Ex-IRA man’s case over Boston College tapes given supreme court hearing

Ex-IRA man’s case over Boston College tapes given supreme court hearing
Anthony McIntyre’s confidential interview to oral history project sought by PSNI
21 June 2019
Ellen O’Riordan
Irish Times

Anthony McIntyre is among a number of ex-paramilitaries who gave interviews to Boston College as part of an oral history project, between 2001 and 2006.

A former IRA man has been granted a supreme court hearing in London in a bid to stop police from obtaining confidential recordings about his part in the Troubles.

Anthony McIntyre is among a number of ex-paramilitaries who gave interviews to Boston College as part of an oral history project, between 2001 and 2006.

The hearing, which is expected to take place in October, will seek to overturn a ruling made in favour of the Police Service in Northern Ireland (PSNI) last year. The police are seeking the Boston College material as part of their investigation into alleged terrorist offences, including a bomb explosion at Rugby Avenue in Belfast in 1976 and membership of a proscribed organisation.

For the time being, the tapes remain secured under seal in a Belfast court building.

Mr McIntyre’s solicitor, Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law welcomed the decision to allow the case to be heard.

The battle for Mr McIntyre’s tapes has been ongoing for several years. In February 2015 the PSNI issued an International Letter of Request (ILOR) in an attempt to acquire his recordings.

Mr McIntyre’s legal team argue access to the tapes should not be granted because there are a number of errors contained in the ILOR which sets out the alleged offences. The Divisional Court in Belfast attributed these mistakes to a “distinct and surprising lack of care on the part of the PSNI and the PPS [Public Prosecution Service]”.

Mr McIntyre was one of the main researchers on the Belfast Project, which was directed by the writer and journalist Ed Maloney. The purpose of the project was to collect and preserve stories of members of republican and loyalist paramilitary groups for the sake of academic research.

The participants gave testimony under the understanding that access to the tapes would be restricted until after their death, unless they provided written evidence to say otherwise. Anthony McIntyre maintains that it was never envisaged that his recordings would be accessed by the PSNI for the purposes of criminal investigation or prosecution.

However, assurances were undermined when the PSNI got hold of transcripts of interviews by ex-IRA members Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, as well as that of loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Mr McIntyre served an 18-year prison sentence for the murder of an Ulster Volunteer Force member in 1986.

PRESS RELEASE – The Boston College Tapes case to be heard by the UK Supreme Court

PRESS RELEASE – The Boston College Tapes case to be heard by the UK Supreme Court
Phoenix Law
Human Rights Lawyers

21 June 2019

Press Release PDF

Anthony McIntyre has been granted permission by the UK Supreme Court under Lord Kerr, Lord Carnwatch and Lady Arden to have an oral hearing in respect of Jurisdiction into the request by the PSNI to obtain the Boston College tapes from America.

By way of background on 3 September 2014 the PSNI requested that the PPS issue an ILOR in respect of the applicant’s interviews given to Boston College for academic purposes. The PSNI upon learning of the applicant tapes issued an ILOR on 9 February 2015 pursuant to section 7(5) of the Crime (International Cooperation) Act 2003. There were a number of errors in this ILOR which the Divisional Court in Belfast noted were due “to a distinct and surprising lack of care on the part of the PSNI and the PPS”.

The applicant issued Judicial Review proceedings against the PSNI and PPS on 23 May 2016 seeking to prevent the DPP or PSNI from taking any further steps in the utilisation of the interview materials requested from the United States Central Authority. The Supreme Court sitting in London has now confirmed it will hear an appeal regarding the Boston College tapes on the issue surrounding jurisdiction. A hearing is expected for later this year.

Anthony McIntyre, one of the participants of the Boston college tape said today:

“These tapes were made solely for academic purposes. They were never intended to be used for criminal investigations. I welcome the fact that the Supreme Court will now hear this case given the important issues at hand”

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law, solicitor for Mr. McIntyre said: “We welcome the decision of the UK Supreme Court to allow us to be heard on the issues critical to Mr. McIntyre’s case. The Court is expected to sit in early October 2019. We look forward to this hearing before the Supreme Court.”

Notes for Editors:

In 2001 Anthony McIntyre became involved in an academic oral history project known as the “Belfast Project” with the journalist and author Ed Moloney who was the project Director.

