A federal judge has ordered Boston College to turn over recorded interviews of a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to federal prosecutors in Boston, who had subpoenaed the material on behalf of British authorities investigating crimes during the sectarian fight for control of Northern Ireland.
In his three-page ruling issued Tuesday, Judge William G. Young of federal court in Boston directed the school to turn over the materials by tomorrow. They include recordings, transcripts, and other items related to the former IRA member, Dolours Price, who has acknowledged being involved in numerous crimes committed during the era.
Boston College said it is disappointed by Judge Young’s ruling, arguing it “could have a chilling effect because people could be reluctant to participate in oral history projects moving forward,’’ said spokesman Jack Dunn.
But he said the school would not appeal the decision.
Young’s ruling is the first of a number of requests by the British government for materials that were collected for the Belfast Project, a BC oral history project about the Troubles, a tumultuous period in the latter half of the 20th century when more than 3,000 people were killed in the struggle for control of Northern Ireland.
A former member of the IRA told the Globe that many believe the subpoenas are aimed at embarrassing Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, now a member of the Republic of Ireland’s Parliament.
The Belfast Project’s organizers had promised their subjects they would keep their identities and the material they provided confidential until the person had died.
While he provided no explanation for his decision yesterday, in a preliminary ruling two weeks ago Young acknowledged the school’s concerns about academic freedom. But he also noted that a treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom requires the two nations to share information that is relevant to ongoing criminal investigations.
“These are serious allegations, and they weigh strongly in favor of disclosing the confidential information,’’ Young wrote.
Assistant United States Attorney John McNeil, who is arguing the case for the government, said, “We appreciate Boston College’s thoughtful decision in this case by deciding not to appeal.’’
Prosecutors had asserted in court filings that the material they are seeking is relevant to an ongoing investigation into the death of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10 who disappeared in 1972 and whose body was recovered in 2003.
The IRA has admitted it killed McConville because she was suspected of being an informer. Price and another former IRA member, Brendan Hughes, have said that her abduction, execution, and burial was ordered by Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which had served as the political arm of the IRA, which ended military operations in 2005.
Last year, Price admitted in news reports in Northern Ireland that she was involved in McConville’s murder, according to court documents.
Adams has repeatedly denied the allegations that he ordered the killing.
Price, the former IRA member, was convicted in 1973 for her involvement in several car bombings in London, court records show. She has also admitted involvement in the unsolved killings and disappearances of at least four people, according to court filings.
Boston College has already provided federal prosecutors with materials from Hughes, who died in 2008. His interviews were used extensively by Belfast Project director Ed Moloneyin his 2010 book about the Troubles. The Hughes recordings - as well as those of a former member of the Ulster militia who is also dead - are the only materials Belfast Project has made publicly available, Dunn said.
The school also gave Young - at the judge’s request - about 180 transcripts of interviews with more than 20 former IRA members or associates that he is now reviewing.
Young wrote in Tuesday’s ruling that he will issue more orders after further review but did not elaborate.
In addition to the former IRA members, Belfast Project also interviewed former members of the Provisional Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Catholic militia, and ex-fighters in the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Protestant paramilitary group.
The school is working with prosecutors to determine which interviews with non-IRA members, if any, it will submit to Young for review in the matter of McConville’s death, records show.
In an interview in Dublin in May, a former senior member of the IRA told the Globe that many former members believe the subpoenas being issued by police in Northern Ireland are aimed at embarrassing Adams, who was elected earlier this year to the Republic of Ireland’s Parliament.
He has always denied he was an IRA member.
Young had previously rejected a bid from Moloney and a Belfast Project interviewer, Anthony McIntyre, to intervene as parties in the case opposing the subpoenas.
A lawyer for the men, Eamonn Dornan of Long Island City, N.Y., said in an e-mail that the men will appeal that decision.
Dornan said they are “determined to employ every legal means available to them to prevent the disclosure of any and all information contributed in the strictest confidence and in good faith to the Boston College archives.’’