Judge In Ivor Bell Case Criticised In This Washington Post Piece

You can read it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/11/06/what-northern-ireland-legal-case-means-historians/

2 responses to “Judge In Ivor Bell Case Criticised In This Washington Post Piece

  1. This is a remarkably silly piece.

    “However, as part of the ongoing inquiry into the murder of McConville, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) sought cooperation from the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain the recorded interviews of a number of former IRA members.”

    What planet was this “ongoing inquiry” taking place in? The police in Northern Ireland had been relentlessly investigating McConville’s murder for a long time?

    “When Adams was called to testify in the Bell trial, he again denied the accusations. After all, admitting to an IRA leadership role would undermine his carefully crafted legacy as a peacemaker.”

    No, admitting an IRA leadership role, especially in an interrogation about the McConville killing, would cost him a prison term.

    “But O’Hara’s decision dismissing the viability of the Belfast Project will make oral histories of this pivotal 30-year period in Northern Ireland harder to procure….”

    So potential interviewees will say, “Look, I would give an interview that could be subpoenaed, but a judge might criticize the project, and then my interview won’t be used to put people in prison, so what’s the point?” It’s the subpoenas that made future oral history projects impossible, not the judge’s invalidation of an interview as evidence in a trial.

    The reasonable conclusion here is the one I’ve been arguing for since 2011: Academic scholarship isn’t the same as a police investigation, and law enforcement officials shouldn’t raid academic research as a lazy substitute for doing their own investigative work.

  2. One thing I haven’t yet said should be added to the story concerning the judge, John O’Hara who is criticised in this piece. When I was being pursued by Scotland Yard over my notes of conversations with William Stobie, the UDA quartermaster and RUC Special Branch agent who supplied the guns used to kill Pat Finucane, the late Michael Lavery agreed to be my lead counsel in the various legal proceedings that would happen. He chose as his junior one John O’Hara. At our first consultation, along with my solicitor Francis Keenan, O’Hara made the following suggestion: would I not consider handing over my notes to Scotland Yard and then make a stand at Stobie’s trial? I was aghast. And that was followed by suspicion. He was suggesting in effect that I should give up the fight before it had begun. Saying that I would refuse to then give evidence at Stobie’s trial was a transparent fig leaf to cover my surrender since the prosecutor would probably not need my testimony since he had my notes. And what argument of principle could I make, havig surrendered to Scotland Yard that which they were seeking? To say that what followed was a falling out between us would badly understate the situation. Thankfully Lavery persisted in running the case as I wanted to and O’Hara was marginalized. But it left a sour taste and it does raise an interesting question. Given the history of our relationship should he not have recused himself from the Ivor Bell trial?

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