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Pól Ó Lorcáin
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

Lord Paul Bew and the GAL - the Get Adams League

Though we didn't know it at the time, the instigation of the Boston College oral history project signalled the launch of the GAL – the Get Adams League

Paul Bew - In 2002 he referred to Gerry Adams as smelling like “rotten cabbage”.

Up until a few days ago very few of the reports regarding the interview tapes of ex IRA members that led to the arrest of Gerry Adams, carried a mention of ‘Lord’ Paul Bew – a central figure within the British establishment and signatory to the neo-conservative Henry Jackson principles.

Yet it was Paul Bew who initiated the fiasco that was the Boston College oral history project and Paul Bew who appointed Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre to work on the project. This is not me saying this but both Ed Moloney and Boston College themselves – look at this from the preface of Ed Moloney’s own book Voices From The Grave, which was based on some of the interview tapes. The book’s preface was written by Boston College officials Professor Tom Hachey (head of Irish Studies) and Dr Bob O'Neill (head of the Burns Library at BC):

'Paul Bew, politics professor and senior political adviser to a Northern Ireland first minister, together with two historians who remain anonymous, assisted in an assessment of the information contained in the recorded interviews. Lord Bew strongly encouraged Boston College to document and archive the stories of paramilitaries who fought on both sides of the sectarian divide, known more popularly as the Troubles, because it was such a natural fit.' (Voices From The Grave, Faber and Faber, 2010, p.1.)

For some reason Ed Moloney has now tried to downplay the importance of Paul Bew to the Boston project by asserting that Bew had simply been a 'messenger boy', but the quote above from Moloney’s own book gives the lie to that assertion. The excellent researcher and journalist Tom Griffen has written tellingly on this issue here:

To put the final nail in the argument, let us again listen to Moloney himself in the book Voices from the Grave where in his own introduction he describes Paul Bew’s input as 'crucial':

“In addition to Tom Hachey, Bob O’Neill, Patrick Keating, Anthony Mcintyre and Wilson McArthur, I would like to thank and credit a number of other people for their help in making this book possible ... Professor, now Lord, Bew, whose support at the very outset of the project was crucial …'

Why has Ed Moloney sought to downplay the role of Paul Bew?

Thus we can be clear that both Boston College and Ed Moloney have previously stressed the importance of Paul Bew in the instigation of the infamous oral history project. But what has not been widely publicised or discussed (and this is perhaps the reason for Moloney’s coyness over Bew) is the fact that Paul Bew not only set the Boston tapes ball rolling, it was Paul Bew who selected Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre to oversee and research/record interviewees respectively in the first place. Look at this article by Beth McMurtrie “Secrets From Belfast” – where she highlights Paul Bew’s role:

'So it was not surprising when, in the spring of 2000, a visiting scholar from Queen’s University Belfast, Paul Bew, suggested to Mr. O’Neill that he consider documenting the recent history of Northern Ireland. Mr. Bew recommended Mr. Moloney, an intense and seemingly fearless journalist who was not averse to risky projects. Having spent decades getting to know people on both sides of the conflict, he was in the process of writing A Secret History of the IRA, a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization had shifted from the gun to the ballot box in its quest for influence.'

And in a subsequent quote where Boston College makes clear that they depended on Paul Bew’s advice for selecting the oral history team:

'Mr. Hachey says he didn’t feel anyone on the campus had the necessary expertise. Although a number of faculty members studied Irish culture, history, and literature, he says, “I was looking for someone who was an unequivocal expert” on modern-day Northern Ireland. He relied on the advice of Mr. Bew, who not only had recommended Mr. Moloney but also had been Mr. McIntyre’s adviser at Queen’s.'

There we have it, Paul Bew not only instigated the Boston College oral history project, he also chose Ed Moloney, whom he knew to be writing a book that was critical of Sinn Féin, and McIntyre whom he already knew because he had tutored him on his Queens doctorate which was entitled “Modern Irish republicanism: the product of British state strategies”.

