AP Legal Affairs Writer
BOSTON (AP) – A federal judge has ordered Boston College to eventually turn over more interview transcripts and recordings of former Irish Republican Army members in a legal fight that has drawn fierce resistance from researchers who say release of the material could prompt attacks against IRA veterans and undermine peace in Northern Ireland.
In a ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge William Young ordered the college to turn over transcripts of seven interview subjects in an oral history project to U.S. prosecutors, who had subpoenaed them on behalf of British investigators. The judge said the interviews should be turned over to prosecutors if a federal appeals court lifts a stay of his order last month on another set of transcripts.
Boston College was disappointed with the ruling and may appeal, college spokesman Jack Dunn said.
The Irish Republican Army, founded in 1969, is an outlawed paramilitary group that was committed to overthrowing Northern Ireland and its links with Britain. In 2005 it renounced violence and disarmed in support of Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord, but several splinter groups continue to mount gun attacks and bombings.
Northern Ireland police requested the information for their investigation into the 1972 slaying of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10. The case has received intense coverage in Ireland because of allegations that Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, a legal political party linked with the IRA, led the IRA unit responsible for ordering McConville’s execution and secret burial.
Last month, the judge ordered Boston College to turn over interviews of former IRA member and convicted car bomber Dolours Price because she discusses her part in the McConville killing. The judge also said he would review interviews involving 24 other Irish republicans to determine if those interviews should be sent to Belfast police. He ruled Friday that the full series of interviews for five people, plus partial interviews of another two people, should be turned over to U.S. prosecutors.
Boston College did not appeal the judge’s ruling last month, prompting sharp criticism and a lawsuit from former Belfast journalist Ed Moloney, who directed the oral history project on Northern Ireland for the college, and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, who collected the interviews for the project.
The college believed it would not win an appeal of the judge’s ruling on the Price tapes because she had given a widely disseminated interview in Ireland in which she implicated herself and Adams in McConville’s killing, said Dunn, the college spokesman. The college is considering appealing the judge’s latest ruling on tapes of interviews with other former IRA members because it believes protecting the oral history project is important, he said.
“The Price materials could not be defended in light of her public comments to the media, but our hope was that the remaining 24 interviews would be kept confidential upon Judge Young’s review, given their importance as an oral history project,” Dunn said.
In an interview Sunday on Irish state broadcaster RTE, Adams said he has “nothing to fear” when asked if he is concerned that more former IRA members would identify him as their former IRA commander.
“I am the leader of the Sinn Fein party,” he said. “I’ve a job to do. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Moloney and McIntyre have said Boston College promised them that the identities of their interview subjects would not be revealed and that everything they said would be kept secret until their deaths.
Dunn, however, said the contract between Moloney and Boston College assured confidentiality only “to the extent that American law allows.”
“From the beginning, we have asked the judge to recognize our interest in protecting academic research and the enterprise of oral history against the legitimate U.S. government interest in abiding by a treaty obligation regarding a criminal investigation in the United Kingdom,” Dunn said.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston has temporarily blocked U.S. prosecutors from turning the materials over to Northern Ireland authorities at the request of Moloney and McIntyre. The court is expected to hear that appeal in March.
On Tuesday, the judge is scheduled to hear a motion from prosecutors to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Moloney and McIntyre.
Associated Press writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.
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