Sunday World Joins Irish News In Race To The Bottom Over Rea Subpoena

“Bob Livingston told the New York Times that I was a bottom feeder. That’s true. But when I got down there, look what I found.” – Hustler publisher Larry Flynt on resignation of US House Speaker, Bob Livingston after Hustler exposed his extra-marital affairs during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

Just when you thought that Allison Morris’ “make-it-up-and-screw-the-facts” style of journalism could not be bettered – or should that be worsened? – along comes Richard Sullivan of The Sunday World with a story that comes straight from the ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ school of British/Irish tabloid sewage.

“Detectives Think ‘Winky’ Rea Paid £40,000 For Head Of Frankie Curry”, screamed the headline over a story about Rea’s court challenge to the PSNI’s effort to subpoena his interviews with the Boston College oral history archive. Notice that the headline is written in such a way that it suggests Rea wanted Curry’s actual head delivered to him, ISIS-style.

The story continued:

“…..detectives believe the  64-year-old, who is said to be in poor health, has detailed his alleged involvement in the killing as well as incriminating others. It is also thought his ‘confession’ reveals details of £40,000 in cash paid out to his killers.”

The only accurate part of that paragraph is the bit about Rea’s poor health. The rest, including I assume – or rather hope – the claim that detectives had fed this tripe to The Sunday World, can be filed away under the heading “Invented Stories”. Nonetheless, the PSNI should make their position clear: did this story come from its officers or not?

Winky

I have written the following email to the author of this garbage, one Richard Sullivan. We shall see what his response is:

Richard,
Winston ‘Winky’ Rea did not utter a single word in his interviews with Boston College (BC) about the demise of Frankie Curry. I know that because as the director of the project, it was part of my duties to read the interviews when they were recorded. You will have noticed, I hope, from my blog that I have written to the Irish News, whose reporter Allison Morris was the first to peddle this canard, pointing out their mistake and highlighting the fact that, like yourself, no-one bothered to ring me, the former director of the BC project to check out this story. My email is well known and my phone number would be as easy to obtain. Why on earth would you not take the simple precaution of talking to me first? Or do you just not care when you get stories wrong? I am now asking you formally to publish my correction and give it the same prominence as the original, flawed story. Thanking you in anticipation.

best regards

Ed Moloney

Irish News Refuses To Publish Letter Exposing Another Allison Morris Blooper

Regular readers of this blog will know that The Irish News reporter Allison Morris has figured more than once in these columns and usually not in the most flattering light. That had been because of her dishonest approach to the story of the Boston College oral history archive subpoenas, about which you can read here and here.

With the latest PSNI subpoena served on former Loyalist paramilitary Winston ‘Winky’ Rea, Allison was at it again in last Saturday’ Irish News with a story that was plucked either from the air or from a rather disagreeable part of her anatomy.

I reproduce the offending articles below but in summary Allison claimed that in his interviews with Boston College, ‘Winky’ had spilled the beans about the killing of renegade Loyalist Frankie Curry and because the murder happened after the Good Friday Agreement he would be liable for a lengthy prison term.

The timing of the article, saying that the PSNI would be pursuing this angle, was a critical part of the story. Rea’s lawyers were appearing in front of a judge the following Monday in an effort to persuade him that the PSNI was on a fishing expedition and here was a front page article linking him to a notorious murder which the judge in all likelihood would read.

Knowing that in fact Rea had not talked about this event at all I wrote a letter to the editor of The Irish News, Noel Doran correcting her account. Needless to say the letter has not been published but three paragraphs plucked from my letter, none of which address Ms Morris’ role in this affair, were added on to a news story today (Wednesday) about Winston Rea (see final Irish News piece below).

I reproduce the full letter below and serve notice on Mr Doran that this will not be the end of the matter.

Letter to the Editor
Dear Sir,
Last Saturday, February 7th, your correspondent Allison Morris wrote, and you published, an article claiming that Winston Rea, the alleged Loyalist leader, had spoken of the murder of Frankie Curry in interviews he gave to the Boston College oral history archive.

