Adams Must Decide How History Will Remember Him

Adams Must Decide How History Will Remember Him
Conor Forrest
Irish News Review
October 7, 2012

If the truth will have its way, another sad chapter of Northern Ireland’s violent history may finally be closed, should the testimony of an ex-IRA volunteer be joined to that of former IRA man, Brendan Hughes, and other former members who told their stories to the Boston college project whose aim it was and is to create and collect a repository of oral history concerning the Troubles.

Major pressure is to be heaped upon Gerry Adams in the Dáil following an interview given to the Sunday Telegraph by Dolours Price, a former member of the feared inner sanctum. Price, who was married to actor Stephen Rea, has remained disillusioned by the peace process and what she sees as Adams’ betrayal, and gave the Sunday Telegraph an interview concerning what she told the Boston project. The 61-year-old, who now lives in a quiet suburb in Dublin, has claimed that not only was Adams in the IRA but it was on his orders that victims were ferried across the border, a bombing campaign against a series of targets in mainland Britain, including the Old Bailey, as were the kidnappings of those viewed by the IRA as traitors, including one Jean McConville.

The allegations against Adams are nothing new. The family of Jean McConville in particular have always maintained the Sinn Féin leader’s role in her execution during the early 1970s on the basis of accusations concerning repeatedly relaying information to the British army through a radio in her home. Adams resolutely denies any involvement in the young woman’s death which has in some manner come to represent the atrocities committed by the IRA during the Troubles alongside the Omagh bombing. And until now no real hard evidence could be put forward to stick on Adams. Even when combined with the testimony of Brendan Hughes released by the Boston College after his death as per his agreement in the book ‘Voices from the Grave’ which offers a starkly different story to the one which Adams has always painted (namely his active involvement in the IRA), the proof is circumstantial and those who criticise him have a potential bias, being former IRA men and women who felt betrayed by a former leader. Unsurprising, really, when considering that the Troubles and the truth rarely go hand in hand.

The response from Adams hasn’t really been surprising. The solid, hard evidence mightn’t be there but public opinion will quite possibly mount against Adams, alongside political pressure from his colleagues in the Dáil who wouldn’t mind having a different scapegoat in the public eye (James Reilly, we’re looking at you). So really, at the heart of it, Adams will decide his own destiny. Despite the Good Friday Agreement which finally ended the Provo’s long armed campaign in the North, a page cannot be truly turned to a new side while the major players on both sides of the coin are not only publicly active in the present but shadily skirting their past. A new dawn is on the horizon with a new generation but the truth must out first. While he keeps his mouth shut, no one wins. The families of the disappeared want to know who and what caused their loved ones to die and is a constant and horrifying reminder of those thirty years of fear and violence.

Eventually, the truth will come out. Whether through legal wrangling or the passage of time and the deaths of those who told their stories, the contents of the Boston College project will be revealed, and new evidence will undoubtedly come to light. Two corroborating oral witnesses could be dismissed. Many more will surely not. And who knows what other dark secrets are yet to be revealed from within the depth of those archives. Adams and his image would do far better if he revealed any secrets he might be hiding about his past now, under no pressure and of his own accord. History, they say, will be the judge of us all. Adams must decide what it will say.

PSNI still probing Jean McConville murder

PSNI still probing Jean McConville murder
By Fionnan Sheahan
Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The PSNI says it is continuing to investigate the IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville — a killing that continues to cast a shadow over Gerry Adams.

The Sinn Fein president is poised to face the embarrassment of a special Dail debate on the so-called Disappeared, people murdered by the IRA and whose bodies were then hidden.

Former IRA members have implicated Mr Adams in Ms McConville’s murder.

Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan has asked for time in the Dail to discuss the Disappeared.

“To date, nine bodies of the 16 ‘disappeared’ during the Troubles have been located. That means seven families remain in a terrible state of limbo, unable to get closure and fully mourn the death of their loved ones,” he said.

“By allowing for statements to be made on this matter in the Dail, the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, could update the House and the public on the progress made to date. It would also heighten public awareness on the issue, and might encourage anyone with any information to come forward,” he added.

Convicted IRA bomber Dolours Price has accused Mr Adams of involvement in the murder of Ms McConville from Belfast.

“Detectives are continuing to follow a number of lines of enquiry in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” a PNSI spokesman said.

