Current Affairs

The Truth About Paul Bew And The Boston Project

A response to the claims and counter-claims stemming from the now controversial Boston College Oral History project…

The Broken Elbow

Thanks to the level of disinformation, confusion and outright lying, I think the time is overdue to address the issue of Paul Bew’s involvement in the Boston College Belfast Project. These events happened fourteen years or more ago and within that memory constraint and limitation this is how I remember it.

I am the person who had the idea for the Belfast Project and it was conceived long before Boston College or Paul Bew came on the scene. Bew was its Boston midwife in a sense but he was not there on the night of impregnation.

By the time of the Good Friday Agreement, I had already started work on ‘A Secret History of the IRA’ and research for this book along with my reporting for the Sunday Tribune had convinced me that the Troubles were ending, the IRA’s war was over. I was also convinced from what…

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12 comments on “The Truth About Paul Bew And The Boston Project

  1. “The sad truth is that as long as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness persist in their fictional life histories it will not be possible to collect anything remotely resembling a credible oral history, or any other history of the IRA, if those collecting the history rely on sources who repeat such nonsense.”

    Ed, has lost the plot completely. People who have been involved in (allegedly) organising violence in their past e.g. Adams or as we also saw this week Blair are not keen – for various reasons – on talking about it – in Adams’s case because he might have to spend some more time in prison or in Blair’s case because he might have to make a first visit,

    …Ed really needs to get a get grip on his journalistic knickers.


    • I tend to agree. The whole thing has got so personal that rationale thought is being lost. A very sad state of affairs. You still banned from Commenting on the Broken Elbow? I’m not sure whether I am or not since the last round of the controversy.


      • Séamas, not sure – really cant be arsed for now at least – I think Ed has tripped over his own shoelaces and found himself in a rather large hole – and instead of exiting the way he came him as decided to tunnel his way out.


  2. Iontas bocht orm a Shéamais go bhfuil tú sásta ionsaithe ad hominem is masla (an gnathnós Moloney) a fhiosú ar do bhlag is twitter

    Very surprised Séamas your happy to publish ad hominem attacks + insults (Moloney’s stock in trade) on your blog and twitter


    • Hi Paul. I’ve been highlighting the twists and turns of the Boston Tapes debacle for the last two years and more, striving to present the views of all those involved (I hope). I think in fairness every opinion possible has featured on ASF in relation to the controversy. Like everyone else I am just an observer and I know my readers have come to appreciate the attention I have given to the many contrary opinions. Recently I – and many others – have been quite hard on Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre in highlighting the serious question marks that hang over the origins of the project. It would be unfair not to draw attention to Ed Moloney’s response (albeit one couched in needlessly personal references). I assure you that I will feature the counter-response should it come. I take no sides in the matter. Like everyone I would simply like to get to the truth of it.

      I should also make clear that the auto-repost function of the WP software generates the headline and the first two or three paragraphs from the original post. The link is not an endorsement. It is merely a convenient way of linking within the WP programme which my blog uses.


  3. a fhoilsiú – ar ndóigh


  4. I still believe the idea of the tapes was a good one but, and I pointed this out on ed maloneys site a year or two ago that he made an error trusting the u.s administration as any honest broker.
    He has correctly stated that no I.r.a person would seriously undertake this initiative if it was conducted in Ireland but ignores the obvious that America is a very lose ally of the u.k and if politics works, the very real chance of the British bending the ear of a u.s administration was always in the realms of possibility.
    I suggested that he would’ve been better of entrusting a university in Beijing,Moscow etc. Somewhere, anywhere that is definitely not a political ally of Britain. At least the tapes would have stood a better chance of doing what they were supposed to have done in my humble opinion.


    • Now that is quite true but I think the project was from the get-go a Boston College one even though they have tried to wash their hands of it.


