Researchers win a reprieve from Supreme Court in Boston College Irish Troubles interview case

Researchers win a reprieve from Supreme Court in Boston College Irish Troubles interview case
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Boston Globe

Two researchers who were involved in interviewing former combatants in the Irish Troubles for a Boston College oral history project have won a stay of a federal appeals court order that the interviews should be turned over to the British government.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer ruled today that the order from the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston should be stayed, the researchers said, while the researchers prepare a writ of certiorari, seeking a Supreme Court hearing of their case. Breyer set a deadline for the request of Nov. 16.

The order will be stayed until then. It will also be stayed while the court considers the researchers’ request. If the court doesn’t agree to hear their case, the stay will expire. If the court agrees to hear their case, then the order will be stayed until the court issues a ruling on the case, Breyer’s order said.

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre vowed in August that they would take their case to the Supreme Court after the Boston appeals court decided not to rehear — or have the full court hear — the case. A three-judge panel of the appeals court had previously rejected their appeal in July.

On behalf of unidentified law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom, federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas seeking information related to a 1972 slaying in which the Irish Republican Army has admitted involvement.

WBUR: U.S. Supreme Court Halts Turnover Of Secret IRA Tapes

U.S. Supreme Court Halts Turnover Of Secret IRA Tapes
By WBUR News & Wire Services
October 17, 2012

BOSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a federal judge in Boston from turning confidential taped interviews with a former member of the Irish Republican Army over to police in Northern Ireland.

The interviews, with convicted IRA car bomber Dolours Price, were part of a Boston College oral history project on the bloody violence between Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries.

A judge had ordered that the tapes be turned over to help British police solve the IRA’s 1972 killing of a Belfast woman. But the two project researchers appealed the judge’s order, saying it would endanger their lives.

Wednesday’s stay of a lower court order by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer blocks the turnover for now.

“To a man on the guillotine, any stay is consequential,” said civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate, who has been following the case. “The case would have been over and moot had Justice Breyer not acted. So this is very important.”

Price and other former IRA members were interviewed between 2001 and 2006 as part of The Belfast Project, a resource for journalists, scholars and historians studying the long conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.

The stay holds until Nov. 18 while the full court weighs whether to take up the case.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press, from Washington

Supreme Court halts turnover of secret IRA tapes

Associated Press
Oct. 17

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked Boston College from turning interviews over to the government that academic researchers recorded with a former Irish Republic Army member.

The high court on Wednesday stayed a lower court order that the school give the Justice Department portions of recorded interviews with convicted IRA car bomber Dolours Price. Federal officials want to forward the recordings to police in Northern Ireland investigating the IRA’s 1972 killing of a Belfast woman.

Price and other former IRA members were interviewed between 2001 and 2006 as part of The Belfast Project — a resource for journalists, scholars and historians studying the long conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.

The stay granted by Justice Stephen Breyer ends Nov. 16 if there’s no appeal to the Supreme Court.

US Supreme Court halts turnover of secret IRA tapes

US Supreme Court halts turnover of secret IRA tapes

The tapes were recorded by researchers at Boston College who interviewed a former IRA member.

THE US SUPREME Court has temporarily blocked Boston College from turning interviews over to the government that academic researchers recorded with a former IRA member.

The court today suspended a lower court order that the college give the US Justice Department portions of recorded interviews with convicted IRA car bomber Dolours Price. The PSNI want to get the recordings from federal authorities in the US as part of their investigation into the IRA’s 1972 killing of a Belfast woman.

Price and other former IRA members were interviewed between 2001 and 2006 as part of The Belfast Project — a resource for journalists, scholars and historians studying the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The stay granted by Justice Stephen Breyer ends on 16 November if there is no appeal to the Supreme Court.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has repeatedly denied all the allegations made by Price about his role in the conflict.

British Subpoenas Blocked

British subpoenas blocked
Lyle Denniston, Reporter
October 17th, 2012

Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Wednesday temporarily blocked subpoenas issued by the British government for papers collected in an academic project at Boston College about the history of the Irish Republican Army’s violent resistance to British rule in Northern Ireland. The subpoenas are part of a United Kingdom criminal probe into the death of a former IRA member who allegedly had served as an informer for the British government. Breyer’s order will remain in effect if the two researchers challenging the subpoenas file a formal appeal of the denial f their plea by the First Circuit Court in July.

