Value of Boston College tapes diminished by anonymous voices
Voices said to belong to former IRA militants, talking about Jean McConville’s murder, can’t be identified
In response, Moloney said that the project ended in 2006, the subpoenas were served in 2011 and only now has Boston College realised that its archivists do not know what is in, or has gone missing from, the college’s own archive.
“Not once in all these years did the college ask me for the key to these interviews and that is because they knew that when I moved to New York at the outset of the project, for family reasons, I could not be involved in a process which stipulated that, for security reasons, contracts could only be taken by hand from Ireland to Boston,” says Moloney.
“This is an attempt to divert attention from the college’s own incompetence, one of many during this sad saga.”
Forced to turn over interviews with research subjects it can’t identify, Boston College is trying to find out whose tapes it has in its archives. The university has asked Moloney to provide them with the missing identification key. “Mr Moloney has refused to do so,” according to Swope.
Swope also provided a copy of Moloney’s contract with Boston College, noting that it required the research director to provide the identification key.
He did not respond to subsequent queries asking why Boston College was bringing the absence of that key to Moloney’s attention in 2013, seven years after the end of the project he ran.
Several Boston College officials, including archivist Robert O’Neill and spokesman Jack Dunn, also did not respond to phone calls and emails this week. Neither did officials at the US Department of Justice.
Dornan, who represents Moloney in litigation over the subpoenas, said this week that neither the US Department of Justice nor Boston College are likely to succeed in any effort to force a key to interviewee identities from the former Belfast Project director.
Moloney won’t co-operate and his long-expired agreement with the university is unenforceable due to the statute of limitations on contractual obligations.
As for American prosecutors, Dornan says, the law only permits them to subpoena “documents which are in existence”. And the identity key doesn’t exist. Other avenues may be available to the Government, including a subpoena forcing Moloney to testify in court, but “there are a lot of procedural difficulties” .
Those legal hurdles will be complicated, Dornan adds, by a new political climate in the US following two years of controversy over the subpoenas.
Whatever legal developments come next, they are unlikely to be resolved quickly. The death of Jean McConville is, 41 years after the event, a story that still resists its ending.
Chris Bray is a historian and journalist.