Sec. Clinton asked to intervene on subpoena for oral histories of IRA members
By Daniel Strauss – 10/13/11
The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room
The Irish American Unity Conference, an interest group working for peace in Northern Ireland, is asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene on its behalf and stop a subpoena from the Department of Justice requiring Boston College to hand over interviews of members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
The conference says that the documents Attorney General Eric Holder’s office has subpoenaed would endanger the peace process in Northern Ireland.
“At the request of the United Kingdom, the United States Attorney in Boston has caused the issuance of subpoenas to the Trustees of Boston College and two of its representatives, seeking the production of materials gathered and maintained by Boston College’s Bums Library which contain sensitive information and allegations concerning the Troubles in Northern Ireland,” IAUC National President Thomas J. Burke Jr. wrote in a letter to Clinton on Wednesday.
“If released, the materials sought have serious potential to destabilize the peace process, which remains fragile and currently faces challenges from various elements from dissident nationalists and loyalist elements,” Burke continued. “The IAUC requests that you convey to the Attorney General the serious foreign policy and national security interests implicated by the subpoenas.”
The documents in question contain interviews with Dolours Price, a member of Provisional Irish Republican Army who makes allegations against Gerry Adams, now a politician.
The interviews are part of a larger collection of members of both the Irish Republican Army and the British Ulster Volunteer Force, the Catholic and Protestant groups which clashed in the second half of the Twentieth Century.
The tapes were meant to be made public after the person being interviewed had died, but the interviews under subpoena are with some people who are still alive.
The IAUC, along with Boston College, is resisting the subpoena, arguing that releasing the information would harm the national security of the U.S. by “undermining the peace process which has been an important foreign policy objective of the United States for the past fifteen years.”
“While the contents of the subpoenaed materials are unknown to the public, it is likely that they contain material that will result in recriminations and undermine trust among various parties, and could lead to a new round of violence in Northern Ireland,” the letter states.
The U.S. attorney’s office argues that the library “made promises they could not keep — that they would conceal evidence of murder and other crimes until the the perpetrators were in their graves.”
According to Ned McGinley, a former national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, another group contesting the subpoena, releasing the documents could endanger the people interviewed.
“Those interviews are not evidence. They were not taken under oath,” McGinley said in a phone interview. The subpoenas are “really objectionable for three reasons. The principle reason being of course the subpoenas have nothing to do with foreign policy and national security of the United States. The release of those oral histories could endanger the lives of those who provided them. All of these people were combatants.”
McGinley stressed that the lives of the people on the tapes would be in danger if the tapes were made public. He said that the effort to release the documents was to politically discredit a politician in Ireland.
“We just don’t think they should go on a fishing expedition here,” McGinley said. “We just think it’s politically wrong.”
He said that it would be appropriate if there was a factual or national security basis for releasing the tapes but, in this case, there is not.
“The IAUC therefore urgently requests that you communicate with Attorney General Eric Holder, regarding the serious national security implications raised by the subject subpoenas, and for that reason request that the subpoenas be withdrawn,” Burke concludes in the letter.