The project was sponsored by Boston College, Massachusetts, USA. The object of the project was to collect and preserve for academic research the recollections of members of republican and loyalist paramilitary organisations. The methodology was to gather first-hand testimony by way of voice recordings from participants.

The project lasted from 2001 until May 2006. It began with interviews of former members of the Provisional IRA and was subsequently expanded to include interviews with former members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The applicant was a researcher. He interviewed past participants in the conflict recording their personal recollections. His experience as a journalist and a participant gave him access to those people and enabled them to repose a degree of trust in him which they might not otherwise have had.

Each participant gave the content of the recordings into the possession of Boston College for preservation. Access to the tapes was to be restricted until after the interviewee’s death except where they provided prior written authority for their use otherwise. The applicant maintains that it was always understood that the contents of the interviews might be accessible after death, primarily for academic purposes. He says that it was never envisaged that the contents would be accessed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (“PSNI”) for the purposes of criminal investigation or prosecution.

Upon learning of the attempts by the PSNI and PPS to obtain the clients tapes he initiated Judicial Review proceedings in the Divisional Court in Belfast.

JUDGMENT was handed down on 22 October 2018 In the matter of an application for Judicial Review by Anthony McIntyre [2018] NIQB 79 is available at: https://judiciaryni.uk/sites/judiciary/files/decisions/McIntyre%27s%20%28Anthony%29%20Application.pdf

On 22 May 2019 Mr. McIntyre was granted an appeal to the UK Supreme Court.


Boston tapes: Ex-IRA man to take case to Supreme Court

Boston tapes: Ex-IRA man to take case to Supreme Court
By Julian O’Neill
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent
BBC News

Former IRA man Anthony McIntyre was a lead researcher on the oral history project

A former IRA member has been granted a Supreme Court hearing in a last attempt to stop police getting secret recordings about his role during the Troubles.

Anthony McIntyre gave the interviews as part of the oral history project known as the Boston tapes.
The hearing, expected in October, will seek to overturn a ruling made in favour of the police last year.

Meantime, the tapes remain in secure storage in a Belfast court building.

Mr McIntyre’s legal team has argued police should not be allowed the recordings due to mistakes in an International Letter of Request (ILOR), which set out a list of alleged offences that detectives are investigating.

“We welcome the decision of the UK Supreme Court to allow us to be heard on the issues critical to Mr McIntyre’s case,” said his solicitor Gavin Booth.

Mr McIntyre became involved with the Boston College project in 2001 as one of the main researchers.
He is among dozens of ex-paramilitaries who gave testimonies about their role during the Troubles on the understanding the accounts would remain confidential while they are alive.

However, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) later secured transcripts given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist, Winston Rea.

They have been seeking Mr McIntyre’s recordings for several years.

The Belfast man was jailed for murder in 1977.

Boston College ‘misled’ paramilitaries over tapes confidentiality

Boston College ‘misled’ paramilitaries over tapes confidentiality
28 June 2016

Former paramilitaries were misled into thinking they could reveal their activities to an American university study with complete impunity, a court has heard.

But a librarian from Boston College insisted any impression interview tapes would remain confidential during their lifetime was down to an oversight in a contract they signed.

Dr Robert O’Neill was giving evidence at a preliminary inquiry to decide if veteran Belfast republican Ivor Bell is to stand trial over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville.

Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in the city, denies charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill the mother of 10.

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers involved in the Boston College history project with ex-paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although it was believed transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell was one of the project interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

His legal team claim the case against him should be dismissed.

During a hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to examine the strength of the evidence Dr O’Neill, Burns Librarian at the College, appeared by video link from Boston.

He confirmed a contract between the college and the project director guaranteed confidentiality only to the extent American law allowed.

But the court heard separate “donor agreements” with interviewees gave them the impression nothing would be disclosed without their consent prior to their deaths.

Cross-examining the librarian, Barry Macdonald QC, for Bell, asked: “Do you now see how they were all misled, those people who were interviewed?”

Dr O’Neill replied: “Yes.”

He also accepted counsel’s suggestion they received guarantees that should never have been given, leaving them feeling “free to make all sorts of claims in respect to themselves and other with impunity”.

The librarian agreed it was accurate to say interviewees believed there was no prospect of facing prosecution or having their accounts tested during their lifetimes.

Challenged on why he did nothing to correct the impression, he responded: “It was an oversight on my part and I will accept responsibility for that, that the agreement with the interviewees did not include the restriction ‘to the extent American law allows’.”

