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Unearthing the past may endanger peace process

In light of the appealment of the Belfast Project case, The Heights supports Boston College’s stance

Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


Today, oral arguments will begin at the United States Court of Appeals in Boston in the latest legal case surrounding the Belfast Project, BC’s oral history project regarding the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
This particular case deals with the subpoena of seven interviews with former IRA members, conducted by Belfast Project researchers, that allegedly relate to the investigation of the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, an Irish woman killed in 1972. In court, BC will argue that the tapes have “limited probative value” in the investigation, and will attempt to keep the tapes out of the hands of British authorities. The Heights fully supports this decision by the University.
In an editorial published on Nov. 16, 2011, The Heights editorial board wrote, “The Belfast Agreement of 1998, which the U.S. worked to facilitate, assured that offenses that occurred during ‘the Troubles’ would not be reopened for trial … The office acted without regard for the agreement. Many basic questions, including the origination of the subpoena in Northern Ireland, were left unanswered as the subpoena was sealed. Considering the facts of the case, the U.S. and Northern Ireland officials appealed to by the activist groups should heed their concerns.”
In addition, in an editorial published on Jan. 18, 2012, The Heights editorial board wrote, “The Heights believes that releasing tapes unrelated to the murder of McConville would be a mistake, and would endanger the lives of those involved and the reputation of oral history as a whole. It is imperative that [Judge William G.] Young exercise extreme caution when reviewing the Belfast Project.”
We continue to stand by these opinions, and support the University’s appeal against the release of the seven subpoenaed tapes. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were a violent period of conflict that resulted in the deaths of thousands of men and women. The release of interviews relating to the Troubles risks reigniting old tensions and shattering the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. In addition, releasing tapes considered confidential by interviewees greatly threatens oral history as a whole, and may inhibit participation in such projects in the future.
While The Heights recognizes that the death of Jean McConville is a tragic event, the story of McConville is, unfortunately, not unique during the period. Thousands of people on both sides of the conflict were killed throughout the Troubles, and risking an entire peace process for merely a chance at finding the answer to one case appears irresponsible. After all, it remains unclear whether any of the tapes would provide answers to the questions being asked by McConville’s children, or whether testimony in the tapes could even be entered as evidence in a legal case.
In light of the threat that releasing the tapes poses to both Irish peace and oral history, The Heights truly believes that, in this case, the past should remain the past, and the seven Belfast Project interviews being appealed in this case should be kept under lock and key.

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Thu Sep 13 2012 03:54
Jean McConville's family deserve some consideration here.

One parallel case at the moment is that of Whitey Bulger. As you will know whilst smuggling weapons for the IRA Whitey engaged in several criminal activities. No one in America argued that Whitey's involvement in IRA business provided immunity from prosecution. The FBI seemed to provide cover for his activities, but when Whitey eventually turned up he was prosecuted. So it seems he was a "top echelon" informant while engaging in both IRA activity and criminal activity, none of which should take away from the rights of families to seek justice.

There are many similar cases in Northern Ireland at present.

Being involved in war does not absolve anyone from crimes they commit and if we argue the Northern Ireland conflict was a war, and I believe it was, then we need to examine some of the war crimes that went on, if only to ensure we don't repeat them.

I understand Irish America doesn't want to face up to their part in the North of Ireland. My belief is you got involved to thwart communism. Noble aim from your point of view but many death squads operated with near immunity over the years here. It emerged that several prolific shooters cooperated in one form or another with the intelligence services as agents. This narrative of brave and plucky natives taking on the might of the British Army is quite simplistic and untrue.

If you did wish to pressure for anything, at least you could pressure for a truth recovery process but the peace process is doomed without it.

Ask yourself this question, if someone raped or murdered your loved one would you ever let it lie to facilitate a 'peace process'?

And for whom does this process create peace anyway, certainly not for relatives denied truth about what happened to their loved ones.

I should point out I had relatives shot by loyalists and one killed apparently accidentally by the security forces and I doubt any investigation will ever truthfully look into any of that. But where we can find out what was really behind the taking of thousands of lives we should, no matter who took them.

It strikes me this extrapolation of consequences is self serving, when has long-term peace ever developed out of a tissue of lies?

This is about protecting interests, as usual.

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