‘A Chilling Effect on Oral History in This Country’: Q&A With ‘Belfast Project’ Director Ed Moloney

We conducted this interview in September 2011 for our Newsletter readers but because of the importance of the issues represented to the practice of oral history in this country, we have chosen to share this interview here in its entirety. To sign up for exclusive content through our newsletters, sign up here.

Britain-born journalist Ed Moloney (link to WG Member Profile), who covered The Troubles from his posting in Belfast from 1977 to 2001, headed Boston College’s Belfast Project from its inception till its close in 2005. TheWildGeese.com’s Mark Connor put some questions to Moloney last week via Skype, about the subpoenas that the British government filed in May and August demanding access to confidential interviews that the oral-history project gathered from two IRA members. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts delivered the subpoenas on behalf of unidentified British authorities, according to news accounts. In 2002, Moloney authored “A Secret History of the IRA,” and has authored a biography of Loyalist demagogue Rev. Ian Paisley. In 2010, Moloney’s book “Voices from the Grave” was published, which features interviews, compiled as part of the Belfast Project, with two central figures in the Troubles, both now-deceased - IRA member Brendan Hughes and Ulster Volunteer Force member-turned-politician David Ervine. Moloney, now based in New York City, shared with TheWildGeese.com his concern about the threat the subpoenas pose to all oral-history projects. (For more of Moloney’s views on the subpoenas, visit his blog at http://bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com/)

TheWildGeese.com: Mr. Moloney, what led you in the direction of becoming a journalist and specifically into this area of journalism?

Ed Moloney: I became a journalist partly because I hated teaching and wanted to get out of it, partly because I enjoyed both researching and writing and was just plain nosy and partly because of a fascination with the politics of Northern Ireland. I was a student at QUB (Queens University Belfast) when the civil rights struggle began, observed it up close, and, I suppose, got addicted.

At this stage, this is not an issue that affects journalists, although it may at a later stage. … It is an issue that affects academic freedom and the ability of oral historians to collect life accounts from all sorts of people. If we lose this case, it will have a chilling effect on oral history in America, and that is important. What oral history does is tell the story of people who are not powerful, but ordinary participants in society. If they are discouraged from telling their stories, it means that history and the explanation of society is even more in the control of the powerful than it already is. The sort of examples I am thinking of is, say, people who were involved in the Black Panther movement, which was very close ideologically to the IRA. If there is a risk that the FBI will come looking for their interviews in order to press criminal charges, then they will not speak to oral historians, and their stories will be lost forever. Instead, we will have to rely on the Al Sharptons of America to tell a story of which they were never a part.

WG: My understanding is that there were 60 subjects interviewed in this project. First, is that the specific number or were there more, and second, what prompted the (Belfast) Project, what was the express purpose behind it?

Ed Moloney: I have never given any figure as to the number of interviewees and never would. It was the Good Friday Agreement - or rather the end of the conflict that it signaled - that was the spur for the project. A similar project had been conducted in the South [the lower 26 counties, eventually named The Republic of Ireland] after the Anglo-Irish War, and I thought it was important to tell a similar story, that of those on both sides who had fought in the war. But the Anglo-Irish War was very short compared to the Troubles in the North. In the South, they could wait 20 years or so for passions to quiet before starting the project. Our conflict had already lasted for 30 years, those involved were getting old, especially people who had been there at the start. So there was an urgency to get it going before key people died. Essentially, it was done to ensure that the unique viewpoint of those in the trenches was told when the history of the troubles was written.

WG: How did you convince so many combatants—and specifically Irish Republican and British Loyalist—to open up to you about their involvement? Did you conduct all of these interviews or most of them yourself? Were you seen as a neutral party or generally trusted and/or suspected by your subjects as more Nationalist or Unionist in your identity when you interacted?

Ed Moloney: I did none of the interviews at all. The project would not have been possible had I tried to do that. The researchers, one for IRA (members) and one for UVF, were chosen a) because of their academic qualifications, a Ph.D. in one case, an Honours degree in the other and b) because of their own association with the groups being interviewed. It was obvious that people who had been in the IRA or UVF would not open up to journalists or other academics, but would be prepared to do so to people from their own background who they could trust. So I played no part in the interviews, and although I suggested names, it was up to the researchers to choose interviewees and persuade them to talk. Although I read the interviews and made comments and suggestions, I did not know, nor want to know who was being interviewed, although obviously I could guess at some. That way, security and trust was strengthened.

