US court rules McConville tapes must be handed over to PSNI

Journalist and historian claim ‘a mere 13 per cent’ of content originally sought will now be handed over

Only interviews dealing directly with the 1972 abduction and killing of Belfast widow Jean McConville must be turned over by Boston College to police in Northern Ireland, a US appeals court has ruled.

Yesterday's ruling means that recordings of 11 confidential interviews with seven individuals, including former IRA members, will be surrendered to the US authorities and eventually handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

This reduces the amount of information that the US courts had previously ordered the college to surrender from its Belfast Project archive of interviews with IRA figures.

A US district court in Boston had ordered the college to hand over 85 wide-ranging interviews with eight people carried out to create an archive at the university to assist historians and researchers studying the Northern Irish Troubles.


Boston College appealed that ruling that it turn over these interviews for their eventual transfer to the UK authorities as requested in August 2011 under the McConville investigation.

The US appeals court in Boston ruled that the district court “abused its indiscretion” in ordering the college to produce a significant number of interviews that only contain information that is irrelevant to the McConville killing, one of the most notorious of the Troubles.

Former IRA members gave interviews to journalist and author Ed Moloney and historian Anthony McIntyre, himself a former IRA member, on the basis that the recordings would be kept private until the interviewees had died.

In a joint statement, Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre said yesterday's judgment meant that "a mere 13 per cent" of what the district court had initially ordered would be surrendered and that this was "at least a partial indictment of the whole process."

In April the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the two men to block the release of interviews with the late Dolours Price, who was jailed for the IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in 1973.

The US appeals court had previously found that Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre had no right to interfere with the police request for information under a treaty between the US and the UK that requires mutual assistance in criminal investigations.

The appeals court said in its judgment yesterday that the college has handed over interviews with Ms Price, who died in January, and another Provisional IRA member, Brendan Hughes, who died in 2008.

Mrs McConville, a west Belfast mother of 10, was abducted, shot dead and buried by the IRA on the belief that she was passing information to the British Army, a claim denied by her family.

Her body was found on a beach in Co Louth in 2003.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times