Mr Adams has repeatedly denied being a member of the IRA or any knowledge of the murder of Ms McConville.


FINE GAEL PRESS RELEASE

O’Donovan calls for Dáil to discuss the Disappeared

Fine Gael Limerick TD, Patrick O’Donovan, has written to the Government Chief Whip, Paul Kehoe TD, requesting that time be allocated in the Dáil to discuss the Disappeared. Deputy O’Donovan also intends to raise the issue at the next meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, of which he is a member.

“I have asked the Chief Whip to consider allowing for statements to be made in the Dáil on the Disappeared and the plight facing their families. To date, nine bodies of the sixteen people ‘disappeared’ during the troubles have been located. That means seven families remain in a terrible state of limbo, unable to get closure and fully mourn the death of their loved ones.

“By allowing for statements to be made on this matter in the Dáil, the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, could update the House and the public on the progress made to date. It would also heighten public awareness on the issue, and might encourage anyone with any information to come forward.

“The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains has been working to locate remains since 1999, and their efforts are on-going. They are doing exceptionally important work on a cross border basis.

“We have reached a very important stage in British Irish relations, and the progress made by people on both sides of the border to improve links between communities should not be underestimated. However, for the families of the seven people who were killed and buried in unmarked graves, and whose remains have still not been found, time has stood still.

“I am hopeful that my request to discuss this issue in the Dáil will be granted and I also intend to raise the issue at the next meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, later this month.”

ENDS


British Irish Parliamentary Assembly Press Release

BRITISH IRISH PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY TO MEET IN GLASGOW 22ND-23RD OCTOBER 2012
Added 5-Oct-2012

The 45th plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly will take place in the Grosvenor Hilton Hotel, Glasgow, from Monday 22nd – Tuesday 23rd October 2012.

This is the first occasion that the Assembly has met in Glasgow, and the only the second time that a plenary has been held in Scotland following a meeting in Edinburgh (as the British Irish Interparliamentary Body) in 2005.

The theme of the plenary will be “The Scottish Economy and Irish/Scottish Relations.”

A full agenda for the plenary including guest speakers will be available in due course.

Media outlets are welcome to attend or send a representative to the plenary. Those attending are requested to contact Ronan Farren, Q4 Public Relations for further information, accreditation and to make the necessary arrangements.

ENDS

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand Letter to Secretary of State Clinton

October 3, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madam Secretary,

I am writing to express my concern about the request of the United Kingdom (UK) to obtain documents and recordings pertaining to the Boston College Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

I know that you appreciate as well as anyone the sensitivity of these documents and the potential impact their release could have on a peace that had been forged with the help of President Clinton. New York’s Irish-American community is worried about these risks, as well as the precedent a release of the materials would set for academic integrity of a research project is politicized by certain interests.

I appreciate that the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty requires the Department of State to take certain positions, and that the UK is one of our closest allies with which we collaborate on a variety of national security matters. I hope that you will find a way to impress upon the UK government the need to find a solution that protects these materials and does not harm a peace that remains at times fragile.

Please let me know if there is any way I can be helpful to you going forward in resolving this case so that our national security and first amendment values are protected.

Sincerely,

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator

The Belfast Project and the Boston College Subpoena Case

The Belfast Project and the Boston College Subpoena Case
Anthony McIntyre
Special Session: Oral History and Conflict Resolution
Annual Conference
Oral History Network of Ireland

The following paper was given at the Oral History Network of Ireland (OHNI) Second Annual Conference in Ennis, Co Clare on Saturday the 29th September 2012

  • Introduction
  • Origins of the Belfast Project
  • Purpose of the Belfast Project
  • Confidentiality and Copyright
  • Process that led to the publication of the book and the issues surrounding it, including the threat to researchers’ and participants’ safety
  • The Press and Dolours Price
  • Boston College’s response to the subpoena and the subsequent legal action brought by myself and the Project Director, Ed Moloney, against the US Government to stop the subpoena
  • Progress of the case
  • Protections and the egregious role of institutions housing material from the perspective of John Lowman and Ted Palys
  • In terms of conflict resolution, oral history can play a large part in dealing with legacy issues
  • Conclusion

Introduction

The trials and tribulations of the Belfast Project if nothing else should serve as a salutary lesson to oral historians who opt to capture narratives of an acutely sensitive nature. Like other history the oral component often deals with a safe subject, posing no risk to the researcher, research participants or the research project.   There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But history construction, particularly that which seeks to excavate armed conflict is often going to unearth knowledge that is frequently more toxic, than safe.
More…