WG: As a veteran journalist, can you first describe your personal stake in these subpoenas and, secondly, elaborate on what it means for all journalists and the public at large? Are you aware of previous court rulings related to your case, and do you have an expectation of how your situation will finally be resolved?

Ed Moloney: I don’t know how our case will be resolved, but obviously we hope to win. We have a great lawyer working for us, Eamonn Dornan, who has put together a very clever argument based upon the U.S. Senate's promise and commitment they got from the British that no person involved in anything prior to the GFA (Good Friday Agreement) could be sought for extradition in the U.S. If they can't be extradited, then neither should their interviews be extradited. When we started this project, it was pre-9/11. Then we had the attacks, and the story thereafter in the U.S. has been one of unhampered state surveillance and unprecedented powers by people like the FBI to snoop and spy, and we, unfortunately, have been caught up in that. But for 9/11, Bush, Obama, and Osama Bin Laden, I don't think this would be happening because the authorities wouldn't dare.

WG: I understand that both Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price told you during interviews that Gerry Adams ordered the killing of Jean McConville. I also understand that the British government’s interest in getting a hold of the interviews includes finding evidence of who killed her. There are other implications from an intelligence point of view, including discovery of what information about British agents has been documented, in which the British government must surely also be interested. So from a journalist’s point of view and from the point of view of a citizen in a democracy, how fair do you feel the national security argument is in this or related cases, especially given that a treaty to end the conflict was signed in 1998?

(Below right: Sinn Fein rally to support four IRA hunger strikers in a British prison, including Dolours Price, in Navan, County Meath, February 6, 1974. Photo by Gerry Regan.)

Ed Moloney: Your understanding is not correct. Brendan Hughes certainly did name Adams as the person who ordered the killing of Jean McConville, but there is no evidence that in her interviews with BC (Boston College) that Dolours Price did the same. It is important to understand how this all happened and the background. Dolours Price is an IRA veteran, but she has also been psychologically scarred by her experiences in the IRA. She suffers from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) … and suffers from substance abuse. Her condition has deteriorated in recent years, a long time after she gave her interviews to BC. In February 2010, Dolours was in a psychiatric hospital in Dublin and while there she contacted the Irish News in Belfast and said she had things to tell the paper. That weekend, she was given leave to go home, but she was technically still under psychiatric care from the hospital. The Irish News' journalist Allison Morris arrived at her home and tape-recorded the interview. Dolours told a story about her involvement in the disappearance of several people in 1972, including Jean McConville. Toward the end of the interview, one of her sons arrived home and realized what was happening. He told Morris that his mother was a psychiatric patient, was taking drugs and was not in a fit state to give anyone an interview, that whatever she said was totally unreliable. He demanded that the interview end and that the tape not be used. Morris refused. He then phoned his aunt, who repeated the demand and was again refused. She then phoned the editor of the Irish News, and, after much discussion, he said that he would use the interview but agreed to keep "the juicy bits" out to minimize the damage to Dolours Price, which he did. We believe that what happened next was that Allison Morris betrayed Dolours Price and reneged on the agreement with her family and passed the tape on to a friend, Ciaran Barnes, who worked in the Sunday Life, a tabloid Belfast newspaper. He wrote up the story with "the juicy bits" very much in, and, in order to disguise the fact that he had got the information from Allison Morris' tape, wrote the piece in such a way that it appeared that he had gained access to Dolours Price’s taped interviews at Boston College, which needless to say was impossible. It is on the basis of this deception that the subpoenas were served on Boston College, that the information in Barnes' article came from BC when it didn't. The information, in fact, came from the Irish News tape, which was passed on, in contravention of an agreement with Dolours Price's family, to Barnes. Whether the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve. But there is no doubt that the subpoenas served on BC are based on a lie, that the admissions Dolours Price allegedly made and which were reported in the Sunday Life came from Boston College. They did not. …

This is what the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney (Carmen M. Ortiz) had to say in her subpoena to justify the demand for Dolours Price’s interviews: "Ms. Price's interviews by Boston College were the subject of news reports published in Northern Ireland in 2010, in which Ms. Price admitted her involvement in the murder and 'disappearances' of at least four persons whom the IRA targeted: Jean McConville, Joe Lynskey, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. See Exhibits 1 and 2. Moreover according to one news report, the reporter was permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price's Boston College interviews.”

