Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moloney Vs. The Irish News: The Final Word

We have been the vehicle for a debate between Ed Moloney, former director of Boston College’s Belfast Project, and Irish News Editor Noel Doran. At issue is the role, or lack of such, played by the Belfast-based newspaper in the U.S. Attorney Office’s issuance of subpoenas demanding access to confidential interviews held at Boston College. In posts within Hell’s Kitchen, Moloney and Doran offered differing accounts of Irish News staffers’ actions during and after their information gathering at the County Dublin home of former Provisional IRA senior operative Dolours Price. The exchange between Moloney and Doran was spurred by commentsMoloney made during a Q&A we published October 8, which focused on Boston College’s widely praised oral-history project. The project has compiled eyewitness accounts of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland from combatants on both sides of the divide, in return for assurances that the contents would not be revealed until an interviewee’s passing. In portions of our interview, Moloney attempted to provide background to authorities’ pursuit of two oral histories gathered by Boston College, including that of Price. Boston College is currently fighting to quash subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office demanding access to these oral histories. Speculation in news accounts about the subpoenas, whose supporting materials are sealed, suggests these federal officials are acting either on behalf of British counterparts or the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We publish here Doran’s reply, the final word we will post on the subject.

To the Editor:
Noel Doran
Ed Moloney has taken a unique journalistic stance by making sweeping allegations but completely failing to put questions to those who could reasonably be expected to help him reach rational conclusions.
As a result, for the second time in three weeks, he has used to make entirely misleading claims about the Irish News on the basis of research that did not include a single attempt to speak to us.
Moloney, in his latest statement (November 10), said he wished to address the “main aspects” of my reply of October 20, but then went on to carefully avoid the key points that I actually highlighted.
The first and most basic concern I expressed was that Moloney, in his previous interview with (October 8), had attributed words and deeds to the Irish News in general, and specifically to myself as editor, without making any effort to check the background with us.
Moloney, in his reply, does not challenge my central assertion in any way. He could not in all conscience do so, as he is well aware that he had not been in contact with me for more than a decade before providing a ludicrously flawed account of two straightforward telephone calls with Marion Price in which I was involved in 2010.
In my response of October 20, I went on to say that perhaps the single most remarkable aspect of Moloney's intervention was the following claim about our discussions with Marion Price's sister, Dolours. “Whether the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have ever tried to obtain the Irish News tape is a mystery, which no one seems able to solve.”
As I have pointed out, Moloney himself could have solved this “mystery” through one simple telephone call. We would have been happy to tell him that PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] detectives did attempt to obtain the Irish News tape but were informed that we were no longer in possession of any such material.
Moloney's November 10 statement consistently fails to explain why he neglected to approach the Irish News before providing what purported to be a detailed account of how we came to publish reports that were plainly in the public interest.
He instead concentrates on a hair-splitting analysis about whether our coverage of February 18, 2010, was an “interview,” although it contained no quotations, or--as I have suggested--a factual report on important new developments.
Moloney goes on to construct a feeble conspiracy theory based on nothing more than his observation that two news reporters whose offices are in neighboring buildings in central Belfast know each other.
For the record--as I would confirm if Moloney ever gets round to asking me--the Irish News at no time provided tapes to Sunday Life and we played no part in the subpoenas which were served on Boston College.
As editor of The Irish News, my interest is in our coverage of the significant decision by Dolours Price to speak with the Commission for the Disappeared, which I fully stand over.
If Moloney wishes to establish how Sunday Life pursued its own stories, he should obviously speak to that newspaper. On behalf of The Irish News, I can say with certainty that he failed to put even the most elementary queries to us before offering his unsustainable judgments on our performance.
Noel Doran
Editor, The Irish News
Belfast, Northern Ireland

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