Boston tapes ended in disaster, but they were of historic value

Morning View
Morning View

Over the last 10 days, the News Letter has run stories about the so-called Belfast Project.

The project, often known as the Boston tapes, comprises interviews with republican and loyalist paramilitaries that were conducted a decade or more ago.

The interviewees spoke candidly about their violent past, believing that their interviews would be kept under wraps by Boston College until their deaths.

The problems began when two of them did die — David Ervine and Brendan Hughes — and their interviews were published in a book.

Hughes, a former IRA volunteer, made allegations about the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, which triggered a PSNI bid to recover his and other interviews.

One of the victims of terrorism that we spoke to, Aileen Quinton, had no sympathy for the predicament in which the PSNI bid placed the interviewees, some of whom suddenly found themselves fearing arrest.

She is happy that they are at least now suffering some stress, after the pain that they inflicted on their victims.

This newspaper, and almost all unequivocal opponents of terror, will fully sympathise with Ms Quinton. Her mother Alberta was murdered in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb, one of a long list of IRA atrocities in which civilians died (including Claudy, Bloody Friday, Kingsmills, La Mon, Harrods, Hyde Park, Teebane and Warrington).

The Boston interviews were unrepresentative, and the project ended in disaster, but the fact is such candid interviews could yet be a template for aspects of a truth process about the past.

Such a process would only work if there is honesty on all sides about what happened, which seems unlikely given that republicans typically lie about their past while always attributing brutality to the British (who in fact prevented civil war in Northern Ireland).