Boston College tapes

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2013), Letters, Volume 21

Sir,—As a practising historian I took Ruán O’Donnell’s advice in his opinion piece on the Boston College tapes (HI 21.3, May/June 2013) to ‘reflect on the integrity’ of our profession, in light of the recent legal action regarding the archival materials of Boston College’s ‘Belfast Project’. I view the integrity of the profession being challenged somewhat differently. If a historian or institution is privy to information that was given it regarding incidents that are subject to investigation, why should they claim the right to withhold that information? Are we historians the new priests of Ireland, claiming an entitlement to our own sacrosanct ‘confessional’ (a manifestly unjust practice, which the government was right to propose legislating against)? Dr O’Donnell has suggested that ‘historians of the recent past must now ponder on how to ensure that their work does not extend to collusion’. Quite!—Yours etc.,

DENIS CASEY
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

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