Police ‘laying siege to journalism’ over claim Gerry Adams ordered killing

Police ‘laying siege to journalism’ over claim Gerry Adams ordered killing
PSNI demands notes and video from Sunday Telegraph and US broadcaster CBS over IRA bomber’s allegation
Henry McDonald
The Guardian
Sunday 7 October 2012

The Police Service of Northern Ireland wants to seize interview material from the Sunday Telegraph and American broadcaster CBS connected to an IRA bomber’s claim that Gerry Adams ordered one of the most notorious murders of the Troubles.

The Guardian has learned that the PSNI is seeking to obtain notes and video footage from the paper and the New York based television station in relation to Dolours Price’s allegation that the Sinn Fein president was in charge of a specialist IRA unit that “disappeared” and killed mother of 10 Jean McConville.

In the United States, the PSNI is already engaged in a lengthy legal battle soon to reach the US Supreme Court in its attempt to take tapes from Boston College that include Price’s testimony of her time in the IRA. The police want to use the Boston College interviews with IRA members with the material from the Sunday Telegraph and CBS as part of its investigation into the 1972 kidnapping and secret murder of the west Belfast widow.

An award winning journalist who set up the IRA and loyalist archive for Boston College said the PSNI’s latest move demonstrated that the police were “laying siege” to free, open journalism.

A PSNI spokeswoman said on Friday that the police were “pursuing all lines of inquiry in relation to the murder of Jean McConville.” The Guardian can reveal that this includes the most up to date interview with Dolours Price, the former Old Bailey bomber who know lives in North Dublin.

McConville was abducted from her home in the Divis Flats complex by an IRA unit just before Christmas 1972. The Provisional IRA accused her of being an informer who worked for the British Army – a charge her family has always disputed.

She became the most famous of 16 IRA victims known as the disappeared because after being interrogated and shot, their bodies were buried in secret locations mainly across the border in the Irish Republic. In her interview last month, Price claimed to be part of a highly secretive IRA unit called the Unknowns who were tasked with targeting suspected informers in the community, abducting them, killing them and burying them in covert locations.

Price also said that she took Jean McConville to her death across the border after she was dragged from her home at gunpoint in front of her children.

“I drove away Jean McConville. I don’t know who gave the instructions to execute her. Obviously it was decided between the General Headquarters staff and the people in Belfast. Gerry Adams would have been part of that negotiation as to what was to happen to her.

“I had a call one night and Adams was in a house down the Falls Road and she’d been arrested by Cumann [IRA’s female unit] women and held for a couple of days. She got into my car and as far as she was concerned she was being taken away by the Legion of Mary to a place of safety.

“It wasn’t my decision to disappear her, thank God. All I had to do was drive her from Belfast to Dundalk. I even got her fish and chips and cigarettes before I left her.”

Price was unrepentant about her alleged role in the disappearance and death of McConville. “You don’t deserve to die if you are an unpleasant person as she was but you do deserve to die if you are an informer, I do believe that. Particularly in a war, that is the Republican way,” she told the Sunday Telegraph.

CBS last night confirmed it had received a letter from the PSNI about the Price interview adding “we are looking into the issues raised in the letter.” The Sunday Telegraph declined to comment but it is understood the PSNI has been in contact with the paper.

The director of the Belfast Project for Boston College Ed Moloney said he sincerely hoped both CBS and the Sunday Telegraph would resist police attempts to subpoena their material. “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?” he said.

Moloney added: “It is clear that the PSNI is substituting the efforts of journalists for basic detective work.”

Sinn Fein and even some of its opponents in the Irish media have claimed Price is motivated by a long running enmity towards Adams, and is using the McConville murder to damage him and his party. Adams has strenuously denied not only involvement in the McConville disappearance and murder but of ever being involved in the IRA.

Price does admit that she is engaged in a “score settling” operation against Adams because he denies his alleged IRA past. Her critics, including some commentators in the Dublin press who have traditionally opposed the IRA, claim she is trying to damage the peace process in her feud with Adams.

But Seamus McKendry, Jean McConville’s son-in-law and long time campaigner for the “disappeared”, told the Guardian he welcomed the news that the PSNI wanted to seize the Sunday Telegraph and CBS material relating to Price’s latest allegations.

