Boston College is now fighting a federal judge’s orders that it hand over some of the transcripts from the Belfast Project, an oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, to British law enforcement investigating the 1972 disappearance of a suspected British informant.
US District Court Judge William G. Young wrote that he reviewed 176 transcripts compiled from interviews with 24 people, but that only a handful even mention Jean McConville, whose death is now being investigated by British authorities in Northern Ireland. The body of McConville, a mother of 10, was recovered in 2003.
Young said that just one person “provides information responsive’’ to the specific request by British authorities for information about McConville. Six other interviews make references to McConville, and some even mention a “shadowy suborganization with the Irish Republican Army that may or not have had anything to do with the disappearance.’’
Still, while skeptical that British law enforcement will get the answers it had hoped to find, Young ordered BC to hand over seven interview transcripts, a demand that the school has now decided it wants overturned.
“The university is seeking further review of the court’s order to ensure that the value of the interviews to the underlying criminal investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland outweighs the interests in protecting the confidentiality of academic research materials,’’ BC spokesman Jack Dunn said in a statement.
British authorities have sought the information as they investigate the 1972 abduction and killing of McConville in Belfast. The IRA has admitted to killing McConville because she was suspected of being an informant.
The Globe has reported that former IRA members, including Belfast Project subject Dolours Price, have said that the abduction and killing of McConville was ordered by Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which had served as the political arm of the IRA. Adams has adamantly denied the accusation.
In his order, Young indicated that even with the disclosure, the BC records are unlikely to shed much light on the McConville case.
“No other materials from Boston College’s archive need to be produced . . . and in view of the paucity of information unearthed after extensive review by this court, it declines to review the ‘very few’ audiotapes not yet transcribed,’’ Young wrote.
Separately, the journalists behind the project, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney, are asking the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to completely block BC from providing any information to British law enforcement. A hearing is set for March.
McIntyre and Moloney said they regretted that the university has only now decided that it will fight the forced release of the transcripts, especially since BC has already agreed to hand over the project’s interview with Price as ordered by Young during an earlier part of the case.
“We would like to welcome Boston College’s decision to lodge an appeal against the subpoenas served against seven of our interviewees but regret that the college finally took this decision too late to include the interviews of Dolours Price,’’ the men said in a statement.
They were joined in the statement by Wilson McArthur, who interviewed Loyalists.
John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com.