I agree that the decision by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, regarding taped interviews with combatants in the Irish conflict that are held by Boston College, will require rethinking of how best to conduct such important projects (“BC decision should lead others to amend oral-history pacts,” July 11).
Unfortunately, there were other more important arguments made by the authors of the history project, which the court chose to ignore or dismiss.
This was doubly significant because, as the court acknowledged, this was the first challenge in this circuit to the mutual legal assistance treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Objections to the British government’s misuse of the treaty were alluded to by Judge Juan Torruella. He noted that the British request could be denied for two reasons: requests involving political offenses (indeed in 1972 British law provided for such offenses) and requests that, if honored, would undermine important public policy, such as the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
At the time of the offense in question, the British Army was crushing the civil rights protests in Northern Ireland. Resistance to their brutality was considered patriotic.
American support for the 1998 peace pact was based in part on the release of prisoners and many accused of murder — loyalists as well as those in the Irish Republican Army.
Thus I view the decision and Torruella’s language as underscoring the argument that BC should not be compelled to disclose the information it holds.
The writer is a member of the national board of the Irish American Unity Conference. His views here are his own.