“Helen [Jean McConville’s oldest daughter] and I would be very much in favour of this move by the police. Every piece of the jigsaw is important in terms of the police building a case on Jean’s murder. So just as we have always supported the PSNI in their bid to get the Boston College tapes we think it is entirely justified that they are able to pore over the interviews the paper and the broadcaster carried out,’ he said.

McKendry also called on the Garda Siochána to arrest Dolours Price following her claims in the Sunday Telegraph and on CBS. “She is living openly in Malahide, north Dublin, so I don’t see why the Garda cannot arrest and question her about what she said in her very own words. I was at Jean’s inquest and all the evidence pointed to her being shot dead in County Louth in the Irish Republic, which means the crime was committed in the Garda’s jurisdiction. So it’s up to the Garda to question her,” he added.

The IRA only admitted in 1999 that it had been behind Jean McConville’s disappearance and murder. Republicans had previously spread the false story across west Belfast that the widow had abandoned her 10 children – many of whom were later placed in care homes – and run off to England with a British soldier. Her remains were finally located in August 2003 at Templetown beach in County Louth.

McConville probe police seek copies of Price interviews

McConville probe police seek copies of Price interviews
Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
October 6, 2012

The PSNI has requested nonbroadcast footage of a US TV interview with Dolours Price as part of their investigation into the murder of Jean McConville. As well as the request to CBS, it has also asked the Sunday Telegraph for notes, tapes and other materials of its interview with Ms Price last month.

The new move by the police comes on top of the force’s decision to pursue Boston College through the courts for the taped testimonies of Ms Price and seven other former IRA members.

Those tapes were taken for the college’s Belfast project by Dr Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner, working under the direction of Ed Moloney, a former Belfast journalist now living in New York.

Last month Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre both lodged sworn affidavits in a Belfast Court saying that the PSNI should not have access to the Boston tapes because, they claimed, Ms Price never mentioned the murder of Jean Mc-Conville in them.

However, in her Sunday Telegraph and CBS interviews, Ms Price claims that she was involved and hints that she said as much in the Boston tapes.

Last night Mr McIntyre strongly denied she had said anything about it during the interview.

The Boston case, now winding its way towards the US Supreme Court, has been opposed by leading US figures including Senator John Kerry on the grounds that it endangers academic freedom.

Sonya McNair at CBS News said: “We have received the request… we will respond in accordance with our policy.”

Security sources confirmed that both news organisations had been approached, but a PSNI spokesman was more guarded. He stated: “Detectives are continuing to follow a number of lines of inquiry in relation to the murder or Jean McConville.”

background The US Supreme Court will shortly decide whether taped confessions of former IRA members can be released to PSNI detectives. They want the tapes as part of their investigation into the murder of Jean McConville in 1972. The tapes are held by Boston College. They were recorded on condition that they would only be released after the death of those involved.

Stay granted on North interviews

Stay granted on North interviews
CONOR LALLY
The Irish Times
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

THE UNITED States Supreme Court has granted a temporary stay on the handover of taped interviews conducted by author and journalist Ed Moloney and writer and former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre with combatants in the Troubles in the North.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer yesterday granted the stay on the handover of interviews from the Belfast Project at Boston College to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The stay will be in place until at least October 11th.

On that date the US government is due to formally respond to an application from the attorneys for Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre seeking the handover be stayed until the court decides whether to hold a full hearing on the case.

The men are involved in legal actions in the US and Northern Ireland with a view to blocking the handing over of the interviews to the PSNI. The recordings include one Mr McIntyre carried out with Dolours Price. The PSNI want that interview to aid its investigation into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, one of the so-called “disappeared”. Mr McIntyre has said the PSNI obtaining the recordings would place his life in danger. He and Mr Moloney promised the interviewees confidentiality until the interviewees had either consented to publication or died.

Mr Moloney, who lives in New York, has amassed a strong lobby to oppose the release of the material, saying it could harm the peace process.

McIntyre loses IRA tapes case

McIntyre loses IRA tapes case
UTV News
Tuesday, 02 October 2012

A former IRA volunteer-turned-writer has lost his High Court bid to prevent police taking possession of his interviews with a convicted bomber.

Anthony McIntyre was seeking to restrain disclosure of confidential archived material compiled for a history project at Boston College in the United States.