That last sentence is a lie. He (Barnes) was not and never would be permitted access to Boston College's interviews. Boston College is the victim of journalistic ethics in Belfast that are on a par with Rupert Murdoch's hacking operations, and you can quote me.

WG: What can readers of The Wild Geese do to lend support for you in your struggle to protect your sources in the case? Is there a central location on the web or elsewhere for information and also to contact or advocate?

Ed Moloney: I would ask your readers to write to their congressmen/senators along the following lines:

Write Your Representative:

Tell them you are calling on them to use their good office to put an end to the legal fiasco surrounding the subpoena of oral history tapes of the IRA from Boston College by the PSNI. (Refer them to the Boston College Subpoena News on Facebook for complete details and updates).

Mention that you can't understand why the U.S. government is taking drastic legal action against a U.S. college on behalf of a foreign government? Tell them you don't see any reason why the U.S. has to be party to this investigation. There is nothing positive to be gained by these actions and it will only serve to jeopardize the lives of all those involved in the project.

Make sure you point out that the PSNI are only interested in republican oral histories and that they have not demanded the same access to oral histories given by loyalists. Explain that you feel the focus on IRA interviews seems to support the notion that the inquiry is “politically motivated.”

Let them know that such credible Irish organizations in the USA, namely the AOH, the Irish American Unity Conference and the Brehon Law Society have joined the campaign to help put an end to this politically motivated fishing expedition. Tell your representative that you are concerned that there exists the potential to destabilize the Good Friday Agreement if the PSNI continues to take legal action against Boston College.

Make sure you sign off by letting them know you would appreciate the courtesy of a reply from them as to how they can be of assistance in this matter.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: You can find Irish News Editor Noel Doran's response to Moloney's c... Neither reporters Ciaran Barnes nor Allison Morris could be reached for comment on Moloney’s assertions about their actions with Morris’ interview with Dolours Price. We e-mailed Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen the following Oct. 4: “We’ve interviewed Ed Moloney about developments with the British government’s subpoenas issued to Boston College, demanding access to two interviews from its oral history project. Moloney says that one of your reporters, Ciaran Barnes, received audio of an interview conducted by Allison Morris of the Irish News with Dolours Price, and used it as the basis of some reports you published, without revealing the source of the quotations. Moloney says that Morris violated an agreement with an Irish News editor, made with Price’s family, to not cause to have published “the juiciest bits,” which, according to Moloney, subsequently appeared in Barnes’ reporting. We’d like a response from the newspaper, ideally one from Barnes himself, about these assertions. Can you assist?” The following day, Breen e-mailed TheWildGeese.com the following in reply: “Sunday Life did not name its sources in the article and has no intention of naming them now.” Moloney told TheWildGeese.com that his information about Price’s condition the day Morris interviewed Price and the details of the Irish News’ attempt to meet the concerns of Price’s family came from directly from Price’s family.]


(First published 10/20/11) Parts of an interview we at TheWildGeese.com conducted in September with for...concern three February 18, 2010, Irish News articles that were based on information evidently gathered from former Provisional IRA senior operative Dolours Price. In those portions of our Q&A, Moloney attempted to provide background to the British authorities’ interest in the oral history that Price provided to Boston College’s Belfast Project. In doing so, Moloney condemned actions he ascribed to the Irish News staff during its information gathering at Price’s home prior to the Irish News articles’ publication. Irish News Editor Noel Doran approached TheWildGeese.com shortly after our Moloney interview was published, requesting the opportunity to respond to Moloney. We had, in fact, reached out to Irish News reporter Allison Morris prior to release of our interview with Moloney, but had received no response. Acknowledging our lack of success in getting an Irish News perspective before publication, we invited Doran to address Moloney’s criticism, and he sent us the following statement, which we publish here, unedited, in its entirety.


