Boston College urged to remain silent
A WRITER and a former IRA prisoner have urged Boston College to resist attempts to force the college to disclose information provided to them by former republican and loyalist paramilitaries.
Boston College has been subpoenaed by the US attorney general’s office to release information that was provided in confidence to the college in an oral history project about the conflict in Northern Ireland.
The attorney general is acting at the behest of the authorities in the UK. PSNI detectives are hoping that this action will compel the college to release interviews provided by the late Brendan “the Dark” Hughes and Dolours Price, both of whom were former convicted senior IRA figures.
Detectives are seeking information that would relate to allegations and suggestions by Mr Hughes and Ms Price that Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams ran an IRA unit that was involved in several abductions and disappearances, including the disappearance of murder victim Jean McConville.
Mr Adams has repeatedly denied these allegations.
Author Ed Moloney used interviews Mr Hughes and the late David Ervine gave to the college as material for his recent book Voices From the Grave.
Former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre conducted the interview with Mr Hughes, a former senior IRA figure and estranged friend of Mr Adams.
Wilson McArthur, who is from a loyalist background, interviewed the former UVF prisoner and leader of the Progressive Unionist Party David Ervine. More than 50 other republican and loyalist paramilitaries have also given detailed interviews to Boston College, again based on the academic guarantee that details would not be disclosed until after their deaths.
Mr Moloney, who is now living in New York, deplored the attempt to compel the college to release details of the interviews. “I very much hope and expect that Boston College will resist this,” he said.
“It is very important that there is the freedom to write and chronicle history while it is still possible to do so, and to get accounts from people who were directly involved. This is vital,” he added.
“Part of the problem is that the conflict lasted so long. Unlike the Anglo-Irish War we can’t wait 20 years to interview people. If we don’t do this exercise now then we can forget it because a lot of the people will be dead,” said Mr Moloney.
“It is important to collect these valuable insights which help explain how and why the conflict happened, and to help prevent future conflicts.”
A spokesman for the college said: “Boston College is reviewing the subpoena from the US attorney’s office and is requesting additional information in light of the ramifications it poses regarding the safety of the interviewers and the impact on oral history projects as an academic enterprise.”
Researcher Anthony McIntyre, who had a number of disagreements with Mr Adams, said he suspected that the subpoena was motivated by a “British state agenda to embarrass Gerry Adams”.
“The college must resist this with all the force it can muster,” he added.
This move could have serious implications for similar history projects. “This is our worst-case scenario,” Mary Marshall Clark, the director of the oral history research office at Columbia University, New York told yesterday’s New York Times.