“This was a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit.”- Judge William G. Young
The Belfast Project was an oral history of Irish Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries gathered between 2001-2006 and archived in the Burns Library at Boston College.
“[These materials] are of interest – valid academic interests. They’re of interest to the historian, sociologist, the student of religion, the student of youth movements, academics who are interested in insurgency and counterinsurgency, in terrorism and counterterrorism. They’re of interest to those who study the history of religions.”- Judge William G. Young
In 2010, the first interviews from the archive were published in the book Voices from the Grave, and featured in the documentary of the same name. These interviews, with former IRA leader Brendan Hughes and former UVF member David Ervine, were made public upon the death of the interviewees as per their agreement with Boston College.
In March, 2011, the British Government contacted the US Department of Justice to initiate proceedings which led to the issuing of a sealed subpoena for all materials relating to two interviews in the archive, those of Brendan Hughes and former IRA member Dolours Price. Dolours Price’s interviews are still embargoed under the terms of agreement she has with the Burns Library.
Boston College filed a Motion to Quash the subpoena in June.
In August, 2011, a second subpoena was served seeking “any and all interviews containing information about the abduction and death of Mrs. Jean McConville.”
Following the issuance of the second subpoena, Project Director Ed Moloney and Lead Researcher Anthony McIntyre also sought leave to intervene on their own merits in the “Boston College Tapes” action, in support of Boston College’s Motion to Quash. If successful, they will be granted leave to join the action as plaintiffs, seeking to compel the Attorney General to abide by his obligations under the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. They will ask the Court to order the Attorney General to take cognisance of solemn promises made by the U.K. Government to the U.S. Senate that it would not ‘reopen issues addressed in the Belfast Agreement, or [ ] impede any further efforts to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland.’
In December, 2011, Judge William G. Young ruled against both Boston College’s Motions to Quash the Subpoenas and Moloney and McIntyre’s Motion to Intervene. He granted Boston College’s suggestion to review the archives in camera and subsequently ordered the material to be handed over. Boston College declined to appeal while Moloney and McIntyre filed a Notice of Appeal and complaint seeking a judicial review. They also won a Motion for Stay Pending Appeal to the First Circuit.
In January, 2012, Judge Young dismissed Moloney and McIntyre’s Complaint. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry publicly called upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene and have the subpoenas withdrawn.
Moloney and McIntyre filed their Appeal with the First Circuit in February, 2012. The ACLU filed an amicus brief in Moloney and McIntyre’s case. Congressmen Crowley and Ackerman along with Senator Menendez have written to Secretary of State Clinton calling for a withdrawal of the subpoena. The American Sociological Association issued a statement in support of the right of research confidentiality. The Boston College chapter of the AAUP have started a petition calling on the administration of Boston College to investigate the handling of the Belfast Project and the subpoenas. Boston College filed their appeal of the second subpoena in March, 2012.
In Ireland, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin questioned the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, about the case.
Senator Chuck Schumer wrote to Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton asking for the subpoena to be withdrawn. Senator John Kerry followed up his letter with an Op-Ed calling on a withdrawal of the subpoena, and Senator Scott Brown also wrote to Holder and Clinton, uniting both Massachusetts Senators against this move by the Department of Justice on behalf of the British. Congressmen O’Flaherty, Pascrell, Rothman and Doyle have asked the Secretary of State and Attorney General to intervene. To date, 20 members of Congress have written to both Holder and Clinton seeking a withdrawal of the subpoenas.
On April 4th, the Moloney and McIntyre Appeal was heard at the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
The First Circuit issued their ruling on July 6th, upholding Judge Young’s ruling from the lower court. Moloney and McIntyre sought a re-hearing. The ruling from the US Court led to the issue being discussed in the Dáil in July, 2012, and it was described as having the potential to impact the peace process by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Joe Costello.
Oral arguments for Boston College’s appeal of the second subpoena were heard in September. A ruling from the First Circuit is pending.
Moloney and McIntyre sought and were granted a Stay from the US Supreme Court, pending the filing of a cert petition. Their Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was filed in mid-November, 2012. The Solicitor General initially waived the US Government right to file a response. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, ARTICLE 19, the Irish American Coalition of the AOH, IAUC, and the Brehon Society, along with a group of Social Science Scholars all filed Amicus Briefs in support of the petitioners. The Solicitor General then asked for an extension to file a response, which was granted with the deadline of January 31, 2013.
On 23 January, 2013, Dolours Price, whose archives formed the basis of the MLAT request, died at her home in Dublin, Ireland. The Solicitor General requested a further extension to file their reply to the Moloney & McIntyre petition to the Supreme Court, and was granted until March 4, 2013 to do so. In the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Boston College filed a moved to vacate the lower court order of Judge Young and moot their pending appeal. The US Attorney opposed their motion. The Appeal is still pending.
On 15 April, the Supreme Court denied the Moloney and McIntyre petition.
This website documents the fight against the subpoenas.
The value of the Oral Tradition is its democracy; it doesn’t give to an intellectual elite the exclusive right to shape a communal memory and the collective memory. It makes into a common wealth the story of our shared lives. It’s something that we share in common -and it’s like a collection plate into which we can all put something: our stories, our myths and the ease with which we are able to, in some way, cross boundaries. - Cleophus Thomas, Jr.