Monthly Archives: February 2015

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?