Investigations on major stories in Northern Ireland. Declan Lawn reports on how the Boston College history project shattered the IRA's code of silence.
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From selling peace, to a police cell -
Gerry Adams's arrest in connection with IRA membership
and the murder of Jean McConville
made headlines across the world.
In Northern Ireland, police are questioning Gerry Adams.
Gerry Adams is one of the most, if not THE most,
powerful Catholic politician in Northern Ireland.
The arrest of Adams is an acutely sensitive matter.
The dramatic arrest took Irish America by surprise.
I have lived and worked as a journalist here for ten years
and there has been no story from Northern Ireland
that comes remotely close to this scale.
We ain't going away, you know!
Republican anger has been loud and clear -
their dissatisfaction writ large
as their leader languished in a holding cell.
I was allowed in to see Mr Adams.
He believes that the timing of this was political,
that the extension of it was political.
He's worried about the damage it might be doing
to the image of policing, as well.
What I'm saying is, folks,
is that the situation we find ourselves in at the minute
is a very, very, VERY serious situation indeed.
A leading Republican facing a lengthy police interrogation,
his supporters attending rallies on the Falls Road,
and his colleagues claiming the existence
of a dark cabal within the police.
People are very, very angry and very suspicious about this whole process.
It all began with an academic oral history project
to record the reality of a conflict.
Has it now started to threaten the institutions
which have delivered peace?
I ultimately was involved in a project which left me
unable to protect my sources
from the wrath and the vindictiveness of the British authorities.
I regret it because many people have been arrested,
including Mr Adams.
Tonight on Spotlight,
how an academic oral history project
shattered the IRA's code of silence
and what it could still mean for the political process here.
As the world waited to see if Gerry Adams would be charged,
this man, Anthony McIntyre, was at the eye of a storm,
a storm that has been brewing
ever since the controversial interviews he conducted
with former IRA members and others for an academic research project
came into the hands of the PSNI.
Even though Gerry Adams has now been released,
Anthony McIntyre says he's horrified at what's happened.
I was dismayed when Gerry Adams was arrested,
but I have been dismayed when everybody was arrested.
You feel that awful sensation in the pit of your stomach.
How do you feel when you see the information you gathered,
you thought was confidential,
is now being used potentially to prosecute people?
I feel very bad about it
and it's something I will have to live with for the rest of my days.
It all began over a dinner at Deane's Restaurant in Belfast
in the year 2000.
A Boston College representative met McIntyre
and journalist Ed Moloney to discuss the feasibility
of an oral history project recording the experiences
of former participants in The Troubles.
As a former IRA man himself,
McIntyre was seen as being ideally placed
to conduct interviews with people who had once been his comrades.
But he says that he and Ed Moloney immediately saw an issue
with the project that would have to be overcome.
We told him it would have to be absolute guarantees,
no maybes or ifs,
that there would have to be a firewall
against any access by the British State.
Anthony McIntyre says that when he began interviewing a year later,
he was under the impression that Boston College
had taken legal advice, and that such a guarantee was in place.
Spotlight has also spoken to Ed Moloney.
His belief that Boston College had carried out legal checks
is based partly on this e-mail exchange between Moloney
and a Boston College representative, in which Moloney suggests
that the agreements with interviewees be referred
to the university's lawyers.
Ed Moloney says he was told in a subsequent phone call
that this had been done.
In fact, under American law, it would be impossible
to guarantee protection of the tapes.
Niall Stanage is an Irish journalist based in Washington.
There have been at least two Supreme Court cases in this country,
where the court has found that the State or the authorities
can have legitimate reasons to ask reporters or researchers
to break promises of confidentiality.
And so there is not some 100% guarantee,
despite what people sometimes think,
that those promises can be kept
under absolutely all possible circumstances.
But Boston College says no guarantee was ever given to McIntyre,
or the project director, Ed Moloney.
I spoke to Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the college.
He didn't want to speak on camera,
but he did agree to a phone interview.
Is it the case, Mr Dunn, that Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre
were given a guarantee by Boston College
that the interviews would be protected, would be confidential
and would be legally fireproofed?
Both Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney fiercely dispute this claim.
Ed Moloney accepts that his own contract for the work
contained the caveat about American law.
But both McIntyre and Moloney say that, by the time they were
asking interviewees to sign consent forms,
they believed that there were no legal caveats,
and that the risk had been dealt with by the College's lawyers.
So, on the consent forms that these people signed,
what guarantees did they give the people who took part?
That these would remain confidential until after their death,
that the ultimate control of release would lie with me,
and me being the person that done the interview,
give the interview, the interviewee, that's what it stated.
So, you were given guarantees
that this information would be confidential?
They were quite insistent about this all of the time.
