Saturday, May 30, 2020

the last book I ever read (Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, excerpt twelve)

from Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe:

Moloney took Bew’s general notion of documenting the Troubles and proposed something more specific: Boston College should conduct an oral history, in which combatants from the front lines could speak candidly about their experiences. There was a challenge, however. Because of the traditional prohibition on talking about paramilitary activity, the details of many of the key events of the Troubles were shrouded in a fog of reticence. The peace process might have normalized Sinn Féin as a political party, but the IRA remained an illegal organization. Just admitting to having been a member could result in criminal prosecution. And if the paramilitaries feared the authorities, they were even more afraid of one another. Anyone who violated the credo of silence could be branded a “tout,” as informers were known. And touts got killed. Militants tend to be clannish, and deeply suspicious of outsiders. But perhaps, Moloney thought, you could figure out a way to interview people now, with a promise that their testimony would not be released until after they were dead. That way, you could reach the players who were at the cutting edge of the conflict while they were still alive and their memories were fresh, but then assure them that their confidentiality would be protected, because the archive would be sealed up, like a time capsule, until they were no longer around to be prosecuted by the government or chastised by their peers. Paul Bew was enthusiastic about this idea. He talked about “laying down the tapes” as if they were bottles of old claret.

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