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Foot In The Mouth

June 16, 2011 by  

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre surely had their tongues protruding from their cheeks like gumboils when they claimed that they believed they could be killed if the interviews they carried out as part of the Boston College project were handed over to the British authorities. It is such nonsense and a very weak defence when there are better and more proper ethical and academic grounds for resisting the handover – not that Ed or Anthony, it seems, in their haste, properly warned participants that their confessions/boasts/toutings could be seized under subpoena.

I would be ashamed to make such a claim, and no one would believe that I believed I would face the threat of death, especially since I had not formerly balked at the prospect and had already profited from the slanders of one dead man against the living. Had a few more of the participants who Anthony interviewed had died, prior to the issuing of the subpoena, nothing would have prevented the fearless and courageous Ed from publishing Volume II of ‘Voices From The Grave’, just as he did with Volume I.

What I find incredible is that both Ed and Anthony were well aware of the dangers to the participants given that Ed covered a case against 14 republicans in 1978/1979, including myself, and that Anthony (who was in Long Kesh) would not have been unaware of the prosecution which received much publicity and was taken up by the National Union of Journalists. Indeed, Ed might even have been at the NUJ conference in Portrush which hosted a debate on freedom of speech and condemned our prosecution.

In 1977 Tom Hartley, then managing editor of the Republican News, entered into an agreement with an official in the Public Record Office on the understanding that archive material he was submitting (mostly press statements and the notebooks of those of us who wrote for and edited the paper) would not be released for thirty years. However, as the material came in through the front door, the RUC were seizing it and removing it through the backdoor. Once they had compiled what they believed to be damning evidence – in my case, my handwriting and fingerprints on telex messages carrying reports of IRA claims of responsibility – they arrested Republican News workers (as well as Sinn Fein advice centre workers), seized our photographic archive and office equipment, and charged us with conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and/or IRA membership. For good measure they arrested and charged and imprisoned the printer of the paper, Gary Kennedy of Ronan Press from Lurgan who was a member of the SDLP.

The case eventually fell apart and after some time on remand the charges were withdrawn in 1979.

Perhaps I am wrong and Ed was on extended holiday during this time and not writing for Hibernia and Anthony was doing no reading and talking to no one in Long Kesh.

Since ‘Voices From The Grave’ was published I have spoken to many republicans –some of whom do not support the politics of the peace process nor agree with Gerry Adams – who dispute many of the claims made by Brendan Hughes in regard to ‘D’ Company operations. If Ed or Anthony wishes to talk to them I can set up the meetings. Speaking to them would be more than Ed ever did when he chose to publish carte blanche claims of a man who was not in good health.

My involvement is quite minor. There is a claim in the book that my Uncle Harry, a former Chief of Staff of the IRA who was once sentenced to death, threw me out of his house in Dublin over the direction that Sinn Féin was taking. The incident never happened but it is there in black and white in Ed’s bookOn 30th April 2010 I wrote to Thomas Hachey at Boston College and his reply many weeks later was less than satisfactory and did not contain answers to my questions. Here are some extracts:

1. Could you explain to me what are the exact terms/conditions under which the tapes of Hughes and Ervine were/are to be made available to the public?

2. If there are conditions could you tell me who set them?

3. If there were/are legal concerns, what are they and who advised them? I shall come back to this particular question shortly.

4. Did Brendan Hughes and/or David Ervine specifically give permission for their voices on the tapes [as opposed to the narrative/content of the tapes] to be available for broadcasting in the media?

As I said, I am a writer and have written historical features and political commentary.

5. Can I have full access to the tapes of Brendan Hughes? If not, can you explain why?

6. Can you explain why in some cases there were redactions in Mr Moloney’s book from Brendan Hughes’ published reminiscences: that is, why incriminating actions were attributed to some named people whilst their alleged accomplices’ names were omitted – or had this nothing to do with Boston College and was solely Mr Moloney’s decision or, perhaps, the libel lawyers at Faber & Faber?

I ask this question because Boston College is vulnerable on the issue of academic professionalism and excellence. What if the claims about individuals “who can’t be named for legal reasons” is actually a stratagem, a camouflage, to hide incredulous allegations, inconsistencies or lies that can be verified as such if published in full?