To the Editor:

It is genuinely surprising to find a journalist with Ed Moloney's experience directly questioning editorial standards at the Irish News but making the elementary mistake of failing to establish the newspaper's point of view.

(Dolours Price, left, photo by The Irish News)

As a result, Moloney attributes words and deeds to members of staff at the Irish News which bear little or no resemblance to the truth of the matter. I am grateful to TheWildGeese.com for providing me with the opportunity to set the record straight.

To begin with my own position, I can say with certainty, as editor of the Irish News, that I have not heard from Moloney for over a decade, and yet he has managed to produce an entirely flawed account of two short telephone calls in which I was involved last year.

In his contribution to TheWildGeese.com, Moloney says that I spoke to a person he strangely refers to only as the aunt of the son of Dolours Price. It is hard to understand why Moloney did not identify this individual as Marion Price, a prominent figure in Irish republicanism for almost 40 years.

Marion Price did indeed telephone me in Febuary, 2010, after her sister, Dolours, had made a number of approaches to us and invited an Irish News representative to speak to her at her Co. Dublin home.

According to Moloney, "She (Marion Price) then phoned the editor of the Irish News, and, after much discussion, he said that he would use the interview but agreed to keep 'the juicy bits' out to minimize the damage to Dolours Price, which he did.''

What actually happened was that Marion Price telephoned me and asked if we were planning to run an interview with her sister. I said we were still pursuing our research and I would get back to her when we had reached a conclusion.

I rang her back some days later to say that we had decided against publishing an interview with her sister but we would be carrying a statement from Dolours Price which confirmed that she intended to engage with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) -- more commonly known as the commission for the Disappeared. Marion Price thanked me for calling her and ended the conversation.

Although Moloney claims that this outcome was reached "after much discussion," both of my two telephone calls with Marion Price were actually brief and the second lasted rather less than one minute.

What is more concerning is Moloney's specific allegation that I had agreed to keep "the juicy bits" out of an interview. Neither Marion Price nor I used such a phrase or dealt with such a request at any time, and -- as the accompanying cuttings show -- we never set out to publish an interview with Dolours Price in the first place

Our report of February 18, 2010, could hardly be more clear and strongly focused on Dolours Price's plans to speak to the commission for the Disappeared, an important and plainly newsworthy development which also provided her with the considerable protection of immunity from prosecution over any statements she might make in this context. We understand that Dolours Price honoured this arrangement.

It is verging on the bizarre that Moloney could describe our coverage of this date as an interview when it did not include a single quotation from Dolours Price, and it is striking that, throughout his version of our story, he managed to avoid even a single reference to the crucial role of the commission for the Disappeared.

Our initial dealings with Dolours Price came about when she telephoned the Irish News and said she wished to offer her comments on an interview which we had just published with the president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams.

I asked a senior news reporter, Allison Morris, to take on this responsibility, and, by agreement, an arrangement was made for a meeting at the Co. Dublin home of Dolours Price.

Allison Morris, accompanied by a staff photographer who can corroborate the encounter, spoke amicably, professionally and in some detail to Dolours Price, and was never asked by anyone to stop the conversation.

Only when Allison Morris was preparing to leave was she asked to take a telephone call from Marion Price, who was informed that -- as she subsequently did -- she should address any concerns she might have to myself as editor.

It has been well documented that many Irish people who have survived the violence of the last four decades and beyond, including activists on all sides, politicans and indeed journalists, have suffered negative consequences to their health.

This does not preclude them from offering an opinion on their experiences, although it is reasonable to expect that newspapers should acknowledge, as we did in our front page report of February 18, 2010, those who have a particular medical history.

Dolours Price has provided her own testimony on many previous occasions, including her dealings with the organisers of the Boston College project before and after her involvement with the Irish News.

She continued to offer her thoughts to the Irish News after we carried our reports of February 18, 2010, and no member of her family has subsequently raised any issues over our coverage.

Perhaps the single most remarkable aspect of Moloney’s intervention was the following claim about our dealings with Dolours Price -- 'Whether the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve. '

Moloney would have been able to solve this 'mystery' himself by a single telephone call to the Irish News, through which we would have readily confirmed that we were contacted by the PSNI some 16 months after our report about Dolours Price.

Detectives routinely approach the main Belfast-based news organisations in connections with various investigations, and it is our policy to observe our responsibilities as both journalists and citizens in this regard.

