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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

Henry McDonald misreports the Jean McConville case - Guardian reporter seems to forget "live" court prosecution

Ivor Bell - the Guardian implies he spoke “openly and freely”
on Boston College tapes

Whatever side you take on the Jean McConville affair, there is no doubt that it’s an important issue. In 1972, a woman with a large, young family was abducted by the IRA and shot and secretly buried. It’s important for the McConville family and wider society that the truth about her murder be established if possible. In my view, this can only be done when we have a fully comprehensive Truth Commission.

Adversarial criminal prosecutions will rarely shed full light on all the circumstances surrounding a murder or series of murders, or conspiracies to murder. Nor can criminal prosecutions in Troubles related cases be fair and just, and seen to be fair and just, in a situation (as we have at present) where the security forces and British state effectively enjoy amnesty from prosecution. Moreover, we have already seen strong evidence of PSNI bias towards former members of the RUC with its (recently revamped) Legacy Unit seeming to have a policy of protecting the name and reputation of the old RUC. Worse, the PSNI has been clearly seen to obstruct “collusion inquests “ and yet at the same time has pursued the Jean McConville case relentlessly, even going so far as to arrest a man who'd been appointed (with government approval) to help clear up the cases of the “Disappeared”.

The mainstream media meanwhile is almost completely silent on a possible political motivation on the part of the PSNI in relation to its arrests in the Jean McConville prosecution and, unfortunately, my favourite newspaper the Guardian offers a perfect example of this today. Because whilst Henry McDonald (the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent) quite properly reports that the PSNI has arrested two more people as part of its McConville investigation, see – “Two more arrests in Jean McConville murder investigation”
what McDonald says next is astonishing. For not only does he fail to mention that a large number of people have criticised the PSNI’s behaviour in this affair and that its use of the so called Boston College tapes as evidence is widely regarded as questionable, McDonald seems to forget that a veteran republican (Ivor Bell) is currently before the courts on very serious charges relating to the McConville killing. Mr Bell is not only entitled to a fair and impartial trial, he is also entitled to impartial reporting and yet McDonald states former IRA members (including Bell by implication) spoke “openly and freely” about their IRA activities to the Boston College tapes project team.

This is what McDonald says:
"Detectives have based much of their investigation on taped interviews given by ex-IRA activists for a Boston College project on the Troubles. These testimonies, in which IRA members spoke openly and freely about their involvement in violence, were meant to be released only when each individual was dead. However, the PSNI pursued the material through the US legal system and seized a number of tapes it believed contain information about McConville’s murder."

If I may say so, the standard of reporting here is abject and not for the first time where McDonald is concerned, completely below the high standards set by the Guardian. McDonald cannot be unaware, not only of the barrage of international criticism of the Boston Tapes project as inherently biased and “leading” (a charge made by Boston College staff themselves), but also that Ivor Bell and his legal team flatly deny that he was speaking “openly and freely”. They have described the Boston project as a complete “sham”. In fact, Henry McDonald reported this very fact in the Guardian in September of this year, see here -

So how on earth can the Guardian now blandly assert that IRA members spoke “openly and freely” on these tapes? The fact that the PSNI may allege they did so does not make it true.

In my opinion, the Guardian should immediately amend this article by making it clear that Mr Bell disputes the accuracy of the Boston tapes and that this widely held view casts doubt on the PSNI prosecution. It’s true that the article is a short news piece but that doesn't remove the Guardian’s obligation to report fairly and to uphold the principle of being innocent until proven otherwise. The same goes for the two people arrested today.

Paul Larkin
Gaoth Dobhair
Mí na Nollag 2014
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Title: Henry McDonald misreports the Jean McConville case - Guardian reporter seems to forget "live" court prosecution
Date posted: 22 Dec '14 - 14:57
Filed under: General
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