Belfast Project researchers at Boston College win Supreme Court stay

Belfast Project researchers at Boston College win Supreme Court stay
By Dennis Sadowski
The Boston Pilot – Catholic News

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two researchers studying Northern Ireland’s troubled past for a Boston College oral history project won a stay from a Supreme Court justice that blocks a federal appeals court decision requiring them to turn over information they gathered to the British government.

Justice Stephen Breyer ruled Oct. 17 that Belfast Project director Ed Moloney and interviewer Anthony McIntyre, a former Irish Republican Army member, would not have to turn over one of the interviews referencing a 1972 murder.

Breyer gave the researchers until Nov. 16 to file a writ of certiorari seeking a Supreme Court hearing of their case.

The stay will expire if the high court declines to hear the case. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, then the stay will remain in place until the justices issue a ruling, Breyer’s order said.

The justice’s ruling stays a September order from the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that would have required the researchers to turn over the recording of an interview with a former Irish Republican Army member cites the group’s involvement in the death of a widow and mother of 10 to the Department of Justice.

The Belfast Project is chronicling a period known as the Irish Troubles, which lasted from the 1960s until 1998 when the Good Friday peace agreement was signed. The agreement ended violent hostilities in Northern Ireland between forces seeking to unite the region with Ireland and those wanting it to remain under British rule.

Justice Department lawyers sought the information on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland under a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Attorney Jonathan Albano, representing Moloney and McIntyre, told Catholic News Service that the recordings of dozens of interviews of former members of the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Volunteer Force were conducted with the promise that they would remain confidential until an interviewee died or gave their consent for release.

Moloney and McIntyre vowed in August to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court after the appeals court decided not to rehear the case. In July, a three judge panel of the appeals court rejected the researchers’ appeal that they had no legal right to surrender information about the murder.

Albano said the legal team would file the writ with the Supreme Court by the Nov. 16 deadline.

In a summary of the case, Jack Dunn, director of news and public affairs at Boston College, said Moloney oversaw the recording of 26 interviews of former IRA members by McIntyre as well as 20 interviews with former members of the Ulster Volunteer Force by loyalist Wilson McArthur between 2002 and 2006. The tapes and transcripts were sent to Boston College for storage under an agreement that they would be held in confidence until the death of the participants, the summary said.

“From the beginning, Boston College’s intention was to be a repository of an oral history project that would provide a future resource for historians and scholars seeking a better understanding of the Troubles, while also helping to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. At no time has Boston College wanted to obfuscate a criminal investigation into a horrible abduction and murder,” Dunn’s document said.