A federal prosecutor said Monday that authorities are still entitled to materials from a Boston College oral history project documenting the Irish Troubles, despite the death last month of a key participant in the endeavor.
Assistant US Attorney Randall E. Kromm wrote in a filing with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston that BC incorrectly stated last month that the case was moot after the death of Dolours Price, a former Irish Republican Army member who was interviewed by researchers of the college’s Belfast Project.
“In its [filing on Jan. 28], Boston College does not advance any developed argument as to why Price’s death renders this appeal moot,” Kromm wrote.
Jack Dunn, a Boston College spokesman, said in an e-mail that Kromm’s filing was expected. “Today the US government simply opposed our motion from last week that asked the court to dismiss our case because of the death of Dolours Price,” he wrote.
The Belfast Project is a collection of interviews with former members of the IRA and other militia groups who fought during the Troubles, a tumultuous period in and around Northern Ireland that took the lives of more than 3,000 people. Project participants consented to interviews with the understanding that their statements would be kept confidential until their deaths.
In early 2011, federal prosecutors issued subpoenas for interviews with Price and Brendan Hughes, a former IRA member who died in 2008, on behalf of authorities investigating the 1972 abduction in Belfast and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 who was killed because she was suspected of being an informant against the IRA.
A second subpoena was later issued for “any and all” interviews that contained information about McConville’s death.
Boston College turned over the materials concerning Hughes but initially fought the release of the Price recordings. The college ultimately turned over the Price materials, but their delivery to British authorities has been stayed pending a separate appeal by project researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre with the US Supreme Court.
Prosecutors based their subpoenas on a treaty between the US and the United Kingdom that requires the nations to share information that could aid in criminal investigations. Boston College and others have argued that turning over the interviews could have a chilling effect on academic research, imperil the peace process in Northern Ireland, and subject project participants to retaliatory attacks. BC continues to fight the release of additional interviews with project participants, which is at issue in its case before the appeals court.
“Boston College’s claim that the case caption shows that the government’s requests only sought evidence against Price personally is at odds with the record and, indeed, with Boston College’s own litigating position in the district court and on appeal,” Kromm wrote in Monday’s filing. He added that the investigation into McConville’s death “was not limited to seeking materials for the purpose of prosecuting Price.”
However, in their Jan. 28 filing seeking to have the order to turn over additional interviews vacated, BC argued that Price’s death “means that criminal matters of Dolours Price can no longer be the subject of any prosecution or referral, and as a result the provisions of the [international treaty] pursuant to which the subpoenas were issued are no longer available.”