Appeals court restricts release of Boston College tapes
Anthony McIntyre, lead researcher for the Belfast Project and former IRA member, comments on the ruling which restricts the number of tapes to be released to 11
RTÉ Radio 1
4 June 2013
Fran McNulty (FM) interviews Anthony McIntyre, (AM) the Lead Researcher for the Boston College oral history archive known as The Belfast Project, about the recent appellate court decision concerning the subpoenas issued by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to the college to obtain information from the archive.
Fran McNulty (FM): The Appeals Court has ruled that the number of interviews contained in the controversial Boston College archive to be handed over to the PSNI should be reduced. A previous court had ordered eight-five recordings be handed over. The appeals court has said just eleven should.
The US Department of Justice has one month to appeal the ruling.
Anthony McIntyre is a former IRA member. As an academic and journalist he interviewed many people for The Belfast Project at Boston College. We spoke earlier this morning and I first asked him if he viewed the court ruling as good news.
Anthony McIntyre (AM): Well it’s certainly news that is welcome but limited. I don’t see it as a victory. I see it as minimising the extent of the defeat – of the loss.
The fact that anything would be handed over to British authorities is a loss and nothing changes that.
FM: These eleven interviews or recordings which are to be handed over and all of them…are we now of the belief that they are exclusively relating to the disappearance of Jean McConville?
AM: The court has ruled that there are references to Mrs. McConville in those interviews and that therefore they are responsive to the subpoena as a result of it.
FM: What about the McConville family who up to now have said that this is only right and just that they should be handed over. Are you beginning to turn to their way of thinking on this in any manner?
AM: No I am not but I can understand their position. I represent a different constituency. I represent a different ethic. I think that it poses a major threat to the ability of journalists and academics and researchers and historians to gain the type of necessary insight into the past which would enable society to have a better understanding of that past.
I think that we’ve now reached a situation whereby law enforcement will tell us what the past is. We will get a very sanitised version of law enforcement’s role in the past.
No, I think it’s a very, very dangerous road to go down. I do believe that the McConville family and the rest of the families have that right to truth recovery. I don’t see how we can oppose that right. The problem is now there is going to be a massive reduction in the amount of truth that can ever be recovered because people will be fearful.
FM: But this is a project which you yourself lead and these are assurances which you yourself gave to the people you interviewed.
AM: I don’t ever try to minimise my culpability but the assurances that I gave to the people were given only and exclusively on the basis of what Boston College instructed me to give. But I cannot deny or nor do I wish to deny my role in this and I feel very, very disappointed in the outcome.
But I behaved in a proper fashion. I gave the undertakings to the interviewees that Boston College themselves had written up on their headed note paper.
FM: Can I talk to you about these eleven interviews?
A number of weeks ago here on RTÉ Ed Moloney, who worked with you deeply on this project, said that there was the possibility that there could be other interviews with Dolours Price in this archive. Other interviews other than the interview you conducted with Dolours Price which could shed light on the disappearance of Jean McConville. Is it your understanding that those other interviews could be part of these eleven now to be released?
AM: The eleven interviews that the First Circuit has ruled on to be handed over are separate from the Dolours Price interviews and that includes my interviews with Dolours Price.
The interesting aspect in this ruling is that had Boston College appealed the initial Dolours Price verdict they would have prevented her interviews being handed over because in her interviews with me there was no reference to Mrs. McConville.
FM: On the issue of appeals we spoke to Boston College last night. It said it would be reviewing the matter and considering all of its legal options before it responds to this court ruling.
But the Department of Justice in the US could also appeal this particular ruling. Would you have a concern that could happen?
AM: I have a concern that anything that could be handed over – anything that weakens the case against hand over, anything that strengthens the hand of the Department of Justice – is detrimental and is not to be welcomed.
I do not know if the Department of Justice will put in an appeal. Nor do I know if Boston College will put in an appeal.
I imagine it would be difficult for the Department of Justice to argue to the Supreme Court of America that judges have no right to rule on subpoenas; that the justices in the court system are merely rubber stamps.
And I think that the judge who wrote the verdict up, Judge Torruella, was very strong on this. He slapped the Department of Justice down for having such an arrogant attitude.
FM: Anthony McIntyre, one of the interviewers for The Belfast Project at Boston College.