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Supreme Court extends stay of Boston College researchers’ IRA tapes

Two researchers who interviewed combatants in the Irish Troubles for a Boston College oral history project have won an extended reprieve in their fight to prevent recordings from being turned over to the British government.

On Wednesday, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer extended until Nov. 16 a previous stay he had granted of the order from a federal district court, which had been upheld by an appeals court in Boston, while the researchers prepare a writ of certiorari seeking a Supreme Court hearing of their case.

“My clients are encouraged by today’s grant of a stay of the mandate from the Supreme Court,” said Eamonn Dornan, a lawyer for the researchers, in a statement. “Justice Breyer has already given their arguments careful consideration and in effect, found that they are at least meritorious and that there is a likelihood that irreparable harm would result if the stay was not granted.”

The researchers, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, recorded interviews for the Belfast Project with members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and other paramilitary and political organizations, with the understanding that the tapes would not be released until the interviewees died.


The order by Breyer temporarily halts the turnover of tapes from interviews conducted with former IRA member Dolours Price.

Boston College, meanwhile, continues a separate legal battle over interviews with other project participants in the Boston appeals court.

“The stay request that Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre won today was expected and extends the stay on the Price tapes until Nov. 16,” Jack Dunn, a BC spokesman, said Wednesday. “BC is not a party in this case, and our focus remains on the appeal of the [federal court] ruling regarding the seven transcripts of interviews with former IRA pararmilitaries.”

The British government last year issued subpoenas for the recordings to aid in an investigation of the 1972 abduction and slaying of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 suspected of being an IRA informant.


In an interview last month with the CBS Evening News, Price discussed her role in McConville’s death, as well as the 1973 car bombing at London’s “Old Bailey” courthouse.

Boston College had initially fought the subpoena for the Price materials but complied with a court order to release them after a judge determined they were relevant to a criminal investigation, and Price had publicly discussed the tapes, BC has said.

Her tapes are currently in the possession of the US Department of Justice, pending resolution of the overall legal battle.

In a statement on Wednesday, Moloney hailed Breyer’s ruling granting the extended stay for interview materials.

“This is a huge victory for Eamonn and his colleagues in Boston,” Moloney said. “Myself and Anthony McIntyre wish to thank and congratulate them for doing such a magnificent job.”

The stay will expire if the Supreme Court declines to hear their case.

However, if the court does take up the matter, the stay will remain in effect until the high court issues a final judgment.

Moloney and McIntyre have argued that releasing any of the tapes could imperil the peace process in Northern Ireland and endanger the welfare of McIntyre, a former IRA member who lives in Ireland, and others involved in the project.

“My clients have raised issues of exceptional importance, including the constitutional right to free flow of information to the American public in the face of a foreign subpoena, the protection of important academic research, and the harm which the release of these materials would cause,” said Dornan, their attorney.


Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.