The subpoenas had been challenged by Boston College, but it has given up at least part of its objection and has turned over some files. Attempting to continue the challenge are a former member of the IRA, Anthony McIntyre, who served as the lead researcher on the oral history project (the “Belfast Project”), and a New York journalist and writer, Ed Moloney, who directed the Belfast Project. That academic inquiry is an attempt to reconstruct the IRA rebellion from the perspective of former “foot soldiers” in that conflict, which ended in 1998 with the so-called “Good Friday Agreement.”

In gathering stories from those who had taken part in the rebellion, on either the IRA side or the Unionist side, the Belfast Project had promised confidentiality to interviewees in order to encourage them to speak candidly. For the UK police probe, files were demanded by two former IRA members, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price. Boston College turned over the Hughes papers because he had died; confideniality had been promised only during his lifetime. The College resisted the demand for the Price files. That is the effort now taken up by McIntyre and Moloney.

The British police are investigating the 1972 abduction and death of IRA member Jean McConville. The probe apparently is proceeding on the theory that the IRA followed a routine practice of retaliating violently against any of their members who cooperated with authorities or revealed IRA activities. Mrs. McConville’s death, in an execution-style killing with a single gunshot to the back of her head, has never been solved. Among those who allegedly abducted her were Dolours Price, who has since said that she acted on orders from IRA leaders The IRA claimed that Mrs. McConville was an informer to British authorities, but a British probe rejected that claim. Her body was not recovered until 2003.

McIntyre and Molony originally tried unsuccessfully to join in the Boston College court challenge to subpoenas for the Price records. After the College declined to appeal one document turnover order, the two men associated with the Belfast Project began their own lawsuit. Their claims were turned aside both by a federal District judge, and by the First Circuit Court. The British demand for the project records, being defended in court by the U.S. Justice Department, is pursued under a criminal law enforcement treaty with the U.S. Two subpoenas are at issue: one issued in May 2011, one in August 2011.

The First Circuit’s decision in July rejected the two researchers’ objection, finding that they had no First Amendment right to resist a subpoena for records needed in a criminal investigation. Justice Breyer put that decision on hold temporarily on October 1, until the Justice Department could respond. He then issued a stay on Wednesday. It specified that the two researchers must file their petition for review by November 16, or else the stay will expire. If they do file their petition, the stay will remain in effect until the Court completes action on the case. The Breyer order contained no explanation for the stay.

In their application for a stay, McIntyre and Moloney said their coming appeal will ask the Court to resolve a split among appeals courts on whether there is a First Amendment right for academic researchers to object to a subpoena for their files, and whether individuals may challenge a subpoena issued under a legal assistance treaty.

US Supreme Court Issues Stay

Supreme Court of the United States
No. 12A310


UPON FURTHER CONSIDERATION of the application of counsel for the applicants, the response filed thereto, and the reply,
IT IS ORDERED that the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, case Nos. 11-2511 and 12-1159, is hereby stayed until November 16, 2012. If the applicants file a petition for a writ of certiorari on or before that date, then the mandate of the First Circuit is further stayed until the petition is resolved by this Court. Should the petition be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the
petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court. If the applicants do not file a petition for certiorari on or before November 16, then the stay shall expire at 5 p.m. that day.

/s/ Stephen G. Breyer
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Dated this 17th day of October, 2012.

FF backs call for Adams to ‘tell truth’ about past

FF backs call for Adams to ‘tell truth’ about past
Sunday Independent
October 14 2012

TD joins McConville family in IRA allegations

Fianna Fail has joined the family of Jean McConville in calling for the questioning of Gerry Adams and convicted IRA bomber, Dolours Price, over her television claim that she drove the widowed mother-of-ten to her murder on a Co Louth beach in December 1972.

Price, 61, told an interviewer from America’s CBS last month that Adams also gave her orders to take part in the IRA’s bombing of the Old Bailey in London in 1973 in which one man was killed and more than a hundred injured. Price, her sister Marian, along with two men including Gerry Kelly, now a senior Sinn Fein figure, were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Adams denies any involvement in the murder of Mrs McConville and also denies Price’s claim that he ordered her to bomb London. He also denies ever having been in the IRA.

In her interview with CBS television last month, Price was asked if she drove Mrs McConville to meet her death. She replied: “I drove the car, yeah.” She was then asked if she was aware of the likely consequences. She replied: “I was aware that that would be her end, yeah.”

Asked if this had bothered her, she answered: “No, no, not at all.”

