Boston College to be sued by republicans over Troubles tapes
Richard O’Rawe says controversy has left him feeling ‘intimidated and distressed’
A woman walks past graffiti, a reference to a project by Boston College, on a wall off the Falls Road, Belfast. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters
Former IRA prisoner Richard O’Rawe and three ex-republican paramilitaries are to sue Boston College over the oral history of the Troubles project, their Belfast solicitor has disclosed.
Solicitor Kevin Winters in the latest twist to the troubled Boston tapes project said that Mr O’Rawe and three other unnamed republicans had instructed him to take legal action against the American college.
Mr Winters said that “Boston College touts” graffiti that had appeared recently in several parts of west Belfast had made Mr O’Rawe, the lead participant in the legal case, suffer “serious intimidation and distress”.
Other graffiti included references such as “sort out Boston College touts” and “informer republicans”, he added.
“Mr O’Rawe engaged with the Boston project in good faith in terms of making a positive contribution to the historical narrative of the conflict,” said Mr Winters.
The solicitor said however that due to the Boston tapes controversy over the 1972 IRA murder of Jean McConville, in which Mr O’Rawe was not involved, that Mr O’Rawe’s taped interviews to the project along with other interviews were handed over to the PSNI.
Mr O’Rawe in a statement said, “My contribution never mentioned anything at all about the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, because I know nothing about it.”
“Despite that, the police were still able to get my recordings. They should never have been allowed to do that,” he added.
“I blame Boston College for the mess and I want them held accountable for putting me in this position,” said Mr O’Rawe.
He alleges that he entered a contract with Boston College that did not advise him that his evidence might be subjected to release under a court order. He also alleges there was no proper oversight of the project and that there was misrepresentation and breach of confidentiality together with negligence on the failure of the college to advise that his testimony could be subject to court orders. He also alleges reputational damage.
College spokesman Jack Dunn said no legal papers have been issued against the university and he declined “to speculate” on any legal action that may arise. He said the participants were interviewed by former IRA prisoner, historian and project researcher Anthony McIntyre.
“If they were given assurances that their interviews would be protected, those assurances came from Mr McIntyre, who was in no position to make them. No one from Boston College was ever in contact with the interviewees,” he said.
Mr McIntyre said there was ample evidence that senior academics from Boston College directly involved in the project gave assurances that those participating were doing so under the guarantee of “strict confidentiality”.
“There is a clear paper trail to this effect for everyone to see,” said Mr McIntyre.
Mr O’Rawe is a former IRA prisoner who alleged that in 1981 the IRA army council blocked a deal that possibly could have saved the lives of six of the 10 hunger strikers who died in the fast - a claim rejected by Sinn Féin.
*Article was amended on 14th May 2014