Accordingly, we informed the detectives both personally and in writing that we fully stood over our coverage of February 18, 2010, but we were no longer in possession of any research material which could possibly be of relevance to their inquiries. We have not subsequently heard from them.

Moloney's final allegation is that a tape provided by the Irish News was the basis for a subsequent article in the Sunday Life newspaper. I am completely satisfied this is untrue, and yet again Moloney made no attempt to check the background with the Irish News before going public with his claim.

The Irish News did not make any tape recordings of Dolours Price available to other journalists or publications. Many other outlets have carried reports about Dolours Price down the years but the Irish News is only responsible for its own content.

I appreciate the many pressures which Moloney is facing over his Boston College project, but the criticisms he directs against the Irish News are completely without foundation.

Noel Doran

The Irish News

Dolours Price’s trauma over IRA Disappeared
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Convicted bomber could shed light on location of 14th victim


(First published 11/10/11) We recently received a statement from Ed Moloney, former director of Boston College’s Belfast Project, responding to a letter that we posted October 20 from Irish News Editor Noel Doran. In posts within Hell’s Kitchen, Moloney and Doran offered differing accounts of Irish News staffers’ actions during and after their information gathering at the County Dublin home of former Provisional IRA senior operative Dolours Price. The exchange between Moloney and Doran was spurred by comments Moloney made during a Q&A we published October 8, which focused on Boston College’s widely praised oral-history project. The project has compiled eyewitness accounts of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland from combatants on both sides of the divide, in return for assurances that the contents would not be revealed until an interviewee’s passing. In portions of our interview, Moloney attempted to provide background to authorities’ pursuit of two oral histories gathered by Boston College, including that of Price. Boston College is currently fighting to quash subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office demanding access to these oral histories. Speculation in news accounts about the subpoenas, whose supporting materials are sealed, suggests these federal officials are acting either on behalf of British counterparts or the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We publish here Moloney’s reply to Doran’s earlier letter.

To the Editor:

For reasons of space limitation, I am going to deal here with the two main aspects of Noel Doran’s statement (WG’s Hell’s Kitchen Blog, Oct. 20, 2011). In due course I will deal with the other issues at greater length at http://thebrokenelbow.com/.

Ed Moloney

Firstly, Noel Doran maintains that the Irish News articles of February 18th, 2010 at the heart of this saga were not based on Allison Morris’ tape-recorded interview with Dolours Price, but on a separate statement she provided, saying that she was planning to speak to the ‘disappeared commission’ about a number of so-called ‘disappearances’ that she was allegedly involved with in the early 1970‘s. In other words there was no interview or if there was it was not the basis for the articles that appeared under Allison Morris’ byline.

As he put it in his response in TheWildGeese.com, “It is verging on the bizarre that Moloney could describe our coverage of this date as an interview when it did not include a single quotation from Dolours Price. …”

The first problem with this explanation is that the information contained in the articles, about Dolours Price’s alleged role in the disappearances of IRA victims in the early 1970s, for instance, had to come from her interview with Allison Morris.

Throughout the piece, illustrated by photographs of Dolours Price taken during the interview by an Irish News photographer, there are the clear and unmistakable signs of direct quotes being turned into reported speech. For instance: “She is believed to possess previously undisclosed information about at least four Disappeared victims,” or, in relation to disappeared victim Jean McConville: “Ms. Price (59) is believed to have been one of the IRA members involved in transporting Mrs. McConville, an alleged informer, to the Republic.” When a journalist writes that “A is believed to ... etc.,” it means, "This is what A told me but I cannot quote them because a) that is our agreement, and b) if I was to break that agreement my source will be in trouble -- and so will I."

Allison Morris won two journalistic prizes in large part for her three-page spread on Dolours Price. The first, in May this year, was from the Society of Regional British Editors, which was in no doubt about what they really were. The chairman of the judges, Peter Sands, praised her “three-page interview with London bomber Dolours Price." If presenting Allison Morris’ articles as not being based on the interview was so important, why did the Irish News not make this clear to the society at the time rather than only now when the charge of unethical behavior has been made?

