Destroy paramilitary tapes say Boston researchers

Destroy paramilitary tapes say Boston researchers
Diana Rusk, Political Correspondent

We are strongly of the view that the archive must now be closed down and the interviews either returned or shredded – Ed Moloney. Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur

RESEARCHERS behind Boston College’s oral history project have demanded the destruction of all its taped interviews with loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

Their dramatic call comes amid legal action in the US on behalf of British authorities seeking interviews former IRA prisoner Dolours Price gave to the university archive. It has led to a bitter row between the researchers and the college.

In a statement last night the project’s director. journalist Ed Moloney, and the two researchers, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur, demanded that all the interviews be “shredded”.

The project comprises between 60 and 80 interviews recorded between 2001 and 2006 with loyalist and republican paramilitaries who had been assured that the tapes would stay secret until their deaths.

Since May British authorities have been trying to gain access to some of the interviews as part of a PSNI investigation into the IRA abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

About 13 transcripts have been taken from the college’s Burns Library, where they were kept since the project ended, and are with the Office of the US State Attorney. An appeal court decision has temporarily blocked a handover to the UK.

The investigation has spooked loyalist and republican paramilitaries who gave frank testimonies.

Former Red Hand Commando prisoner William ‘Plum’ Smith said he has taken legal action.

In a statement released last night Mr Moloney, Mr McIntyre and Mr McArthur called for the archive to be closed down.

“At earlier stages in this process in the wake of the subpoena we made suggestions to Boston College on ways that would put the archive out of the reach of the PSNI or whoever is seeking this material but we were re-buffed.” it read.

“We are, all three of us, strongly of the view that the archive must now be closed down and the interviews either returned or shredded since BC [Boston College] is no longer a safe nor fit and proper place for them to be kept.”

Mr Smith said he had asked through his solicitor, Kevin Winters, for the return of his contribution.

However, Jack Dunn, director of public affairs at Boston College, said he had “not heard of any requests for materials to be returned”.

In response to criticism, he said: “Mr Moloney was informed by Boston College that the materials were protected only to the extent that American law allows.

“Boston College has no intention of destroying materials. Mr Moloney seems to lack an understanding of the American legal process.”

Mr Dunn said the college had sought to defend the project from the beginning.

“Judge Young of the US District Court in Boston has ruled only that Boston College turn over the materials from the Dolours Price interviews,” he said.

“We are fighting to protect the confidentiality of the remaining interviews, which is our best legal option at this time, for the sake of academic research and the enterprise of oral history.”

DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr said anything that could help bring justice to innocent victims should be handed over.

“We must remember that this involves the withholding of information relating to terrorism,” he said.

“These are crimes of the most serious nature.”