Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the subpoenas of the Belfast Project.
Ex-IRA militant and Belfast Project interviewee Dolours Price was found dead in her Dublin home Wednesday night, the BBC reported.
Price, age 61, was convicted in 1973 for her role in the IRA car bombing attacks on Old Bailey which left 200 wounded and one man dead.
In the early 2000s, Price participated in the Belfast Project, an oral history project sponsored by Boston College that was dedicated to recording the Troubles in the words of those who participated. In her testimony to researchers, Price allegedly confessed to various crimes, including car bombings and the kidnapping of Jean McConville, who was murdered by the IRA in 1972.
The tapes of interviews conducted as part of the Belfast Project were recorded under the promise of confidentiality until death, but in 2011, subpoenas from the government of the United Kingdom, served on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), threatened that confidentiality. The subpoenas were served following an interview with Price published in The Irish Times in February of 2010, in which she divulged information about the Belfast Project.
It was this interview, BC officials have argued, that catalyzed the subpoenas and subsequent legal action.
“Interviewees in that oral history undertaking understood that divulging their participation could potentially compromise the underlying premise that such testimony remain undisclosed until the time of their demise,” wrote Tom Hachey, professor of history and executive director of Irish programs, and Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill in a letter to the editor published in The Heights on Jan. 18, 2012. “That important need for discretion was honored by all surviving participants, with the notable exception of one, Dolours Price, who chose to publicly volunteer her involvement while making some provocative statements.”
Referencing the decision by Judge William G. Young to turn over relevant parts of the Price interviews to the PSNI, University Spokesman Jack Dunn argued in a February 2012 interview that Price’s public statements violated her contract and nullified the promise of confidentiality.
“We did not appeal [Young’s] decision because there was no legal basis upon which to appeal it,” Dunn said. “Dolours Price had given an interview in Northern Ireland in which she referenced her involvement in the Belfast Project and made statements that incriminated both herself and Gerry Adams. Her statements made her interests in upholding the secrecy of the interviews less than compelling to the court.”
In an interview in September 2012 with The Sunday Telegraph, Price revealed the details of her interviews, further wounding the legal case for confidentiality.
“I drove away Jean McConville,” Price told The Sunday Telegraph. “I don’t know who gave the instructions to execute her.”
Belfast Project Director Ed Moloney disagreed with Price’s testimony, arguing that her interviewees did not include any mention of McConville, thus making the subpoenas null.
“I now wish to make the following facts public: in her interviews with BC researcher, Anthony McIntyre, Dolours Price did not once mention the name Jean McConville,” Moloney said in a Sept. 14, 2012 press release.
Moloney released a joint statement with Belfast Project researcher and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre via email on Thursday. “We wish to express our great sadness at the death of Dolours Price who was both a friend and a valued participant in the Belfast Project and we wish to convey our condolences to her boys, to her sisters and brother and to other members of her family,” it read. Moloney and McIntyre went on to say that Price’s death would have no immediate impact on the subpoenas. “Dolours Price’s interviews will not now be immediately handed over, as some reports have wrongly claimed,” the statement read. “The interviews are the subject of a stay imposed by the Supreme Court of the United States and that stay remains in place until that court, the highest in the land, decides otherwise.”
“Boston College extends its condolences to the Price family on their loss,” Dunn said in an email. “Given the circumstances, it is inappropriate to speculate on the effect her untimely death may have on the ongoing court proceedings. We remain hopeful that this case will be resolved through diplomatic efforts.