The most damning evidence against Noel Doran’s claims comes from his own newspaper’s report of the second award, UK Regional Reporter of the Year, given by the National Union of Journalists. A report of the award appeared in the Irish News under the byline of Maeve Connolly on June 30th, 2010.

Connolly wrote: “Judges, who admitted they were pitted against a number of ‘strong entries’ in the category, said that Allison had ‘illustrated the value of old-fashioned journalism, including door knocking and cultivating contacts.’ Allison scooped the overall reporter award for her investigations into 'new' Disappeared IRA victims and an interview with Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price.” (My emphasis.)

Dolours Price (Irish News)

The report continued: “Dolours Price spoke about her time with the IRA, involvement in the disappearance of Mr. Lynskey and knowledge of the disappearance of two other west Belfast men, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. Judges said they were ‘greatly impressed by Allison's lengthy, detailed, revealing and intensely human investigation into the disappeared victims of IRA violence.” That is “spoke,” as in “was interviewed.”

Noel Doran said “it was verging on the bizarre” that I described his paper’s coverage of Dolours Price as “an interview.” Would he use the same adjective about his own newspaper’s reporting of the same?

The claim that Allison Morris’ February 18th, 2010 article was not based on her interview with Dolours Price was one of two props supporting Noel Doran’s assertion that the Irish News played no role in the events that led to the serving of subpoenas against Boston College. That prop has now been kicked away.

The second prop is his claim that he is “completely satisfied” that Allison Morris’ recording of her interview of Price was not passed on to Sunday Life. It was that newspaper’s sensational rehash of the interview that led directly to the subpoenas served on Boston College by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts on behalf of the PSNI.

This issue is at the heart of the Boston College affair.

On the following aspects of the affair there is no disagreement or challenge:

  • The Irish News article on Dolours Price appeared on February 18th, 2010, and the Sunday Life article, under the byline of Ciaran Barnes, appeared just three days later, on February 21st, 2010. A remarkable coincidence.
  • Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes are friends and former colleagues who worked together on the Andersonstown News and Daily Ireland before their current jobs.
  • Allison Morris spoke to and interviewed Dolours Price but Ciaran Barnes did not. Barnes wrote in his piece only of “listening” to recordings of the former IRA bomber. If he had spoken to her and taped her himself, he would surely have said so.
  • Allison Morris electronically recorded the interview.
  • Ciaran Barnes wrote his Sunday Life article in such a way as to make it appear that he had been given access to Dolours Price’s interview lodged in the Boston College archive. The authority for this is no less than the U.S. Attorney’s office, which wrote in an affidavit   (Page 4) to the federal court: “... the reporter (Ciaran Barnes) was permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price’s Boston College interviews.”
  • Ciaran Barnes was not given access to any interviews by Dolours Price held at Boston College, and these are held under conditions of strict security (see Pages 3, 4).
  • No one involved in the Belfast Project at Boston College, not least myself and my researcher Anthony McIntyre had any contact then or since with Ciaran Barnes about Dolours Price. Speaking for myself, I did not even know that Ciaran Barnes existed before this affair.

A telling question emerges: How did Ciaran Barnes know that Dolours Price had given an interview to Boston College? Dolours Price didn’t tell him because she never spoke to him and no one involved in the Belfast Project at Boston College did either. That only leaves Allison Morris and the Irish News as the source.

If Allison Morris and Noel Doran had not known about Dolours Price’s interviews with Boston College, then surely they would have said so by now. It would have jumped out at them as they read my interview in TheWildGeese.com, and a loud, indignant denial that they were Barnes’ source for this vital piece of information would have been their first response. But they didn’t say a word.

Like the dog that did not bark in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries, it is their silence on this issue that really points the finger. The only sound that can be heard is the other prop supporting Noel Doran’s defense crumbling into dust.

