Fury as college researchers say IRA tapes have already been handed over to court
2 January 2012
THE stand-off over interviews in which convicted Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price allegedly implicates Gerry Adams in Jean McConville’s 1972 murder has taken another twist.
Journalist Ed Moloney and ex-IRA man Anthony McIntyre — two chief researchers of Boston College’s oral history project on the Troubles — won a judicial stay of a court ruling that Price’s interviews be given to British authorities on Friday.
They are furious as they claim the tapes have already been handed over. The college says it is not sure what, if anything, has been surrendered.
The US Court of Appeals for the First District in Boston has given the US Justice Department — representing Britain via the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty — until January 9 to answer claims by Moloney and McIntyre that surrendering Price’s interviews will put lives at risk and seriously damage the peace process.
District Court judge William Young had ordered Boston College to hand over its Price interviews to US prosecutors by Friday.
Price, convicted of the 1973 Old Bailey bombings in London, purportedly claimed in the interviews that Adams was her commanding officer in 1972, and that he ordered the killing of mother-of-10 Jean McConville because the IRA believed she’d been spying for the British.
Mrs McConville’s family has always rejected the accusation.
The Sinn Fein president has repeatedly denied having any role in her slaying, or ever being in the IRA.
Despite the high-profile nature of the case, there is some confusion as to what Judge Young currently possesses.
A source with detailed knowledge of the BC archives recently told the Belfast Telegraph that the college hasn’t yet complied with Judge Young’s December 16 order to surrender to him all its IRA interviews that contained reference to McConville’s slaying.
However, court documents dated December 21 and December 27 indicate significant material has been turned over, including: transcripts of 13 Price interviews; 3 DVDs containing interviews with her; and 176 transcripts of interviews conducted with 24 other former IRA members.
Fifteen transcripts of interviews with now deceased IRA man Brendan Hughes — who’d also implicated Adams in McConville’s murder — were given to US authorities months ago.
Efforts to get BC officials to clarify the situation weren’t successful last night.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, journalist Ed Moloney slammed Boston College for refusing to appeal Judge Young’s December ruling.
“They have let down and betrayed all the people who were involved in the project, which they assured us would be protected as much as they could. And they’ve broken their word,” Mr Moloney said.
He said the US Government and US Attorneys Office, and through them the PSNI, have told Boston College “Jump” and the college’s reply has been “How high?”.
Mr Moloney wouldn’t comment on speculation that the allegations levelled by Price and Hughes against Adams amount only to hearsay, and hence won’t stand up in court.
He insisted that, regardless of whether convictions resulted, the potential initiation of prosecutions against Mr Adams or anyone else as a result of the PSNI obtaining the interviews, could undermine the peace process — and put the lives of Anthony McIntyre and the former IRA interviewees at risk.
Mr Moloney said the republican movement’s leadership, “regard themselves as having a monopoly on their story — which they don’t, of course. And anyone who threatens that monopoly has to be dealt with”.
He added: “Whoever took this decision within the PSNI needs his or her head seriously examined, because they have gone down a path here that is going to lead to God knows where.”
Correction: An alteration by a copy editor to Monday’s front-page story entitled “Fury As IRA tapes turned over” resulted in the errant claim that IRA interviews conducted by Boston College have been given to British authorities. This is not the case. A judge ordered the surrender last week, but a federal appeals court has stayed that order until next Monday. The Belfast Telegraph sincerely regrets the error.
As was the case with the dozens of former IRA and UVF participants in Boston College’s Belfast Project, former IRA member Dolours Price spoke with the institution’s interviewer a decade ago after being assured her story wouldn’t be made public until after her death.
When she gave an interview to a Belfast newspaper last February, repeating claims she’d allegedly made to the college that Gerry Adams ordered the 1972 killing of Jean McConville, Britain asked US prosecutors to subpoena her interviews on its behalf.
US authorities are also seeking all 24 other IRA interviews that may contain references to Jean McConville.
It’s believed that the PSNI is the party ultimately pursuing the material.
Interviews with former IRA man Brendan Hughes, who died in 2008, were turned over to US prosecutors last spring.
In December, a judge in Boston rejected motions by the college and two of its main Belfast Project staff – journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre – to have the case dismissed. He then ordered the college to surrender the Price interviews by last Friday.
Maloney and McIntyre secured an appellate court stay of that order late on Friday.
US authorities have until next Monday to respond.