A federal appeals court on Friday greatly reduced the number of interview recordings from the Belfast Project, an oral history project on the Irish Troubles, that Boston College must turn over to British authorities, who are investigating the 1972 killing of Belfast woman Jean McConville.
Boston.com reports that Judge Juan R. Torruella of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston wrote, in a 29-page ruling, that only 11 of the 85 interviews that a lower court ordered the college to release to the British authorities were relevant to the murder investigation and had to be surrendered.
McConville was murdered by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, who suspected her of being an informant.
In 2011, federal prosecutors in Boston issued a subpoena on behalf of authorities in the UK for all materials from the Belfast Project, an archive of interviews with former IRA members and other militia groups who fought during the Troubles, dealing with McConville’s death.
The participants in the project gave the interviews believing the recordings would be kept confidential until they died.
The judge said the appeals court found that “the district court abused its discretion in ordering the production of several of the interviews ... .” The panel ruled out turning over a significant number of the interviews because they “do not contain any information relevant” to the subpoena.
Jack Dunn, a Boston College spokesman, said: “Today’s court ruling affirms our contention that the district court abused its discretion in ordering a significant number of interviews that were not relevant to the second subpoena. We will review the decision over the next several weeks to best determine our legal options.”
The two lead researchers voiced support for the ruling in a joint statement released Friday.
“We see this judgement as at least a partial indictment of the whole process,” said the researchers, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre.
“Doubtless elements in the security apparatus in Northern Ireland and their allies in Britain were looking forward to a show trial in which almost the entire panoply of IRA violence during the Troubles would be the subject of proceedings in a Belfast court room. Now, that is not going to happen and to be sure there will be disappointment in these circles.”