PSNI detectives wanted access to all interviews he carried out with Dolours Price as part of their investigation into the 1972 murder of Belfast woman Jean McConville, one of the so-called Disappeared.

Mr McIntyre claimed releasing the tapes and transcripts to police would put him under greater threat of being killed by dissident republicans who would perceive it as a betrayal of the IRA’s code of silence.

However, a judge dismissed his case after a senior detective stated he was not aware of any current, increased risk to the researcher due to his work on the project.

Mr Justice Treacy said: “In light of the unequivocal response from the PSNI, supported by the threat assessment from the security authorities, I conclude that the applicant has failed to make out an arguable case that disclosure of the Boston College tapes would, as he claimed, materially increase the risk to his life or that of his family.”

Loyalist and republican paramilitaries gave interviews to Mr McIntyre and journalist Ed Moloney for the college’s Belfast Project, an examination of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Those who took part included Price, who was jailed for her part in a bomb attack on the Old Bailey in London in 1973.

Recordings were carried out on the understanding that they would only be made public once interviewees had died.

However, the US courts have ruled that the Price interviews should be handed over to the PSNI.

The court heard Mr Moloney has stated that his research colleague’s interviews with Price contain nothing relevant to the Jean McConville murder investigation.

Lawyers for Mr McIntyre argued that his Article 2 right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights trumped the PSNI’s legal obligation to investigate murder.

But Mr Justice Treacy ruled that the former IRA man’s rights cannot prohibit police from seeking or receiving material relevant to a serious, live criminal inquiry.

“Investigating murder and gathering relevant material is not only a requirement of domestic law, but it is also a requirement of the positive duty which Article 2 imposes upon contracting States,” he said.

Rejecting Mr McIntyre’s application for judicial review, the judge added: “On the applicant’s case the PSNI is prohibited from receiving material no matter how probative – even a confession to murder if it exists – because of the risk from the IRA, dissident or otherwise.

“The very notion that a risk generated by the perpetrators or their associates could require the PSNI, or indeed the Court, to effectively suppress material potentially relevant to murder is fundamentally inconsistent with the very nature of the rule of law and Article 2 itself.”

Despite the ruling, the PSNI will not yet automatically gain access to the tapes. Lawyers for Mr McIntyre are expected to lodge an appeal against Mr Justice Treacy’s decision.

Meanwhile, any handover of the material has also been put on hold by the courts in America, pending a further hearing before the US Supreme Court.

Mr McIntyre’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, confirmed: “We have consulted with our client and we are set to appeal.

“We also welcome the stay that has been granted in the American courts because it prevents the handover of the tapes.

“That decision assists Mr McIntyre while he deals with the outstanding appeal issues arising from today’s judgment.”

The Dolours Price Tapes: The Least Secret Secret in the History of Secrets

The Dolours Price Tapes: The Least Secret Secret in the History of Secrets
Next They’ll Subpoena a Candy Wrapper
by Chris Bray
October 1, 2012

Dolours Price is an open door, but two different governments are still hammering at the unobstructed doorway with a battering ram. “Open up!” they scream. The door just stands there, open. They go at it with the battering ram some more, grunting and sweating. They will not give up until the open door is opened. And somehow they aren’t kidding.

Acting on a request from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), relayed under the terms of a mutual legal assistance treaty by the government of the UK, the US Attorney’s Office in Boston is working to obtain a set of recorded interviews between academic researchers and former IRA members. Each interview, commissioned and held by Boston College, was supposed to be treated as confidential until the death of the interviewee.

The PSNI is pursuing information regarding the 1972 kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville, a Belfast widow killed as a suspected British Army informer. Chasing that narrative in deadly earnest, federal lawyers have insisted throughout a long court battle that they are assisting in a murder investigation. Secrets will be uncovered. Killers will be marched into court. Justice will no longer be denied.

Journalists covering the case have adopted this very same line, interviewing one of McConville’s daughters on the solemn premise that the family is searching for the truth about what happened to their mother.

But they already know what happened to their mother, and so do the police. You can join in the secret club: the answers are available from Amazon.com, and can be delivered to your front door with next-day delivery. The secret of Jean McConville’s death is, at this point, the least secret secret in the history of secrets.

Yet the absurdity continues.