Boston College were very insistent.
It was metaphorically suicidal for me
to have proceeded with a project
that I did not understand was totally protected.
It would have been absolute madness.
The subjects were promised by Anthony McIntyre
that their interviews would only be released after their deaths,
and they signed forms to that effect.
26 Republicans were interviewed along with 14 UVF members
and one person described as coming from law enforcement.
McIntyre hasn't revealed the identities of anyone he interviewed.
But for the first time, he has admitted that he too
has been interviewed as part of the project,
discussing his own IRA career.
I was interviewed by an academic of equivalent standing
and my interviews are in Boston College too.
So, you were one of the people interviewed for this project?
I am. Well, not the tapes that have been handed over,
but I am in the archive, I am one of the people who was interviewed, yes.
So, there is a tape there, there is material in the archive
relating to your testimony about your own IRA career?
I am on tape. I am saying no more.
I won't go into any detail or give any inclination,
but I exposed myself to the exact same risks
as anybody else was exposed to.
I did not lead people into a project
that I wasn't prepared to take the same degree of exposure.
Why would I put my own interviews in Boston College
if I thought the police were going to maybe, at some point,
look at them for to prosecute me?
Self interest alone would have prevented me.
The interviews McIntyre conducted with others
were frank, detailed, and, in some cases,
discussed particular events.
One of those events was the 1972 murder of Jean McConville -
something that has come to haunt Republicans.
I think you would have to have a heart of stone to not have sympathy.
For anyone from a Republican perspective,
it's something that shames us all.
I was born after Jean McConville was killed.
People can, in a sense, understand that, during wars,
terrible things happen and innocents are killed.
But I find it shameful that Republicans
were engaged in that activity of disappearing
and burying people without informing their family.
The reason that Jean McConville featured so much was that
during discussions with people, many people,
we would have discussed that the IRA had a very dark side to it,
and that dark side manifested itself in war crimes.
And Jean McConville was a war crime.
There is simply no getting away from it.
The secret grave is the universal calling card of the war criminal.
But it wasn't just Anthony McIntyre who was
interested in the Jean McConville murder.
So too were the PSNI.
Her body had been discovered in 2003 on a beach in County Louth.
In some of the interviews he conducted,
Anthony McIntyre was uncovering information that appeared
to be pertinent to that investigation.
One of those interviews was with veteran Republican Brendan Hughes,
who told McIntyre that the man who ordered the killing was Gerry Adams.
Even though the existence of the Boston College Archive
was becoming more widely known,
it wasn't until the publication of a book by Ed Moloney in 2010,
featuring the testimony of Brendan Hughes,
that it gained broader attention.
This is the book that was published after his death
based on the transcripts of his interviews.
And the preface of the book says that it represents
the "inaugural volume of a planned series of publications
"drawn from the Boston College Oral History Archive."
So, if the PSNI didn't know that there was an archive out there
with potentially relevant information
into the murder of Jean McConville,
they certainly knew it now.
The PSNI confirmed this
in a statement to Spotlight earlier today.
Anthony McIntyre now feels the book should not have been published.
I think it was a mistake to publish the book.
Yes, in retrospect, I do,
but, at the time, I had given guarantees
to Brendan Hughes, who wanted his material published earlier.
I gave guarantees to Brendan that...
I had persuaded him not to publish his stuff,
I told him it would endanger things.
But, after his death, which he had asked me about,
would it be published? And I said, "Yes, we will do it."
In May 2011, the PSNI began legal action
to access the Boston College Project archive.
A subpoena was sent to the college.
When you first heard that the PSNI was going after your material,
the material in the Boston College Archives,
what was your reaction?
I immediately got onto Ed Moloney.
Well, he informed me and I said,
"How can this happen? How can it happen?"
It now appears that Boston College
had ASSUMED that no outside authorities
would attempt to access the material
through a legal challenge -
a view they say was shared by Moloney and McIntyre.
Going back to the beginning of this project, what legal advice,
if any, did Boston College take at the time
about the legal status of these interviews
once they had been gathered?
So, there was a general presumption that the PSNI
or any authorities like that wouldn't go after this material,
but that presumption turned out to be wrong?
That would turn out to be a devastating miscalculation.
In January 2012, Judge William G Young
of the Boston District Court
ruled that all material relating to the McConville case
should be handed over,
specifically interviews with former IRA member
Dolours Price and 85 other interviews
done with seven former IRA members.
On appeal, the number of tapes released was scaled back to 11.
Amongst them, the interviews with Dolours Price.
This is the US court judgment which led to the tapes being released.
Now, it says that most of those tapes are only indirectly relevant,
in which the McConville case is mentioned in passing,
or as hearsay by people who were not directly involved.