Price, once married to actor Stephen Rea, now lives in Malahide, north Dublin. She has yet to be questioned by gardai about her claim to be directly involved in the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted in Belfast and driven to Templetown beach in Co Louth, where she was killed with a single shot to the back of the head and buried in a secret grave. Her body was discovered after part of it was exposed in 2003.

Yesterday, Mrs Helen McKendry, Jean McConville’s eldest daughter who, along with her husband, Seamus, started the campaign for the discovery of her mother’s remains, called for Price to be arrested and questioned about the murder.

“She’s shooting her mouth off talking about driving my mother to her murder. Of course she should be questioned,” says Helen McKendry.

“Her sister Marian is back in jail in the North [her parole was revoked for alleged involvement in dissident republican activity] and she should be back in jail now, too. I don’t know why she has not been arrested, and Gerry Adams.”

Fianna Fail’s justice spokesman Niall Collins TD launched an attack on Sinn Fein and its leader, saying: “Their refusal to tell the truth about Gerry Adams is a sinister and cynical betrayal of the support that the Irish people gave for the peace process in the first place.

“We know from the security reports of successive, cross-party Irish Ministers for Justice that Gerry Adams was not only a member of the PIRA, but a senior commander within the organisation. Now, we have the clear and unambiguous claim from a former close colleague and friend that he was personally involved in the abduction, torture, murder and disappearance of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

“The response from Sinn Fein is to deny that he was ever a member, mutter about ‘media agendas’, and then talk in vague and meaningless terms about an ‘international conflict resolution process’. Gerry Adams doesn’t need an international panel of experts to shed light on what happened in the North. He just needs to start telling the truth.

“When asked about why he wouldn’t sue another individual who claims that she took orders from Adams personally for a bombing campaign in Britain, Gerry claims that he couldn’t afford to take a case.

“When reflecting on how disingenuous he is being with an answer like that, it’s worth remembering that before he moved to Dundalk, he received over €1m in expenses during his time as an absentee MP in West Belfast. This was on top of the ‘average industrial wage’ he received as an MLA in Stormont.”

News of Interest: Broadcasters resist police bid to grab unbroadcast Belfast riot footage

Broadcasters resist police bid to grab unbroadcast Belfast riot footage
Press Gazette
11 October 2012

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is seeking all media footage from an outbreak of violence in north Belfast this summer as it emerged masked rioters hadbeen identified because they drop their cover for smoke and drink breaks.

Police disclosed the slip-up as lawyers for the PSNI appeared at court requesting an order for full production of unbroadcast material and photographs taken during 12 July disorder in the Ardoyne area.

The BBC, Ulster TV, Sky News and the Press Association joined forces in resisting the application at a hearing at Belfast Recorders Court yesterday.

Rioting erupted followed a contentious Orange Order parade and counter-demonstration by nationalist residents.

Twenty PSNI officers were injured and 17 shots were fired at police lines.

Up to 90 people were involved in the trouble.

A detective sergeant in charge of the evidence gathering operation told the court more than 30 suspects have so far been arrested.

The court heard that film of the gunman was obtained from YouTube and aerially from a police helicopter. It showed him emerging from the crowd, opening fire and then running back. He had not been identified.

The detective claimed unused material might hold evidential value, even though it was not regarded as newsworthy.

During cross-examination he disclosed how police have managed to name some of those responsible for the attacks.

“Individuals wearing masks take a smoke break or take a drink,” he said.

“Luckily we have been able to get identifications whenever they drop their guard slightly.”

The Recorder for Belfast, Judge David McFarland, was told police evidence had in the past been significantly enhanced by images captured by media organisations.

Earlier this year the High Court in London quashed a production order that would have forced broadcasters to hand Essex Police unused footage of the Dale Farm traveller site evictions.

The Divisional Court held that those applying for such orders had to show a “clear and compelling case”, backed by clear and specific evidence that production of material was necessary.

That ruling is being seen as potentially shifting the balance towards media organisations in legal battles over disclosure of their unbroadcast and unpublished material.

News chiefs representing the BBC, Ulster TV and Sky all testified yesterday that camera crews covering the riots were instructed not to go beyond police lines.

Sky’s senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins, who was at the scene of the trouble, said his organisation’s material has no further evidential worth.

He said: “I don’t believe it would be of any greater assistance in identifying offenders on the night in question.”

The court reserved judgment.

