Boston College tapes: Archive that turned into a can of worms

Boston College tapes: Archive that turned into a can of worms
By Liam Clarke
Belfast Telegraph
13 May 2014

It was supposed to provide an insight into the Troubles for future generations, but the Boston College archive is already beginning to break up with only a tiny fraction in the public domain.

Two of solicitor Kevin Winters’ clients have already received their testimonies back from the college and two more, one republican and one loyalist, expect to have theirs returned in the near future.

Former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe’s case against Boston College has alleged negligence and failure of a duty of care on two separate grounds.

There are two ‘limbs’ to the case, Mr Winters and the barrister involved, Eamonn Dornan, argue.

The first is that the ‘donation contract’ offered by the college provided an unqualified commitment that the material would remain confidential until O’Rawe’s death, unless written permission is given for it to be released.

Without this guarantee, O’Rawe would not have given the interviews.

Secondly, the court order obtained by the PSNI only required the release of “any and all interviews containing information about the abduction and death of Mrs Jean McConville”.

Through his lawyers, O’Rawe said that the material should not have been released because it contained no mention of Mrs McConville, nor had he any inside knowledge of her abduction.

“Negligence extends to the lack of due diligence in relation to compliance with the court order,” according to Mr Winters.

Mr Winters has also written to the PSNI asking it to return the portion of O’Rawe’s testimony which it is holding. The police have so far refused, citing “our continued obligation for disclosure” to the investigation.

O’Rawe has written two books which defied republican orthodoxy by arguing that the 1981 hunger strike was artificially prolonged for Sinn Fein’s political advantage.

He has a record of speaking out, but now, like Jean McConville before him, he finds himself accused of informing.