Ed Moloney, the Irish journalist who oversaw the Boston College oral history project that featured leading IRA figures talking frankly says all tapes may have to be destroyed after the Northern Ireland police subpoenaed at least two of the oral histories.
In a major development one of the persons featured on the subpoenaed tapes, convicted IRA bomber and now leading dissident Marion Price, has been arrested in Belfast on suspicions of dissident IRA activity.
It is not known if the two events are related, Price was arrested also in 2009 but released after two British soldiers were killed by dissidents.
Ed Moloney told The Boston Globe the interviews given by Price and others had been given on the basis that the information would be kept confidential until the subjects died. He stated the final option may be to destroy the rest of the tapes because interviews had been given on the basis of confidentiality until after their deaths.
One of the tapes subpoenaed features Price a living subject. Another is of deceased IRA leader Brendan Hughes.
The tapes have been subpoenaed by federal authorities after the Police Service of Northern Ireland requested them to. They are looking into the killings of alleged IRA informers forty years ago.
“Everyone else who has given interviews will be worried now about the consequences of this, and quite rightly,’’ Moloney, who oversaw the project, told the Globe.
“They are going to be alarmed there will be more leaks, and we’re going to have to address that in a very determined way.’’
Moloney said the threat of subpoena power would have resulted in none of the paramiltaries participating.
“If that had been there, we would have had no interviews at all,’’ he said. “If we were saying to them: ‘We want you to tell us everything about your life as a bomber and gunman. And, by the way, if the cops come, we’re going to hand all this over. Is that OK with you?’ It would have never gotten off the ground.’’
Boston College stated that they were deeply concerned about the request. “We have concerns for the safety of the interviewers who conducted their interviews with the assurance of confidentiality, as well as concerns regarding the effect this subpoena may have on oral history projects as an academic enterprise,’’ said Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn.
However, Stephen Pope, a theology professor at BC, said the guarantee of confidentiality was misleading.
“It’s important to get legal advice on what can and can’t be promised in good faith to the interviewees,’’ Pope said. “At the very least, there is negligence on the part of the researchers, from what I can tell.’’