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Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Revealed - the academic who in 2002 rang alarm bells over the Boston tapes - he was never contacted by the PSNI or any legal body

Cic Saor can now reveal the identity of the experienced and highly respected academic who blew a loud whistle over the poor standard and slanted nature of the Paul Bew/Ed Moloney Boston tapes project. Bearing in mind that it was Queens Academic Paul Bew who effectively appointed Ed Moloney to the project and Bew who also selected his former PHD student McIntyre as the man to do the interviewing.

Meet the real, impartial and forensic whistle blower who gave a devastating account of the Boston tapes project:

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Co-founder of Boston College's Irish Studies programme Kevin O'Neill

It was the co-founder of Boston College's Irish Studies programme Kevin O'Neill who cried alarm when he assessed McIntyre's interview material in early 2000. O'Neill is still a member of Boston College's History Department. I provide a potted biography of O'Neill below but there are three very important aspects to this revelation:

1) Not at any point did the PSNI or any other legal authority contact Kevin O'Neill regarding his memo, which basically was 100% academic dynamite being thrown right into the heart of the project.
2) As far as been discovered so far, there is no record of Paul Bew having reacted to Kevin O'Neill's damning memo.
3) Over the last day or so Ed Moloney, the project co-ordinator for this failed and utterly discredited enterprise apparently issued a statement to the effect that the oral history project would have been "dead" if Boston College had raised any red flags about the confidentiality of the tapes. That very red flag, written in 2002, can be seen in black and white below in as much that O'Neill seriously questions the professionalism and academic rigour of the participants. It is hard to believe that Moloney was/is not aware of this memo.
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Now here is the rest of my article written before I was given permission to identify one of the (two) anonymous academics who assessed the oral history project right at the start of its existence:

Below I provide proof positive that, right near the start of the project, alarm bells were raised in Boston College over the now infamous Boston College tapes project (or Belfast Project as it came to be known) regarding the anti Gerry Adams nature of the project and the biased and flawed interviewing technique of the interviewer - Anthony McIntyre. It is an absolute scandal if the PSNI have seen this memo and still proceeded to arrest Gerry Adams on the basis of these interviews, which are clearly identified as fundamentally slanted and flawed.
The historian who reviewed McIntyre's interviews did not know the identity of the interviewer at the time. However readers will see that, whilst it confirms the importance of the material, it identifies a "serious problem with the interviewing technique" (point 3 at top) with McIntyre frequently leading his subjects into "modes of analysis" and "even conclusions". McIntyre also gives his own opinions. Crucially, with regard to this kind of prompting, the reviewer says that the material is effectively rendered unusable and would be thrown out in a court of law (end of point 3 at top) :
"Such leading of subjects would be thrown out in a court; they are equally damaging in the collection of oral history. They leave the future reader unsure whether he/she is looking at attitudes and linguistic formations of the subjects, or of the interviewer. As there is only one interviewer this provides the possibility of a large scale “corruption” of this “data”."

Then at point four in the bottom section of numbers, the reviewer raises the absence of mainstream republican involvement by directly asking what efforts have been made to involve mainstream republicans.

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Former Workers Party Guru, and now Lord, Paul Bew

The instigator of this project 'Lord' Paul Bew has a lot of questions to answer, not only regarding his selection of Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre for this project but also whether he saw the memo below,or was made aware of concerns like this, or has seen it subsequently.

Here is that important memo - the reviewer is writing his memo to Professor Tom Hachey (Director of the Irish Studies Programme at Boston College):


CONFIDENTIAL
January 28, 2002
Dear Tom,
I did a quick review of the Burns Oral History project material on Jan.24, 2002.
Here are my observations:
1. The files contain very important information on the early days of the Troubles, the formation and development of the PIRA, and subsequent events up to the Hunger Strikes [it may contain more that I did not have time to see.] What is already collected forms the foundation of a significant historical archive.
2. The material condition of files, discs, and recordings seem very professional. However, I would have to listen to the audio to be sure of this.
3. 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!]
Some examples:
Q. “In my view it was very very naïve” [this is from interviewer!]
Q “Is it true to say, as many writers and academics claim, that was one of the significant turning points….” [Falls Curfew]
Q. “I think that what you are trying to do is argue…”
Q. “Even in the most functional terms, was it a sledgehammer to crack a nut?”
Q. They seemed to be …incestuous….
A. ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛
Q. Most volunteers that stayed the course seemed to have that as an objective, I know I did…”
Such leading of subjects would be thrown out in a court; they are equally damaging in the collection of oral history. They leave the future reader unsure whether he/she is looking at attitudes and linguistic formations of the subjects, or of the interviewer. As there is only one interviewer this provides the possibility of a large scale “corruption” of this “data”.
Conclusion:
There is much of value here, but before I could offer a professional opinion on the historical merit of the archive I would need to have answers to the following questions:
1. How are the subjects for the interviews chosen/excluded?
2. Does anyone involved in the project have experience/training in oral history collection? If not, why not?
3. The interviewer operates with a clear sense of “engagement” with the Republican movement. This may cause difficulties with some Republican voices [mainstream]; it [would] clearly be quite inappropriate if there is an intention to expand this project to include Loyalists. Is this the intention?
4. What discussion has taken place to insure access to Republicans still active in the mainstream?


Readers may be surprised that this whole memo can be read as a document in the public domain here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/205106871/Burns-Belfast-Project-Report

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Kevin O'Neill a short biography


Kevin O'Neill is a co-founder of the Irish Studies program of Boston College and a member of the Boston College History Department whose research concentrates on the interaction of traditional agricultural societies and a growing world economy with a special focus upon pre-famine Ireland. His current research project exploring “Atlantic Ecologies” is a comparative study of three 18th century communities in Ireland, Jamaica and New England.

Publications include
Family and Farm in Pre-famine Ireland: The Parish of Killeshandra [1984, 2003]
“Pale and Dejected, Exhausted by the Waste of Sorrow: Courtship and the Expression of Emotion” in Sexed Sentiments. [2011]
“Nation or Neighbourhood? Mary Leadbeater and Post-Rebellion Reform.” in These Fissured Isles: Ireland, Scotland and British History, 1798-1848. ed. Terry Brotherstone, Anna Clark, Kevin Whelan. [2005]

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ENDS





@Paul Larkin
Gaoth Dobhair
Mí na Bealtaine 2014
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Title: Revealed - the academic who in 2002 rang alarm bells over the Boston tapes - he was never contacted by the PSNI or any legal body
Date posted: 06 May '14 - 23:31
Filed under: General
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