Boost for British bid to obtain IRA tapes from US university

Boost for British bid to obtain IRA tapes from US university
By Jim Dee
Belfast Telegraph
Monday, 19 December 2011

British Government efforts to obtain taped interviews that former IRA members gave to an American university a decade ago have been given a major boost.

A US federal judge has rejected motions by Boston College and its researchers to dismiss the case.

Among the interviews sought is one given by former IRA prisoner Dolours Price, who, according to a newspaper, has implicated Gerry Adams in the 1972 killing of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

However, US District Court Judge William G Young stopped short of ordering the university to surrender the tapes to US authorities.

Instead, he directed the college to present to him all its archived material by December 21, so he can review it ‘in camera’ before rendering his final verdict.

In addition, Judge Young said the December 21 date will give the college time to “request a stay from the Court of Appeals”, thus opening the possibility that the already protracted legal battle may continue for many more weeks yet.

Expressing his disappointment at the ruling in a blog post, Irish journalist Ed Moloney, the overseer of the project, said that he and his fellow researchers “confidently expect the college to take up Judge Young’s implied invitation to lodge an appeal”. Boston College’s oral history archive, officially titled the Belfast Project, involved interviews with dozens of republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Republican interviews were conducted by former IRA prisoner and independent journalist Anthony McIntyre.

According to Moloney, McIntyre and Boston College, interviewees told their stories after being assured that those interviews would only be published after they’d died.

To date only two interviews — former IRA man Brendan Hughes and former UVF member David Ervine — have been published.

They formed the basis of the Moloney-edited book Voices From The Grave, which was published in 2010.

Both men are now deceased.

The stand-off over the tapes began last May when the US Justice Department, acting on behalf of the British Government, subpoenaed tapes from the college. When the case initially hit the headlines, it was reported that all of the tapes — loyalist as well as republican — were being sought.

It later emerged that only the tapes involving some 26 IRA members were at issue, and more specifically the tapes with information about Mrs McConville’s slaying.

She was numbered among the Disappeared and her body was eventually discovered at Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in 2003.

The fact that no loyalist tapes were requested, coupled with the fact that Hughes also claimed that Adams authorised Mrs McConville’s murder, has led critics of the case to claim that it is politically-motivated and is aimed only at embarrassing the Sinn Fein president.