District Court Orders University to Release Belfast Project Documents

subpoena

The United States District Court of Massachusetts has ordered Boston College to release an interview it conducted with Anthony McIntyre, a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who was convicted of murder and sent to prison. McIntyre was one of the main researchers for an oral history project sponsored by the University.

McIntyre gave an interview on his involvement with the IRA during the tumultuous Northern Ireland Conflict of the 1960s through the 1990s. The interview was part of an oral history project, known as the Belfast Project, that McIntyre and Irish loyalist and researcher Wilson McArthur conducted. The project was directed by Ed Moloney, an investigative journalist.

The interviewers guaranteed those involved in the project that their comments would not be released until after their deaths. The tapes from the project were first subpoenaed in May 2011 by the U.S. federal government on behalf of the United Kingdom as part of an ongoing investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) about the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville. The tapes were then subpoenaed a second time and BC was ordered to release all relevant interviews.

Then, on Dec. 27, 2011, the University was ordered to release the interviews of former IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes. BC filed a motion to close the case in January 2013. In May 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decided that the district court had “abused its discretion” in its initial subpoenas, and that just 11 of the 85 interviews originally ordered to be released were relevant to the investigation of the McConville murder. The University announced in May 2014 that it will return all interviews to interviewees upon request, and with proper identification supplied.

According to The Irish Times, the release of the tapes resulted in the arrest of Ivor Bell, a veteran Republican and participant in the project. He was charged with aiding and abetting the disappearance and murder of McConville, but his trial has not yet begun.

Now, the PSNI is requesting that BC release the interviews conducted with McIntyre, via the United States District Court.

“The subpoena was issued in proceedings that the United States District Court ordered sealed, and Boston College was requested to treat the proceedings and the subpoena as confidential,” University Spokesman Jack Dunn said. “Nevertheless, the University notified Mr. McIntyre of the subpoena because it concluded that he should know that his materials had been requested. Given that the pending proceedings remain under seal, Boston College is not able to comment further on the matter.”

Moloney believe this request by the Court is unjust because there is no accusation against McIntyre, nor is there any investigation. According to Moloney, when the Court had the documents in 2011, it concluded that McIntyre was not relevant to the McConville case.

“It’s a very bad message for American academics everywhere that researchers are targeted in this way,” he said.

McIntyre and Moloney hope that BC will fight the courts on this subpoena, given that they believe it to be a “fishing expedition,” meaning that there is no justifiable reason for the documents to be released.

Moloney explained that they cannot do much to prevent BC from releasing the documents, but he hopes that other academics at BC and academics at other institutions across the United States will voice their discontent with how things have proceeded.

Correction: this article has been updated to reflect the fact that McIntyre was a lead researcher for the project.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

About Sophie Reardon 102 Articles
Sophie Reardon is the head news editor for The Heights. She is from Alexandria, VA and is majoring in history and communication. Her favorite news source other than The Heights is The Skimm.