  5. Paul Bew was closely associated with the Workers Party in the 1980s, was he not? The leadership of the Workers Party repeatedly denied that the Party had a paramilitary wing, when almost everyone in the North and many in the South knew the Official IRA was still very active. So if the testimonies of those who deny that Adams and McGuinness were in the Provo leadership is to be discounted, I don’t see why we should automatically assume the good faith of someone like Bew, closely associated as he was with the deeply corrupt WP. I’m no fan of Adams or McGuinness but it seems to me that Moloney and McIntyre have let their own understandable disenchantment with the Sinn Fein leadership lead them into some very dubious alliances. When that rabidly anti-Irish rag, the “Irish” Daily Mail, is eager to publish your attacks on Sinn Fein, it’s time to examine your conscience in my view.

    Also dismissing “conspiracy theory” in the manner he does is absurdly hackneyed. Some conspiracy theories are false and some are true, but if Moloney thinks governments and intelligence agencies never conspire he really shouldn’t be in the journalism game. I’m always amused by the way the western media attempt to marginalise “those who peddle conspiracy theories”, when they themselves retail such theories relating to Russia, Iran, and so on on a daily basis. Ironically I once heard Damian Kiberd describe Moloney’s book about the IRA as containing “a conspiracy theory on every page”. I do wish people would stop using this term “conspiracy theory” as shorthand for “conspiracy theory I don’t approve of”.


  6. Another point worth making is that not only was Paul Bew at one time very closely associated with the Workers Party, an organisation with a highly active paramilitary/organised crime wing that they consistently denied existed, but he also became an adviser to David Trimble (as did that other Workers Party hack, Eoghan Harris. Trimble belonged to the Unionist/Loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Resistance in the 1980s and to William Craig’s quasi-paramilitary outfit, Vanguard, in the 1970s. So it’s fairly safe to say that Bew is not, as Moloney implies, simply another academic with Unionist sympathies – of which there are many in both Northern and Southern Ireland. He was and is something more – an ardent political activist on behalf of Unionism who didn’t seem to be at all perturbed by some of the dubious pasts and presents of those he allied himself to.

    Also, if Republicans who deny the latter involvement of Adams and McGuinness in paramilitary activities are to be excluded from the oral histories on the grounds of credibility, should loyalists who deny security force and intelligence agency collusion with their activities not also be excluded on similar grounds?

    And by the same token have the histories anything to say about the extremely close relationship between Workers Party/Official IRA and the British state – a relationship so cosy that Workers Party politicians effectively acted as evangelists for the British Thatcher government’s policies on Northern Ireland, in the East Bloc and other Communist/Socialist countries?


  7. Apologies for returning yet again to Moloney’s piece but re-reading it tonight I spotted another bogus argument. He says he’s proud to have excluded those who claimed that Adams and McGuinness were not in the Provos after the mid 1970s, and argues that to have included them would have been akin to relying only on the Bloody Sunday testimonies of those British soldiers who never fired a shot that day. The crucial word here surely is “only”. Contrary to what he appears to assume, the Bloody Sunday analogy is a powerful argument AGAINST his approach of excluding the testimonies of the pro-Adams/McGuinness faction. He may well be right in stating that the claims that Adams and McGuinness weren’t involved in the IRA after a certain point are “nonsense”, but no one is suggesting that only former IRA members who take this line should have been interviewed. The real argument is that all sides of the conflict should be heard in order that people can judge for themselves who’s telling the truth. The testimonies of those who supported the Adams line would not have made the project a “farce”, but the testimonies themselves might or might not have been judged to be farcical. Moloney, it seems to me, has decided that he has the right to pre-judge who is and is who is not a credible witness in relation to the conflict. But if that’s how he feels why bother with such a project at all? The whole point of research is to discover new facts.

    In any case even if the pro-Adams faction cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the Sinn Fein leadership, that should not in itself disqualify everything else they say about their own personal experiences during the conflict.


    • Some excellent points, Colm, well worth making. There is a lot of dissemblance taking place in the controversy and on more sides than one. I tend to agree with those whose suspicions are aroused by the slow revelation of layers within layers, even if they ultimately prove coincidental.


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