During the hearing it also emerged that he received 25 per cent of the royalties from journalist and author Ed Moloney’s book ‘Voices from the Grave’, based on Brendan Hughes’ and David Ervine’s contributions to the oral history project at Boston before their deaths.

Continuing with questioning, Mr Macdonald contended that interviewees were effectively induced into giving accounts of their involvement because they felt there would be no come back.

“Do you see how interviewees might have been led to believe by the terms of this agreement that they could, if they wanted to, settle old scores, or implicate people in things they hadn’t done, or implicate themselves in things they hadn’t done,” the barrister asked.

“In other words, the contracts themselves permitted the state of affairs which led to these interviews being inherently unreliable.”

Although Dr O’Neill accepted there may have been misunderstandings, he stressed that there could never be absolute confidentiality.

He went on: “It was widely believed that these stories were going to go to the grave.

“With the interviewees’ accounts there was an opportunity to record their stories, the entire project was motivated on the basis of recording as much as possible, the stories of participants in the paramilitary movement.”

Pressing him to confirm the donor agreement oversight was completely innocent, Mr Macdonald put it to the librarian that the consequences for those taking part could be “dire”.

He continued: “The question arises whether this was not inadvertent or accidental, but a deliberate omission in order to encourage all those interviewees to speak on the understanding that there would be no implications for them during their lifetimes.

“In other words it was deliberately done to loosen their tongues.”

Dr O’Neill replied: “I can only say it was not deliberate on my side.”

The hearing continues.

Belfast Project Protection of Research Letter From American Sociological Association Presidents

Belfast Project Protection of Research Letter From American Sociological Association Presidents

May 5, 2016

To Whom It May Concern:

As the elected presidents of the American Sociological Association, we are profoundly disturbed by the effort to subpoena Dr. Anthony McIntyre’s recordings, collected as part of Boston College’s “Belfast Project,” an oral history of the political and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland decades ago. The research for that project was conducted with a guarantee that the information interviewees provided would not be released until after their deaths. Such guarantees are a core component of efforts by historians and social scientists to develop the research-based knowledge that is critical to an informed society.

This principle of protecting the confidentiality of information obtained from human research subjects is an important part of U.S. federal law and regulation governing research. It is intended to ensure that people who voluntarily participate in research may do so without the threat of harm while also maintaining their right to privacy. Additionally, it is intended to ensure that researchers may conduct studies involving human participants without threats to their ability to develop valuable scientific and humanistic knowledge. Such scholarly freedom is essential to both an informed and a free society.

The ASA, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession, and promoting the contributions and use of sociology to society. As the national organization for over 13,000 sociologists and related scholars and researchers, the ASA takes the responsibility of researchers to protect the confidentiality of research data extremely seriously—this principle is at the heart of the American Sociological Association Code of Ethics, which is enforced by the ASA Committee on Professional Ethics. Similarly, the ASA works vigorously on behalf of scholars and researchers whose efforts to protect confidential data obtained from research participants have been challenged.

As elected officers of the ASA we support Boston College’s effort to protect confidential research information from subpoena. The release of the “Belfast Project” interview data threatens the academic freedom to study difficult and controversial topics. It undercuts the willingness of potential participants in future research to share valuable information. In the short run, such intrusion in research seeking to understand past tragedies can harm the processes through which Northern Ireland now seeks political stability. And in the long run, we must weigh the potential damage to social science that can provide a firmer knowledge base for avoiding these types of conflicts in the future.

For these reasons, we hereby affirm the right of research confidentiality, which is fundamental to social research.


Ruth Milkman
Professor of Sociology,
City University of New York Graduate Center

Paula England
Immediate Past President
New York University

Michèle Lamont
President Elect
Professor of Sociology
Harvard University

American Sociological Association
1430 K Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 383-9005
(202) 638-0882 fax

Boston College subpoenaed for Anthony McIntyre interviews

Boston College subpoenaed for Anthony McIntyre interviews
British government seeks access to taped interview by former IRA prisoner
Gerry Moriarty
The Irish Times
Mon, Apr 25, 2016

The British government has lodged a subpoena with Boston College seeking access to taped interviews given by former IRA prisoner Dr Anthony McIntyre, it was stated on Monday.

