BY RAY O’HANLON
JANUARY 24TH, 2012
An escalating legal battle is this week swirling around Burns Library, home of the Troubles archive.
A federal appeals court has blocked for now a judge’s ruling that would have resulted in Boston College having to turn over documents from its Northern Ireland Troubles oral history archive.
The documented are being sought by authorities in Northern Ireland, most especially the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and it has been supported in its action by the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston.
But a decision by a federal judge to back the U.S. attorney’s subpoenas seeking the archives has been temporarily blocked as a result of a successful appeal by journalists Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, the primary compilers of the archive, filed through their attorneys, Eamonn Dornan and James Cotter III.
A federal appeals court last week issued an order preventing the surrender of the archive until further hearings can be held to determine whether doing so would pose a danger to the interviewers, most especially McIntyre, who lives in Northern Ireland.
The ruling by the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit puts a stay on a decision by U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young that ordered Boston College to turn the materials over to the U.S. Attorney.
In its decision, the appeals court stated: “In order to preserve the status quo and allow this court sufficient time to assess the issues, we grant a limited stay of the district court’s December 27, 2011 order, in particular, paragraph number 5.
“We direct the Commissioner not to turn over to the requesting state the materials referenced in paragraph 5. Those materials shall continue to be held in confidence as provided in paragraph 3 of the district court’s December 27, 2011 order until further order of this court. We direct a response to the motion for stay to be filed by Monday, January 9, 2012.”
Said New York-based Ed Moloney in an accompanying affidavit: “It is my firm opinion that any material produced pursuant to the subpoenas will open up a hornets’ nest which, if kicked, will let loose a horde of vicious insects to do irreparable harm to the peace process in Northern Ireland.”
In his ruling, Judge Young, argued that the archive that the recordings were relevant to investigations of crimes including murder and kidnapping. He also said the United States had an obligation under a treaty with Britain to turn over the materials.
Moloney and McIntyre are being supported in their battles against the subpoenas by a number of Irish American organizations including the Brehon Law Society and Irish American Unity Conference.