Former IRA man clears hurdle in legal battle over Boston College tapes

Former IRA man clears hurdle in legal battle over Boston College tapes
Alan Erwin
Belfast Telegraph

A former IRA man interviewed for an American university project has cleared the first stage in a legal battle to stop police accessing his confidential tapes.

Anthony McIntyre was granted leave to seek to judicially review the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service for issuing an International Letter of Request (ILOR) over recordings held at Boston College.

Detectives want the material as part of their investigation into alleged terrorist offences stretching back 40 years.

But senior judges in Belfast ruled today that they were not yet satisfied information in the request for international co-operation had been “scrupulously” examined.

The case will now proceed to a full hearing in November.

McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Irish Republic, was one of the main researchers in a major project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies to Boston College on the understanding their account would only be made public after they died.

But those assurances were dealt a blow when legal battles resulted in police securing transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Rea, 65, from Groomsport, Co Down, has been charged with the murders of two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago.

Now the authorities want access to McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities.

A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews has been served on Boston College by the British government.

The move involves an ILOR setting out alleged offences being probed, including a bomb explosion at Rugby Avenue in Belfast in 1976, and membership of a terrorist organisation.

Counsel for the former IRA man claimed he was the victim in the bombing, and that he was acquitted of the membership charge that features in the ILOR.

Accusing police of mounting a fishing expedition, Ronan Lavery QC said: “The letter itself is replete with errors, which we say are misleading and require an explanation.”

With leave to apply for a judicial review granted, fuller arguments will be advanced at the main

Lord Justices Weatherup and Weir were also told Boston College has now released the tapes to authorities in America.

But the judges stressed that if PSNI officers travel to Massachusetts to retrieve the recordings they must remain under seal and be stored with the court until the challenge is decided.

Outside court a legal representative with McIntyre’s solicitors, KRW Law, said: “These matters should be properly and fully investigated before these international letters of request are issued.

“We agree with the judges view that these matters should be scrupulously attended to, and it’s our view that this has not happened in this case.”

Veteran republican charged in connection with Jean McConville’s murder may not be fit to stand trial

Veteran republican charged in connection with Jean McConville’s murder may not be fit to stand trial
David Young
Published  16/09/2016  

The defendant was due to plead at a scheduled arraignment hearing in Belfast Crown Court ahead of his trial.

But the hearing was adjourned after Bell’s barrister told the judge a medical exam was to be commissioned.

Granting the four week adjournment, judge Seamus Treacy said: “This relates to unfitness to plead issues.”

White-haired, moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, sat in the dock during the brief legal exchanges.

His lawyers have made clear the pensioner denies the offences at previous hearings.

A number of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.

The 37-year-old mother was dragged from her home in Belfast’s Divis flats complex by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women.

She was accused of passing information to the British Army – an allegation later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

Mrs McConville was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles.

It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a member of the public in August 2003.

Nobody has been convicted of her murder.

The case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College in the United States.

Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding that the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s death won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

It is alleged that one of the interviews was given by Bell – a claim the defendant denies.

The Belfast Project, Snap #722 – Blood Oath

Sep 2, 2016

It’s not always easy to deal with the past, especially if it’s a troubled one. Do you hold on to it or do you let it go? For Anthony McIntyre the answer was easy.

Anthony McIntyre is a journalist and you can check out his writings on his website: The Pensive Quill.

Thank you to Ed Moloney for sharing the archival tape of the Brendan Hughes interviews from the Belfast Project that were featured in his book, Voices from the Grave.

And to learn more about the Belfast Project subpoenas check out this link:

Producer: Nancy Lopez
Sound Design: Renzo Gorrio