In the last two weeks the history of 1972 has been brought back centre stage when the prominent Irish politician and leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams was arrested in relation to the murder of Jean McConville. 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.

Yesterday I released this podcast on this called “The IRA, the Boston College Tapes and who tells the past?”. This show looks Ireland in 1972 and how it has come to pass that 42 years later one of the Ireland’s most prominent politicians was 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. You can  Listen to the podcast here. In this article I have some pictures of the people and events associated with the podcast.

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



1.Bloody Sunday January 1972.

The British Army shot and killed 14 people on a civil rights demonstration in Derry.


Demonstrations in Dublin after Bloody Sunday

In the aftermath outrage swept across Ireland – the British Embassy was burned in Dublin.

Bloody Friday.

In July the IRA detonated twenty two bombs in Belfast in an event known as Bloody Friday.


Operation Motorman

Later in July 1972, the British army launched Operation Motorman, effectively turning the North into a war-zone. Over 20,000 troops supported by tanks were sent into republican communities ostensibly to remove barricades.


Mural marking Operation Motorman, Derry.


Jean McConville.

The abduction, murder and disappearance of Mrs McConville has lasted in the public memory more than any other killing during the troubles. In 2014 Gerry Adams was arrested for questioning in relation to her murder.


Gerry Adams & Brendan Hughes. In recent years this has become one of the most iconic images of the early I.R.A. On the left is Gerry Adams and the right is Brendan Hughes. Hughes in the early 2000s became disaffected with Sinn Féin, the IRA and his one time friend and comrade Gerry Adams. In interviews he gave to the Boston College research project he spoke about his life in the IRA and why he left. He also accused Adams of involvement in Jean McConville’s death.


Dolors Price – A key figure in the IRA in the 1970s. Along with her sister Marian she was convicted of the Old Bailey Bombing in 1973. Later in life, she drifted from Sinn Fein. In 2010 she gave an interview where she claimed Gerry Adams had given her the order to drive Jean McConville to where she is buried. She died in 2013.


Ivor Bell

Prominent member of the I.R.A. in Belfast until he was court martialed in 1986. Brendan Hughes accused Bell of being involved in the death of Jean McConville. He was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting with her murder in 2014. The PSNI have alleged he is interviewee ‘Z’ from Boston College. He has denied this.


Boston Colleges’ Robert O’Neill & Thomas Hachey (right). Despite trying to distance themselves from the Belfast Project in recent weeks these two men edited and wrote the preface to “Voice from the Grave – Two mens war in Ireland” which contained Brendan Hughes explosive allegations about Gerry Adams.


Anthony McIntyre. A former member of the IRA, after spending 18 years in prison, he completed a Phd in history on his release. He carried out many of the interviews of Republicans for the Boston College project.


Ed Moloney – a journalist and longtime critic of Sinn Féin. He was a controversial choice of director as the Boston College Belfast Project.


Gerry Adams at a press conference in 2014 after his arrest and questioning over Jean McConville’s death. He was released without charge. This was the issue that brought what was a rumbling controversy about the Boston College Belfast Project to a head.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams press conference