Release of Boston College tapes could threaten Northern Irish peace - US senator

US secretary of state warned that oral history interviews may threaten ‘hard-won peace’

Senate foreign relations committee chairman Robert Menendez: “It would be a terrible error of judgment if the United States was to not engage now in the due diligence to protect our investment in this hard-won peace”

Senate foreign relations committee chairman Robert Menendez: “It would be a terrible error of judgment if the United States was to not engage now in the due diligence to protect our investment in this hard-won peace”

Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 01:00


A high-ranking US senator has warned US secretary of state John Kerry that the release of the further Boston College interviews with former IRA members could threaten the peace in Northern Ireland.

New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, chairman of the powerful US senate committee on foreign relations, noted the ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that only 11 interviews from the college’s oral history of the Troubles should be handed over to the Northern Irish authorities.

He told Mr Kerry in a letter he remained “concerned that the United Kingdom’s request for the material may still have the effect of threatening the precious peace won by the Good Friday Agreement.”


Interviews
The Police Service of Northern Ireland sought the interviews conducted by journalist and author Ed Moloney and historian Anthony McIntyre as part of the investigation into the 1972 killing of Belfast widow and mother of 10 Jean McConville, one of the most notorious murders of the Troubles.

Senator Menendez said in his June 28th letter that the interview materials “should be carefully weighed by State Department experts on Northern Ireland’s peace process to determine whether their release could damage inter-communal reconciliation and might run counter to our national interests.”

In a second letter to Mr Kerry on the issue, Mr Menendez said that if the US administration has no further legal grounds to withhold the release of the interviews, he hoped that the secretary would engage with the Department of Justice to “minimise the potential damage these documents might do”.

McConville investigation
He told Mr Kerry that the Department of Justice should impress upon the British government that the records can only be used in the McConville investigation and on the agreement that “they will not released for use in any civil proceedings”.

“Our country made a significant diplomatic investment in resolving ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland,” Mr Menendez wrote. “It would be a terrible error of judgment if the United States was to not engage now in the due diligence to protect our investment in this hard-won peace.”

The PSNI travelled to Boston last month to collect tapes and transcripts of interviews given by the late Dolours Price, a former IRA member who claimed to have been involved in the abduction of McConville. The interviewees had agreed to speak as part of the college’s Belfast Project on the condition that the content of their interviews would be kept private at the college until they had died.