This Week with Fran McNulty
RTE Radio 1
RTE Radio 1
27 January 2013
Fran McNulty (FM) interviews via telephone Ed Moloney (EM) and Anthony McIntyre (AM), the Director and Lead Researcher respectively of The Belfast Project, an oral history of the Northern Ireland conflict archived at Boston College. They discuss how the untimely death of former IRA Volunteer Dolours Price will affect the release of Ms Price’s interviews which are presently under subpoena by the PSNI.
FM: This week Dolours Price died. Convicted in connection with the 1973 Old Bailey bombing she’s been described as a veteran Republican. But to many she’s perhaps best known as the woman who claimed Gerry Adams was Officer Commanding of the IRA. The late Dolours Price is also the woman who told her story to the Boston College Belfast Project, an archived interview that wasn’t due to be released until after her death. The college holds a number of interviews with active Republican and Loyalist figures during The Troubles. But British authorities sought to have the interviews handed over and the matter was subject to Supreme Court proceedings in the US. Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, the two men who were central to the project, have been attempting to block the release. I’ve been speaking to both of them and first asked Anthony McIntyre is there any reason now he couldn’t tell people what Dolours Price said to him during her interview?
AM: Well there’s every reason. Primarily the reason that these interviews were carried out (was) for the benefit of society, to try and enhance societal understanding in an environment whereby people would not subject to prosecution; either the people who made the interview or the people referred to in the interview. And as we are now aware the police, the British police in The North, have been trying to seize these tapes for the purposes of prosecution and that would be a complete negation of the ethos of the project and for that reason I will not be discussing what Dolours Price said to me.
FM: I read an affidavit you submitted to the Supreme Court and in it you expressed concern about Dolours Price and her health. You spoke about her depression and you expressed reservation and concern about the impact of the court action to have the interviews turned over. When you heard about her death this week what did you think?
AM: I was obviously very saddened by her death and shocked even though I knew she was having serious psychological difficulties for some time. You just get into a feeling that people are going to be around forever and then when they die so unexpectedly it is shocking. And I do not know the circumstances of her death other than natural causes and there was a toxicology report that was to be carried out prior to the releasing of her body. But I do believe that Dolours was suffering serious depression and she was very concerned about these tapes getting handed over. Her whole purpose was to assist a better understanding and not to be prosecuted and hounded in the closing years of her life; she was moving into the last decade of her life if we regard a sort of the three score and ten standard. I cannot rule out the impact on her psychological health that this whole process has led to.
FM: Ed Moloney in New York: Anthony McIntyre has said quite clearly he feels the interviews should not be released. I think it’s fair to say from the statement you released jointly during the week you feel the same. But isn’t it a bit much, Ed, given the fact you always knew there would be consequences as a result of interviews coming out after the death of these people?
EM: I’m sorry I don’t understand your question because the situation relating to these interviews is very simple. This was a very serious academic, scholarly and journalistic exercise. The idea, as Anthony has said, was to record interviews which would shed light on the motives and lifestyles of people who got involved in this most traumatic chapter in Irish history. And there seems to be an assumption on the part of a lot of people that as soon as someone dies we are obliged to post these interviews up in the shoppe window for people to gawk at. That is not the situation at all. In fact, just as these subpoenas were being served back in the Spring of 2011 I had started conversations with Boston College to try to draw up rules governing access. And these rules we had already outlined were going to be very strict indeed. So the idea that someone died so immediately gawkers can come and look at this stuff is totally wrong…
FM: You call them gawkers but you yourself were involved in the publication of a title surrounding the Brendan Hughes interviews. So what does that make you?
EM: But that’s an entirely different situation from what we’re talking about. When Brendan Hughes gave his interviews to Boston College, as Anthony will I’m sure confirm here, his initial request was actually that the interviews be published while he was alive and clearly that was something that we just couldn’t go along with.So the arrangement that was made with Brendan Hughes was that as soon as he died, and I think he knew that he didn’t have much longer to go when he gave these interviews, that we would make every effort possible to publish these interviews. So in a sense publishing his interviews was a part of the condition of him giving the interviews. Therefore that was a very special case. Other people have died you know who were involved in this archive that people don’t know about. We haven’t published those interviews.
FM: In relation to the Supreme Court Stay that is in place: if somebody goes before the Supreme Court in the United States in the next few weeks and makes the case that Dolours Price is now dead and they should be released and the Supreme Court agrees with that have you any course of action left to you? Is there anything you can do to stop that?
EM: I think then the issue becomes a very political one. You know, John Kerry has just been appointed as Secretary of State. When he was head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate he was very exercised about these interviews being handed over. He was very conscious of the dangers that these interviews could pose to the stability of the peace process. And he wrote to Hillary Clinton asking her to put pressure on the British to revoke these subpoenas. And my understanding is that that is still his view. So if the Supreme Court does rule against us there remains still the very strong possibility that this issue then enters the Obama Administration as a political issue. And that means that we’re very far from the sort of resolution that a lot of people I think are both expecting, and maybe in some cases, hoping for.
FM: I should say that we contacted the new Secretary of State’s office this week for comment but they weren’t willing to make any comment at all on this particular issue. In conclusion – Anthony McIntyre to you in Drogheda: we spoke before about this issue and about the interviews that are left in the archive – there was mention about possibly destroying them because it was simply unraveling out of control. If that, as I said to Ed, that situation emerges whereby you don’t succeed in your Supreme Court action, the documents are handed over, are you still of the mindset or still of the view that destruction of this valuable archive should be considered?
AM: Absolutely! I think any academic or journalist has an ethical imperative working under an ethical obligation to ensure that anything they collect will not be used for the purposes of harm to the people who helped in the construction of the archive. One of the guiding imperatives of every academic and researcher is that no harm should occur to the person who participates in an academic project.
FM: Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney speaking earlier.