1972 was one of the darkest yet defining years in modern Irish history. Nearly five hundred people were killed in the conflict known as “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Events of that year like Bloody Sunday, Bloody Friday and Operation Motorman would shape Ireland for decades to come. In many ways one death has been remembered more than any other – this was abduction and murder of Jean McConville in December 1972.

In the last two weeks this event in particular has brought 1972 back centre stage when the prominent Irish politician and leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams was arrested in relation to Mrs. McConville’s murder. This has had huge implications for history, as much of the case against Adams appears to have originated in a historical archive seized by the police.

In this podcast I look at the events in Ireland in 1972 and how it has come to pass that 42 years later one of the Ireland’s most prominent politicians arrested. What was in this historical archive? What are the rights of historians to record history vs. the rights of families of victims who may want to read private archives looking of answers? What are the rights of people to their good name when allegations are made about them in historical interviews? Finally perhaps the most important question for historians – who has the right to record our history? This show takes you through these controversial questions and indeed the interviews conducted with former members of the IRA revealing what the allegations made were.


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The IRA, the Boston College Tapes and who tells the past?






Let me know what your thought of the show by contacting me @irishhistory on twitter or irishhistorypodcast on facebook.

5 comments on “The IRA, the Boston College Tapes and who tells the past?

  1. James on

    This was a very balanced and intelligent look at the issues. Your opinion that the results for our understanding of the history of the “troubles” will be negatively effected is spot on. A general amnesty will be hard for many people to bare but I cannot see a sensible or reasonable alternative. It is unlikely that in the absence of such an amnesty that many families will ever know the truth or that history will either.

  2. Cumidhe OFhloinn on

    Hi, Interesting synapsis on the history of the troubles. However the first glaring error was in stating that the IRA handed over their arms. My recollection is, that they were verifiably destroyed, not surrendered. Secondly, I don’t believe the guarantee from Boston College was misleading, rather I think both parties were lax in their interpretation of American law. and Thirdly, while I acknowledge that at the end of the podcast you acknowledged the affiliations of the Initiator Paul Bew as a leading Loyalist advisor, Ed Moloney as a lifelong anti Sinn-Fein advocate, and interviewer Anthony McIntyre and interviewees Brendan Hughes and Dolores Price as anti- Sinn Fein and anti Peace process adherents, it could have been clearer to the listener had you you described their backgrounds as you introduced them to your story

  3. Madeleine on

    I thought this was a balanced and well done podcast on a very contentious subject. It seems to me Boston College or at least Paul Bew and other organizers of the project could have had an agreement with the governments involved to keep the interviews secret for 30 or 50 years. You are right that historical and police investigation are different and should be kept separate. People will not talk if they fear. I also question the motives of some of the interviewees in saying explosive things like Gerry Adams ordered the death when they know they will be dead, but the other person may not when the interview is revealed. Can we really believe it? The whole set up for the project was flawed.


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