Federal Judge Dismisses Case to Block Release of IRA Tapes from Boston College
NEWTON – A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit by two developers of a Boston College oral history project who sought to block the release of interviews with former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to British authorities investigating a decades-old murder.
In a brief hearing, US District Judge William G. Young dismissed the suit brought by former IRA member Anthony McIntyre and Irish journalist Ed Moloney, a researcher and director, respectively, of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews with former IRA members and others about the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.
“My big problem is with the standing of your clients,” Young told a lawyer for the men, James Cotter, during the hearing.
Young said the men could not act as parties against the subpoena for the tapes brought by federal prosecutors in Boston on behalf of British authorities, because of a treaty that requires both nations to share information that will aid in criminal inquiries.
Cotter argued that the US attorney general did not consider the perils of releasing the materials when he issued the subpoena. He said the First Amendment rights of Moloney, a US citizen, would be violated if the documents are released.
Lawyers for the men have also argued that the safety of McIntyre and his family could be endangered if the tapes are delivered to British law enforcement.
Coincidentally, the hearing was held at Boston College Law School under a long-standing practice of the federal court to bring court proceedings to various law schools.
After today’s hearing, McIntyre’s wife, Carrie Twomey, lashed out at the college, which has distanced itself from the lawsuit brought by the two men.
“Boston College are cowards!” Twomey shouted as she was being escorted from the building by campus police.
The fate of the recordings of the interviews remains uncertain.
British authorities are seeking them to aid in their investigation of the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of ten in Belfast whom the IRA has admitted to killing because she was suspected of being an informant.
Last month, Young ordered BC to turn over recordings of former IRA member Dolours Price, who has admitted to her involvement in the murders and disappearances of at least four people, including McConville.
The university had initially balked but complied with the order, but an appeals court blocked prosecutors from turning over the Price materials to the British authorities pending further review. Further arguments on the Price recordings are scheduled for March.
And last week, Young ordered BC to turn over more interviews from the project, an order that the university has said it may appeal.
In a statement, BC declined to comment on today’s ruling from Young on the lawsuit brought by Moloney and McIntyre.
In a related development, US Senator John Kerry on Monday sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to work with British authorities to “reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke their request.”
Kerry wrote that the peace process in Northern Ireland could be harmed by the release of the tapes, an argument that lawyers for McIntyre and Moloney have also raised.
“It would be a tragedy if this process were to upset the delicate balance that has kept the peace and allowed for so much progress in the past 14 years,” Kerry wrote to Clinton.
Now that this issue has enjoyed its one day of fame in the press, perhaps it is time to look at it with the sometimes cruel eye of reality. It has become quite evident from his past and most current rulings that U.S. Federal Court Judge William G. Young has every intention of adhering to the subpoena request and more importantly to the US/UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty regardless of intervention by politicians. The chances of his rulings being overturned on appeal are “slim to none”.
Does this mean that the case is lost? Absolutely not. The official transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Stormont government became effective on 12 April 2010. This means that the PSNI has been under the control of and accountable to the Stormont government since that date. We have been led to believe that the request to subpoena the Belfast Project tapes from Boston College originated from the PSNI. Assuming that this is true, why hasn’t the Stormont government applied whatever amount of pressure is needed to the PSNI to withdraw their subpoena request and allow the entire problem to be resolved in Ireland instead of here in the U.S. If this were done, any perceived threat to the stability of the peace process in Ireland would be removed. Also, the confidentiality agreement between Boston College and the Belfast Project researchers could remain intact and the information contained in the tapes would be sealed until after the death of all those who were interviewed.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America