Boston College tapes request ‘politically motivated’
By Jennifer O’Leary
25 August 2011 Last updated at 16:43 GMT
Boston College has claimed that the latest subpoenas issued in the US seeking interviews conducted with former IRA members lends support to the assumption that the demand is politically motivated.
It comes after prosecutors in the US issued a second set of subpoenas seeking the contents of a secret archive from Boston College of oral histories about the Troubles.
In a statement to the BBC, a spokesperson for the college said: “From the beginning, Boston College has opposed the subpoenas on the grounds that the premature release of the tapes would threaten the safety of the participants, the enterprise of oral history and the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland.
“The US District Court’s latest subpoena request for Boston College to turn over all of the IRA interviews – while ignoring the tapes of the UVF members – lends support to the assumption held by many that the sealed request from UK authorities is politically motivated.”
What was termed the ‘Belfast Project’ took place over five years from 2001 and involved academics, historians and journalists conducting interviews with former republicans and loyalists about their activities during the Troubles.
In return for honest accounts, those who were interviewed were promised that their identities would be kept confidential and that the interviews would be released only after their deaths.
The transcripts are kept at Boston College.
The latest effort to get access to some of the confidential oral testimony involves the US attorney in Boston acting for as yet unidentified authorities associated with the British government.
The first legal bid was initiated in May by the PSNI and the Public Prosecutions Service but led by the US Attorney’s Office in Boston.
It is understood the legal bid is linked to a PSNI investigation into the Disappeared – people who were murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.
US federal prosecutors sought the recordings or transcripts of interviews with two former IRA members – Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price Brendan Hughes died in 2008, so the college has produced the archives relating to him.
However, Dolours Price is still alive, and the college does not want to hand over the material of the interviews with her.