Truth and reconciliation

President Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, and military aide boarding Marine One, 07/16/1972, NARA identifier #194438

President Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, and military aide boarding Marine One, 07/16/1972, NARA identifier #194438

Ed Moloney and Chris Bray have stepped in to pull this blog back from the brink of libel, for which I thank them. I’ve put a timestamped strikethrough on the offending sentence.

Bray points out that A Secret History of the IRA was not, as I wrote in all caps here, based on the oral histories in the Belfast project’s collection. Voices from the Grave used interviews with Brendan Hughes and David Ervine, who are in the collection; the embargo on those interviews ended with the men’s deaths, and those materials are open to “any researcher.”

Here’s every hit for “interview” in Secret History.

Here’s every hit for “interview” in Grave

The interviews footnoted in Secret History look to be entirely in Moloney’s personal collection, all conducted between 1998 and November 2000. Only one appears to have come from another collection, Anthony McIntyre’s May 2000 “Interview with former Belfast IRA member (B),” in an embargoed collection at Linen Hall Library. This blog does not dispute Moloney’s statement that the work for the first book was all done by the “summer of 2001,” which leaves only a little overlap with the BC start date of “early 2001.” It seems odd that the interviews for Secret History would have nothing to do with the BC project, given the proximity, but if the man who did the interviewing says that there was a firewall between his interviews as a journalist and his interviews as an archivist, this blog has to take him at his word.

It’s important to note that since virtually all the interviews in Secret History are with a reporter’s confidential sources, and since neither the Belfast project nor Linen Hall has public finding aids, there’s no way for this blog to confirm that none of the interviewees for Secret History ended up giving oral histories for the Belfast project. Links to public finding aids to these collections are welcome; please post them below.

It’s also important to note that, unless I’m terribly mistaken, I’ve never misspelled Ed Moloney’s name. Perhaps he has me confused with these folks, who seem to think he’s a Maloney. And, not to deepen the flame war, but I did stick your name into Amazon; your book was linked in the original post. Sorry you didn’t see it.

Ultimately, I think Moloney and Bray and McIntyre and this blog are in the grand scheme all on the same side. I oppose archivists’ privilege in no small part because the first body to assert the privilege in the United States was the FBI; having used all their FOIA exemptions to give Frank Wilkinson a 95% redacted version of his own file, the spooks invented “archival privilege” out of whole cloth, and the spooks lost. Archivists in this country thought the topic so skunked that it sat dormant for twenty years. The biggest archives in this country is NARA, and establishing archivists’ privilege means wrapping NARA’s collections in restrictions which are bound by their nature to be opaque, arbitrarily-enforced, and because of how privilege works in the US, permanent. It’s the FOIA exemption to end all FOIA exemptions. It’s Christmas for the secret police.

Finally, it’s worth remembering why we call it truth and reconciliation. There can’t be reconciliation without truth.

  1. Chris Bray said:

    Thanks for this — I appreciate your willingness to reconsider a piece of the story.

  2. can i also add my thanks and appreciation for your generosity of spirit. let me also add a word of explanation of just one outstanding point. the interviews by anthony mcintyre that i cited in “a secret history….” that are housed in the linenhall library in belfast were interviews that he conducted for his doctoral thesis in politics awarded by Queen’s University Belfast in, I believe, 2000. They were not ever part of the Boston College archive and were conducted several years before it began. many thanks. Ed Moloney

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