The real truth about the Boston College taped IRA interviews

Gerry Adams (Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland)
There is clear evidence that journalist Ed Moloney and researcher Anthony McIntyre knew full well before the Boston College IRA project began that they could not guarantee confidentiality or legal indemnity to the IRA members who participated in the oral history project.

Moloney and McIntyre are now trying to sue to stop the tapes from being handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland after a Boston judge found that Boston College had to surrender the interviews.

The judge found that they may contain information that police in Northern Ireland want to follow up with regarding crimes committed by the IRA.

McIntyre is on the record as saying that they had complete certainty from Boston College that the interview participants, all former IRA members or Loyalist members, had indemnity.
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Here is what McIntyre told a radio interviewer: “The assurances from Boston College were very firm."

“In 2000, when the project was first mentioned, I asked specifically, what would be the arrangements?

“I was told by the Boston College representative, whom I met in Belfast, that under no circumstances would they accept archival material into their library to form part of their archive if there was any possibility, the remotest possibility, of legal repercussions, for those who had donated their interviews.

“And they were very specific about this. The Loyalist researcher also asked them the same thing. And he was told it was firewalled against any legal incursion from the British.

“[Q:] Did you have that in writing? Did you have legal assurances?

“[McIntyre:] We had a contract in writing, a Donation Agreement, which was given to the people concerned, the people who were doing the interviews, which explicitly stated that they, at all times, would be in control of the release of the information and only they, and no one else, could release it prior to the death.”

How then does this gel with a Boston College affidavit introduced in the court which directly denies this statement?

The affidavit states, "Prior to the commencement of the project, Robert K. O’Neill, the Burns librarian (where the tapes were to be housed) cautioned Moloney that although he had not spoken yet with Boston College’s counsel, the library could not guarantee the confidentiality of the interviews in the face of a court order.”

Here is a fax from O’Neill to Moloney sent in May of 2000:

“A further affidavit states . . . each interviewee of the project was to be given a contract guaranteeing confidentiality ‘to the extent that American law allows.’”
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And here is what Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College says:

“I think that our good friends in Ireland seem to lack a fundamental understanding of the American legal process. We fought the fight and the fight was lost. And our hope is that the second round of the fight may prove differently.

“I think what hasn’t been stated here is that when this agreement was reached, an agreement was signed between Boston College and Ed Moloney that stated that each interviewee is to be given a contract guaranteeing confidentiality to the extent that American law allows.

“That seems to be forgotten by Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Moloney. That they were told to tell the interviewees that the confidentiality would be given to the extent that American law allows…

“The (donation) agreement between Moloney and McIntyre is bound by an earlier agreement, Agreement ‘A,’ which states each interviewee is to be given a contract guaranteeing confidentiality to the extent American law allows.”

So Boston College is clear on that, and Moloney and McIntyre, either through legal inexperience or not checking properly, continued with the interviews on shaky legal grounds, which have now precipitated an almighty furor.

As I have written before, the Boston College project was deeply flawed form the start.

Both Moloney and McIntyre are arch critics of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and the only people interviewed were of the same opinion.

The lack of academic objectivity to begin with should have been clear to anyone who cared to check, as Boston College should have.

Now Moloney and McIntyre are defending the indefensible. They initiated a “Get Gerry Adams” project, roped in a gullible Boston College and it has now blown up in their faces.

Moloney and McIntyre can point the finger of blame not at Boston College or the courts but squarely where it belongs -- at themselves.

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