Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun
Must separate Constance from the nun
Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!
– Sir Walter Scott, Marmion
My apologies first to regular followers of this blog for the recent inactivity which I soon hope to correct. I was on a trip to Ireland – for work purposes but it was also my first substantial solo journey, and therefore road test, since my broken elbow thankfully began to heal (take a bow Hospital for Special Surgery!) – and that along with the busy aftermath back in New York has kept me away from the WordPress keyboard.
I have therefore had no opportunity to respond to Irish News’ editor, Noel Doran’s reply to my most recent broadside dealing with the disgraceful role his correspondent Rebekah…..sorry, Allison Morris played in the events which led to the US government slapping subpoenas on Boston College (BC) on behalf of the PSNI in Belfast. Just to remind readers it is my – our – unshakable belief that this affair of the BC subpoenas began when Morris passed on a tape recorded interview she had with former IRA activist Dolours Price in February 2010 to a character called Ciaran Barnes, a reporter on the Belfast Sunday Life tabloid who used the material from the interview for a lurid article about Dolours Price’s alleged role in ‘disappearing’ IRA victims in the early 1970‘s.
Barnes wrote the story in such a way as to make it appear he had been given access to BC archive and that the information in his article had come from interviews she gave the college and not from Morris’ tape. Only one copy of each BC interview exists and they are held under conditions of great security in Boston and no-one, aside from myself, the researcher and a small group of people at the college know what she said in those interviews.
Fast forward some fourteen months and Barnes’ false, misleading claim allowed the PSNI to pursue BC and to con the US Department of Justice into seeking Dolours Price’s interviews and doing the work they themselves should have done back in Belfast more than a year earlier, i.e. get their hands on Morris’ tape.
The US authorities in turn cited Barnes’ “access” to the BC archive (see page 4) to justify the subpoenas, a claim that has no merit whatsoever because Barnes got nowhere near the archive and never would have. I mean just think about it. Boston College, one of the most prestigious & respected colleges in North America, has this super sensitive and costly archive of interviews with IRA veterans and suddenly, out of the blue gets the head staggers and allows Ciaran Barnes, a little known reporter in a small circulation paper better known for its garish exposes of Thai prostitutes peddling their trade in Belfast, entree to its secret inner sanctums? Is that really credible?
His article on Dolours Price was, we firmly believe, based on Allison Morris’ interview and the fiction of him having access to the archive in Boston was contrived by Barnes to hide his real source: Allison Morris’ tape. All this was used by the PSNI/US Department of Justice in a self-serving but fundamentally bogus way to vindicate their legal action. But the PSNI and DoJ could not have done this had Morris & Barnes not made it possible.
In other words a legal action that could have incalculable consequences was, we maintain, brought about by a piece of shameful journalistic chicanery that is, as I have said before, on a par with the Murdoch hacking scandal in the way that in both instances the journalists involved treated their sources with contempt, betraying their trust in the pursuit of lurid headlines and the dubious glory that comes with them.
I first went public with all this in an interview on TheWildGeese.com website, Noel Doran responded and then I answered. His reply to my reply can be read here and there are links to other pieces on this site which readers can follow up if they have the requisite interest and energy.
In his final reply Noel Doran seems besotted with my failure to ring him up to ask for his version of the story, that this was somehow a journalistic failure on my part. In an earlier reply to this complaint I tried to explain why this was not an appropriate course of action by making a comparison with one of Herman Cain’s more lurid recent sex scandals. A woman comes forward to complain of an inappropriate advance by Cain made in the past. She clearly knows that whereof she speaks but according to Doran she really should have checked with Cain before going public. But she doesn’t because she knows the truth and she is not going to demean herself or cast doubt on her own credibility by doing anything but go public.
I knew, we knew, immediately we got our hands on the US Attorney’s plea to the Massachusetts court back last May and June that our suspicions about Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes were well-founded, that Barnes’ article was based on Morris’ tape recording not the BC archive. We already knew this because it could not have been otherwise but the US Attorney’s document was incontrovertible confirmation.
The woman propositioned by Herman Cain knew that when he pulled her head down to his crotch it was not to admire his new leather belt just as we knew that Barnes and Morris had contrived the Boston College fiction to cover the real source of the article, to wit Morris’ tape. Just as the woman in the Herman Cain story knew there was no point, no reason for double checking with Cain we knew, I knew, there was no point, no reason to ring Noel Doran. Would Herman Cain admit he was looking a blow job? Would Noel Doran admit his reporter had conspired with Ciaran Barnes to deceive and mislead?
Doran also said that I had given a “ludicrously flawed” account of telephone calls he had made to Dolours Price’s sister Marian. Well, as Noel Doran knows, Marian Price cannot adjudicate on this as she is being held on remand in Maghaberry jail and I would be content to leave this as it stands until she is able to give her side of the story.
