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Micheál Martin and the North… May 13, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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Did anyone else happen to catch Micheál Martin today at Leader’s Questions in the Dáil. A massive focus on Sinn Féin and Adams and so on. Which is interesting.

Not least was his contention that a ‘hate campaign’ is developing over the Boston College project. And he suggested that those who conceived the project are being targeted as ‘touts’ and so on. Indeed he went so far as saying that ‘it’s almost setting people up for attack’. Got to be honest, seems a bit opportunist to me – a sort of get the digs into SF in advance of next week. And I wonder if others would see it similarly.

And Boston, whether in the context of Adams or not, is going to run and run… for now Richard O’Rawe is suing Boston College for ‘misrepresentation, breach of confidentiality and negligence’. Apparently there are four people including him taking that course. It will be illuminating to see how that develops from here.

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1. Roasted Snow - May 13, 2014

Off track here, but thinking re; FF and new parties in the North. there are many I see. Seat to watch in Council elections Enniskillen and Donal O’Cofaigh SP running on the Anti Fracking ticket. Hope he takes it!

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dilettante - May 14, 2014

Is Donal O’Cofaigh an SP candidate? (seems to be absent in his campaign – iel, please advise)

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Justin Moran - May 14, 2014

He’s a member of the Socialist Party according to their website, and they’re clearly encouraging people to vote for him, but it’s not clear that he’s formally a Socialist Party candidate.

Not sure I understand to be honest.

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2. steve white - May 13, 2014

The Taoiseach I agree with a comment made by Deputy Martin in regard to the Boston College tapes that there seems to be a sort of campaign that these are not valid, authentic or real contributions. Somebody who knows something about this said to me that some of the contributors were either dependant on alcohol or requiring of substance use all the time. I suppose the old saying in vino veritas is still valid http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail2014051300023?opendocument

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3. roddy - May 14, 2014

To quote Jim Royle ,SP a new party in the North “my arse”!

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4. CL - May 14, 2014

“McIntyre said on the BBC programme Spotlight last week that, in hindsight, it was a mistake to publish Brendan Hughes’s tape following his death. At any rate, the police interest in the archive has ended up destroying the project.”-Paul Bew.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/the-closure-of-the-boston-college-troubles-archive-is-historical-loss-30263223.html

Therefore it was also a mistake to publish ‘Voices from the Grave”.

“However much Bew may seek to disentangle himself from the Boston College fiasco, it is difficult to see how he squares his part in the shabby affair with his role as the guardian of ethics for public officials when chairing the Committee on Standards in Public Life.”-Greenslade.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/may/13/queensuniversitybelfast-northernireland

Is Greenslade being fair to Lord Bew?

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shea - May 14, 2014

also? i think he is referring to voices from the grave, was their another book published with sources from the achieve?

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CL - May 14, 2014

I think you’re right.

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CL - May 14, 2014

I’m not so sure Moloney is of the same opinion about the publication.

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CL - May 14, 2014

There was also documentary on RTE. McIntyre when he talks of publishing the ‘tape’ is probably referring to both the book and the documentary. Martin Mansergh and Diarmaid Ferriter are also of the opinion that the publication was a mistake.

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shea - May 14, 2014

Do you have any links for them?

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hardcorefornerds - May 14, 2014

It’s worth remembering that, according to the Chronicle piece, Hughes allegedly asked for his contributions to be published. Now clearly if they had used the BMH model it would have overridden that, but they didn’t and the ‘secrecy’ of the project became at most a temporary goal.

That said, I don’t remember anywhere near this level of criticism, of either the project’s apparent bona fides or general plausibility, when it first became known. Perhaps simply because it hadn’t yet come to a head with the Adams arrest (or the numerous other arrests over the past months) or the subpoena process which revealed the legal weakness of the confidentiality system, at least against the efforts the UK and US authorities were willing to apply (which I think remains the key issue, or at least one of them; people here are probably more used to assuming a hostile state).

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CL - May 14, 2014

Mansergh piece.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/adams-episode-sounds-warning-on-peace-process-1.1786969?page=2#

Ferriter-

http://hnn.us/article/155557

“Boston College, meanwhile, faulted the two project leaders. Dunn said the direction of the research appeared one-sided, joining critics who have said the researchers neglected to interview Sinn Fein supporters.

“The regret comes from the selection of Ed Moloney as project director and Anthony McIntyre as IRA interviewer, given the extensive criticism that has been levied against them since the project was made public in 2010,” Dunn said.”

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/05/06/boston-college-says-interviewees-northern-ireland-troubles-oral-history-project-can-get-their-tapes-back/cRgXf2Th3My0H3zqOq1q6H/story.html

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5. shea - May 14, 2014

have heard it said prior to martain saying it today to be honest. has the potential to get stupid in a lot of different ways. During adams press conference when he was released from custody he made a specific reference to being told by the police ivor bell denied being the one to make a statement against him. Didn’t have to say it, took that as an attempt to calm this nonsense down.

