The Chairperson of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez raised his concerns yesterday over the release of interview tapes of former IRA paramilitaries from the Boston College archive.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Menendez said he is concerned that the release of material from the archive could ‘still have the effect of threatening the precious peace won by the Good Friday Agreement.’

In his letter Menendez appealed for State Department experts on Northern Ireland to examine whether the details contained in the interviews could damage reconciliation or ‘run counter to our national interests.’

If the material is handed over Menendez asked that a section of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty be invoked, which would block the material contained on the tapes from being used in civil proceedings.

In his letter Menendez tells Kerry that the U.S. government should 'impress upon the British government' that the release of the material is conditioned on the fact that it would not be used in a civil case.

Concluding his letter, Menendez said it would be a 'terrible error in judgment' if the U.S. did not engage in what he called 'due diligence' to protect 'our investment in this hard-won peace.'

A report by the Associated Press at the weekend claimed the Boston College tapes are now in the possession of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. However Jack Dunn, director of public affairs at Boston College, told IrishCentral that Boston College itself has had no part in the alleged handover. 

‘The Dolours Price tapes have not been handed over to the PSNI by Boston College,’ Dunn told IrishCentral. ‘If they have been given to the PSNI they have been supplied by the Department of Justice. It has been inaccurately reported that PSNI detectives came to Boston over the weekend and took tapes from us. That is completely untrue.’

Two sets of tapes are in question, the first set contain the interviews given by Dolours Price, a former member of the IRA who passed away in January. The second set of tapes were conducted with other former paramilitaries and have been edited into segments that are unlikely to aid criminal prosecutions sources say.

‘The tapes at Boston College from the second subpoena are still here at Boston College and will remain here until we make a determination of what we will do regarding the favorable court ruling in June,’ Dunn explained.

‘I don’t know if the PSNI have approached the Department of Justice about the Price tapes and it’s not my place to speak for them. They could have. The DOJ have been in possession of the Price tapes for more than a year. They’ve had them since January 2012. The DOJ will have to answer that question.’

For Dunn and for Boston College the Dolours Price tapes are a settled court matter. ‘The agreement was the tapes would be held in confidence to the extent that American law would allow until the death of the participant. Dolours Price has passed away so it’s really a moot point,’ Dunn said.

Dunn added that the contents of the Price tapes have already been widely reported on in Ireland, where she gave extensive interviews to the Irish media.

‘She referenced the tapes in those interviews and mentioned she drove a get away car and she implicates Gerry Adams in the tapes too. Those things have been disclosed repeatedly. There’s nothing on the Dolours Price tapes that will be a surprise. There’s no reason for the tapes not to be sent to law enforcement because the legal recourse of the United States has been exhausted regarding the Dolours Price tapes.’

On the second set of subpoenas for the remaining tapes the attorneys for Boston College won a favorable ruling where they reduced to just segments eleven interviews with former IRA participants that mentioned the abduction of Jean McConville.

‘The college has until the end of the month to decide whether to accept or appeal that court ruling. We’re in the process of making the determination as to what we will do over the course of the next several weeks,’ Dunn concluded.

Meanwhile Brendan Moore, National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians expressed his concern about the PSNI’s apparent determination to pursue the matter.

‘We really feel that this serves no positive purpose whatsoever,’ Moore told the Voice. ‘It has all the makings of a witch hunt. The only positive thing that I see is that far fewer of the original documents that have been requested by the PSNI have actually been cleared to be given to them.’

The PSNI is more and more being recognized as a discredited operation, Moore continued and prosecution moves like this do it no favors. ‘Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies found the procedures being used by this police service just incredible, contrary to all kinds of guidelines. And now we’re handing over documents that never should have been in their hands and won’t be used for a positive purpose? That could undermine to a great extent so much that has been accomplished by the peace process. It’s entirely regrettable.’

So many people have worked so hard and pulled back from their own hardened positions to accommodate the peace process, Moore added. ‘And here we are watching the PSNI tearing it down? It’s so unfortunate,’ he said.

The Chairperson of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert MenendezMiami Herald