The effect of her article, published before Monday’s court hearing, was, arguably, to substantiate the Crown’s claim that the PSNI were investigating serious matters concerning Mr Rea and that this justified their efforts to obtain his interviews from Boston.

Ms Morris wrote: “A leading loyalist who made a taped confession as part of the controversial Boston College project has recorded details about the feud-related murder of bomb-maker Frankie Curry”.

And: “The Irish News understands that Rea openly discussed the internal process and build up that took place prior to Curry’s murder in his interview recorded almost 10 years ago.”

As the former director of the Boston College oral history project I am, like the interviewers, pledged never to reveal what interviewees said or spoke about in their interviews until the terms of their embargo have been fulfilled. But there is no bar on myself telling the world what is NOT in a person’s interview.

Accordingly, I can say with the utmost confidence, that not only does Mr Rea not discuss the late Mr Curry’s death in any way but his name does not even figure in his interviews.

I think I am entitled in these circumstances to query the bona fides of Allison Morris’ source for this fictional story, given the damage it has caused to Winston Rea. Can I suggest it is very possibly the same source who told Ms Morris’ close friend Ciaran Barnes back in 2010 that Dolours Price had discussed the disappearance of Jean McConville in her interview for the college archive, when she had not.

All Ms Morris had to do was pick up the phone or email and I would have happily confirmed all this for her. But she didn’t bother. After all, why let a few facts get in the way of a good story!

The attempt to obtain Winston Rea’s interviews, as will become clear with the passage of time, is nothing less than a cynical fishing expedition by the PSNI aimed at satisfying sectarian elements in the Irish-American community that they intend to balance their raid on IRA interviews at Boston College by bagging a ‘Prod’ in their net. Winston Rea is being pursued not in the interests of justice but to satisfy narrow political goals.

That, I suggest, more than disgracefully inaccurate speculation, should be the focus of your paper’s coverage of this topic.

Yours etc

Ed Moloney

New York, February 9th, 2015

serverserver (5)Irish News @ Winkie Rea

The ‘Monstrously Stupid’ PSNI

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Damning a Peacemaker

The otherwordly quality of the PSNI’s new “investigation” into Winston “Winkie” Rea is captured neatly this week in a sentence from this RTE story: “An international request for the tapes said police have information that Rea was a member of the Red Hand Commando whose interviews would assist investigations into those crimes.”

Good Lord! The police have information that Winston “Winkie” Rea was a member of the Red Hand Commando!

Keep this to yourself, but I also have information that Winston Rea was a member of the Red Hand Commando — it’s on Wikipedia, which goes so far as to say he was its leader. Someone rush this new information to the PSNI right away, so they can investigate it.

Similar information on the origins and leadership of this obscure organization can be found in no more than many dozens of books and articles published in the last twenty years.

When books and news stories specifically describe Winston Rea, they reveal a warrior who turned firmly against political violence — a peacemaker in a serious and lasting way, and the son-in-law of another warrior who came to renounce war. “Winkie is an example of those who fought the war and those who started and continued to build the peace,” a unionist political leader told the Belfast Telegraph this week.

Pursuing Rea as a criminal, the PSNI appears to have used his presence in peace talks against him. One of the accusations laid out against Rea in recent court proceedings is that he “met with former British Prime Minister John Major in 1996″ — in between the declaration of a loyalist ceasefire and the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement — proving that he was a member of a paramilitary organization because he had the standing to negotiate on behalf on one. He met with government officials to end a war, your honor, so we know he’s a thug.

Rea was also a regular presence in the Castle Buildings in April of 1998, and this article from 2000 described him as “a member of the PUP’s Good Friday Agreement negotiating team.” So maybe that can be held against him too, and eventually charged as another crime.

Having made peace, Rea has worked to keep it. “There have been significant attempts by former paramilitaries, including Winston Rea and Jackie McDonald, to deglamorize conflicts to young people as a means of reducing their vulnerability to involvement,” reads one account.

This is the person the PSNI is now supposedly pursuing as a criminal, decades later. It may be a course permitted under the law — but it’s monstrously stupid policy, and a political course that spits in the face of an entire generation of serious people who found a way to stop killing each other. It really is a picture from Northern Ireland you thought you’d never see.

