Two involved in BC project on Troubles wade into legal fight

Seek to block bid for IRA interviews

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Staff / September 2, 2011

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The two men who organized and carried out the interviews of former IRA members for Boston College’s oral history project on the conflict in Northern Ireland have filed suit, seeking to intervene in the legal dispute between the school and US prosecutors seeking BC’s records.

Ed Moloney, who directed the oral history project, and Anthony McIntyre, who interviewed 26 former Irish Republican Army members for the project, sued in US District Court in Boston, asking to argue on their own behalf separately from BC.

Boston College has filed motions to quash two sets of subpoenas issued by US prosecutors, on behalf of unidentified law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom, seeking any information related to the 1972 abduction, killing, and secret burial of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10. While the Police Service of Northern Ireland is the law enforcement agency charged with investigating McConville’s death, the court order authorizing the subpoenas remains sealed.

The IRA has admitted it killed McConville because she was suspected of being an informer. Her remains were recovered in the Republic of Ireland in 2003. At least two former IRA members who took part in the oral history project, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, said Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams ordered McConville’s abduction, execution, and burial. Adams has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Prosecutors are seeking the interviews of IRA members, not those of British loyalist fighters who also took part in the oral history project, leading critics to dismiss the probe as a politically motivated attempt to embarrass or possibly prosecute Adams.

Federal prosecutors had initially sought only the interviews McIntyre carried out with Hughes and Price, and BC turned over the Hughes interviews, saying its promise of confidentiality ended with his death in 2008.

But BC lawyers say turning other interviews over would endanger the participants, the peace process in Northern Ireland, and academic freedom.

As part of the project, which originated in the 1990s, Boston College promised Irish republican and British loyalist former combatants that their oral histories would not be released until their deaths.

Prosecutors contend that BC lacked authority to grant that confidentiality and that no academic privilege exists when a crime is involved. Last month, they issued more subpoenas asking for interviews that refer to McConville’s killing.

In their suit, Moloney, a journalist and author living in the Bronx, and McIntyre, a journalist and former IRA member living in Ireland, frame the attempts by the US and UK governments to gain access to the oral history project as the type of prosecution of politically motivated crimes that was specifically excluded under the terms of a treaty between the governments. Those terms are also being cited as justification for access to BC’s records.

Moloney and McIntyre contend they “are entitled to rely on solemn assurances from the Government of the United Kingdom to the United States that politically-related offenses preceding the US-brokered Belfast Agreement of April 10, 1998, [the Good Friday Agreement] would not be reopened.’’

Moloney and McIntyre maintain that the effort to seize Price’s interviews “involves a politically related offense committed prior to the Good Friday Agreement, and will require the UK government to initiate extradition proceedings of an Irish national from the Republic of Ireland for an offense allegedly committed in the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland.’’

Moloney said his and McIntyre’s suit complements the legal arguments that BC lawyers have filed. He acknowledged that the pair’s legal approach frames the case in more political terms.

“This is to supplement, not conflict with, BC’s action, and we are doing it because it is a much more political approach,’’ said Moloney, who last year wrote a book, “Voices from the Grave,’’ based in large part on Hughes’s interviews with McIntyre.

BC was cool in its response.

“We obviously share the same goal in the outcome of this matter, but these filings, which we are just now reviewing, may not necessarily reflect the views of Boston College,’’ said Jack Dunn, a BC spokesman.

Christina DiIorio Sterling, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, whose office is seeking the records, declined to comment.

US District Court Judge Joseph Tauro is expected to schedule a hearing on the case soon.

Kevin Cullen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.