Sunday, June 28, 2015

The PSNI's Urgent Murder Investigation, Continued

Here's an an actual news headline from early July, 2013: "Boston College tapes: PSNI detectives get secret Dolours Price transcripts."

Two years ago, as part of their urgent investigation into the 1972 kidnapping and murder of the Belfast widow Jean McConville, police in Northern Ireland took possession of a set of taped interviews subpoenaed from the archives at Boston College.

Then, in March of last year, Belfast resident Ivor Bell was charged with aiding and abetting in McConville's disappearance. Those charges, not yet scheduled for trial or brought to court for a preliminary hearing, are now fifteen months old – staler than the wedding cake on Miss Havisham's banquet table.

One of the many problems with the possibility that Bell will be successfully prosecuted is a reality of the Boston College tapes that I reported on a long time ago: Boston College doesn't have an identity key, or many of the collection contracts, that would be needed to connect interviewees with their anonymously labeled interviews.

In theory, at least, one of the ways to successfully prosecute Bell would be to connect the tapes to the interviewees. One of the clearest ways to do that – again, in theory – would be to ask the interviewers to identify the interviewees. For tapes with former members of the Provisional IRA, the organization that took McConville from her home and killed her, the interviews were conducted by the former Provisional IRA prisoner and history PhD Anthony McIntyre. That would be the person you would want to question, if you were the police and you hoped to successfully prosecute former members of Irish republican paramilitary organizations.

So the police have now done just that. Anthony McIntyre lives in the Republic of Ireland, out of the direct reach of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, so a pair of Garda detectives appeared at his front door today and attempted to question him on behalf of their colleagues in the north. McIntyre's account is that he politely declined to offer them any answers, and they went away quickly and with equal politeness. And why not? It's not like anything much is at stake, at this point.

Two years after the PSNI took possession of the Boston College tapes, the police have made a desultory attempt to gesture at validating them. In 2015, they tried to ask some questions about the tapes they got in 2013. So they could solve the 1972 murder that they began to investigate in 2011. For the sake of kindness, let us assume that they just take plenty of naps.

We're having an annual development in the McConville murder, now. By 2032, give or take a decade, we could easily have a denouement of some kind.

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