Questions Of ‘The Utmost Gravity’ For The PSNI And Prosecution Service

Yesterday in the Belfast High Court, a lawyer for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told a judge that the police require access to interviews allegedly given to a Boston College oral history archive by a former Loyalist prisoner, Winston Rea, because they are investigating offences of “the utmost gravity”.

But so grave are these offences, so vital is it to the well-being of Northern Ireland that they be cleared up, that the PSNI have sat on their hands for almost three years, doing absolutely nothing about them even though they could easily have begun proceedings to acquire the interviews years ago.

Only recently, in the last few months has the PSNI made any move for Mr Rea’s alleged interviews. Why?

Winston Rea revealed his involvement in the Boston College archive in an interview with Brian Rowan, a journalist with The Belfast Telegraph on January 3rd, 2012. That is three years ago. The PSNI have had all that time to lodge a request with the US Department of Justice to obtain the interviews but they did not. Why not?

The PSNI only applied for Mr Rea’s interviews in September 2014, some two years and nine months after the Loyalist disclosed his involvement in the Boston project. They have had nearly three years in which to pursue Mr Rea but only now have they moved against him. Why?

And what has Mr Rea disclosed publicly about the content of his alleged interviews? He told The Belfast Telegraph simply that he wanted his interviews returned to him. So did another Loyalist, William ‘Plum’ Smith who was hiring a lawyer to request his own interviews back.

This is what Mr Rea told Brian Rowan:

“If the (Smith) test case wins it becomes a domino effect for others wishing to have their material returned to them. If I was asked to make a contribution to further student education projects, unfortunately I would have to seriously consider it.”

That is the sum of what Winston Rea has said publicly about his alleged interviews with the Boston Project. Nothing at all about their alleged contents. Nothing to suggest that he talked about offences of “the utmost gravity”.

The PSNI know no more about the contents of the interviews than what he said to The Belfast Telegraph; the PSNI know no more about the contents of the interviews than the average shopper on Royal Avenue. The attempt to obtain his interviews is simply a fishing expedition which threatens the integrity of the judicial process.

The PSNI action can be summarised thus: “Mr Rea has past form for Loyalist activity. He gave interviews. Ergo he must have talked about matters of the utmost gravity. Give us the interviews”. That is called a fishing expedition and that such a sordid tactic has been countenanced by the legal authorities in Northern Ireland is deeply, deeply disturbing. Should it succeed then alarm bells should ring loud and clear.

In a previous posting I suggested that the move against Winston Rea was nothing more than a cynical attempt to balance the pursuit of Republican interviews allegedly concerning the disappearing of Jean McConville with some Loyalist interviews. Mr Rea, having publicly disclosed his involvement and being the son-in-law of the late Gusty Spence was the ideal AND convenient candidate. The fact that he disclosed his involvement, and only that, is the reason why the PSNI are pursuing him.

Back in April of 2014, Thomas P O’Neill III, a son of the former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Trustee Associate of Boston College and a former member of the college’s Board of Trustees, wrote an op-ed for The Boston Globe in which he complained:

“….why, when both sides in the Troubles were guilty of so much wrongdoing, is the British prosecution seemingly intent on only pursuing crimes allegedly committed by only one side?”

Is this effort to obtain Winston Rea’s interview then, an attempt by the PSNI and by the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory to satisfy a complaint from the Irish-American establishment that the British are not being even-handed in their pursuit of Boston College’s archive, that if only they included a high profile Prod in their net everything would be fine? Is the judicial process to be manipulated in this sort of way for narrow political gain?

And if that is the case, what has Boston College’s role been in all this? Is it just a coincidence that one of their former Trustees made a complaint upon which the PSNI are now acting?

For reasons that I cannot discuss, I cannot disclose all that is happening in the background. But soon enough, I hope myself and others will be able to speak more freely. Watch this space!

How Did The Irish Times Miss The Story About The Workers Party’s ‘£1 Million Iraqi Arms & Heroin Deal’?