Legal battle ensnares Boston College’s Irish history project

Legal battle ensnares Boston College’s Irish history project
National Catholic Reporter
Joshua J. McElwee
Oct. 10, 2012

As leaders across the world were hailing the end of three decades of brutally violent conflict in Northern Ireland in 2000, Jesuit-run Boston College launched an oral history project aimed at learning lessons from those who had participated in the most volatile moments in the struggle.

Twelve years later, that project has become the center of a legal showdown that, experts and government officials say, potentially threatens to place its aims on their head, possibly re-igniting tensions among Northern Ireland’s pro-British and pro-Republican parties.

The showdown revolves around two sets of subpoenas issued by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to Boston College for the testimonies. The PSNI alleges the histories, gathered for a 2001-2006 initiative called the Belfast Project, could provide information essential to the pursuit of prosecutions of unsolved crimes.

The PSNI’s request for the testimonies, first made to U.S. officials in May 2011, touched off a continuing saga that has garnered wide attention on two continents and has raised questions about the stability of the Northern Irish peace process.

Those questions might come to an apex this week. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to take up the case as soon as Thursday. Justice Stephen Breyer granted a temporary stay delaying the release of some of the documents Oct. 1, pending that decision.

Speaking to NCR, Ed Moloney, a noted Irish journalist who headed the project for Boston College, said the matters at hand are stark and “very, very dangerous.”

The PSNI says it is investigating the 1972 abduction and killing of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 who was abducted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), the pro-Irish independence group known for acts of terrorism across the British Isles.

The Northern Irish police’s case for the subpoenas stems from an interview the project had with Dolours Price, a former IRA member known for her involvement in a 1973 car bombing in central London at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.

Following interviews with Price in several Irish papers in 2010 and 2011, in which she referred to the Boston College project, officials with the PSNI asked U.S. officials to issue subpoenas for the testimony of Price and others interviewed. The PSNI made the request under the mutual legal assistance treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom, an agreement that each will assist the other in criminal prosecutions.

Over the past year, several reports in prominent U.K. papers and media outlets have speculated that Price’s testimony could link a key government leader in Northern Ireland to McConville’s murder: Gerry Adams, head of the republican Sinn Féin party.

While Adams has maintained that he was never an IRA member, the reports allege that Price’s testimony could reveal him as a key leader of the group in the 1970s, and perhaps even place him as responsible for ordering attacks like the one on McConville.

Pointing to the impact that release of the testimonies could have on Adams’ reputation should they reveal his involvement in McConville’s death or in planning IRA attacks in the 1970s, Moloney said, “The damage that it could do to the peace process is really quite considerable.”

“There is no way, I think, that if the police moved to charge Adams in the relation to this killing that the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland could survive,” said Moloney, who has covered the conflict for some three decades, including in stints as the Northern Ireland editor forThe Irish Times and the Sunday Tribune of Dublin. “And the power-sharing government is the peace process. So it’s a very, very dangerous, very foolish move by the police.”

While another noted Irish researcher agreed with some of Moloney’s assessment of the impact of the case, she disagreed that it could tear apart the Northern Irish government.

Although there are “all sorts of difficulties” with the power-sharing structure, said Marie Breen-Smyth, the system of working together has “become a habit and … a custom and practice.”

“We know that political systems have some sort of capacity to resist change,” said Breen-Smyth, who has written several books on the Northern Irish conflict and now serves as the chair in international politics at the University of Surrey in England. “I’m not convinced, personally, that this would necessary bring down the government.”

Both Moloney and Boston College have filed appeals to prevent release of the testimonies, which they say were given under strict agreement they would be kept confidential until the interviewees’ deaths.

The two, however, have broken association with each other and are fighting the subpoenas separately. In interviews, Moloney and Boston College’s director of news and public affairs, Jack Dunn, each criticized the others’ response to the requests.

Moloney alleged that the college had acted inappropriately by handing over copies of the testimonies for a confidential review by U.S. District Court Judge William Young in December 2011 after a court order.

Dunn said he would not respond to Moloney’s allegations and said the contract with the interviewees only guaranteed confidentiality “to the extent that American law allows.”

Following denial of a motion to quash one set of the subpoenas in U.S. District Court last fall, Boston College appealed the matter Sept. 7 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. That appeal is still pending.

Moloney and one of the project’s interviewers, former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, also filed a request to quash the other set of subpoenas in Belfast at the High Court of Justice, Northern Ireland’s second-highest court. They lost that request Oct. 2, but have pledged to appeal there.

