Gerry Adams And The Belfast Project – A Statement In Response

In the past few days a concerted attack has been made on the integrity of the Belfast Oral History Project, led by the leadership of Sinn Fein, in which the claim has been made that this was a ‘Get Gerry Adams’ enterprise designed to embarrass and discomfort Mr Adams.

I wish to refute this allegation in the strongest possible terms. It is a slur on my professional integrity as a journalist of over thirty years standing who has covered nearly every aspect and participant in the Troubles. It is a slur on the professionalism and detachment with which I know the lead IRA researcher Dr Anthony McIntyre approached his work interviewing the participants.

One simple reality has been overlooked. Mr Adams does not know what he is talking about. There were over 200 interviews from 26 participants housed in the Boston College archive and Mr Adams has not read them, does not know their full content and aside from two or three names that are in the public domain, does not know who was interviewed. He speaks from a position of almost complete ignorance about the archive.

Only one other person aside from myself and Dr McIntyre has read the full archive from beginning to end. That was Judge William Young who presided over the first hearing dealing with Boston College’s attempt to get the British subpoenas dismissed at the Federal District Court in Boston in December-January 2011/2012.

This is what he said about the archive: “This was a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit.”

And he went on: “[These materials] are of interest – valid academic interest. They’re of interest to the historian, sociologist, the student of religion, the student of youth movements, academics who are interested in insurgency and counterinsurgency, in terrorism and counterterrorism. They’re of interest to those who study the history of religions.”

So how does one reconcile Mr Adams’ wild and unsubstantiated accusations based on almost complete ignorance of the archive’s contents with the opinion of a disinterested American judge who has actually read the entire archive? I don’t think it is possible to do so.

Judge Young was obliged to read the archive because of an extraordinary claim from Boston College that its academics could not help him decide which interviews were responsive to the subpoena because they had not read it.

So the judge spent the Chistmas holidays reading the interviews to decide which ones should be handed over. In his judgement, which has been reproduced elsewhere on this blog. Judge Young could find only one interview that was fully responsive, i.e. that dealt directly with what had allegedly happened to Jean McConville.

Another ten or so interviews made some reference to her and because the British had asked the American courts to be “expansive” in their approach to the subpoena request he decided to also hand these over. This meant that even if an interviewee had said, “I don’t really know much about Jean McConville other than what I have read in the papers”, then that interview had to be surrendered.

Out of over 180 interviews that he read only eleven met Judge Young’s generous criteria for surrender. That is just under six per cent of the interviews reviewed by the judge. At one point in his judgement he referred to “….the paucity of information (about the McConville case) unearthed after extensive review by this court.”

If this was indeed a “Get Gerry Adams” project then all I can say is that we did not do a very good job of it.

15 responses to “Gerry Adams And The Belfast Project – A Statement In Response

  1. The Irony…..
    “So how does one reconcile Mr Adams’ wild and unsubstantiated accusations based on almost complete ignorance of the archive’s contents with the opinion of a disinterested American judge who has actually read the entire archive? I don’t think it is possible to do so.”
    The Boston tapes are nothing but wild and unsubstantiated accusations from a bunch of disgruntled former comrades of Adams unhappy that he led the IRA from the battlefield to the negotiating table and eventual ceasefire.

    • disgruntled former comrades of who? u must be thinking of a different gerry adams to the one who wasnt in the ira.

  2. Pingback: Boston College Archive and the maintenance of our “collective dissociative amnesia…” « Slugger O'Toole

  3. ‘Mr Adams does not know what he is talking about’. Possibly not, but do you know what you’re talking about when you deny that the project was a ‘Get Adams’ tactic.

    Radio Ulster yesterday had an interview with Prof Paul Bew in which he admitted that the project, which he as a visiting prof to Boston College, had been instrumental in setting up.

    Presumably you are aware that this is the same Paul Bew who was, and possibly still is, an adviser to the Ulster Unionist Party who certainly feel they have an axe to grind with Gerry Adams.

    As a professor instrumental in getting the project off the ground, can you be sure he was not aware of the legislation which allowed the PSNI to gain access to the archives?

    Was this not a long term plan by the Ulster Unionist Party, and were you and Anthony McIntyre, and Boston College being played by them from day one?

  4. Ed,

    What are the chances of convincing the interviewee’s to hand their interviews to the Irish Gov for example and for them to bury the project for 30,40…75yrs..

    @Danny Morrison.. Stop taking things out of context and tweeting them. You are sounding like a twit..

    • hi frankie – the interviews are the property of the interviewees. always were. and would be until their deaths. so it is really up to them. i think it would be foolish though to give them to any government, especially one whose members may soon include people very hostile to them.

  5. on the one road

    Adams spoke about a video interview with price done in ireland and lodged in the archive. Why was an additional interview done to the interviews conducted by AM?

  6. on the one road

    thanks will do. Why was an additional interview done to the interviews conducted by AM?

  7. Ed,
    I understand that they are the property of the interviewee’s etc.. but the best chances for non combattants in finding out some of the ‘Why’s’ are lying in Boston.

    Everyone is talking about Gerry Adams.. but the snipet in Voices about the FBI telling David Ervine..”Davy, we need to bring the conflict in ireland to an end..cause we (America) need to free up the British Army to help us fight the Taliban.” That’s scarey stuff. That was 7odd years before 9/11!!!!!! When you throw into the mix Omagh…makes me wonder who is actually puuling the stings. Gerry is just a puppet.

    There has to be a place where they (the interviews) can rest, untouched. You can leave them in my wardrobe and trust me..I wont look at them. But it would be a shame (hope thats the right word) if they were handed back and their stories not told..

  8. On the road…

    The DVD you are talking about WASN’T part of the Belfast Project…

  9. On the road..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/talkback

    Goto the podcast dated Friday 2nd May and forward to 10mins 30seconds..

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