Prosecutors questioned in 'Belfast Project' appeal

 

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS who want access to a Boston College oral history project on the Troubles yesterday faced questioning from a panel of judges who are considering an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the records should be turned over to British authorities.

A trio of judges from the First Circuit Court of Appeals heard from lawyers representing the journalist Ed Moloney, who directed the Belfast Project, and IRA prisoner turned writer Anthony McIntyre, who carried out the interviews of former IRA members.

They have appealed Judge William Young’s order that Boston College turn over the interviews.

Eamon Dornan, representing Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre, argued that Mr McIntyre and his American wife and children, who live in the Republic, faced “a grave risk of physical harm” if the interviews were turned over to the PSNI.

Mr Dornan also argued that the former paramilitaries who were interviewed, and the peace process itself, would be threatened by the release of the interviews, and that it would have a chilling effect on future history projects.

“The district court should have given much more weight to these claims,” said Mr Dornan.

He also said US attorney general Eric Holder failed to weigh the risk to the peace process – a successful piece of American foreign policy – of turning the records over under the terms of a treaty between the British and American governments.

While US prosecutors, acting on behalf of British authorities, have demanded information in the files that relate to the 1972 abduction and murder of Belfast mother of 10 Jean McConville, Mr Dornan argued there was no reasonable expectation this would result in a successful prosecution.

Ms McConville’s body was found in 2003 on a beach in Co Louth.

Mr Dornan said there were no grounds under which Dolours Price, who gave an interview to the Irish News claiming she drove Ms McConville to her death, would be extradited from the Republic to the North.

Mr Dornan also said the PSNI made no attempt to arrest or question Ms Price, even when she appeared in a court in the North in 2010, after implicating herself and Gerry Adams in Ms McConville’s disappearance and murder.

Mr Adams categorically denies the allegations.

The judges reserved most of their questioning for the US prosecutor, Barbara Healy Smith, who argued that Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre did not have the legal standing to appeal.

Judge Juan Torruella and chief judge Sandra Lynch appeared sceptical of Ms Smith’s claim that the US constitution did not offer protection to non-citizens.

Mr Moloney and Carrie Twomey, Mr McIntyre’s wife, attended the hearing with backers from the American Civil Liberties Union and were encouraged by the tone of the judges’ questions.

“It went better than we had hoped for,” said Mr Moloney.

It is unclear when the court will issue a ruling.