Among those in the United States who have publicly opposed the subpoenas are both of Massachusetts’ senators, Democrat John Kerry and Republican Scott Brown, as well as Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

Each of the senators has written letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking her to intervene in the case. Schumer and Brown have also made similar requests to Attorney General Eric Holder.

In an op-ed in the Boston Herald in April, Kerry wrote that fulfillment of the subpoenas could “create an extremely dangerous situation” if information in the testimonies “were used to upend” the peace process.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the subpoenas have also generated criticism. A representative of the United Kingdom’s 38,000-member National Union of Journalists said the group “strongly supports” Moloney’s fight against the subpoenas. Seamus Dooley, the union’s Irish secretary, toldNCR in an email that the case “has profound implications for academic and journalistic research.”

“It is vital that commitments made in interviews are honored and that confidentiality of sources is respected,” he said. “The long-term consequences may be the undermining of research and that would be a blow to academic freedom.”

Beyond the legal contretemps over what will be released from the testimonies, Moloney said the years-long saga has also revealed flaws in the continuing Northern Irish peace process.

“To me this is a symptom that the peace process itself is very shallow,” he said. “Because if the peace process had got deeper roots and was more widely accepted, then there would have been agreement on a way to deal with the past. But instead you have the police being allowed to delve back into events that took place way back in the 1970s, events which were supposed to have been put behind us.”

“They’re digging back into these events,” Moloney said. “And they’re scratching away at scars and the scars are opening and bleeding.”

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is]

A longer version of this report will appear in NCR’s Colleges and Universities special section, which will be published in their Nov. 9-22 print issue.

Will CBS and Sunday Telegraph Defy PSNI Demands For Dolours Price Material?

Will CBS and Sunday Telegraph Defy PSNI Demands For Dolours Price Material?
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow
October 8, 2012

This weekend a number of news reports claimed that the PSNI has requested that journalistic material from the US broadcaster CBS and the British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph concerning Dolours Price and the abduction and ‘disappearance’ of Jean McConville be handed over to detectives investigating her death.

The Telegraph interviewed Dolours Price about her alleged role, inter alia, in the disappearance of Jean McConville by the IRA in 1972. It is believed that the paper’s reporters tape-recorded their interviews with her. She said Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had given her the order for these operations which included the 1973 bombing of London, for which she was arrested and imprisoned. CBS News’ London bureau also interviewed Dolours Price and an item based on the interview was broadcast on national US television and radio. It is likely that the PSNI are seeking film that was not broadcast.

If past practice is a reliable guide, it is likely that the PSNI have requested that this material be handed over voluntarily by these two organisations and if they refuse will then serve them with subpoenas. It remains to be seen what the response is from The Sunday Telegraph and CBS but hopefully a voluntary handover is not on the menu at either organization!. More crucially, what will they do if, having refused to hand over the material voluntarily they then are served with subpoenas? Will they move in the courts to quash them? Not to do so will set an alarming and dangerous precedent because this will entail two of the foremost media concerns in the Western world accepting the unbridled, unchallenged right of the police to use journalistic material in criminal investigations while implicitly accepting that journalists can and even should work alongside police detectives to supplement their work. Where CBS and The Sunday Telegraph go today, others will follow tomorrow.

It is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. It would end by cementing the police and the Fourth Estate together as partners, the latter collecting information for the former to use, degrading the supposed independence of the media in a most disconcerting way and undermining its ability to hold society and its institutions, including the police, to account and under scrutiny. With the Leveson inquiry due to recommend tighter state oversight of the media, this move by the PSNI holds great destructive potential for a free society in Britain. In the US, CBS’ capitulation would mark another depressing waypoint on a post-911 journey that has seen civil liberties erased and media independence eroded. These are bad days for this to happen.

The nature of the crime under investigation, the “disappearance” of alleged British Army informer, Jean McConville by the IRA some forty years ago may tempt CBS and the Sunday Telegraph to hand over the material, on the grounds that the crime was so monstrous that nobody could stand in the way of bringing the matter to a just end. While not wishing to minimise the sheer wrongness and wickedness of what happened to Jean McConville, it would be unfortunate if that did happen and both institutions should reflect on a number of realities before contemplating that path.

They should remember that there were many, many monstrous crimes committed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and quite a few of them were carried out by the state. Those crimes however remain uninvestigated and untouched by the same police force that now seeks to discover what happened to Jean McConville. They were carried out by the PSNI’s predecessors, the RUC, by British Military intelligence and by the Security Service, MI5 – the gory details are well known in Northern Ireland – yet no subpoenas are ever slapped on their desks. And we all know they won’t be. There are double standards at work here.

