feb. 21, 2010 edition of Sunday Life read.
From these interviews, it became known that Price participated in an interview with BC, and her comments to the Belfast publications regarding Adams’ involvement in McConville’s disappearance formed the basis of the subpoena of the tapes by the PSNI.
Dunn claimed that Moloney’s book, combined with Price’s interview, brought about the subpoena of the tapes.
“Mr. Moloney is not taking any responsibility for the subpoenas,” Dunn said. “He is trying to deflect blame from himself to BC when it is clear that his book and Dolours Price’s interview were the catalyst for the subpoenas.”
Moloney, however, disagreed with the existence of the subpoena from the beginning. “My argument from the get-go has always been that the subpoena was fraudulent and flawed, because no one knew what was in the Dolours Price interview except myself, Anthony McIntyre, Bob O’Neill, and Dolours herself,” Moloney said.