The first sign that the PSNI was up to something strange and ridiculous came with the first two sets of subpoenas, which sought materials from interviews with two former IRA members, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price. But Hughes was dead, and his interviews were no longer embargoed. They had been used in a book and a film. The PSNI and the US Attorney’s Office needed a subpoena the same way you need a court order to go to the public library and check out a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Or they could have just watched the Brendan Hughes interviews on YouTube, but never mind: there was super secret international sleuthing to be done, and Google is really complicated.

While Boston College promptly handed over copies of the no-longer-confidential Brendan Hughes interviews, a pair of court challenges have so far prevented the U.S. government from obtaining the tapes of the Dolours Price interviews, as well as several others related to a second set of subpoenas. But the battle in court drives on, and appears to be nearing its end in the United States. (A separate legal challenge is underway in Belfast.) Soon, it appears, prosecutors in Boston will get their hands on Price’s tapes, and we’ll at long last know what happened to Jean McConville. Which we already know, because of the published books and the feature-length documentary that you can stream over the Internet.

Finally, though, the last week has brought the full absurdity of the alleged murder investigation fully into the light. In a series of newspaper and television interviews, Price has said—absolutely plainly, in unembarrassed and detailed statements—that she participated in the kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville, and did so under orders from Gerry Adams. Admitting that she joined a conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in two jurisdictions—the IRA took McConville from her home in Belfast, drove her south across the border, and killed her on a beach in the Republic of Ireland—Price faced immediate and devastating legal consequences: she finished her tea and went to bed. The police in the South have not arrested her; the police in the North do not appear to have sought her arrest and extradition. She said she did it, loudly and in public, and nothing happened.

But we must have Dolours Price’s secret interview tapes, so we can get to the bottom of Jean McConville’s murder and bring her killers to justice.

Next they’ll subpoena a candy wrapper so they can find out the ingredients.

Ex-IRA man ‘willing to risk jail’ to protect his sources

Ex-IRA man ‘willing to risk jail’ to protect his sources
By Gordon Deegan
Irish Examiner
Monday, October 01, 2012

A former IRA volunteer turned writer has told a conference he is willing to go jail to protect sources he interviewed as part of the controversial Belfast Project.

At the second annual Oral History Network of Ireland conference in Ennis on Saturday, Anthony McIntyre told delegates if someone who played a role in the conflict in the North came to him now to tell their story “I wouldn’t take it, as I can’t guarantee that I can protect my sources”.

Currently, Mr McIntyre and journalist Ed Moloney are involved in legal actions on both sides of the Atlantic to prevent the Police Service of Northern Ireland obtaining tapes of interviews they carried out with combatants in the Northern conflict.

The two carried out the interviews, known as the Belfast Project, for Boston College in the US.

Currently, the PSNI is seeking access to all recordings Mr McIntyre carried out with Dolours Price as part of PSNI investigations into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, one of “The Disappeared”. Mr McIntyre said the PSNI obtaining the recordings would place his life in danger.

Mr McIntyre and Mr Moloney promised the interviewees absolute confidentiality until interviewees had either consented to publication or had died.

Mr McIntyre told the conference: “The individual researcher has to step up to the plate and be prepared to face imprisonment other than to allow their sources be compromised. It could well result that I could ending up going to prison for refusing to assist in any way in any investigation that results from this, but that is a price that we have to pay.

“Otherwise, if you don’t want to take that risk, then you don’t discover knowledge that places you at risk.

“There is no doubt that the outcome of the legal battle being waged around the Belfast Project will set parameters on what oral historians can actually collate — certainly in any institutional setting.

“The trials and tribulations of the Belfast Project if nothing else should serve as a salutary lesson to oral historians who opt to capture narratives of an acutely sensitive nature.”

At the conference, Mr McIntyre said that there is scope out there for another 100 Belfast Projects “given the amount of people who talk about things”.

Mr McIntyre described the Belfast Project as “groundbreaking” and said it “has provided new insights into the world of republicanism as it functioned during the conflict years”.

He said: “Unfortunately, it seems that the protections available to oral historians, as well as researchers or journalists for that matter, are nowhere near as robust as they arguably need to be. Whatever safeguards are in place, there is no effective shield law that will protect research in all circumstances.

“In a pluralist society, information should be pursued by journalists, researchers, and law enforcement alike. But there is no compelling reason for law enforcement to invade bona fide research and attempt to turn it into evidence for the purposes of prosecution,” said Mr McIntyre.