Secondly, for the most part of the last forty years neither the police nor any other security force agency cared a damn about Jean McConville, to the extent that only recently did they even classify her death as a murder, even though their intelligence files must have been bursting with information about her fate .

If the IRA is telling the truth and she was an informer who was caught but then let go with a warning before resuming her work for the British military, then the Army has some hard questions to answer, not least why they continued to use an agent whose life they must have known was in danger. And is it only coincidence that the state’s new found concern for Jean McConville comes when the Provo leadership has no more peace process cards to play, has disarmed and defanged the IRA and presents a great electoral threat to the Southern establishment parties? When the PSNI embarked on this investigation, with subpoenas served only when Gerry Adams was no longer a member of the British parliament and a potential source of embarrassment for that institution, they knew full well that all paths in their investigation would lead to his door. In these circumstances we are entitled to ask whether the opportunity to wreak revenge against a long-time foe rivals any concern for the death of Jean McConville.

Finally, CBS and The Sunday Telegraph should bear in mind that no matter the distressing circumstances of Jean McConville’s abduction and death, it is the principle that matters above all, that the media should be and must stay independent. It is this that is at stake in this matter. Today it is Jean McConville but tomorrow it may be opponents of war or people protesting the power of Wall Street or the City of London. The day the media accepts without protest or effort to deny in the courts, a role as an active partner with the police, no matter the justness of the cause, is the day they cease to matter and the rest of us lose a crucial if erratic bulwark of freedom. We are too close to that as it is. If, finally, both outlets must hand over the material it can only be after a fierce fight to protect their independence and to reassure their readers and viewers.

The following is a statement I issued in the wake of the weekend reports:

“I view with great concern and no little alarm this effort by the PSNI to further intrude upon media rights by seeking interview material from CBS News and the Sunday Telegraph. It is clear that in the light of recent court decisions in the United States and Belfast, the police feel encouraged to raid for journalistic material rather than conduct investigations under their own steam, as they had many opportunities to do in this case.

“I sincerely hope and trust that neither CBS nor the Sunday Telegraph will voluntarily hand over material to the PSNI and in the event of a subpoena being served on either organisation they will have my complete and unqualified support in resisting it. It is vital to remember that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides a robust bulwark against incursions into freedom of speech and I trust both organisations will seek its protection against this effort by the PSNI.

“Clearly this case is developing into a major assault on privacy. Not content with assailing academic rights, the PSNI are now set to lay siege to the media as well. Where will this stop? The right and duty of the media to report fully and freely without having to look over their shoulders for prying policemen has to be protected if the media is to perform its role of holding society to account.

“There are a number of points I wish to make about this issue:

“It is clear that the PSNI is substituting the efforts of journalists for basic detective work. I cite one glaring example. In August 2010, Dolours Price, who lives in Dublin, appeared in a Northern Ireland court on a minor charge. The court was full of policemen at the time and the authorities were well aware in advance of her appearance. The PSNI had a perfect opportunity to question her about the allegations in the Irish News and Sunday Life but did not do so. The questions must be asked, why not? And why should media and academic organisations now be asked to pay the price for police incompetence?

“I also wish to point out that notwithstanding a recent decision in the Belfast High Court I am firmly and unalterably of the view that if these interviews from Boston College are handed over, the risk to the life of BC researcher, Anthony McIntyre will be very great indeed. The IRA will view him as someone who encouraged living, fellow former members of the IRA to break their rule of silence in circumstances that could lead to criminal charges against living IRA leaders and members. As someone who has covered IRA matters as a journalist for many years, I know what the penalty for that is. Thankfully, none of the journalists from CBS or the Sunday Telegraph are likely to face the same consequences.

“The speed with which the PSNI have acted against CBS and the Sunday Telegraph is in sharp contrast to its complete inactivity when similar reports surfaced in the Irish News and Sunday Life newspapers in February 2010. One of those reports wrongly claimed that Anthony McIntyre’s interview with Dolours Price contained details about the disappearance of Jean McConville. It did not but that did not stop the PSNI from issuing subpoenas more than a year later against Boston College. Had the PSNI conducted basic due diligence in 2010 those subpoenas would never have been issued.

“In this regard it is worth noting that this move against CBS and the Sunday Telegraph is the first time since this case began that the PSNI has sought to obtain allegedly similar materials through domestic channels.”

– Ed Moloney