IRA interviews must be handed over to Feds and British, top US court rules
No confidentiality for IRA participants in Boston College oral history project
Interviews with former IRA members collected for a Boston College Irish history project cannot be sealed until after their death and must be made available to British authorities and US Justice Department prosecutors, a US Appeals Court has ruled.
The material will now be handed over to police by next month according to press reports.
The British government have been seeking the interviews carried out by researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre with leading figures from the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries as part of a Boston College oral history project. Senators John Kerry and Chuck Schumer had been among those seeking to keep the information secret until the participants had died as had been agreed with them.
The court, as a lower court did, has sided with prosecutors who want full access to the interviews. Moloney and McIntyre had claimed that their assurance to the subjects that their testimonies would not be revealed until after their death covered them.
Chief Judge Sandra Lynch stated the researchers could not claim that they had specific rights under her reading of a legal treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.
She also stated that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 1972 "Branzburg v. Hayes" decision that journalists do not have the right to refuse subpoenas based on their own promises of confidentiality.
"As in Branzburg, there is no reason to create such a privilege here," Lynch wrote. "The choice to investigate criminal activity belongs to the government and is not subject to veto by academic researchers."
Boston College had originally sought to block access to the records also but later relented and agreed to hand some over. Separately, they have sought to stop the release of seven other tapes but the chances are now very slim after this ruling.
The British request came after testimony from a former IRA senior figure Brendan Hughes, one of those interviewed who sought to implicate Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in the notorious Jean McConville murder, appeared in a book ‘Voices from the Grave’ by Ed Moloney after his death.
McConville was killed for being a British spy in 1972 by the IRA, but her body was not found until 2003. Hughes, who had fallen out with Adams, made the allegation in the Moloney book but his evidence was hotly disputed.
Former IRA figure Dolours Price was one of several former IRA members who gave interviews as part of The Belfast Project between 2001 and 2006. All participants were assured the interviews were secret until their deaths. But Northern Ireland police probing the IRA 1972 killing of McConville want the recordings.
The British authorities are said to be especially interested in the testimony of Price as she was close to senior figures in the IRA early in the camapign and they believe she has information on several murders. She was formerly married to actor Stephen Rea and has suffered post-traumatic stress following force feeding during her time in prison.
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