But the same time the manner in which SF are dealing with this boston college issue is to dismiss the value of the whole project, which is a bit much, the security procedures certainly, no one should have known this existed for decades that would be fair criticism and the shinners may be right that in that once the achieve was built up it may have been maliciously misused, but the contributions to an oral history project from at least price hughes and possibly bell given their senior involvement in a clandestine organisation and the inability to talk openly on their experiences for decades, its a bit much to suggest that their statements has no historical value. The potential consequences of that thinking is that every body associated with it is portrayed as being part of a conspiracy and not a legitimate exercise.

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6. BK - May 14, 2014

SF is not the only party calling into question the integrity of the BC project, nor did this criticism begin last week. Clearly, as a leading exponent of anti-nationalist revisionism and adviser to the man (Trimble) who publicly called for the ‘housetraining’ of SF, Lord Bew had a stake in seeing through a project damaging to Sinn Fein. McIntyre has been completely obsessed with Adams for more than a decade now, as is most of the dissident rump that comment regularly on his website. Moloney is a serious journalist, but hardly neutral,and with a particular axe to grind. And I’d love to find out the identity of the two ‘anonymous historians’ who aided in evaluating the value of the interview material. That information might tell us a lot, especially since the history department at BC has distanced itself completely from the enterprise. An early, credible and devastating critique of the work appears here, in the assessment made by a BC academic: http://www.scribd.com/doc/205106871/Burns-Belfast-Project-Report.

Among its findings:
“There is a serious problem with the interviewing technique. The interviewer frequently leads his subjects not only into areas of discussion [which he should], but also into modes of analysis [which he should try to avoid], and occasionally even conclusions [which he must avoid!]”

I don’t think we have to choose between conspiracy and legitimate exercise to acknowledge that the project was deeply flawed from the outset.

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hardcorefornerds - May 14, 2014

It’s a strong criticism of the interviewing methodology, and of the selection of interviewees (but again, that has to be balanced against the context in which the project was operating) but it’s not necessarily ‘devastating’. On the one hand the author says the material “forms the foundation of a significant historical archive”, although on the other he withholds his professional opinion on its historical merit in light of the questions above.

It’s ironic that the attacks on the project for being political are themselves so politicised: Bew as ex-Stickie revisionist, or whatever. By all means question the assumptions and bias of the project and participants, but some kind of partiality is probably inevitable in the fractured circumstances of NI (Bew has an interesting point about ‘balance’ in the context of the Savile Inquiry, I think). And if these interviewers hadn’t done it, who would?

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hardcorefornerds - May 14, 2014

Although I suppose the last part is a moot point if the interviews are being returned and, presumably destroyed or otherwise kept out of circulation. The project was definitely flawed, but surely not much more than the governments’ response to it (and to the whole question of the past).

I think though the most corrosive thing is the attitude that historical research cannot be done in good faith, unless it’s detached from any kind of political controversy.

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shea - May 14, 2014

The project was flawed in so far as we are talking about it and its impacting on the present. If that is by incompetence or design, there are a lot of opinions floating around on that.

The idea was brilliant. Even if the majority or all republican contribution to it was anti GFA, so what. its a real life experience with in a broader topic the insides of which rarely gets out into the public. Yes it would be great to get a broader view of republicanism from 69 onwards and it can not claim to be definitive but a definitive work would also have to include anti gfa tendency. 3 tapes out of a multiple done for 26 candidates appear to refer to the killing and disappearing of mcconville. Given that, i would suggest that the scope of this project was more than get adams. Though accept that once the information was accumulated that it looks like current affairs instincts stepped in and historical instincts out.

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CL - May 14, 2014

It was an error of judgement on Moloney’s part to publish too soon, possibly influenced by political,-anti-Adams-, considerations

John Dorney’s piece is insightful:

“However the untimely deaths of two contributors, loyalist David Ervine and republican Brendan Hughes led to the publication by Moloney of a book – Voices from the Grave – based on Hughes’ and Ervine’s recollections. Included in Hughes testimony were allegations that Gerry Adams had been involved in the decision to kill Jean McConville in 1972.

The Bureau of Military History unlike the Boston College Tapes, was kept sealed until the last living survivor of the 1916-23 period was dead.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland then demanded that the tapes be handed over to them for the purposes of investigation and after a legal battle, they were.

