US ruling might affect peace process, Costello says

US ruling might affect peace process, Costello says
The Irish Times
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE DECISION by a US appeal court that interview transcripts with former republican paramilitaries must be released to the PSNI could have an effect on the peace process, the Dáil has heard.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Joe Costello said the decision on the transcripts, which are part of a Northern Ireland oral history project undertaken at Boston College, “undoubtedly has the potential to make an impact”, but in the Government’s view “the peace process is sufficiently firmly bedded down to enable it to withstand whatever pressures may emerge from time to time”.

Speaking for Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, the Minister noted that the journalists who interviewed republican and loyalist paramilitaries for the project had argued that the “British government had made a solemn promise that it would not reopen issues addressed in the Belfast Agreement or impede any further efforts to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland”.

The oral history project, a series of interviews with former loyalist and republican paramilitaries, is lodged in the Burns library of Boston College. An initial subpoena from the British government to the US, issued under a legal assistance treaty, sought transcripts of interviews with former IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes.

A second subpoena sought all interviews and any information related to the abduction and murder in 1972 of Jean McConville, whose death is under investigation by the PSNI.

Journalists Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney are considering a motion for the rehearing of the case about the release of the collection of archived interviews.

Mr Costello said, however, that while the Government was monitoring the situation, “the case is a matter that the courts in the US have spoken on and may do so again, as may the courts in Northern Ireland”.

The Minister was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who was “anxious to ascertain the Government’s position on this”. Mr Martin said the case showed a “clear decision of the courts in the United States that academic confidentiality does not trump criminal investigations”. He added that the history project’s authors “now feel their lives are at risk because of the court’s decision, which comprises a serious issue in its own right”.

He asked the implications of the judgment for the decommissioning body of John de Chastelain. Mr Costello said none of the material in Boston on that issue “can be accessed until 2041”.