Local News
11:52 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Irish Journalist: Carmen Ortiz, DOJ Endangered Irish Peace Process In BC Case

Author and IRA expert Ed Moloney talks to reporters at his home in New York, Thursday, May 1, 2014.
Credit (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Morning Edition's Bob Seay talked to Irish journalist Ed Moloney, who worked with the Boston College oral history of Ireland's "Troubles" which was compelled to turn over recordings to the British government.

Bob Seay: When you embarked on this project, you realized that the information you'd be collecting could eventually be very controversial, and possibly used against people, so what were the conditions under which the people you interviewed entered into this agreement?

Ed Moloney: Each participant was given a contract, which has been agreed with Boston College and which we had been told, and it turns out falsely told, has been cleared with the college's lawyers, which gave the participants, the interviewee, absolute power over the interviews, basically saying they were the only people who could decide who could read their interviews, or have access to their interviews, that were implying that the law and order authorities of Britain would not have access to them until their death, and once they died, then the interviews would become the sole property of Boston College to do with as they wish, to make them only available to scholars or what have you. That was the basis upon which we agreed to run this project for Boston College, and the basis on which the participants took part in this project.

BS: Do you feel Boston College reneged on that agreement?

EM: Well, all the time, we were told, we were under the impression, and I provided email evidence to the Chronicle of Higher Education quite recently, that all this material had been cleared and approved by the college's lawyers. I specifically asked the college's librarian, who's in charge of the project, to make sure this had been done, and he told me that it had been done. Turns out the Chronicle of Education was able to find out that in fact they had not bothered to ask their lawyers at all, and that was really an extraordinary lapse on their part, which has led directly to this. If we had known that then this project would have been stillborn, you know, it would never have gotten off the ground. But that's in the past and we have to now deal with the present. If I could just correct one or two things about that report you just aired, the story about Jean McConville and Gerry Adams' involvement was first broken by me long before the Boston College project was known about, or made the headlines. I wrote a book in 2002 called "The Secret History of the IRA" that revealed that Jean McConville had been disappeared by special units in the IRA called the Unknowns which had been under the control of Gerry Adams. And that's how this story began. The publicity surrounding that part of my book at the time which I think prompted people to tell this story in even greater detail to Boston College researchers, just to make that small but very important correction.

BS: You also made the statement that wool had been pulled over the eyes of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Attorney General Eric Holder. What did you mean by that?

EM: Well, what I meant by that was that the important subpoena that started this whole sad and sorry saga dealt with interviews that had been given by a female member of the IRA called Dolours Price that died in January of this year, actually. She had given — and again, this is important to correct, because I'm seeing material in the newspapers left, right and center that's just so full of inaccuracies it's extraordinary — she had given an interview to the Boston College researcher Anthony McIntyre. In the course of that interview, which was given in 2001, she made absolutely no reference whatsoever to the killing of Jean McConville. She did not mention Jean McConville's name once. She did not say anything about the abduction, she did not mention Jean McConville once. I read left, right and center in all the newspapers this morning that she's making all these allegations to Boston College researchers, which is just not true. What happened was that, in 2010, she gave an interview to an Irish newspaper in Belfast called the Irish News, in which she did talk about the abduction of Jean McConville, and indeed the abduction of other people disappeared by the IRA during this time — total of 16 people, a really disgraceful chapter in the IRA's history, disappearing people like Pinochet in Chile, which is a matter of great concern and shame to people who are in the IRA and didn't know this was going on. She went into considerable detail with the Irish News about all of this. Her family found out she had done this, they intervened with the editors of the Irish News and the Irish News agreed to tone down the report so as not to cause too many problems for her. That interview was tape recorded. The tape was then passed onto a Sunday tabloid newspaper which then splashed the story all over the front page with all of the sort of gory details that had been excluded from the Irish News report. In the course of that report, and in order to disguise the true origin which was the Irish newspaper, the reporter in the Sunday tabloid implied that he had been given access to Dolours Price's interview from the Boston College archive. That claim was repeated by Carmen Ortiz in her affidavit to the district court in Boston in the autumn of 2011 when all proceedings started. And my allegation is that this claim by Carmen Ortiz was made without any attempt to exercise due diligence from the part of the Department of Justice, because, just think about this for one moment: Boston College, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, has this super-secret archive, which is surrounded by all these very tight assurances of confidentiality, and they allow a reporter from a newspaper in Ireland, which is the equivalent of a supermarket tabloid, into their archive to listen to this interview from Dolours Price, and Carmen Ortiz does not think to herself, 'That doesn't sound right to me, maybe we should check that out.' She didn't check it out, because the idea that Boston College would allow someone like that into their archives is just so preposterous that most rational people wouldn't give it more than a moment's thought. And not only that, but we know that she couldn't have listened to that interview, because Dolours Price did not mention Jean McConville in her interview with Anthony McIntyre for the Boston College archives. And so the whole basis of the subpoena was flawed from the outset, the subpoena against Dolours Price's interview. And in the process, as a result of that, the Department of Justice has set in motion a train of events that has led to where we are now, with the Northern Ireland peace process, something which the Obama administration's predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush created, in large measure. Without those two presidents, believe me, there would not be peace in Ireland now, unstable as it is. There would not be a power-sharing government. The IRA would not have destroyed weapons. All of that now is under threat, because the architect of the process in terms of the IRA strategy, Gerry Adams, who took enormous risk to maneuver the IRA into a situation where they basically gave up all of their politics, gave up all of their ideals in return for a deal which recognizes the existence of Northern Ireland, and admittedly gives Sinn Fein posts in the government of Northern Ireland, but falls very far short of what this organization set out to achieve when it was created 30, 40 years ago. That is all now at risk as a result of the DOJ's failure to do due diligence. And in these circumstances the Department of Justice in Washington and the Obama administration could quite easily have said to the British, as they are entitled to do, and empowered to do under this treaty, say to the British, there are vital U.S. foreign policy interests here at stake, you cannot have access to this college's archive. This is a peace process that has been a monument to U.S. peace-building and diplomacy. It's a great achievement. It tells the world that it is possible, in certain circumstances, to overcome the most intractable political conflict, by negotiation, by compromise, by dialogue. And it's all been put at risk as a result of clumsy behavior of the DOJ.