Campaigners fighting to keep Boston tapes in US

Campaigners fighting to keep Boston tapes in US
By Jim Dee
Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday, 22 May 2012

More than six weeks have passed since the last courtroom chapter of the Boston College tapes saga and the ultimate fate of some of the college’s archived IRA interviews remains nebulous.

However, as a federal appeals court in Boston ponders whether or not the college’s chief Belfast Project researchers – journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre – can legally challenge a British subpoena seeking the IRA tapes, supporters of the men have been busy blitzing Congress on their behalf.

“This is the hottest campaign we’ve had in a while,” said Seamus Boyle, the Philadelphia-based president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. “It’s very, very hot,” the 40-year AOH veteran said. “I would put it on the same par with the McBride principles campaign, or other issues we’ve had over the years.”

Since January, five US senators and seven members of the House of Representatives have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Attorney-General Eric Holder asking them to get Britain to rescind its request.

Central threads in each of the congressional letters mirror those advanced by Moloney and McIntyre: that surrendering the IRA material could damage the peace process and imperil the lives of interviewees and McIntyre.

Dozens of former IRA and UVF members were interviewed for Boston College’s Belfast Project. Participants were given assurances that their interviews would not be published while they were still alive.

So far, only two men have had their interviews published – former IRA member Brendan Hughes and former UVF member David Ervine, both of whom are dead.

It has been a full year since the US Justice Department, acting on behalf of the British Government (which is believed to be acting as the PSNI’s proxy) served Boston College with a subpoena seeking interviews related to the IRA’s 1972 murder of Jean McConville.

Given history’s still-strong grasp on the present, it seems ironic that Boston College was served its first subpoena on May 5, 2011 – the 30th anniversary of Bobby Sands’ death.

Initially, Britain sought only interviews with former IRA members Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, in which each allegedly implicated Gerry Adams of involvement in Mrs McConville’s murder.

By the end of last summer, the British had broadened their request to include any and all of the IRA tapes with any reference to Mrs McConville’s murder.

Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College, said Boston College will still retain other IRA and UVF interviews in safe-keeping. But Ed Moloney dismissed Dunn’s assertion as, at best, naive.

“By keeping these interviews, Boston College is keeping a repository of evidence for the PSNI,” said Moloney. “Because there’s nothing to stop the PSNI from coming back and asking for more and more, eventually getting the entire archives.”