Further to my statement answering allegations from Gerry Adams that the Boston College project was biased against the Sinn Fein president, lead IRA researcher Anthony McIntyre shed some fascinating light on his conduct of the interviews with RTE’s Marian Finucane on her radio show last Saturday.
Finucane asked him this question: “……not all of your interviewees were opposed to the peace process, isn’t that right?”
And he answered: “That’s correct. Not all of them were.
“Two at least were very strong supporters of Sinn Féin. Others were not hostile to Sinn Féin. I didn’t just interview people who…when this ultimately does come out I think society may be surprised about the nature of the people that I did interview.
“I did not interview people because they might be hostile to Gerry Adams.
“I interviewed people for their ability to enhance knowledge and to bring more knowledge of Republicanism into the public domain. And this on occasion meant that I had to interview people who might have had no connection with the IRA or the INLA but who may have had valuable knowledge and I thought that knowledge was essential to obtain.
“And would have no bearing whatsoever on Mr. Adams.”
McIntyre’s description of his work not only accords with Judge Young’s assessment that the project was “a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit” but it also raises some important points about the nature of oral history when it deals with a subject like the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
History is invariably written by the winners and leaders. If there was a bias in this project it was to get the viewpoint of grassroots activists, not their leaders. By virtue of their position leaders invariably dominate the narrative in the wake of conflict situations, imposing an often self-serving version of the truth on everyone else
But no political leader has the right to demand that they and they alone should have control over what that history says. No political leader has the right to determine who should or should not be allowed to contribute to a project like this.
The primary objective of this project was to ensure that the people who fought the war, as opposed to those who directed it from safe houses, be allowed to tell that story. I suspect that is the real objection such leaders have to the Belfast Project. It is all about control and the fear of losing it.