But Doran missed the point I was making. I was not talking just about conversations between him and Marion Price but those that took place earlier, between members of the Price family, Allison Morris and, indirectly, Noel Doran on the day that Dolours was interviewed in her Dublin home. During these exchanges Morris was asked to leave Dolours Price’s home on the grounds that she was in no mental state to give a coherent interview (she was being treated at a Dublin psychiatric institution at the time) but Morris refused. Noel Doran has not dealt with these conversations or why it was or on whose instructions Morris refused to leave, and since I have a very good reason to know what was actually said and what happened that day, I can well understand why he has kept mum. We may return to this at a later date.
Doran complains that I split hairs over whether or not the Allison Morris piece that did appear in the Irish News in February 2010 – the article that was negotiated in those phone calls between Marian Price and Noel Doran in a deal that Morris subsequently betrayed – was an interview or not. I called it an interview, Doran said it was not, that it was “a factual report on important new developments”. So we did a bit more research and discovered that Doran’s own newspaper had described Morris’ article as “an interview”. This is important because the information in Morris’ article was clearly based on an interview with Dolours and the fact that there had actually been an interview was important to establish. Once we found evidence that the Irish News itself regarded the Allison Morris-Dolours Price conversation as “an interview” then that task had been accomplished. All that remained was to determine how that interview had been conducted.
What we did not yet know for certain was whether the interview had been tape-recorded. We were pretty sure it had but we needed confirmation and I will discuss below the significance of that.
When I wrote on the TheWildGeese.com I said this about the Allison Morris tape: “Whether the PSNI have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve”. That was pretty much a shot in the dark. I didn’t know with absolute certainty that there was a tape. Members of the Price family had told us there was but we lacked independent or authoritative confirmation and, like the woman pestered by Herman Cain, there was no way that we could trust anyone in the Irish News to tell the truth, no reason to phone Noel Doran, in fact a reason not to.
Now, courtesy of Noel Doran’s latest piece on TheWildGeese and his eagerness to score a point against me, we have that proof. He writes: “As I have pointed out, Moloney himself could have solved this ‘mystery’ through one simple telephone call. We would have been happy to tell him that PSNI detectives did attempt to obtain the Irish News tape (my emphasis) but were informed that we were no longer in possession of any such material.”
Thanks Noel. Now we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a tape, that Allison Morris tape-recorded her interview with Dolours Price. And why is this important? It is in fact a crucial piece of evidence because in his article in the Sunday Life, Ciaran Barnes wrote that he had heard a tape of Dolours Price confessing her part in the “disappearances” of 1972. We know for absolute certainty and can prove it, that Barnes did not have access to any of BC’s tapes and we also know that he did not interview Dolours Price himself. So if he listened to a tape it can only have been Allison Morris’ tape. There was no other tape. Remember as well that the Sunday Life report appeared just three days after Morris’s article appeared in the Irish News and that the two are long-time buddies. Conclusion: Allison Morris handed her tape to Barnes who concealed this by blaming BC. The subpoenas against BC are thus essentially spurious.
On the other hand if there really hadn’t been an Irish News tape or if we couldn’t prove it, then we would have been back to square one and the case against Allison Morris, Ciaran Barnes and the Irish News/Sunday Life would have been fatally undermined. But that concern has evaporated like snow on a ditch in May. As I say, thanks a bundle Noel!
(Incidentally Noel Doran neglected to mention that when the PSNI came to the Irish News looking for Allison Morris’ tape it was in June 2011, some fifteen months after the Irish News and Sunday Life articles had appeared. The PSNI visit to Noel Doran’s office came only after BC’s lawyers had highlighted, in a submission to the Massachusetts court, their failure to probe those two newspapers. All this highlights a fundamental flaw in the treaty that permits such cross-border, transnational subpoenas that should be of concern to American jurists, politicians and citizens, especially those with any concern for the Fourth Amendment: the US courts are being asked to do the work the PSNI were either too lazy or incompetent to do themselves.)
In my final TheWIldGeese.com article I pointed out that since Ciaran Barnes had had no contact with anyone associated with BC and the paramilitary oral history project before he wrote his piece on Dolours Price (or since), he could not have known from us that she had given an interview to the college. After all this was highly secret information which evidently Dolours had passed on to Allison Morris. Morris’ intense interest in the BC archive in 2010 is a matter of record (not least in her reportage in the Irish News during the weeks before Voices From The Grave was published) and it would have been astonishing if she had not asked Dolours Price if she had taken part in the project.
It was evident from what Barnes wrote that someone had told him – but it was definitely not us nor Dolours since she had not spoken to him either. I went on to say that the only possible source for this information was Allison Morris. Yet both her failure and that of Noel Doran to deny this was truly damning. Had they not told Barnes, the suggestion that they had would have jumped out at them and they would have indignantly & loudly shouted out their innocence, denying any part in this part of the story. But they didn’t. And like the dog that didn’t bark their silence was damning.
That’s the problem with cover ups. They get so convoluted, intricate and tangled that you forget what you should say and what you shouldn’t say, what you have said and what you haven’t said and invariably you screw up. That’s twice now that Noel Doran has done just that. As far as this story is concerned he might be better from now on keeping the lid of his computer firmly closed.