Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the subpoenas of the Belfast Project.
Recent statements by Ed Moloney-an Irish journalist and former director of the Belfast Project, an oral history endeavor sponsored by Boston College that chronicled the experiences of various paramilitary members during “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland-and Dolours Price, an interviewee of the project, conflict greatly on the specific content of the tapes currently being sought by the Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
In a press release dated Sept. 14 and in an affidavit filed in the Belfast courts, Moloney announced his claim that in her interviews with Belfast Project researchers, Price made no mention of Jean McConville, the Irish mother of 10 who was abducted and killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1972. He also claimed that Price did not mention Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein politician who helped orchestrate the Good Friday Agreement and who has often been accused of being an IRA leader during the Troubles.
“When this research project at Boston College began we gave interviewees a pledge that nothing of what they said would be revealed until their deaths,” Moloney said. “I intend to keep that promise. But the pledge did not cover what the interviewees did not say. I now wish to make the following facts public: in her interviews with BC researcher, Anthony McIntyre, Dolours Price did not once mention the name Jean McConville.”
Just over a week later, on Sept. 23, The Sunday Telegraph released new interviews with Price in which she contradicted Moloney’s claims, reasserting her involvement in McConville’s disappearance and the disappearance of other enemies of the IRA, and claimed that the same material appeared on her Belfast Project tapes. She also claimed that her interviews with BC researchers reference Adams directly.
In another press release dated Sept. 26, three days after Price’s new interviews, Moloney again expressed his belief that the material did not appear on the Belfast Project tapes whatsoever.
“So let me once again put the matter on record, with all the strength and force I can muster: Dolours Price did not mention Jean McConville nor talk about what had happened to her in her interviews for the Belfast Project at Boston College,” Moloney said.
It is the investigation of McConville’s disappearance and murder that prompted two sets of subpoenas by the PSNI, issued by way of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) signed between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Moloney stated his belief that Price did not mention her involvement in any IRA disappearances on the Belfast Project tapes.
“The subject of that unfortunate woman’s [McConville’s] disappearance is not even mentioned. Not once,” Moloney said. “Neither are the allegations that Dolours Price was involved in any other disappearance carried out by the IRA in Belfast, nor that she received orders to disappear people from Gerry Adams or any other IRA figure. None of this is in her interviews with Anthony McIntyre.”
In her interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Price provided a differing opinion. According to the newspaper, she acknowledged that her participation in the Belfast Project was at least partially motivated by revenge, and asserted that her interviews referenced Adams directly.
“I gave [the interviews] for a kind of score settling reason,” Price told The Sunday Telegraph. “I wanted very much to put Gerry Adams where he belonged and where he had been. We were offended that he chose to deny us as much as he chose to deny his belonging to the IRA. He is a liar.”
Adams has consistently denied allegations that he was a member of the IRA, and continues to do so. Price also spoke about her participation in the disappearance of McConville and other enemies of the IRA.
“I drove away Jean McConville,” Price told The Sunday Telegraph. “I don’t know who gave the instructions to execute her.”
Moloney questioned Price’s ability to recall the tapes in his Sept. 26 press release. “Quite a few years have passed since Dolours Price was interviewed as part of the Belfast Project at Boston College and it has been during these recent years that her health has deteriorated in a quite alarming way,” Moloney said. “It has been evident to us that her grasp of past events has deteriorated in proportion to her increased susceptibility to outside suggestions.”
The first subpoena of the Belfast Project, which called for the release of Price’s tapes and was served in May 2011, followed an interview with The Irish Times in February of 2010, in which Price mentioned her involvement in McConville’s murder, and her participation in an oral history project sponsored by BC. The first subpoena was followed by a second subpoena in August 2011, seeking any and all tapes from the project related to the disappearance of McConville.
Although BC initially filed a motion to quash the subpoena of Price’s tapes, they were denied and did not appeal the decision. In a Letter to the Editor published in The Heights on Jan. 18, 2012, Tom Hachey, professor of history and executive director of Irish programs, and Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill claimed that Price’s interview with The Irish Times led directly to the subpoenas on behalf of the PSNI and nullified the promise of confidentiality in her contract.
“Interviewees in that oral history undertaking understood that divulging their participation could potentially compromise the underlying premise that such testimony remain undisclosed until the time of their demise,” the two wrote. “That important need for discretion was honored by all surviving participants, with the notable exception of one, Dolours Price, who chose to publicly volunteer her involvement while making some provocative statements.”
Moloney has argued that the subpoenas were not valid because they were based purely on the claim that Price mentioned Adams and McConville in her Belfast Project interviews. In his affidavit in the Belfast Courts, he maintains that she did not.
“The subpoena served in May 2011 by the U.S. government on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) seeking her interviews, which was followed in August by other subpoenas seeking more interviews from the BC archive, was based upon a false newspaper report in Northern Ireland published in February 2010 alleging that she had talked about the disappearance of Jean McConville to Anthony McIntyre for the BC project,” Moloney said.
Currently, the Price tapes await a decision on an appeal by Moloney and McIntyre for the Belfast Project case to be heard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.