Belfast Project: The (Political) Knives Come Out

On Friday morning I am publishing a post by Danny Morrison, former national director of publicity for Sinn Féin, at his request, in which he takes to task Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, the two protagonists in the Belfast Project case. I have offered Moloney and McIntyre a right of response, and if they take me up on it, I’ll post their response, too.

A brief word about why I’m doing this. There is still a temporary stay in place in the United States as Justice Breyer considers whether to stay the case pending a petition for a writ of certiorari, 1 and McIntyre has indicated he may appeal from the denial of his application for judicial review in Belfast. It may be that Moloney & McIntyre will ultimately prevail in court either here or in Northern Ireland. But my best guess is that they won’t and that the legal part of this case is winding down. It may also be that their lobbying efforts will pay off and either the UK will withdraw the request for judicial assistance or the Department of Justice will do an about-face and stop cooperating with the UK. My best guess, again, is that this won’t happen. I think many people now feel it is just a matter of time before the interviews are turned over to the UK authorities.

And so now the blame game has begun. You can see bits of it online, for example in the hundreds of comments at politics.ie, at Slugger O’Toole, and at websites run by Danny Morrison, Ed Moloney, and Anthony McIntyre themselves.

Interestingly, the main dispute seems to be within Irish republicanism. On the one side are Moloney & McIntyre and their supporters, who, if I understand things right, are basically republicans who became disenchanted with Sinn Féin and the establishment, so to speak, after the Good Friday Accords. They are generally opponents of Gerry Adams and others who are now in government. On the other side are Danny Morrison and others who are basically in favor of the results of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

One side accuses the other of being tools of the British by supporting the power-sharing arrangement; some on the other side accuse the first of being informers on account of their participation in the Belfast Project. But it’s actually somewhat difficult to figure out why the two sides’ disputes have anything to do with the Belfast Project case. Sinn Féin obviously has nothing to gain by release of the tapes, if the speculation is right and the interviews reflect badly on Adams or even put him in some legal jeopardy. Nor do Moloney or McIntyre want the tapes released, as their courtroom battles have shown. So both sides should want the same thing. Nor does it really seem likely that all of the bad blood is about a question of the professional ethics of oral historians, i.e., about the question whether Moloney & McIntyre should have warned interviewees that they could not promise confidentiality in the face of a subpoena. So it seems to me that both sides, maybe, are using the Belfast Project as a kind of proxy war to settle other scores.

In any event, I welcome Danny Morrison’s contribution, and I invite readers to comment with their views on his post, or on the post that Moloney & McIntyre may be publishing here.

Notes:

  1. Or to refer the question of a stay to the full court.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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