On Tuesday in the course of Taoiseach’s Questions in the Dáil the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised the issue of the Boston tapes, paraded the Ed Moloney book based on some of these tapes, and spoke about the PSNI investigation into the killing of Jean McConville. It was another piece of political opportunism by the Fianna Fáil leader with no interest in due process or truth, just smear and allegation.
On the premise that the Taoiseach had visited Boston College recently he asked if the Taoiseach had asked about the Boston tapes and if he would make a statement on the matter.
The Taoiseach said he had not raised the issue and therefore would not be making a statement. Mr. Martin then went on to make his remarks.
Later that evening I met some of the families of those who were killed and secretly buried by the IRA. I made clear my commitment to do all that I can to help find all of the remains and to bring closure to them.
I am publishing on this blog my response in the Dáil:
“I am uncertain as to whether I should ignore the leader of Fianna Fáil in his charges. Sometimes, it is impossible to know what the right thing to do is when someone comes in with a book, parades it in the Chamber, makes accusations and engages in weasel words.
Should I sit on my dignity and let this pass or get up and speak to the issue? I was very taken last week talking about other tapes - the Anglo Irish Bank tapes - to note mentally that the leader of Fianna Fáil spoke to the Taoiseach and said "You choose to exploit the past, not to learn from it". I said "Micheál, I hope you remember that".
The Boston tapes is a matter that is in the hands of the PSNI and it will do with that what it wants.
I have been very restrained in my comments about all of that and will continue to be. I have consistently rejected claims, however, by those who accuse me of having any knowledge of or part in the disappearance and killing of Jean McConville.
The issue of those who were detained, abducted, shot and buried by the IRA is a terrible legacy of the conflict. We know it is not unique to this phase of the conflict. It has happened at other times. There are still issues going back to the Civil War and the Tan war, which have to be resolved.
At least, this generation of republicans, among whom I count myself, is trying to undo the wrong that was done.
Clearly, those who were killed cannot be brought back to life, but I do think that a grievous wrong was done. For its part, the IRA, which is now on ceasefire, has left the stage and is not around, apologised for what it did.
I have been very much part of the effort to retrieve these remains since I was approached by some of the families. Some of the families are republican families. Some of them are friends of mine. Some of them are neighbours of mine. Fr. Alec Reid, others and I have worked very hard, which the leader of Fianna Fáil must know.
The commission was established under a Government of which he was a part. The different suggestions that were put and the co-operation the IRA, including what were referred to as "primary sources", gave to the commission are matters of public record. The man who is in charge of the special forensic investigating team, which was put in place on suggestion from us, has acknowledged all of this.
He said in 2009 that those who were working with him were working in a spirit of co-operation and reconciliation to help in every way they could. He said he was absolutely convinced that they were doing everything they could to assist.
Now, we come to how this is used to score political points. I am also meeting the families this evening. I made the point earlier that some of them are friends of mine and many are my neighbours.
Those who make accusations against me, apart from those in the Dáil, are implacable opponents of the peace process.
They say there should not be a peace process and the war should have continued, and they attack me as a means of undermining that.
Some of them are passed, some of them are still active and some of them are still out there. At least, they have their convictions. They are not doing it for electoral gain. They are not doing it for political point scoring. They are not doing it as a Fianna Fáil leader trying to reclaim the republican mantle which was so despoiled by successive Fianna Fáil leaderships which let the people down in a most deplorable and anti-republican way.
It is also my view that those who brought together this Belfast project have a similar view. These two individuals who misled are not supporters of the peace process. They have since acknowledged that they could not and should not have given the commitments which they gave that these would not be revealed until these individuals were dead.
I am trying not to fall into the trap here of trading points on other people's wounds with the leader of Fianna Fáil. I have a deep investment in what is happening in the North. I will continue to have a deep investment. I do not shy away, I do not hide, I do not disassociate myself but I like to think that I am also defined, as are those who work with me, by what we have still to do.
I would appeal, once again, because I believe - I cited the person in charge of the forensic team's statement that republicans are co-operating actively - the remains of nine of these persons have been recovered and are in graves that their families can visit. Seven have still to be found.
Not all of those seven were killed by the IRA, but seven have still to be found and we all need to do our best to play a positive role in this.
I appeal, once again, to anyone with any information whatsoever, no matter how small, tiny or insignificant he or she thinks it might be, to bring that forward to the commission, to the families, to the Garda or to the PSNI, or to me or anyone else he or she thinks can usefully bring this forward to help these families.”
I later concluded m y remarks by addressing the Taoiseach’s suggestion that I should make a statement in respect of Jean McConville – something I had already done. I reminded him that I had just said; ‘I have consistently rejected claims that I had any knowledge of or any part in the abduction or killing of Jean McConville.’
I went on: “I do so again today. Will that be the end of the matter? Of course not because this party, (Fianna Fáil) under its current leader, is fighting a battle for its survival and that is its only concern in raising this issue. I repeat what Teachta Micheál Martin said last week to the Taoiseach: "You have chosen to exploit the past, not to learn from it." He should practice what he preaches. The abduction, killing and burial of the people concerned was a grave injustice, but efforts are ongoing and when the seat on which Deputy Micheál Martin has his bum is cold, they will still be ongoing until all the remains have been returned.
Jean McConville was one of those whose remains were retrieved through the diligent work of the people on the commission and others, but the remains of seven people have yet to be found. We have to continue with our efforts, no matter what is said or how this is used or exploited for party political gain.”