Monthly Archives: June 2019

Jean McConville Book Wins Orwell Prize Despite Faked Marian Price Claim

On October 31st last year, myself and Nuala Cunningham, in our capacity as co-producers of the documentary film ‘I, Dolours‘, issued the following statement in response to a claim from the author and New Yorker writer, Patrick Keefe, in his book, ‘Say Nothing‘, that a redaction in an interview with Dolours Price which we had allowed him to read, had named her sister, Marian Price as the third member of the IRA team which had ‘disappeared’ Belfast housewife, Jean McConville:

Marian Price: The Truth About New Book’s Allegation

Statement by Ed Moloney and Nuala Cunningham, producers of ‘I, Dolours’:

The American author Patrick Radden Keefe has made a major error in his new book on the IRA disappearance of Jean McConville. He claims that part of a transcript of an interview with Dolours Price which we allowed him to see was redacted because it named Marian Price, her sister, as one of the three people who took Jean McConville across the Border to her death. This is not true. The redaction contained no name at all, least of all that of Marian Price.

Mr Keefe failed to ask a couple of simple questions of Ed Moloney: ‘Was Marian Price named in the redaction?’ Or: ‘Was anyone named by Dolours Price as the third person?’ Instead he just seems to have assumed that she did name her sister. In fact, in her interviews with Ed Moloney, Dolours Price never named the third person.

Unlike Gerry Adams, who was named by Dolours Price in an interview, Marian Price has never been arrested or questioned by the PSNI about the disappearance of Jean McConville. Had she been named it is more than likely she would have been.

The statement was posted on my blog on October 31st, 2018, the day before ‘Say Nothing‘ was published in Ireland and the UK.

To repeat: Patrick Keefe had never asked Moloney whether the redaction had named anyone, much less Marian Price. All that Ed Moloney told him about the redaction was that it was made to honour a promise to Dolours Price that we would not identify, or help to identify in any way the remaining living member of the three-member IRA team which abducted and disappeared Mrs McConville.

We can also say that the redaction was made out of an abundance of caution, i.e. that it could have been left in without identifying the person.

The leader of the trio, Belfast Brigade intelligence officer Pat McClure emigrated to Connecticut in the USA in the early 1980’s where he became a prison warder. He died of cancer not long afterwards.

We repeat today that the redaction named no person, nor did it identify who the third member of the IRA team was. The claim by Patrick Keefe that it did is false. Had he asked whether Marian Price was named or identified we would have told him clearly that she was not. But he did not ask.

The central claim of his book, that he had identified the third member of the IRA team, was thus based not on fact but on a supposition by him that proved to be false. We suspect that he took a gamble that Marian Price had been named but it was a foolish wager on his part.

We are re-issuing this statement today in the light of the award to Patrick Keefe of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing.

A copy of an article in the online magazine, Counterpunch, written by Moloney, was sent to the Orwell jury. Ed Moloney received an assurance from The Orwell Foundation that the judges would be made aware of the article, although whether the judges read it is an unknown.

The Counterpunch article dealt not only with Patrick Keefe’s false claim about Marian Price but also showed how Keefe had used information previously published by Moloney in such a way as it appeared to have been the product of his own research.

For example, chapters dealing with the life of the Belfast IRA leader Brendan Hughes were said by him to have been based on his interviews with Boston College, which I gave him. Technically that is correct, but he did not mention  that these accounts had already been published, in my book  ‘Voices From The Grave‘, or had been featured in a prize-winning documentary film of the same name.

This part of his work, in other words, was not original, a fact which he did not admit.

All these and other matters were laid before the Orwell prize jury but if they were taken into consideration or not is not known. What can be said with certainty however is that apart from an acknowledgement of receipt, no effort was made by the jury to contact either of us for further information.

230,000 RTE Viewers Watched ‘I, Dolours’

Figures just supplied to New Decade production company by RTE show that the station’s screening of ‘I, Dolours’ a week ago attracted a 24 per cent share. I don’t pretend to know what that means, but I am told that it translates into a total of 230,000 viewers. RTE bosses are apparently delighted – and perhaps that might persuade them to commission or screen more ambitious programmes on the Northern conflict.