Ed Moloney
Former Director
Belfast Oral History Project
Boston College


(First published 11/30/11) We have been the vehicle for a debate between Ed Moloney, former director of Boston College’s Belfast Project, and Irish News Editor Noel Doran. At issue is the role, or lack of such, played by the Belfast-based newspaper in the U.S. Attorney Office’s issuance of subpoenas demanding access to confidential interviews held at Boston College. In posts within Hell’s Kitchen, Moloney and Doran offered differing accounts of Irish News staffers’ actions during and after their information gathering at the County Dublin home of former Provisional IRA senior operative Dolours Price. The exchange between Moloney and Doran was spurred by commentsMoloney made during a Q&A we published October 8, which focused on Boston College’s widely praised oral-history project. The project has compiled eyewitness accounts of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland from combatants on both sides of the divide, in return for assurances that the contents would not be revealed until an interviewee’s passing. In portions of our interview, Moloney attempted to provide background to authorities’ pursuit of two oral histories gathered by Boston College, including that of Price. Boston College is currently fighting to quash subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office demanding access to these oral histories. Speculation in news accounts about the subpoenas, whose supporting materials are sealed, suggests these federal officials are acting either on behalf of British counterparts or the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We publish here Doran’s reply, the final word we will post on the subject.


To the Editor:

Noel Doran

Ed Moloney has taken a unique journalistic stance by making sweeping allegations but completely failing to put questions to those who could reasonably be expected to help him reach rational conclusions.

As a result, for the second time in three weeks, he has used TheWildGeese.com to...s about the Irish News on the basis of research that did not include a single attempt to speak to us.

Moloney, in his latest statement (November 10), said he wished to address the “main aspects” of my reply of October 20, but then went on to carefully avoid the key points that I actually highlighted.

The first and most basic concern I expressed was that Moloney, in his previous interview with TheWildGeese.com (October 8), had attributed words and deeds to the Irish News in general, and specifically to myself as editor, without making any effort to check the background with us.

Moloney, in his reply, does not challenge my central assertion in any way. He could not in all conscience do so, as he is well aware that he had not been in contact with me for more than a decade before providing a ludicrously flawed account of two straightforward telephone calls with Marion Price in which I was involved in 2010.

In my response of October 20, I went on to say that perhaps the single most remarkable aspect of Moloney's intervention was the following claim about our discussions with Marion Price's sister, Dolours. “Whether the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve.”

As I have pointed out, Moloney himself could have solved this “mystery” through one simple telephone call. We would have been happy to tell him that PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] detectives did attempt to obtain the Irish News tape but were informed that we were no longer in possession of any such material.

Moloney's November 10 statement consistently fails to explain why he neglected to approach the Irish News before providing what purported to be a detailed account of how we came to publish reports that were plainly in the public interest.

He instead concentrates on a hair-splitting analysis about whether our coverage of February 18, 2010, was an “interview,” although it contained no quotations, or--as I have suggested--a factual report on important new developments.

Moloney goes on to construct a feeble conspiracy theory based on nothing more than his observation that two news reporters whose offices are in neighboring buildings in central Belfast know each other.

For the record--as I would confirm if Moloney ever gets round to asking me--the Irish News at no time provided tapes to Sunday Life and we played no part in the subpoenas which were served on Boston College.

As editor of The Irish News, my interest is in our coverage of the significant decision by Dolours Price to speak with the Commission for the Disappeared, which I fully stand over.

If Moloney wishes to establish how Sunday Life pursued its own stories, he should obviously speak to that newspaper. On behalf of The Irish News, I can say with certainty that he failed to put even the most elementary queries to us before offering his unsustainable judgments on our performance.

Noel Doran
Editor, The Irish News
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Views: 400

Tags: Boston College, Ed Moloney, Irish Freedom Struggle, Jean McConville, Terrorism

Comment by Bit Devine on April 3, 2013 at 4:05pm

Thank you for posting this Q&A. I have been following this debacle from the beginning. I have written my congressional representatives on numerous occassions and only received their canned email responses.

I see it as a witch hunt, these subpoenas. THere is no good at all that would come from the BC interviews ending up in the hands of the PSNI.

I won't go into my own personal thoughts on the GFA and its merit.

I just pray that decency and common sense will prevail in this instance

Comment by Séamus Ó Dubsláine on April 3, 2013 at 5:06pm


Comment by Gerry Regan on April 15, 2013 at 10:38am


Senate Foreign Relatons Committee Chairman Robert Menendez Intervenes With Plea To Kerry

Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has made a dramatic intervention in the Boston College subpoenas case with a plea to newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry to raise the political implications of any handover from the Belfast Project archive of IRA interviews with his counterparts in the British government. ...


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