The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has decided to support two journalists who are fighting release of interviews they conducted for the Belfast Project at Boston College, an oral history of the tumultuous times in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.
The ACLU filed legal arguments yesterday with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit opposing release of the interviews, saying the journalists had a right to argue on their behalf and that the release of the information would jeopardize their integrity.
The ACLU also argued that the journalists and their subjects would be labeled informers and subjected to violence by a paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, pointing out the Irish Republican Army’s rules forbidding disclosure of information.
“The forced turnover of interview materials will convert the interviewees and their interviewers into informants,’’ the ACLU said in legal arguments.
In December, a US District Court judge ordered BC to turn over the documents to the federal government, which had subpoenaed them on behalf of British authorities investigating crimes during the sectarian fight for control of Northern Ireland. England and the United States have a treaty that requires each of them to furnish materials that would aid in criminal inquiries.
British officials are looking into the killing of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10 who disappeared in 1972 and whose body was recovered in 2003. The IRA has admitted to killing her because she was falsely suspected of being an informer.
The Belfast Project journalists guaranteed their sources anonymity until death.
But British officials were specifically interested in the interviews with former IRA member Dolours Price. Price and Brendan Hughes, another former IRA member, have said in other interviews that the abduction, execution, and burial of McConville was ordered by Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which had served as the IRA’s political arm.
US District Court Judge William G. Young agreed to order BC to turn over materials related to the Price interview. He later ordered that other interviews be released as well. BC said that it would not appeal the ruling related to the Price interview, but that it opposed release of the remaining interviews.
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has agreed to review the decision, specifically Young’s refusal to let the two journalists, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Molony, argue against the release of the information.
Moloney has said that he moved forward with his own legal action because BC had not addressed the effects that release of the information could have on the political scene in Ireland and the safety of McIntyre, who lives in Ireland.