Ed Moloney and Wilson McArthur, who were centrally involved with the Belfast Project – an oral history of the Troubles – said that the British government, acting on behalf of the PSNI and the office of the North’s Director of Public Prosecution, had served a subpoena on Boston College seeking access to Dr McIntyre’s personal interviews.

Former director of the project Mr Moloney and Mr McArthur, who interviewed former UVF members for the oral history, accused the authorities of engaging in an illegal “fishing expedition” in seeking access to Dr McIntyre’s tapes.

Boston College’s spokesman Jack Dunn said that the “subpoena was issued in proceedings that the United States District Court ordered sealed, and Boston College was requested to treat the proceedings and the subpoena as confidential”.

“Nevertheless, the university notified Mr McIntyre of the subpoena because it concluded that he should know that his materials had been requested. Given that the pending proceedings remain under seal, Boston College is not able to comment further on the matter,” added Mr Dunn.

Historian Dr McIntyre, who served time in prison on an IRA murder conviction, and Mr McArthur respectively interviewed 26 republican and 20 loyalist former paramilitaries for the project.

Dr McIntyre also gave an interview about his IRA involvement during the Troubles to another interviewer as part of the project.

Interviewees were given commitments that there would be no disclosure of their interviews until after their deaths. Two of those who gave interviews were former senior IRA figure Brendan Hughes and former UVF member and Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine.

After their deaths their testimonies were included in a book by Mr Moloney called “Voices From the Grave” which contained information from Mr Hughes about the IRA’s abduction, murder and disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972.

Subsequently, as part of its investigation of Ms McConville’s murder the PSNI sought access to the Boston tapes. Ultimately under legal pressure Boston College handed over a number of tapes that are believed to contain reference to Ms McConville.

The release of the tapes also resulted in the arrest of veteran republican Ivor Bell (79) who also engaged with the project. He is charged with aiding and abetting in Ms McConville’s murder as well as membership of the IRA. His trial has yet to take place.

“This action by the DPP and PSNI is simply a fishing expedition, which is prohibited by international law,” said Mr Moloney and Mr McArthur.

“We do know, in particular, that this request does not have anything to do with the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, which was the event that motivated this PSNI trawl five years ago,” they added.

“The subpoena request provides no details of specific charge, investigation or offence of which Dr McIntyre is accused, no names of alleged victims, no dates, no places. Instead the originators of this shoddy document mention matters which are so over-broad, that literally anyone alive during the Troubles in Northern Ireland could be accused of some association with them,” said Mr Moloney and Mr McArthur.

They added that Dr McIntyre has engaged Belfast human rights solicitor Kevin Winters “to resist these efforts to raid his personal memoirs”.

Mr Moloney and Mr McArthur said the arrest and charging of Mr Bell was an “abuse of process” as was the action against Dr McIntyre. They called on the Irish Government “not to co-operate with the British authorities should any effort be made to extradite Dr McIntyre from his home in Drogheda to Belfast for the purposes of yet another futile and inordinately expensive show trial”.

They added that the DPP and PSNI had requested, and the US Department of Justice had agreed, to a “demand that Boston College keep these legal proceedings secret, away from the prying eyes of the international press”.

The PSNI said it was not “commenting on the matter” while the DPP’s office was not in a position to comment at this stage. At the time of writing there was no response to queries from the Northern Ireland Office.

US Authorities Subpoena Anthony McIntyre’s Boston College Oral History Archive on Behalf of British

PSNI Serve ‘Fishing Expedition’ Subpoena On Anthony McIntyre –
US Agrees To ‘Star Chamber’ Hearing In Blatant Abuse of Process
April 25th, 2016

We have just learned that the British government, acting on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (“PSNI”) and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (“DPP”) in Belfast, have served a subpoena on Boston College seeking personal interviews given by Dr. Anthony McIntyre to the Belfast Project based at Boston College, Massachusetts.

The subpoena has been served under the terms of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (“MLAT”) and the UK statute, the Crime International Cooperation Act 2003 (“CICA”).

Dr. McIntyre, who was lead IRA researcher for the Belfast project, gave a series of interviews himself which were conducted by a guest interviewer. Dr McIntyre has made no secret of this fact. He has now engaged leading Belfast human rights lawyer Kevin Winters of KRW Law LLP, to resist these efforts to raid his personal memoirs.


The subpoena request provides no details of specific charge, investigation or offence of which Dr. McIntyre is accused, no names of alleged victims, no dates, no places. Instead the originators of this shoddy document mention matters which are so overbroad, that literally anyone alive during the Troubles in Northern Ireland could be accused of some association with them.