The book has been widely reviewed in Irish newspapers, on television and radio, and some of the people named have been asked to comment on allegations, principally those made by Brendan Hughes. In the wake of the book’s publication some victims of the IRA have also called for individuals named in the book to be arrested and prosecuted – though, obviously, they cannot call for unnamed individuals to be arrested and prosecuted which is why I asked about the criteria for naming and not naming people and whether Boston College was part of that decision and bears any liability for the decision to name.

In his review of the book in the ‘Irish Times’ Professor Richard English, Professor of Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, and himself a published author on the history of the IRA, noted, “far more could have been done to test the claims of Ervine and Hughes against sources reflecting very different perspectives”.

There are about a dozen references to myself in the book. Neither the named researcher, Anthony McIntyre (who interviewed me for his doctorate), nor the author, Mr Moloney (who has also interviewed me dozens of times), asked me to respond to any of the allegations Hughes made against me.

For example, on page 275 of the book Mr Moloney quotes Brendan Hughes as saying: “People like Harry White began to have doubts. Harry actually threw Danny Morrison out of his house and Harry White is his uncle.”

This is in reference to the fact that Harry, my mother’s brother, disagreed with the political direction of the Republican Movement in the 1980s. That much is true but we remained the best of friends and I continued to stay in his house in Dublin until his death in 1989. This blatant lie, which came completely out of the blue, has caused our family and me, hurt and anger.

7. Was it the intention of the Boston College for this archive to be used in this way?

8. Is this the use that the late Professor Adele Dalsimer, co-founder and co-director of the Irish Studies Program, had in mind – for I doubt it?

Mr Moloney’s book is full of such examples of attacks on people who won’t sue because of the prohibitive costs or people who wouldn’t succeed in our courts because they have prison convictions.

Here is what the respected author and historian Tim Pat Coogan had to say about the book in his review in the ‘Irish Independent’:

“Moloney’s introduction says that the interviewers for the programme’s archive have followed the example of the Irish Bureau of Military History, which collected statements from War of Independence veterans.

“But the Bureau programme was purely a historical record. It safeguarded the living by guaranteeing no publication until the last interviewee to receive a military pension had died…

“Moloney does not indicate that both himself, and McIntyre, an ex-IRA prisoner and blanketman, are two of Gerry Adams’s most prominent and relentless critics…

“This book then is no mere academic exercise.

“Based on the words of a dead man, it constitutes a journalistic hand grenade hurled into contemporary Six County politics, which, compounded by the effects of the abuse scandal, has been damaging to Gerry Adams and brought glee to his opponents.”

9. Why should Mr. Moloney have exclusive access to all of this and editorial control over what is put into the public domain?

10. Can you tell me how much Boston College paid Anthony McIntyre for his work on the archive?

11. Can you tell me how much Boston College paid Ed Moloney for his work on the archive?

12. Is it the case that Mr McIntyre & Mr Moloney have exclusive access to the tapes?

I ask this question because Mr Moloney has publicly announced that he is working on an imminent television documentary for RTE, the national broadcaster in Ireland, and that he intends playing excerpts of Brendan Hughes’ voice, that is parts of the actual original recordings.

This is of major concern to me and, presumably, many others, including many I have spoken to who have been named in the book in unflattering or incriminating terms but who were never offered the opportunity of rebuttal by Mr Moloney. Sources, to paraphrase Professor Richard English, who hold very different perspectives to Brendan Hughes but against whom Brendan Hughes’ claims were never tested.

13. Do you agree with me that the access to the tapes given to Mr Moloney should be afforded to every living individual referred to in his publication where these references arise from your archive? For example, the extracts used from the tapes are selective. There may be inconsistencies elsewhere. There may also be parts of the tapes that were not published because they are favourable to the individuals being attacked.

I am specifically requesting that I receive copies of all tapes as soon as possible and in advance of broadcast of the television programme referred to; or, indeed, in advance of any further public expression of the contents of these tapes in whole or in part.

Finally, I was very surprised and disappointed at Boston College’s involvement in the commercialisation of a project which flies wholly in the face of all concepts of natural justice and which has seriously tarnished what was envisaged as a valuable oral historical archive. I would respectively suggest that a serious and fundamental review of the project is necessary.