Bew, in other words knew exactly where Moloney and McIntyre were coming from when appointing them. But the Boston College quote above makes clear that Bew’s influence and that of other anonymous figures went even further. Because even though the media has ignored this fact, both Ed Moloney and Boston College make clear that Paul Bew and these other background figures assessed the value of the interviews carried out by Anthony McIntyre and another researcher. Once again, this is not me saying this. This key information is provided in Ed Moloney’s book Voices From The Grave and it bears repeating:

'Paul Bew, politics professor and senior political adviser to a Northern Ireland first minister, together with two historians who remain anonymous, assisted in an assessment of the information contained in the recorded interviews.'

Sinn Féin leaders – these are the bad guys right?

Once again Ed Moloney, following the sensational arrest of Gerry Adams by the PSNI’s legacy unit, seems to be involved in telling a half truth about who saw, listened to, or had access to the controversial interview material. In a blog from his Broken Elbow site, he tells us that only one person, other than himself and Anthony McIntyre, has read the whole archive of the interview tapes and that was a US Federal Court judge.

"Only one person, other than myself and Anthony McIntyre has read the entire archive and that was the US Federal Court judge, William Young who heard the case seeking the dismissal of the PSNI subpoenas in December 2011.”

But what Moloney, for some reason, fails to point out to his readers is that Boston College told us in his own book (Voices From The Grave) that Paul Bew and other unnamed historians assessed the interviews carried out by Anthony McIntyre. Now at this juncture we can see that not only Ed Moloney but Paul Bew and the unnamed historians have a big problem.

Boston College accused of Anthony McIntyre of having ‘led’ his interviewees.

If it’s true that Paul Bew and other, for some reason, anonymous historians (who were these people?) either assessed the transcripts or actually listened to the interview tapes that led to the arrest of Gerry Adams (according to the PSNI), why was Bew not interviewed by the PSNI and why did Bew (a well respected academic) not raise the alarm about the standard of interviewing and its possible bias on the part of Anthony McIntyre?

Boston College has been very clear on this point. In early 2000, a former head of Irish studies at Boston College Kevin O’Neill (no relation to the Bob O’Neill referred to above) was asked to review a couple of interview transcripts and this is how Beth McMurtrie describes his reaction:

'He had been asked by Mr. Hachey in early 2002 to review a couple of interview transcripts. He wrote a memorandum saying that he was impressed by their potential value to historians, but was very concerned that the interviewer didn’t appear to have much experience with oral-history methodology—asking leading questions, for example.'

So in early 2002 Kevin O’Neill accused Anthony McIntyre of having ‘led” (ie prompted) his interviewees. In all the correspondence and literature I have seen, there is no reference to Paul Bew and the anonymous historians who assessed the tapes, ringing alarm bells about the standard of interviewing. So maybe Kevin O’Neill was mistaken? Not so according to Boston College. In an interview with US journalist Brook Gladstone, another Boston College figure, director of News and Public Affairs Jack Dunn, also accused McIntyre of having weak interview techniques:

“The shame of it is that Anthony conducted the interviews with the IRA members and those who have heard the tapes said his work was very weak. Kevin O’Neill Boston College said that he was stunned by how leading the questions were.'

It’s only fair to say that Anthony McIntyre, and Ed Moloney, fiercely disputed Boston College’s criticism of their interview techniques and overall MO, but if one looks at the bile and vitriol that McIntyre has directed towards Gerry Adams and other Sinn Féin leaders over the years one is, at the very least, left with a suspicion that he was the wrong person for Paul Bew to pick for the sensitive job of interviewing the likes of former IRA people who themselves were very bitter about Gerry Adams. Or at least Paul Bew might have ensured a broader spread of republican views.

For the record, my take on the ensuing row between Boston College and Moloney/McIntyre is that the latter have a point in saying that the college was happy to participate and even enjoy the fruits of the their work. However, it seems clear to me that Boston College was not fully aware that they were taking on two bitter opponents of Sinn Féin in general and Gerry Adams in particular, which brings us inevitably back to Paul Bew. Did Paul Bew make Moloney and McIntyre’s anti Adams bias clear to Boston College when recommending them?