We do know, in particular, that this request does not have anything to do with the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, which was the event that motivated this PSNI trawl five years ago. Both the US District Court and the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit clearly deemed Dr. McIntyre’s interviews not to be relevant to the Jean McConville investigation.

Under the terms of the MLAT and CICA, which the authors of the subpoena claim as their legal basis for this action, requests for assistance from a foreign power may only be made where (a) there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, and (b) proceedings have been instituted, or an offence is being investigated. There are no proceedings in being for any offences relating to Dr. McIntyre and there is no reason to believe that any current or historical offence is being investigated.

This action by the DPP and PSNI is simply a fishing expedition, which is prohibited by international law.


Boston College has been ordered to appear at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in Boston at 10 a.m. on May 6th to deliver Dr. McIntyre’s interviews.

The DPP and PSNI have requested, and the Obama Department of Justice has agreed, to demand that Boston College keep these legal proceedings secret, away from the pryng eyes of the international press. This Press Release puts paid to those nefarious efforts.

The gag notice means that the attempts of the British authorities once again to stifle academic research into the Troubles of Northern Ireland, an essential part of the peace process, was to be conducted entirely in secret like some modern day Star Chamber.

The use of secret courts offends every principle of legal fairness and openness inherent in the American legal system, as well as best international human rights practices, and we call on the media, in particular, whose First Amendment rights to cover such events are being undermined, to protest by turning up at the courthouse at 10:00 a.m. on May 6, 2016.

Secret courts and censored hearings smack of totalitarianism and they offend the public’s right to know.


The British authorities, the PSNI and the DPP have had more than ample time and opportunity to subpoena Dr.McIntyre’s materials before this. This begs the question, why are the authorities doing this now?

What is the real reason for this subpoena?

One explanation which leaps to mind is that this is an act of simple revenge, motivated by anger at the fact that the resistance to the subpoenas led by Dr. McIntyre embarrassed the prosecutorial authorities in Belfast, which have so far failed to bring any prosecution beyond the preliminary inquiry stage, never mind a successful conclusion to their well-publicized efforts in raiding and destroying a valuable Oral History archive. This is pay back, in other words.


Abuse of process is the only term to describe the treatment of Ivor Bell, who is the only individual charged following the receipt by the PSNI of Boston College materials. Mr. Bell has vigorously protested his innocence of any charges, and his case has not progressed past the preliminary inquiry stage after years of hearings.

Abuse of process is the only term to describe this latest move against Dr. McIntyre by the DPP and Obama’s DoJ. We therefore call on the Irish government not to co-operate with the British authorities should any effort be made to extradite Dr. McIntyre from his home in Drogheda to Belfast for the purposes of yet another futile and inordinately expensive “show trial.” We have sent a copy of this statement to the outgoing Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny and to the Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin TD.

We also call upon all decent-minded people in the US, politicians, lawyers, civil libertarians and members of the public to protest this disgraceful action by the Department of Justice. We call upon progressive candidates seeking nomination for the US Presidency to make their views clear on this matter.


This subpoena differs from all previous requests which were directed at the subjects of academic research. This subpoena is directed at an academic researcher, solely on the grounds that he attempted to record an alternative version of history. The implications for the rest of American academe are incontestable. What was it Pastor Niemoller said?

‘First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist…..Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’

Accordingly we appeal firstly to the Trustees of Boston College to support any legal effort to resist this subpoena. This is a matter which could adversely affect everyone teaching on Boston College’s campus. We would like to extend that appeal to the rest of American academe and ask the researchers and teachers of Higher Education in America to recognise the seriousness of this threat to researchers everywhere by making your opposition to this subpoena loud and clear.

This is a matter which directly affects academic freedom in America. This is not a time for silence or acquiescence.

Ed Moloney, former director Belfast Project
Wilson McArthur, lead UVF researcher for the Belfast Project

Boston College’s Belfast Project Lands in Court—Again

Boston College’s Belfast Project Lands in Court—Again
Beth McMurtrie
Chronicle of Higher Education
February 9, 2015

A Boston College oral-history project on Northern Ireland’s 30-year civil conflict has again found itself in court. On Monday a British judge ruled that the Police Services of Northern Ireland has the right to retrieve interviews given to Boston College by Winston Rea, a former loyalist paramilitary member and a participant in its Belfast Project. Mr. Rea had tried to block the handover of his interviews, which were supposed to remain confidential until his death.