The Irish Independent published this review:

Irish Independent – The testimony of Dolours Price turns out to be priceless – Independent.ie

 

Lessons From The Oil Tanker Bombings In The Gulf

It is quite remarkable how the US claim, supported by allies in Europe, that Iran was behind last week’s bomb attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has been greeted with so much public scepticism, not just in Europe but also in America.

Part of that is due to the less than persuasive video evidence provided by the US State Department which showed alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guards removing what was claimed to be an unexploded Iranian limpet mine from the side of one of the tankers.

The world was asked to believe that removing the mine was evidence of having planted it in the first place when it might also have been consistent with Iranian claims that its forces had arrived to help the tanker crews escape. Removing the unexploded mine might therefore have been a legitimate part of that rescue mission.

The other reason of course is that the claims of Iranian responsibility came from the Trump administration and it just so happens that a few days before the Gulf bombing CNN published an analysis of Trump’s fibs which concluded that the US president lies more often each day than most people wash their hands.

The report claimed: ‘In his first 869 days as President, Donald Trump said 10,796 things that were either misleading or outright false, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Do the math and you get this: The President of the United States is saying 12 untrue things a day.’

So by this point the Trump White House has less than zero credibility with many Americans and even less amongst Europeans.

Deeper down in the psyche of many people on either side of the Atlantic is a scepticism born of the lies told to justify and launch the US invasion of Iraq. Readers will, hopefully, remember that the Iraq war was premised on the claim from the George W Bush White House that Saddam Hussein was secretly manufacturing ‘weapons of mass destruction’, i.e. nuclear bombs, and had to be stopped before he killed millions.

That was, of course, a lie and the damage to American credibility when that became clear was immense. It was compounded by the fact that Iraq was not the first deception played on the world to justify US warmongering.

Way back in the 1960’s, Lyndon Johnson invented North Vietnamese attacks on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the war in Vietnam. It took years, and the leak of the Pentagon Papers, to reveal the truth and raise the suspicion that dissembling in high places to justify war was by this point institutional.

So there is a history – a tradition if you like – of American administrations lying to spark or intensify wars. Thankfully, the sceptical reception given to the Gulf of Oman incidents suggests that we may have reached a point where that sort of thing no longer works as well.

Bush’s adventure in Iraq was in no small measure facilitated by the American media, The New York Times in particular. This time round there has been some flag-waving by my American colleagues but also a healthy dose of scepticism as well.

The Irish Times And Billy McKee

I notice that The Irish Times’ report on the death of Provisional IRA founder Billy McKee, who passed away at his West Belfast home today (Wednesday) was supplied by the Press Association (PA) and not by one of the paper’s own journalists, much less any of its Northern staff (assuming they, he or she still exist).

Is this The Irish Times’ way of saying ‘we do not wish to soil our hands by asking one of our own to compose a story about such an awful person’ – an attitude that too often characterised the paper when I worked there – or is it just a reflection a) of a general staff shortage/financial hardship in the paper, or b) a manifestation of the  reality is that there really is no-one on the staff knowledgeable enough to write more than half a sentence about the man?

Bill McKee – a founder member of the Provisional IRA who died today

Whether or not you regard Billy McKee as an antedeluvian Catholic reactionary or an Irish freedom fighter in the tradition of Dan Breen, there is no getting away from the fact that he was an enormously significant figure in the early phase of one of the most traumatic and impactful periods ever in Irish history. And that Ireland’s paper of record should reflect that by at least assigning one of its own reporters to cover his demise.

Ivor Bell Trial Secretly Gagged As ‘Critical’ Gov’t Witness Drops Out

An unprecedented gagging order banning the media in Northern Ireland and Britain from reporting any aspect of the prosecution or trial of former Belfast republican leader, Ivor Bell on charges connected to the IRA disappearance of Jean McConville – including the trial date or any of the evidence presented in court – was imposed secretly by the Belfast courts last December, thebrokenelbow.com can reveal (see court documents below).

