US college battles to preserve history project
US college battles to preserve history project

An American university is fighting a British bid to get hold of interviews with members of the Provisional IRA, gathered as part of an oral history project.

Boston College in Massachusetts has an archive of interviews in which former paramilitaries gave details of their role in the conflict in the North of Ireland.

But the participants only took part on condition that the interviews would not be made available until after they died.

Last month, on foot of a British request, US federal prosecutors served a legal document, or subpoena, on Boston College, demanding they hand over the interviews given by two former IRA members - Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price.

The college has agreed to produce the archives relating to Brendan Hughes, who died in 2008.

But Dolours Price is still alive, and the college does not want to hand over the audio recordings or transcripts of the interviews with her.

So it has now filed a case with the US District Court, asking that the subpoena is quashed.

A statement by Boston College said: “Our position is that the premature release of the tapes could threaten the safety of the participants, the enterprise of oral history, and the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland.”

Boston College has submitted a number of documents to the court.

They include a submission by the journalist Ed Moloney, who has written a book based on access he received to the archives.

Former IRA Volunteer Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews with republicans, has also made a statement on the college’s behalf. In his affidavit, he said he believed there would be a risk to his safety if his interviews with Dolours Price were not kept confidential.

A senior academic at Boston College, Professor Thomas Hachey, said in his submission that turning over the interviews would “endanger oral history projects everywhere.”

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