But one interview is a first-hand account
of what occurred that day in 1972.
Now, taken together, it's this material
which is thought to have led to several arrests recently
in connection with the Jean McConville murder,
including that of Gerry Adams.
My research was never, ever designed or conducted
for the purpose of having anybody arrested -
Mr Adams or anybody else -
and it is quite clear to me
that there is political motivation in this arrest.
Some of the people who Anthony McIntyre interviewed
are now paying a personal cost
for taking part in the Boston College Project.
And the issue of his own safety has been raised.
Do you feel in any sense that your security is under threat?
I don't know. I hope not, but I simply have to face it down.
I mean, I would describe my situation
as having been left punch-drunk by everything that has happened,
but I'm still on my feet and I am still fighting.
Sinn Fein believes that the investigation into Gerry Adams,
and the overall decision by the PSNI to access the Boston tapes,
is part of an agenda to harm the party.
At a press conference last Friday,
Martin McGuinness spoke of dark forces within the police,
and alleged the existence of a small cabal of officers
who were out to undermine the Peace Process.
This is a big situation we have to deal with.
This is a very serious situation.
Martin, are the officers involved in this investigation
seriously, in your opinion, part of a cabal?
Well, the people who directed the officers
who are presently involved in the situation
at Antrim PSNI Station
are, in my view, yes, part of that cabal.
Today, the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott,
reacted to those statements.
He said that the arrest of Gerry Adams
was legitimate and lawful,
and that Martin McGuinness's claims were unfair and inappropriate.
Martin McGuinesss seems to be suggesting almost
that there are two police forces.
There is a police force which supports Sinn Fein,
and supports the Peace Process,
and that there is another police force
maybe with links to Unionism or the British Government.
The day after the press conference, the rhetoric was raised again
when the Deputy First Minister stood shoulder to shoulder
at a Falls Road rally with veteran Republican Bobby Storey.
We have a message for the British Government,
for the Irish Government, for the cabal that's out there.
We ain't gone away, you know!
To many, that was a significant statement.
I think when leading well-known Republicans
like Bobby Storey are involved,
it shows how seriously Sinn Fein are taking the situation,
it shows how angry they are,
but it is also a message to the community that this is something
which they are watching over very closely and feel very avidly about.
That they would dare touch our party leader,
the leader of Irish Republicanism on this island!
To use symbolic personnel like that
is a way of saying that they mean business.
Gerry Adams was released without charge on Sunday evening.
A Loyalist sit-down protest aimed at stopping his convoy
reflected some of the heightened tensions the episode had caused
across the political divide.
Unionists alleged that Sinn Fein had shown
their own dark side during their leader's incarceration,
bringing undue pressure to bear to get his release.
At a press conference, there was an air of triumph.
Gerry Adams admitted he had been questioned about the Boston tapes,
but was dismissive that they could be used
to prosecute him or anyone else.
Gerry, there are a lot of other Boston College tapes out there
and there's now legal precedent for them to be used.
Do you believe, in that context,
there should now be an amnesty for historical crimes
for the sake of political stability?
No, we've never called for...
We've never called for an amnesty.
But let me tell you this -
these Boston tapes are an entirely dubious project,
so don't be too mesmerised about the Boston tapes
as being an evidential basis of any kind against anybody
by disgruntled anti-Peace Process individuals
who represent no-one whatsoever.
Gerry Adams went on to further question the motivation
of the people who ran the project, and the people who took part in it.
Both Moloney and McIntyre are opponents
of the Sinn Fein leadership and our peace strategy
and have interviewed former Republicans who are hostile to me
and to other Sinn Fein leaders.
Ed Moloney told Spotlight that the Boston Project
was a legitimate academic endeavour,
and that Gerry Adams naming him and others in the press conference
was an exercise in intimidation.
Gerry Adams was keen to point out that he would now be concentrating
on Sinn Fein's election campaigns north and south of the border.
To some observers in the South,
where Sinn Fein is gathering momentum,
his release without charge may in fact now lead to a surge in support.
I think the fact that Gerry Adams has not been charged with anything
after being held in custody for four days,
I think Sinn Fein will make capital from that,
and I think that could have a huge bearing
on the outcome of both the local and the European elections
in the Republic,
and that could be manifested both in support for Sinn Fein
and a lessening of support for the Government parties.
But there's no doubt that north of the border,
the last few days have re-ignited issues around policing,
justice, and the past that many thought had been put to bed.
The big concern for Sinn Fein
will be that prosecutions of Republican leaders
for historical crimes are now on the agenda.
They now have problems.
They will not only have the dissidents saying,
"Ha! We told you so, we knew this was happening,"
he'll also have people in his own grassroots who will be going,
"Martin, hang on - you're locked at the hip with Peter Robinson,
"and they've now got Gerry arrested.