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that my most recent posting took a bit of a swipe at Danny Morrison, who had reached for his Twittering device a tad too quickly after reading his Irish Times and in the process made a bit of a fool of himself.

Danny had read a review in The Irish Times of a new book written by a UCC-based history professor, Jerome aan de Wiel called ‘East German Intelligence and Ireland, 1949-90′, in which the reviewer had taken a poke at myself for mistakenly alleging links between the East German spy outfit, the Stasi and the Provisional IRA. In a rather over-excited reaction Danny rushed on to the web to proclaim my downfall, somewhat prematurely as it turned out.

Knowing I had done no such thing, I complained to the publisher only to learn that the author had made no such allegation and had in fact pointed out that I had written in ‘A Secret History of the IRA’ that in the case of the Provos’ only supposed Marxist, Brian Keenan, claims that he had an association with the Stasi were unsupported by evidence. The claim otherwise had come only from the reviewer, one Derek Scally and at my insistence The Irish Times published a correction.

By way of an apology, the publisher’s most polite commissioner editor, Tony Mason sent me a copy of Prof. aan de Wiel’s book and it arrived yesterday. Last night I settled down to leaf through the index and to read passages that seemed interesting.

It didn’t take me too long to wonder what it takes these days to be a book reviewer for The Irish Times. It seems that a basic qualification appears to be a complete lack of news sense or a sharp eye for the politically acceptable slur.

Let me put it another way.

This book by Prof. aan de Wiel has some fascinating and historically valuable stories hidden between its covers and I thoroughly recommend it to readers of this blog.

But reading The Irish Times’ review, one is bound to wonder whether the reviewer ever read the whole book, whether he just did not want these stories given wider circulation for reasons I can only guess at, or whether he just wanted to engage in a bit of Ed Moloney-bashing.

Because as stories go, believe me, my alleged failings are in the ha’penny place compared what Prof. aan de Wiel has managed to uncover.

Here’s a story that I found on page 80 and I know that if I was a reviewer I would be highlighting this in my piece, along with another gem of a story that I will describe on another day.

First a bit of background. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist left in Ireland was represented by the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) on the one hand, and the Workers Party (or its various other manifestations) on the other.

The two were in often vicious competition for the affections of the two biggies in the Communist world, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the Communist Party in its powerful neighbour, East Germany which was known as the SED, or Socialist Unity Party of Germany.

Because the Workers Party (WP) was growing in electoral strength – it eventually mustered seven deputies in Dail Eireann – and the CPI could hardly gather more than 500 votes, the CPSU favoured the WP over the CPI. That was important because it meant the WP were invited to all the conferences in Moscow, got up there on the platform with the party luminaries and had access to all that Moscow gold (and more as we shall see another day!).

The SED however seemed to still have a soft spot for the CPI and continued giving it a hearing, much to the WP’s undoubted irritation.

So, as you might expect, the rivalry between the CPI and the WP could get hot and heavy. While I would not want to be on the receiving end of WP hostility (they were people not averse to trying to get Loyalists to kill you and in my case nearly did), I have to say that the following account shows that the CPI were no slouches either.

Now, I have no idea whether the allegations made by the CPI are true or not. But I will say two things. One is that Prof. aan de Wiel gives them house room for compelling reasons that he explains at the end of the paragraph (the East Germans also took it all very seriously and kept some distance from the WP thereafter); the second is that, right or wrong, the story is damned sight more interesting and relevant from a reviewer’s viewpoint than any alleged blunders made by someone like myself.

Anyway here is the extract from the book. These events happened in 1986, by the way. Enjoy. I know I did.

sticks1So the question must be asked: why did The Irish Times not even mention this story? In 1986 the Workers Party was on the eve of its best every electoral performance while heroin addiction was at record levels in places like Dublin. Within a few years some of its leading members would join the Irish Labour party and are now in government. Did any of them know about this arrangement? Was it true? Shouldn’t The Irish Times at least be asking the question?

