Oral History and the Gerry Adams Case

With news that Gerry Adams has been released with papers sent to the Public Prosecution Service and political tensions increasing, this interesting blog from Dr Bethan Coupland reminds us where the evidence has originate and discusses the implications for the field of history and specifically oral history projects.


The recent arrest of Gerry Adams is not only enormously significant to the stability of the peace process in Northern Ireland, it re-opens a number of questions as to the scope, purpose and ethical implications of oral history research.

The Sinn Féin president is the latest individual to be questioned by the police over the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a move based on evidence confiscated from the an oral history archive at Boston College. The Belfast Project was undertaken between 2000 and 2006, a secret collaboration between freelance historian and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, journalist Ed Moloney, BC’s Professor Thomas Hachey and Robert O’Neill, head of the College’s Burns Library. Over the course of the project, McIntyre carried out dozens of interviews with 26 of former IRA militants about their involvement in and impressions of the Troubles.

Participants were contractually promised confidentiality and an embargo on…

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