The secret efforts by the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service to obtain the interviews allegedly given to Boston College by Winston Rea are in fact a pathetic attempt by the security authorities to demonstrate balance in their efforts to invade a confidential academic archive in the United States.
Having previously expended all their energies on attempting to obtain IRA interviews and in the process drawing the ire of Irish-America, the PSNI and the PPS are now trying to show the Americans that they are even-handed by pursuing a well-known Loyalist figure who is related to the late UVF leader Gusty Spence.
The truth is that this PSNI pursuit of Mr Rea is a fishing expedition carried out for narrow political purposes. They have no evidence that any alleged interview given by Mr Rea describes any offence committed by him and I am reliably informed that the last time the police, then in the form of the RUC, showed any interest in him was seventeen years ago, in 1998, when he was brought in for routine questioning and quickly released. The last time he was in court was 1986.
There is, as far as is known, no current investigation into Mr Rea and if there was one he would have been arrested long before now and questioned. In court today a lawyer for the PPS’s office was unable to answer when asked if there was a current investigation by police into Mr Rea.
In one self-serving act the PSNI and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory have blown a huge hole in the recently negotiated deal crafted by local parties and the three interested governments to deal with Northern Ireland’s bloody past. A proposal to create an oral history archive where activists could tell their stories is now dead in the water.
If the PSNI succeed in this fishing expedition against Mr Rea then everyone who lodges an interview with this archive is at risk of seeing their interviews seized by PSNI detectives and themselves hauled before the courts.