This disclosure comes as a ‘critical’ witness in the Bell prosecution has withdrawn from the proceedings because of a serious and apparently irreversible medical condition.

Ivor Bell, former IRA Chief of Staff and ally of Gerry Adams

Lawyers for Dr Bob O’Neill, the librarian at Boston College and the custodian of the Boston oral history archive upon which the prosecution is based, applied to the US District Court in Boston recently to excuse O’Neill from giving evidence and this request was granted (see court documents below).

The precise reasons for Dr O’Neill’s withdrawal were outlined in a memorandum presented to the presiding judge, William G Young, but the contents were not publicly disclosed to interested parties.

Dr O’Neill’s evidence was considered vital for the prosecution because Boston College had lost Bell’s alleged contract with the college, the only piece of paper which identified participants in the project by name. The prosecuting authorities claim that the interviews by a participant known only as ‘Z’ were given by Bell while Bell and his defence team deny this.

Jean McConville – Disappeared by IRA in 1972, now the evidence in her case will be hidden

Dr O’Neill was likely to have given evidence about the chain of custody of Z’s interviews which the prosecution hoped would strengthen their claim that ‘Z’ was Bell.

At a secret court hearing in April this year, which mentioned Dr O’Neill’s illness, the presiding judge, Mr Justice O’Hara, remarked: ‘…Mr O’Neill is not a secondary witness in the proceedings, but critical to the issues before the court’.

The Bell ‘trial of the facts’ was supposed to have started on April 29th, but this was called off when the prosecution were notified by the US authorities of Dr O’Neill’s health problems.

Bob O’Neill – former librarian at Boston College, will not give evidence at Bell trial

It is understood that Dr O’Neill’s medical difficulty is one that develops and gets progressively worse over time. Usually the symptoms take months if not years to worsen to the point where the victim becomes incapable of coherent intellectual activity.

In a document endorsed by the US court, Judge William J Young noted that O’Neill’s condition ‘…appears to have begun in the past year’.

The obvious question arises: how long ago did the prosecution know that Dr O’Neill had a potentially serious condition that could inhibit his ability to give rational evidence? Was this before or after last December’s court order?

Under the terms of the order, the media has been banned from mentioning any aspect of the Bell prosecution ‘until the completion of the proceedings or further order of the court’. It is not clear whether this means that the gagging order can be extended after the trial has ended.

The gagging order applies only within the UK jurisdiction and since thebrokenelbow.com is published in the United States, this site is free to make the order’s existence known. Thebrokenelbow.com believes an important principle is at stake in this story: that is the public’s right to know and the media’s right to publish.

Mr Justice Adrian Colton, former SDLP ‘Young Turk’, imposed gagging order on Ivor Bell trial

The order was imposed by Mr Justice Adrian Colton on December 19th last year at the conclusion of a hearing of the Ivor Bell prosecution in the Belfast Crown Court.

This decided that the former IRA Chief of Staff, who is 82-years-old, was mentally unfit to take part in a normal criminal prosecution. Instead Judge Colton ordered that he face a so-called ‘trial of the facts’, in which a jury will be asked to decide whether the facts of the case suggest guilt or innocence. He cannot face a prison sentence if found guilty.

While some legal sources suggest that Mr Justice Colton, a former SDLP activist and election candidate from Mid-Ulster who was once regarded as one of the party’s so-called ‘Young Turks’, may have acted to mitigate the embarrassment all this caused to Ivor Bell, the media was nonetheless permitted to publish his decision that Bell would face a ‘trial of facts’ because of his mental deterioration. Any embarrassment caused to Bell came with that publicised decision.

Here are the relevant documents, beginning with the court order:

Here is a copy of an article written and distributed to the media by one of the Belfast court reporters who normally files for most of the local media. It is dated April 29th this year, the date on which Bell’s trial of the facts was supposed to commence. It makes reference to Dr O’Neill’s health difficulties but warns the media not to publish the article:

Here are the US District Court documents distributed recently to attorneys of record in the case. These include an unsigned order from the judge excusing Dr O’Neill from giving evidence:

RTE Promo For ‘I, Dolours’, To Be Broadcast June 10th, 9:35pm