I can find no record of Paul Bew having offered a comment either supporting or questioning the performance of Moloney and McIntyre in the recording and cataloguing of the taped interviews which he assessed. However, in 2002 (2002 mark ye good readers) we were given a strong hint that Bew, and indeed the British establishment generally, were pleased with Moloney and McIntyre’s efforts when the Daily Telegraph published a review by Paul Bew of Ed Moloney’s book about the IRA - A Secret History of the IRA, which is in fact a (sometimes more, sometimes less) open tirade against Gerry Adams and the Belfast/Derry leadership of Sinn Féin.

Pic of Moloney’s IRA book
Not a definitive book on the IRA, but a hatchet job on Gerry Adams

It is noticeable in Bew’s review of Moloney’s book that he is entirely praiseworthy of Moloney and also that the language he uses against Adams is venomous in the extreme. Thus Bew's review, entitled “At last we know the human cost of Gerry Adams”, serves two useful functions for our purposes: it signals very clearly that the British lord who appointed Ed Moloney to the Boston tapes project has told the world that Moloney’s book was not in fact about the IRA but actually a hatchet job on Gerry Adams. Furthermore, the urbane, intellectual façade usually presented by Paul Bew is removed for a moment as he likens Adams to putrid “rotten cabbage”. Paul Bew also makes a direct connection between Moloney’s book, Gerry Adams and the murder of Jean McConville.

Bear in mind that Boston College tells us that at this time, when Bew reviewed Moloney’s anti Adam’s book, he was also involved in either assessing, or preparing to assess, Moloney/McIntyre’s interview tapes for the Boston project.

Bew’s assault on Gerry Adams can be read here:

There is a further interesting element to Bew’s, to my mind, astonishing article. For we find that it was then reproduced in its entirety by a website called The Blanket, which just happens to have been run at that time by Anthony McIntyre who at the bottom of Bew’s review tells us the following:

Paul Bew is the Professor of Irish Politics at Queen's University, Belfast. This article first ran in the Daily Telegraph and is carried here with permission from the author.

Now here is my point about this article’s appearance - there is no hint anywhere by Bew that he has a vested interested in Moloney’s work by having recommended him for a history project (the precise nature of which could have been omitted). In fact nothing about their clearly close relationship. Similarly, Anthony McIntyre when reproducing this article for The Blanket says nothing about a prior relationship with Bew – because of his PHD and/or the fact that Bew had selected him for some sort of oral history project. But there is one thing that is very clear in this Bew/Moloney/McIntyre axis and that is the contempt they hold for Gerry Adams. This brings me to my last point.

Gerry Adams - prior to his arrest Ireland’s most popular politician

Meet the GAL – The Get Adams League

Though we didn’t realise it at the time, where Irish politics and the peace process is concerned, what we were seeing with the coming together of the likes of Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre with ruling class Unionist figures like Paul Bew was a new alignment within the strongly Unionist wing of British Establishment and it was based on one core issue and that was a concerted campaign against the Sinn Féin leadership with Gerry Adams as the key hate figure.

We should be clear that this GAL group does not, by any means, share the same political views – some for example believe that the Unionists have been abandoned to an atavistic Irish Nationalist and Catholic fate, others like Paul Bew believe that the combination of carrot and stick and a hard hand where necessary (a Dirty War) combined to defeat Sinn Féin and the IRA. But one thing unites this GAL group and that is their detestation of Gerry Adams and all his works. The GAL is like a bell intoning one constant message that Gerry Adams is a common criminal – a pariah who is beyond all decency. The discrepancy in this view will hit most Irish people straight away. Paul Bew for example is a key figure in the GAL but also a patron of the Airey Neave Trust. The Conservative politician Airey Neave, who was assassinated by the INLA, was a hawk whose seeming answer to every Irish issue was to send in the SAS. SAS good. IRA bad right?

