US court rules IRA interviews can be given to PSNI
Sunday, 8 July 2012
A US court has ruled that interviews given by former IRA member Dolours Price can be handed over to the PSNI.
The interviews are part of the Boston College Belfast Project, which began in 2001 and lasted five years, during which researchers interviewed members of paramilitary groups.
The interviewees took part on condition that the material would not be published until after they died.
Researchers argued that handing over the documents would harm the peace process and endanger the lives of people who took part in the project.
The Federal Appeal Court in Boston heard that journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre feared for the consequences if the material from the interviews they conducted was released.
The Boston College project was an oral history of the Troubles from the eye-witness perspective of those most deeply involved.
The interview with Ms Price is relevant because she allegedly claimed in a separate interview that she had driven mother-of-ten Jean McConville to her death in the 1970s.
In her ruling, Chief Judge Sandra Lynch acknowledged that the researchers had some constitutional right to freedom of speech.
However, she said they could not hold a veto over the investigation of criminal activity.
Jim Cotter, one of the researchers’ lawyers, said he was “tremendously disappointed” by the ruling.
Mr Cotter said: “I don’t like losing a case based on the law, but in this case I’m more concerned about the safety of our clients and the participants in the Belfast Project.
“This is just going to raise old issues that were put to rest with the Good Friday Agreement.”
Lawyers on behalf of Mr McIntyre have confirmed papers have been lodged in the High Court in Belfast to challenge the PSNI decision to seek to continue to gain interviews given by Ms Price.
Mr McIntryre’s lawyer, Kevin Winters, said the action had been taken because of the threat to Mr McIntryre’s life.
The case to stop the PSNI pursuing the tapes is to be heard in September.
Mr Winters said that they are studying the ruling and if a stay cannot be put on the transfer of material then they will apply to the High Court in Belfast as a matter of urgency to bring the hearing forward.