"Who's next? Gerry Kelly, Danny Morrison...
Anthony McIntyre says it's entirely feasible
that further Boston College tapes,
still in the archive and unseen by the PSNI,
could be used for that purpose.
Do you think it's possible that the PSNI might go after
the rest of the material that's still in the Boston College Archive?
I don't know, but the British police
are vindictive enough to try and continue their raiding for it.
Isn't it the case, now that there's legal precedent,
that the PSNI could come back to Boston College
when they're investigating further cases and ask for more material?
Earlier today, Boston College said that it would now consider
handing back the archive to the interviewees
who contributed to the project.
It's unclear how the practicalities and legalities of that would work.
But, if it happens, the Boston tapes project
will be at an end, its contents lost to history,
the price paid for a lack of consensus
on how we deal with Northern Ireland's past.
But there is another side to this story
which goes beyond the political impact
of which crimes are being pursued, and which are not.
It's a story of human suffering,
and the legitimate expectation of victims,
like the McConville family, that justice will somehow be done.
The trauma that they suffered,
both at the time of their mother's death, and afterwards,
was recounted in a documentary last year,
in which Darragh MacIntyre put Brendan Hughes's claims
about the Jean McConville murder to Gerry Adams.
Did you give the order for the execution of Jean McConville?
No, I had no act or part to play
in either the abduction, the killing or the burial
of Jean McConville or, indeed, any of these other individuals,
and Brendan is telling lies.
The PSNI now has access to a number of interviews from the archive,
including that of Dolours Price, which discuss the case.
But the fact that Gerry Adams has been released pending a file
being sent to the Public Prosecution Service
means there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge him immediately.
Last week, Michael McConville, Jean's son,
said that he knows the names of some of those
who initially abducted his mother, because he saw their faces.
But he said that he's still too frightened to give them to police.
That fear that Michael spoke of back in 1972,
that fear is still with the family today.
There's an extensive network of the McConville clan across Belfast,
across the North, but particularly across Belfast.
Michael McConville was taken away because he was, at the age of 11,
threatening to go to the police with the information he had.
He was left in no doubt that he would be hurt
or other members of his family would be hurt
if he gave up any information.
Michael's sister, Helen McKendry,
says she is willing to hand over names,
although it's thought that she was not a first-hand eye witness
to the abduction.
My understanding is that up to 20 people could have been
involved in the abduction, murder and disappearance of Jean McConville.
There were maybe ten, 15 people gathered in her flat
and around her flat in December '72 to take her away.
Now, those people, we believe, were mostly teenagers,
members of Na Fianna, the junior wing of the IRA.
They would have taken Jean McConville to a house, I'm told,
just off the Falls Road where she was held for five or six hours.
At that point, she would have been handed over
to more senior members of the IRA.
She was held for a total of about six days.
They had to get her across the border,
then they had to get somebody ready to bury her and someone to shoot her.
What's clear is that the McConville case isn't going away any time soon.
The big question raised by the events of the last week,
is how we should deal with the past -
and, on that, there is no consensus.
Some feel that the rule of law demands that,
where there is still evidence, there should be convictions.
Others feel that, for the sake of political stability,
there now needs to be a different mechanism
by which we can find out the truth about what happened here
during the darkest years of The Troubles.
Of course, it raises the whole question of dealing with the past,
which is the elephant in the room,
and the one that nobody seems to be able to deal with.
If, as a result of this, people on both sides of the border
and in Downing Street decide enough is enough
and we have to, in some way, find a process
where we can agree a narrative of The Troubles,
maybe this will have been a positive development in the Peace Process.
When you don't have a process of being able to investigate the past
and a machinery for dealing with it,
at some point, Loyalists, Unionists, Republicans, Sinn Feiners,
are going to have a knock on the door.
Because, whether it is 10 years later or 20 years later,
a piece of evidence will become available,
someone will leave a note with their will,
and say, "I was involved in this and so were the following people."
The original idea behind the Boston College Project,
according to those who devised it,
was to access the truth, or at least versions of it,
so that, one day, future generations could learn from it.
Why collect it? What's the point of it?
Why collect knowledge about the Second World War? What's the point?
It's what academics and researchers do.
We tried to enhance public understanding.
In order for people to know WHY something happened,
they need to know WHAT happened.
In Northern Ireland, what happened in the past
remains a deeply divisive question now, in the present.
The tapes that lie in the vaults of Boston College only contain
a fraction of the contested truth about The Troubles,
but it's a history that remains dangerous to this day.
After the arrest and release of Gerry Adams, Declan Lawn reports on how the Boston College history project shattered the IRA's code of silence and asks what it could mean for the political process.