Cases Tied to Belfast Project Stall in Court
by Connor Murphy
At least two cases with ties to Boston College’s controversial Belfast Project have stalled in court in Northern Ireland, news reports indicate.
On Monday, Winston Rea’s case was adjourned for the week after a dispute between his lawyers and the prosecution. According to The Belfast Telegraph, Rea is refusing to sign an undertaking that would allow documents containing information from the United States to be admitted in the case.
According to John O’Neill, the Northern Ireland prosecutor in the case, the documents contain information covered by U.S. treaties that must be verified by Rea to ensure proper handling in the case. Rea’s defense team denies that it is contributing to the delay in the case. Rea was charged in June 2016 with two killings and two attempted murders dating back to the mid-1980s.
Another case has been delayed amid questions about the defendant’s health. Earlier this month, Ivor Bell’s case was adjourned until April because he has dementia and requires medical records to determine whether he can stand trial, according to The Belfast Telegraph. Bell is charged with two counts of soliciting the 1972 death of Jean McConnville. His arrest resulted from the release of Belfast Project tapes subpoenaed in 2011, according to The Irish Times.
It is unclear if the U.S.-connected information in the documents is the same information collected on Rea in the project, a series of interviews conducted at BC between 2001 and 2006 that sought to document the experiences of former members of the Irish Republican Army during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, which began in the 1960s and ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement.
The interviews in the project, which was directed by Irish journalist Ed Maloney, were conducted under the understanding that the participants’ identities and testimonies would not be released until after they had all died.
The tapes were first subpoenaed in May 2011 as part of a Northern Ireland investigation into the death of McConnville, who was killed by a group of people after being falsely accused of passing secrets to the British. The subpoena was enabled by a mutual legal assistance treaty that requires the countries to share information that could be used in criminal investigations.
In Dec. 2011, BC was ordered to release the interviews of former IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes. It filed a motion to close the case in 2013, and that May 2013, according to The Boston Globe, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that only 11 of the 85 subpoenaed tapes had to be released. In May 2014, the Globe reported that BC would return original recordings of interviews to any participants who requested them.
In Jan. 2015, Rea secured a temporary injunction against the release of the tapes implicating him in the killings and attempted murders, but the next month the tapes were obtained by the police. He was charged in June 2016.