US judge finds no basis to stop release of IRA interviews

Wed, Jan 25, 2012, 00:00

A FEDERAL judge yesterday ruled that the two men who conducted research and interviews for Boston College’s oral history project on the Troubles had no legal standing to challenge the release of some of the taped recordings of former IRA members.

Ed Moloney, the journalist and author who directed the so-called Belfast Project, and Anthony McIntyre, the writer and former IRA prisoner who interviewed 26 former IRA members for it, had argued that release of the interviews would endanger the lives of McIntyre and his family, who live in Drogheda, and those interviewed.

They also argued that US attorney general Eric Holder had improperly allowed the US justice department to seek the tapes on behalf of British authorities without regard to the political damage the disclosures could have on the peace process.

But during a special sitting of the US District Court, held coincidentally at Boston College Law School, Judge William Young said the mutual legal assistance treaty between the US and UK did not allow for such intervention.

“On the merits, I find the attorney general has acted appropriately . . . under this treaty,” the judge said.

James Cotter, one of the attorneys representing Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre, told the judge they had hoped he would allow the case to go forward so they could put witnesses on the stand to show the threat posed to “the free flow of information”. Among those hoping to testify were academics worried about the future of oral history projects.

Mr McIntyre’s wife, Carrie Twomey, who is American, attended yesterday’s hearing but did not testify as the arguments were limited to lawyers. Mr Twomey spent the last week lobbying congressional leaders to pressure the US government to drop the case, which it took at the request of the PSNI investigating the 1972 IRA murder and secret burial of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother-of-10.

While the Moloney and McIntyre legal challenge suffered a setback yesterday, it made political progress. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, asking her to revoke the British request for the Boston College tapes.

“I am obviously concerned about the impact it may have on the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process,” Mr Kerry wrote.

“It is possible that some former parties to the conflict may perceive the effort by the UK authorities to obtain this information as contravening the spirit of the Good Friday accords.”

There was no immediate response from Mrs Clinton’s office.

Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre said they would appeal Judge Young’s finding that they had no legal standing, along with the rest of the case, before the US First Circuit Court of Appeals.