Statement by Ed Moloney:
First of all, I would like to welcome the acquittal of Ivor Bell on charges connected to the murder and disappearance of Jean McConville. This marks the end of a nearly six-year ordeal for him and his family, during which his health has deteriorated seriously.
I now call on the authorities to drop all charges against others awaiting legal proceedings arising from the PSNI’s seizure of tapes from the Boston College archive. It is time to draw a line under this ill-conceived chapter in the North’s sorry history.
In the end Ivor Bell’s hearing – I hesitate to use the word trial – was held in secret and even the fact that it was a secret hearing kept hidden from the general public by an edict issued from the judge’s bench. Sadly, the media in Northern Ireland decided not to defy this ban on free speech, nor even to tell their readers and viewers that it was in place.
The motives of those who decided to pursue the Boston College archive have equally gone unexamined. Ostensibly, the PSNI moved against the archive in an attempt to secure justice for the family of Jean McConville, whose disappearance and killing by the IRA had been shamefully ignored for many years by the same forces of law and order.
But I have always suspected that a hidden motive for the action against the archive was to discourage others from following in our path with the result that interested parties involved in the Troubles – State and non-State – would lose control of the narrative of the past and would be denied their monopoly on the telling of our troubled past.
Killing off the Boston archive caused the stillbirth of many other attempts to launch independent excursions into the story of our 30-year Troubles. Allied to this effort, and a warning to others, has come a concerted effort to disparage the reputation and motives of those involved in the project. Others tempted to follow in our path were thus made aware of what could be said about them or done to them.
In that regard I note that one of the Crown witnesses, Kevin O’Neill, an academic from Boston College who replaced the indisposed college librarian, Bob O’Neill, told the court that the project, “was now held up as a model of how not to do oral history”.
If Dr O’Neill felt that way when he was asked by his superiors at the college at the outset of the project to examine and critique some of early interviews conducted by Dr Anthony McIntyre, then he kept his views very much to himself, despite his well known reservations about putting Sinn Fein, the IRA and its leadership under the microscope.
As for those who accused the Boston archive at the Bell hearing and outside it of political bias let me remind them that running in parallel with the Republican archive was one devoted to the UVF and Red Hand Commandos and, alas for only a short while, an archive devoted to the RUC.
At one point Boston College’s ambitions ran to an archive on the British Army and both the US State Department and the Northern Ireland Office saw in our work a possible model for dealing with one element of the past. That was until the PSNI and possibly others in the security world decided otherwise.
Those who have been lavish in their criticism of the Boston archive have said little or nothing about the reality that without our efforts, the family of Jean McConville would still know little or nothing about what happened to their mother or who was involved in ordering or carrying out her disappearance.
If the McConville family had been reliant on the PSNI or other intelligence agencies for information about their mother’s final days, they would be in for a long wait.
Finally, I wish to say a few words in defence of my republican researcher, Dr Anthony McIntyre. ‘Mackers’, as we all know him, is a hugely talented researcher and commentator and a man not known for keeping his views on many matters to himself.
Those in the media tempted to join in the disgraceful disparagement of him exhibited by certain lawyers at the Bell hearing should remember how often they have called at his door for interviews and how often they are admitted and provided with all they need.
This was a difficult project for any researcher and inevitably there were teething problems. But these were overcome and Mackers conducted sometimes lengthy series of interviews with nearly thirty republicans of various hues, the professional quality of which is evidenced by the fact that his work has provided the basis for one best-selling book and a prize-winning television documentary.
We had only one governing rule while the project was underway. That was to seek out the truth. Those who we knew dealt in lies and deceit were ignored. If we are to be criticised for that then we embrace that gladly.