Belfast Telegraph

Boston College Troubles archive closure a loss to history, says Professor Paul Bew

By Victoria O'Hara

The academic who came up with the concept of the Boston College Troubles archive has described its closure as a historical loss.

Paul Bew, a professor of politics at Queen's University, Belfast, said the fall-out of the arrest of Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams resulted in the future of any other major project being "under a cloud".

His comments come as Boston College announced it was prepared to give back taped recordings and other material to ex-IRA and loyalist paramilitaries who had taken part.

It involved testimonies by republicans and loyalists, but was not intended to be made public during their lifetimes. At least 26 former paramilitaries agreed to be interviewed.

The college made the announcement after Mr Adams was arrested and quizzed for four days due to evidence obtained from the tapes in connection with the murder of Jean McConville.

He was later released without charge. The Sinn Fein leader has denied any involvement in the abduction and murder of the widow whom the IRA accused of being an informer. Mr Adams also criticised the Boston project as "flawed from the beginning".

Lord Bew said the decision over the tapes had led to clear "losers".

"In the atmosphere of recrimination there are definite losers," he said.

"The prestige of Boston College will continue to grow but a project which had been designed as one of the jewels in the crown of a great library has gone.

"Other similar projects to use oral history as a means of dealing with the past in the Troubles are also, to say the least, under a cloud."

The professor said the college contributed more to the peace process, in a "truly ecumenical way", than any other American university.

He said he supported the project aware that material for the study of earlier phases of the Troubles was "relatively scant".

Lord Bew described the idea as a "logical step" post-Good Friday Agreement in what was an "optimistic atmosphere".

"I was motivated by a sense that the Troubles were over and should never be allowed to happen again and that the more knowledge and raw material was left behind for future generations to study the less chance there would be of another repeat," he said."

But he said he now accepts this might be an "overly-romantic" view of history.

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