This saga has a straightforward equivalent in the aftermath of the 1920s revolutionary period. The Irish Free State embarked in the 1940s and 50s on a much more extensive oral history project – the Bureau of Military History (BMH) – which collected over 1,500 statements from veterans (almost all nationalists or republicans) of the independence struggle. The key difference here is that the Bureau’s contents were not published until after the last veteran of the period had died. This was Dan Keating who passed away in 2006.”

http://www.theirishstory.com/2014/05/09/what-to-do-about-the-past/

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”

““History … is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

The shock to the peace process by the Boston tapes debacle gives a new urgency to the arrival in Ireland next week of the imperial emissary, Richard Haass. Can a modernised imperialism end the nightmare?

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hardcorefornerds - May 14, 2014

” the Bureau of Military History (BMH) – which collected over 1,500 statements from veterans (almost all nationalists or republicans) of the independence struggle. The key difference here is that the Bureau’s contents were not published until after the last veteran of the period had died.”

So effectively the BMH was an unbalanced project? And the sensitivity presumably had more to do with moral and personal issues rather than any threat of prosecution, within thr Free State at least, for War of Independence activities. The Civil War is a different issue – from the BMH website:

“While the BMH succeeded in collecting a huge and extremely diverse body of source material on the revolutionary period that is of international importance, it failed to secure the cooperation of many survivors of the 1913-1921 period who subsequently rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, many of whom perceived it as a ‘Free State’ project. Consequently, the BMH does not include detailed statements from prominent Anti-Treaty survivors such as Tom Barry and others. On the State side, there was also a reluctance to seek witness statements and original records concerning the Irish Civil War in 1922/23, due to the prevailing political climate in Ireland during the 1940s/50s, some 20-30 years after the events recorded by the BMH took place. However, much of the material within the BMH does cover aspects of the Civil War, as many contributors submitted information that extended well beyond 1921.” – See more at: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/about.html#sthash.LLWj18v2.dpuf

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CL - May 14, 2014

I don’t think anyone is making a claim of ‘balance’. The point is that the BMH info was not released until everyone was dead. Not so with the Boston Project, most of those interviewed, and those mentioned in the interviews, are very much alive. And the political conflict now swirling around around the Boston tapes fiasco shows that the issues also are very much alive.
Paul Bew “”I was motivated by a sense that the Troubles were over and should never be allowed to happen again and that the more knowledge and raw material was left behind for future generations to study the less chance there would be of another repeat,” But the historian, Professor Bew, failed to realize that the past is very much alive.
The sad irony is that the mismanagement of the project. possibly influenced by political considerations, has sent a tremor through Ireland’s dubious peace.

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hardcorefornerds - May 14, 2014

Agreed, but my point was that the Boston project is being criticised for a lack of balance, whereas the BMH (although it handled confidentiality much better) was not so different in that respect itself. There’s also of it being a big, state-supported institutional project which probably made it easier, or more essential, to have effective guarantees. The decision to publish Hughes’ testimony, on the other hand, seemed to be personal decision between him and Moloney/McIntyre (which BC went along with).

Plus, for all the talk of the “prevailing political climate” in the Free State at the time of the BMH, it was a profoundly more settled polity in which to pursue these kind of post-conflict histories. So I’d agree with you on the “live” nature of the issues in NI, but secrecy is only one part of the solution to that (and perhaps not a very helpful one, considering Hughes had a valid contribution he wanted to make – though probably it should have been separated from the oral history project). I think Shea’s comment below is a very fair assessment, including the last line about the current affairs mentality taking over from history – a symptom visible in others though.

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Cl - May 14, 2014

Probably there can never be balance in these issues. But 24 anti-Adams interviews and 2 pro does seem a little biased. (If these reported numbers are correct) And we cannot separate the past from current affairs,
-because the past is not dead. Something Paul Bew apparently can’t quite grasp. (or at least didn’t).
Much heat is being generated.
“In the aftermath of the Boston tapes fiasco, which led directly to the arrest of Gerry Adams and could have meant the end of the peace process, compounded by his attempt today to whitewash his own political history and core involvement in this “Get Adams” process, Lord Bew is surely unfit to hold the post as the UK’s leading adviser on ethics in public life?”

http://www.fadooda.com/index.php?itemid=624

Gilmore and Kenny and Sinn Fein too are now relying on the President of ‘the Imperial Brain Trust’, Richard Haass, to sort out the mess. We’ll see.
( The Imperial Brain Trust is the title of a Monthly Review book about the Council on Foreign Relations. of which Haass is president)

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hardcorefornerds - May 14, 2014

The past is definitely not dead – from the link you posted: “Perhaps more importantly, Bew was for a long time, an influential member of the Official Republican Movement – the sworn enemy of Sinn Féin. The Official Republican Movement morphed into the so called “Workers Party”. In June 1991, I made a film for the BBC which not only revealed that the Workers Party still had an armed wing, but also raised a widespread allegation regarding this party’s links to British Intelligence. Or as the widely respected political commentator Brian Feeney (who is no lover of Sinn Féin) put it in the film, the Workers Party was a “pseudo gang” run by Britain’s Secret Services.”
The Greenslade piece swiped the ‘sworn enemy’ part but left the rest :)

As for the bias, what of the claim that SF would have shut the whole thing down if they’d found out? Probably they would’ve been right to (if for different reasons), but it’s a further illustration of trying to this sort of thing in an unsettled society.