In 2011 Boston College began a two-year court battle to prevent access to the archives by British authorities, which sought some material as part of a decades-old murder investigation. Boston College ultimately turned over a number of interviews. Last May the Police Services, which continues to investigate old crimes, said that it was going to seek the entire archive.

That appears to have resulted so far in one subpoena, for Mr. Rea’s material. Unlike the earlier court battle, the legal deliberations that led Boston College to turn over Mr. Rea’s interviews came to light only when he tried to stop the transfer of material into Northern Ireland. It is unclear if subpoenas for any other interviews have been issued.

Boston College declined to comment, saying the U.S Department of Justice had asked that the matter be kept confidential. The Justice Department also declined to comment.

Boston College tapes: Winston Rea loses legal challenge

Boston College tapes: Winston Rea loses legal challenge
By Alan Erwin
09 February 2015

A former loyalist prisoner has lost his legal battle to stop police investigating murder and robbery from obtaining interviews he gave to a US university project.

Winston “Winkie” Rea issued judicial review proceedings in an attempt to halt any handover of the Boston College material.

But a High Court judge today rejected claims that the move was unlawful and breached his rights to privacy.

Dismissing Rea’s challenge, Mr Justice Treacy said: “It’s clear in my view that the applicant is subject to a police investigation into crimes of the gravest kind.”

His ruling clears the way for PSNI detectives to fly to America to take possession of recordings of the loyalist’s interviews.

In a statement issued after the verdict, Rea repeated his claim that police and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) were involved in nothing more than a “fishing exercise”.

He was among dozens of loyalists and republicans who provided testimonies to researchers compiling an oral history of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Interviews were given on the understanding that tapes would not be made public until after their deaths.

But those assurances were dealt a blow in 2013 when detectives investigating the abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville back in 1972 secured the transcripts of former IRA woman Dolours Price’s account.

That material was handed over following court battles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rea, a son-in-law of the late UVF leader Gusty Spence, claimed a subpoena for his tapes is unlawful and unspecific.

His barrister claimed the police move was based purely on rumour and a newspaper interview given by Rea and fellow loyalist William “Plum” Smith three years ago.

But the court was told an investigation has been launched into serious crimes stretching from the seventies to the late nineties.

The alleged offences include murder, directing terrorism, membership of a proscribed organisation and robbery.

An international request for the tapes said police have information that Rea was a member of the Red Hand Commando whose interviews would assist investigations into those crimes.

It claimed he has “a long involvement in organising and participating in terrorist offences in Northern Ireland, including murder, directing terrorism and robbery”.

He was also alleged to have acted as a personal security guard to Spence and met with former British Prime Minister John Major in 1996 – a claim disputed by Rea.

Mr Justice Treacy threw out his challenge after holding that the test for seeking the material had been met.

He said it was “manifest” from the terms of the request that a police investigation was underway.

“The request was plainly lawful,” the judge said.

“There is no credible contention that the applicant’s rights (under the European Convention on Human Rights) are infringed.”

Two weeks ago Rea secured a temporary injunction as police were set to board a plane for America to get the tapes.

But with his judicial review application dismissed, counsel for the PSNI confirmed that no longer applies.

Tony McGleenan QC said: “There was an order for interim relief made by consent. That is revoked and police are now free to proceed.”

The judge replied: “I assume that flows automatically.”

Boston College tapes: Truth-recovery pie in the sky as long as shadow of arrest looms

Boston College tapes: Truth-recovery pie in the sky as long as shadow of arrest looms
The agreement about dealing with the past hammered out at Stormont House could be derailed by another Boston College tapes crisis – this time involving a leading loyalist.
Brian Rowan
30 January 2015

The latest battle for access to the Boston College tapes threatens to open up a much wider debate and discussion on the past. This oral history project recorded republicans, loyalists and, it is believed, a former RUC officer, telling their stories of the conflict years. Those stories were meant to stay untold until after they died.

The book Voices From The Grave, authored by journalist Ed Moloney, brought into the public domain words spoken by former IRA leadership figure Brendan Hughes and loyalist David Ervine. Both died in their 50s.

And it was the Hughes revelations, including what he said about the IRA abduction, “execution” and disappearance of Jean McConville, which were to lead to dramatic developments.

