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Getting Hillary involved is key to ending IRA tapes saga

(Jim Dee, Belfast Telegraph)

After recently hearing arguments regarding Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre's quest to judicially challenge Britain's efforts to obtain Boston College's archived IRA interviews pertaining to Jean McConville's slaying, it's anyone's guess how the US Court of Appeal for the First Circuit will ultimately rule.

But an even bigger question is this: What is Hillary Clinton's take on the BC tapes saga?

It may be weeks before the Appeals Court renders its verdict. And, even then, Moloney and McIntyre may fight on – either on the wings of victory, or in the form of an appeal of a negative ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Moloney and McIntyre argue the peace process could be imperiled if the PSNI gets hold of the interviews, and prosecutions of Adams or others ensue. In addition, they say that McIntyre and the former IRA members who took part in the project could be targeted for violence.

Most Americans think that the conflict in Northern Ireland ended with the Good Friday Agreement. Subsequent agreements on policing structures, the completion of IRA and loyalist decommissioning, and the seating of a DUP-Sinn Féin inclusive Executive were simply loose-ends.

Hence, while the heart-breaking details of Jean McConville's slaying and secret burial have been enough to garner some press attention, in a world were the violence in Syria and the spectre of an Israeli-Iranian war looms large, the Boston College tapes row hasn't been high on the American media agenda.

But some in Washington have noticed – including Massachusetts senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate's powerful Foreign Relations Committee.

In February Kerry wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to use her influence to get Britain to withdraw its request for the BC tapes.

Last week he followed up by penning an opinion piece in the Boston Herald stating that the US-UK treaty at the heart of the case wasn't intended for cases such as this.

The fact that Kerry wrote the opinion piece at all is striking. This isn't an election year for the senior senator from Massachusetts. In the short term, at least, has he has nothing to gain politically from going to bat for BC and its Belfast Project.

That the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken such an active interest in the case has surely been noticed by British diplomats in Washington, and likely Downing Street as well.

Matters such as the murder of Jean McConville are matters for law enforcement in the UK, but there is obviously more at play here, and this is what diplomats do – try to quietly tidy up 'messy' situations before they get worse.

Clinton has made no secret of her admiration for the peace process and its players, and she clearly values deeply the role that she and her husband have played in helping to bring a substantial measure of peace and stability to Northern Ireland.

She has also made it known that, whether or not Barack Obama wins re-election, she'll be stepping down as Secretary of State early next year.

If Hillary Clinton does decide to ask Britain (and hence the PSNI) to back off, given the premium placed on that face-saving in the diplomatic world, she won't do so publicly.

But if Britain does withdraw its request between now and next November, it's a safe bet it'll do so after one of Hillary Clinton's parting peace process interventions as Secretary of State.

April 18, 2012

This article appeared in the April 9, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.



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