Legal team seeks to stop PSNI getting IRA tapes

Legal team seeks to stop PSNI getting IRA tapes
UNA BRADLEY in Belfast
The Irish Times
Monday, July 9, 2012

LAWYERS REPRESENTING the journalists behind the Boston College interviews with former paramilitaries have requested an “urgent and immediate” hearing in Belfast in a bid to block testimony being handed over to the PSNI.

A US appeal court on Friday failed in its bid to reverse the order for Boston College to release some of the transcripts to police in the North.

The oral interviews – in particular one given by Dolours Price who subsequently told a Belfast newspaper she had been involved in the murder of Jean McConville, one of the so-called “disappeared” – could be handed over within days, unless the latest legal challenge creates a braking effect.

Details included in seven other interviews – conducted as part of an academic archive on the Troubles – are understood to also contain information potentially relevant to the PSNI’s investigation into the disappeared.

At least two of the 26 former IRA members interviewed accused the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, of giving the order to kill Ms McConville, which Mr Adams has always denied.

The journalists behind the project, IRA man turned writer Anthony McIntyre and former Sunday Tribune correspondent Ed Moloney, have opposed the subpoenas, saying the interviews were conducted on the strict understanding they would remain confidential during the lifetime of each interviewee.

Mr McIntyre’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, has said his client has already received death threats and “fears for his life” if the sensitive information is handed over.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Mr Winters said: “While we regret Friday’s outcome, it was not unexpected. Now the application we have lodged for a judicial review in Belfast is even more urgent. We are hoping to get a preliminary hearing this week.”

Boston College, an Irish Jesuit university, had also appealed against the order to hand over the tapes, except for the one containing the interview with Ms Price, saying she had effectively “outed” herself.

Collectively known as the Belfast Project, the tapes contain no-holds-barred interviews with both republicans and loyalists over five years.

Mr Moloney, who lives in New York, has amassed a strong lobby to oppose the release of material, saying it could harm the peace process. Senator John Kerry is among those campaigning for the subpoenas to be overruled.

But some politicians closer to home have welcomed the news of Friday’s failed appeal. The DUP’s Gregory Campbell said: “This is a step closer to establishing if there is information . . . that might be of assistance to the authorities.

“This could lead to the investigation of many senior personnel within the IRA and other groups.”