I will give just one example out of hundreds of possible examples of where we have seen this GAL group come together in public and it is a quite extraordinary example. It is one that sees Paul Bew, the former head of RUC Special Branch Bill Lowry, and lots of other establishment figures rubbing shoulders with none other than Anthony McIntyre. And what was the occasion? It was the June 2004 Queens University bookshop occasion to celebrate the fact that the non pareil anti appeasement figure (and subsequent Islamaphobe) Dean Godson had published his mammoth book about David Trimble – Himself Alone.

Liam Clarke’s description of the dramatis personae assembled at this book launch is well worth reading but I’m afraid most of it is behind a Sunday Times paywall. Readers will however get the picture which also includes references to FRU spook Ian Hurst just to complete the GAL picture:

Mention of Hurst is apt because it illustrates the strange nature of this anti Sinn Féin alliance. Only last month, Ed Moloney wrote a lengthy defence of arch dissimulator and FRU spook Ian Hurst to the Guardian in a vain attempt to uphold his reputation following a complaint from this author. The Guardian upheld my complaint. See here -

With regard to David Trimble biographer Dean Godson, there is not space here to go into his impeccable establishment credentials but he was not only a chief leader writer at the Daily Telegraph and associate editor of The Spectator, but he was also, and still is, an influential figure on the right side of David Cameron’s Tory Party. However in an Irish context, the anti Sinn Féin nature of his book launch was clear. Top RUC branch man Bill Lowry for example has always been scathing about the peace process. As a guest of a DUP meeting in Ballymena in 2004, for example, Lowry described Sinn Fein as ‘dogs’ and also said that he couldn’t watch MPs Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams on television without seeing blood dripping from their hands.

It is obvious to anyone, that there is only one reason why the likes of Anthony McIntyre would be invited to such an occasion and that is his long standing and vitriolic campaign against Gerry Adams.

Looking back we can see that this GAL group, whilst holding differing views on lots of questions, has come together either in print or electronic media wherever they felt the Sinn Féin hydra needed beheading. Paul Bew has been at the heart of that group. In a tribute to Paul Bew in the right wing Spectator magazine in February 2007, Dean Godson emphasised Bew’s central role as a, if you like, GAL guru:

'Bew has taught almost everyone in Ulster, from Ian Paisley Jr to the former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre, editor of the Blanket and one of Gerry Adams's most articulate critics within republicanism. They all respect him for his impartiality another remarkable achievement for one so politically committed. With his unique admixture of innocence and cunning, no one knows better how to charm the serpents in the Queen's snake-pit.'

I couldn’t have put it better myself

Where the arrest of Gerry Adams by the PSNI is concerned, the constant repetition by this GAL group of Jean McConville’s name (above all other Troubles victims) and its tactic of presenting Adams as a common criminal seems to have paid off, if only temporarily.

However, if the legal administration in the North decides, at some future point, to bring a prosecution against Gerry Adams based on the content of the taped interviews that were organised and procured by people with a clear and demonstrable animus against Sinn Féin and where the interviewees have been alleged to have prompted interviewees to incriminate Gerry Adams, that will lead to a collapse in trust of the PSNI right across Ireland and probably the Good Friday Agreement itself. Not least when it is clear that many instances of horrendous state violence during the Troubles have been whitewashed.

There is also a lesson for Sinn Féin in all of this. We were told that the Good Friday Agreement was a new beginning for everyone on the island, of whatever creed or political belief and that the old RUC would disappear. Now that party, along with the Irish government, has to reassure us that it can actually ensure a new justice system where all victims of the Troubles, including Jean McConville and her family, can be offered a chance of closure and to find out the truth.

If we had a robust, independent and investigative media in Ireland, Paul Bew would already have faced hard questions about his role in the Boston tapes fiasco and the question of a Truth Commission would have been raised much more often instead of a distorted focus on Gerry Adams and one family's undoubted misery and hardship in their search for the truth about what happened.

@Paul Larkin
Gaoth Dobhair
Mí Bealtaine 2014
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