Nice Try Danny Morrison, Better Luck Next Time

Followers of Danny Morrison’s Twitter feed received the message below on January 16th and those of them who are his fans were probably delighted to read it. Here it is:

MorrisonLife being too short as it is I am not on Danny’s Twitter list so I am grateful to a friend for alerting me to this message and sending me a copy.

Danny Morrison

Danny Morrison

Danny was excited over a review in the Irish Times of a recently published academic tome examining the relations between the East German intelligence service, the Stasi and Ireland between the foundation of the GDR in 1949 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. The book, published by Manchester University Press, was written by Jerome aan de Wiel and retails for an eye-watering £63.

The book is based on an examination of some 6,000 documents – what Mr aan de Wiel terms ‘surviving’ documents – retrieved from the Stasi’s files in East Berlin.

The reviewer, one Derek Scally, had this to write inter alia, much to Danny’s glee:

But what of the shadowy contacts between Belfast and East Berlin that pop up in many standard works on the Troubles? According to aan de Wiel, many of these works, such as Ed Moloney’s history of the IRA, make claims that are not backed up with evidence.

Danny Morrison as a callow youth - looks like a mug shot to me but an interesting one

Danny Morrison as a callow youth – looks like a mug shot to me but an interesting one

The comment angered me, needless to say, but it was also puzzling. As the friend who alerted me to the Morrison comment pointed out I never made any connections at all between the IRA and the Stasi in ‘A Secret History of the IRA’ (not ‘a history of the IRA’ as Scally called it).

I wrote to the publisher to complain and received back a very polite email containing a copy of a message the author had sent to the publisher in response to my complaint. It began, tellingly:

I have never said anything about Ed Moloney, and in fact was very careful about what I wrote.

And he quoted the relevant passage from his book:

In his impressive history of the IRA, Ed Moloney writes that PIRA (Provisional IRA) member Brian Keenan was said to have contacts with the East bloc, especially with the Stasi, but that concrete evidence to support this is not forthcoming. Keenan was often described as the tough Marxist within the IRA. As Moloney points out it was in fact the OIRA (Official IRA) that got support from the Soviet Union and the East bloc.

It is in fact the supposed links between the Stasi and the Officials which Mr aan de Wiel says is not supported by those ‘surviving’ Stasi papers; nothing to do with the Provisionals at all. But in his eagerness to take a swipe at myself the bold Danny either didn’t check or didn’t care. I suspect the latter.

Even so, Mr aan de Wiel adds an important qualification:

An important point must be emphasised though. This is not to say that it is absolutely certain that the Stasi did not do it, (i.e. supply the Officials with guns etc) but based on the evidence of the surviving written material it simply cannot be proved.

I would add my own qualification, based on my knowledge of said Officials, and that is to explore further the meaning of the word ‘surviving’ as in ‘surviving documents’.

Or, to put it another way, I would dearly like to get a glimpse at the airline manifests of incoming passengers at the airports in Berlin in the days immediately following the fall of the Wall, especially those whose airport of origin was either Dublin or Belfast and whose addresses were either in Gardner Place or the lower Falls Road, especially Cyprus Street.

Manchester University Press’ helpful commissioning editor, Tony Mason had this to say in his email to me:

From what Jerome has said below and from my reading of the relevant passages, this strikes me as incorrect quoting from the book by Derek Scally in his review in The Irish Times rather than anything wrong that Jerome has said. We may ask Jerome to ask The Irish Times to print a correction to this.

I don’t know if Mr aan de Wiel asked for a correction, but I did. Here it is:

ITimesSorry about that Danny.

Sinead O’Connor & Sinn Fein – Whatever Happened To That?

Remember Sinead O’Connor joining Sinn Fein and asking for a meeting with Gerry Adams? To discuss, ‘the creation of a new country’ and ‘a private matter’. That was back in mid-December. More than a month ago? Have any of Ireland’s journos bothered to follow up on that, or has the story just disappeared into the mystic, or down the drain like the dregs from the last pint of Guinness? Have they just plain forgotten and moved on to the next fleeting story? And what was ‘the private matter’? I’d like to know. Wouldn’t you?

sineadGerry-Adams.-007