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CL - May 14, 2014

Yes, but don’t forget that Adams carried the bulk of the republican movement with him and avoided a major split. But in the Boston archive over 90% of the interviewees opposed the Adams’ position. Such an archive, according to Professor Bew, would contribute to historical scholarship and help avoid future conflict. Its not surprising that historians who have commented on the project have drawn attention to its academic and historiographical deficiencies,-and to the sad, but inevitable irony, that the now-discredited project is contributing to current conflct.

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7. BK - May 14, 2014

In some ways the most telling part of that critique is the question the appraiser raises about whether ‘mainstream’ republicans would also be interviewed, along with the anti-Agreement ranks that had been selected up to that point.

I disagree with the last point, hardcore. I’m not arguing that only complete neutrals could have carried a project like this off. What I’m saying is that Bew + McIntyre + Moloney is a stacked deck, and very obviously so. That’s why I’d be interested in learning who the two anonymous historians were who assessed the material. Given the nature of the beast its very unlikely that either of them would have been sympathetic to Sinn Féin, but it would be interesting to know how close they were to Bew and the spirit of the revisionist project. Because then we get a biased project begin assessed by biased ‘experts’, and some indication of whether premeditation was involved. Perhaps Moloney and McIntyre could publish the readers’ reports with the names redacted?

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8. shea - May 14, 2014

on another angle to this, there is still legislation on the books that makes it illegal to be a member of groups signed up to the GFA prior to the GFA. If BC was never concieved then this issue would manifest in some other guise. some are suggesting a general amnesty is required for pre 98 offenses.

legislation to give effect to that coming from the weston pk agreement failed to get through westminster some years ago when the SDLP refused to support the inclusion of ex british state combatants with in the terms of the legislation, SF subsequently withdrew support. Since then a number of ex IRA combatants have been arrested, some before the courts and some jailed on legacy issues. The latest being Gerry adams though not yet getting as far as a conviction.

With in Republicanism there has been some critisism directed at SF for their up to now, lethargic attitude to these arrests. One theory as to why they are behaving this way is that to negotiate an amnesty may block avenues of redress for groups campaigning for victims of british state violence, another is that they do not have the strength and maybe a bit of a conspiratorial view is that it is a social control mechanism with in republicanism.

i would think that leaving the avenue open for investigations in to british state violence is the most realistic, may go to the seed of why many with in the republican movement where motivated to join. Adams made a point of saying at his press conference that he is an activist and that this is part of his life. Typical adams it can be interpreted a number of ways but when asked at the same conference if their should be a general amnesty he said no.

If that is there game it could be a very long shot, if adams is an activist and this is part of his life it could see himself and potentially a lot of others getting a knock on the door for a long time to come. has taken Kenyians decades to get to where they are at in getting the british state to acknowledge the role its armed forced played in that conflict . Lat week the ballymurphy families said they where going to persue their case through the courts. Today the dublin monaghan families have said they plan to bring a case against the british government through the courts.

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CL - May 14, 2014

An ‘amnesty’, because the word suggests forgetting, is probably not a good idea. But an Act of Indemnity for all violent acts committed in the conflict before1998, might help draw a line, and help to consign the past,-to the past.

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9. CL - May 17, 2014

“Gerry Adams made a great deal of the fact that the Belfast Project was “conceived by Paul Bew, university lecturer and a former advisor to former unionist leader David Trimble”. The implication is that Bew’s suggestion, in 2000, that Boston College should start an oral archive of the Troubles was a unionist plot. But Bew is hugely respected as a historian of modern Ireland: there is not a shred of evidence that his work has ever been to anything but the highest professional and ethical standards. Insidious suggestions that he was part of a political conspiracy are not just wrong in themselves but are an attack on academic and intellectual freedom…..
Ed Moloney’s contract as project director, which he signed in January 2001, stated that each interviewee was in turn to be given a contract “guaranteeing to the extent American law allows the conditions of the interview and the conditions of its deposit” at Boston College. But the contracts actually given to interviewees did not contain this crucial qualification. Neither Moloney nor the principal interviewers, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur, knew what American law might mean for confidentiality.
These are bad mistakes, and they wound up destroying the project. But the biggest mistake was to believe that history could be recorded safely because the Troubles were over.” -Fintan O’Toole.

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/culture-shock-belfast-project-is-a-crisis-in-irish-academia-1.1798775?page=2

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