Congressman Pallone’s Letter to Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Holder

Rep. Pallone: U.K. Government Subpoenas Seeking Documents from Boston College’s Belfast Project Threatens Peace in Northern Ireland

LONG BRANCH, NJ – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today sent the following letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder asking that they work with the government of the United Kingdom to withdraw subpoenas it served on Boston College seeking materials related to confidential oral histories taken as part of the Boston College Belfast Project. The Belfast Project was established to help bolster a better understanding of the decades-long struggle in Northern Ireland.

Congressman Pallone states that the subpoenas put at risk continued peace in Northern Ireland by undermining the peace process established by the Good Friday Agreement and hinder academic efforts to understand and resolve armed conflict.

August 13, 2012

Dear Secretary Clinton and Attorney General Holder:

I write to request your assistance in actions that I believe will help promote the peace and reconciliation efforts that have been successful in Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) through the government of the United Kingdom has served subpoenas on Boston College seeking materials related to oral histories that were taken confidentially as part of the Belfast Project. I believe that your efforts to seek withdrawal of these subpoenas by the government of the United Kingdom are important to ensuring continued peace in Northern Ireland.

The subpoenas were issued under the U.S.-U.K. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The treaty was entered into with the intention of facilitating a reasonable extradition process for serious crimes not covered by the Good Friday Agreement. Further, the treaty was not intended to, nor should be allowed to undermine the peace process established by the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that the enforcement of theses subpoenas would come in contravention of the intent of the MLAT and put at jeopardy the successful peace process that is currently in place in Northern Ireland.

Since 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was established, reconciliation in Northern Ireland has seen monumental progress that generations never thought possible. The United States played a critical role in support of this agreement and there continues to be strong support for the process that was established. Unfortunately, the subpoenas being sought by the PSNI do nothing to further the peace process, but rather seek to reopen old wounds and put at risk the peace that the people of Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States have worked to accomplish. I believe it is our responsibility to make the best efforts possible to ensure that this does not happen.

I am also troubled by the chilling effect that enforcement of these subpoenas may have on academic efforts at U.S. universities to understand armed conflict and seek candid and reliable information related to these conflicts. The goal of the Boston College Belfast Project was to document frank and honest interviews with individuals of all parties involved, including the Irish Republican and Loyalist paramilitary forces and political organizations. The efforts undertaken at Boston College to collect these oral histories and protect their confidentiality should be respected and protected so that we may better understand how to resolve conflict and facilitate reconciliation among the parties.

I know that you share my desire to see peace continue to advance in North Ireland and wish to better understand armed conflict so that we may be prepared to stop and prevent it in the future. We cannot allow wounds of a decades-long bloody struggle that included the deaths of Irish and English alike be reopened, thus jeopardizing the commitments to permanent peace that were made by all parties. Therefore, I ask that you ensure that the MLAT is not used to put at risk the stability of the Good Friday Agreement and that you work with the U.K. government to have the subpoenas withdrawn.

Thank you for your consideration of my request. I look forward to your response.



Member of Congress