Thomas Hachey replied: “The oral history project at Boston College was undertaken with the school’s modest financial assistance as a scholarly project. As such, it is retained in the Burns Library’s archival repository where it can be accessed by scholars and students of the period who make prior application though that Library. Such individuals are given access to the reading room facility for their review and/or research under the conditions set by the Library.”

What is remarkable about this reply is that it would suggest that the British authorities under academic guise can send someone in to listen to the Hughes/Irvine tapes in full.

The librarian, Justine Sundaram, also replied with an answer implying that Ed Moloney’s use of the material is exclusive, more privileged than the public’s : “The transcripts of the Hughes and Ervine interviews are available for use here in the Burns Library Reading Room. No copies may be made from these transcripts.”

No copies may be made? Oooom.

In August 2010 I received another email from the College from Burns Librarian, Robert O’Neill stating: “While Boston College owns the copyright to both the tapes and the transcripts for the Hughes and Ervine interviews, the Burns Library reserves the right to restrict the copying of these materials because of the sensitive nature of their content.  Users at Burns are advised that the publication of certain material may expose them to libel action, and they are required to sign a statement acknowledging such. You would be able to access the transcripts at Burns under the same rules that apply to any scholar. Mr. Moloney was the Project Director for the Oral History Project.”

So, there you have it – a major mess and a major contradiction, with people who in my opinion stupidly gave interviews, in which they have presumably incriminated themselves (but some with the objective of incriminating others!), now open to potential arrest and possible prosecution or exposure as telltales in the eyes of their friends and family.

Talking about shooting yourself in the foot – though the pathetic, incredulous defence of the authors is that if any more gets out they might get shot in the mouth, which is where exactly their foot is.

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June 10, 2011 by  

Finished ‘Pornografia’ by Witold Gombrowicz (pictured, front page) and it will be a long time before I read one of his novels again. He, himself, is a character in the book and there is nothing impressive or provocative or memorable about the boring story of two middle-aged men in wartime Poland voyeuristically scheming to bring two 16-year-olds together, and a parallel story of the underground execution of a partisan who has lost the stomach for war. Can’t understand the praise for his writing – among whom a chief proponent of which is that other bluffer, Milan Kundera. (Can’t help it! What is life if we don’t have opinions!)

Did an interview with Julie McCullough of BBC TV Northern Ireland, looking back at ‘Ulster ’71’, which I visited in Botanic Gardens one very wet Friday afternoon in late May 1971 and appeared to me as ‘Twelfth Lite’. It goes out on Monday week.

3rd June. Finished ‘Wolf Among Wolves’ by Hans Fallada. It was a long read at 800 pages and I felt that it wobbled towards the end. I think I was expecting something different.

1st June. Seanna Walsh, Mary Doyle and I spoke at a hunger strike meeting in a hotel in Letterkenny. Good turnout.

30th May. Wrote a small feature for the ‘Donegal Daily’, advertising a hunger strike meeting I would be speaking at.

22nd May. Did a BBC Sunday Sequence interview from RTE in Dublin re the Queen’s visit.

21st May. Spoke, along with Bik McFarlane, at an event in the Irish Film Institute, Dublin, on ‘The Legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike’. It was chaired by historian, Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, who was very impressive, even though he looks like an extra from the film, ‘Snatch’. The discussion explored the legacy of the hunger strikes from varying political, social and cultural perspectives. Speakers included NCAD Director, Declan MacGonagle; liberal unionist Jeffrey Dudgeon; and a filmmaker whose names escapes me, even though he helped make the film, ‘H3’, and described the trouble he went through to see it finished.

19th May. Finished the design on a new poster, an Irish translation by poet Gabriel Rosenstock of Bobby Sands’ ‘The Rhythm of Time’.

18th May. Participated in Radio Ulster’s ‘Talkback’ as a guest of Wendy Austin with Alex Kane and Patricia McBride on the visit of the British Queen to the Republic of Ireland.

Interviewed by research student Thomas Leahy, King’s College, London, whose MA is about ‘the use of informers and agents against the IRA from 1969 to 1998’ and whether ‘informers contained and restrained the Republican Movement’.

17th May. Was part of panel discussion at Queen’s University on the subject, ‘Reflections: Political Imprisonment in Ireland (1970-2000).

Published a piece on my website about the Queen’s visit to the Irish Republic, titled, ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheep’.