These included the headline arrest of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams last April. Adams was questioned from Wednesday April 30 through to his release on Sunday May 4; that questioning extending to an examination of IRA membership, all of which Adams denied. He described a “malicious, untruthful and sinister campaign” against him.

And, all these months later, there is now a different focus. The latest Boston College news is about trying to access the tapes of loyalist Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea.

He is a former prisoner, leader of the Red Hand Commando, son-in-law of the late Gusty Spence and, in the peace process years, was seen as an important figure in the ceasefire and decommissioning debates. Rea was a close friend of Ervine, a member of the UVF who became a Stormont MLA.

Adams attended Ervine’s funeral in January 2007; a remarkable occasion that had the Sinn Fein president, the UVF leadership, then Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, Secretary of State Peter Hain and former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds under one roof.

This was following the ceasefires and after the Good Friday Agreement and in a climate where the once impossible became possible. And it was in this context that some began to tell their stories of the conflict years.

If the now-published Ervine example is anything to go by, then loyalists have been much less revelatory in their recordings; less accusatory.

The Jean McConville case, demonstrating the worst horrors of conflict, gave a specific focus to the police investigation around the republican tapes and disclosures. But this is not the case with Rea.

Loyalists, including William ‘Plum’ Smith, who was successful in a legal challenge to have his Boston tapes and transcripts returned, see this as nothing more than a fishing exercise.

Three years ago, in an interview with this newspaper, he said his move to have his tapes returned was not out of concern about their content.

“I’m concerned about the principle,” he said. “I have asked for the tapes back, because Boston College cannot guarantee the basis on which the interviews were given.”

This was a reference to the belief that contributions to the archive would remain confidential until after death.

Rea also commented back then. He believed that, if the Smith test case was won, then it would have “a domino effect” for others wishing to have their material returned.

But this has not been so for him. The question is why? Is it the loyalist paramilitary leadership role Rea once held in the so-called “war” years, his leadership of an organisation identified with guns, bullets, bombs and killing?

Smith, also a former Red Hand Commando prisoner and a close friend of Rea, has his own thinking on the latest move.

He believes that, after the Adams arrest, this is “another balancing act” – similar to when a number of loyalists were interned decades ago.

And he also believes that, in the here and now, it “flies in the face of any attempt to create a truth-recovery process”.

Budgets and welfare reform were the main focus of the pre-Christmas Stormont House talks. And, alongside those issues, there was a big effort to achieve a structure that would finally begin to address the many unanswered questions of the past.

After Eames/Bradley and the Haass/O’Sullivan processes, this was the third attempt to achieve this.

And there is now a paper agreement to build upon; an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR), an Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG), with archive and acknowledgement elements.

But any information-recovery process will depend on co-operation across the conflict board – governments, intelligence agencies, military, police, republicans and loyalists. But what chance of that being achieved or being achievable in the current climate?

Smith answered that question when he talked about these latest investigative moves relating to the Boston project flying in the face of attempts to create a truth-recovery process.

The ICIR intended to deal with this would act privately and through interlocutors reaching out into those different worlds of governments, intelligence, security and the various armed loyalist and republican groups.

It is about questions and answers. But who is going to answer, even if there are guarantees that information given in this process will not have any evidential value?

Rea, Smith, other loyalists and republicans thought, believed, understood, that the Boston College project was protected by confidentiality.

This may have been their understanding, but it hasn’t been the reality.

From the publication of the Hughes transcripts and other revelations, this project has unravelled into a legal mess and battlefield.

Investigations and arrests have followed and, now, there is the news of the Rea case, which has created another bad mood within the loyalist community that this is some type of “balancing act”, or “equaliser”.

And the consequences of this are that it will put people back in their trenches; into places of silence rather than talking.

There may well be many unanswered questions but, in this atmosphere, there won’t be answers. And that has implications for that paper agreement made in Stormont House.

What is the point of an information or truth-recovery process without significant co-operation and disclosure? Information will not flow within a process that still has the potential to lead to arrests, charges and perhaps prison for however short a time.

And we know from the assessments of policing experts that investigations will deliver little in terms of jail time and justice.

But investigations will block the potential to open up and open out some greater sharing of information and explanation and understanding of the conflict years.

What we are watching is not just a case about one man, or one actor within the conflict period, but something that potentially has much wider implications.

And, all of this tells us that the past hasn’t gone away.