Judge rules oral history tape release would not “materially increase the risk to his life or that of his family”

This morning Mr Justice Treacy rejected Anthony McIntyre’s application for a judicial review in the latest attempt to prevent the PSNI from accessing republican interview transcripts from the Boston College oral history project. It is thought that the PSNI team investigating the 1972 murder of Jean McConville are behind the UK government request to get hold of the tapes of interviews with Dolours Price which are currently held in the US.

Two weeks ago, McIltyre’s fellow researcher Ed Moloney (who directed the “Belfast Project”) submitted an affidavit in which he reluctantly stated:

… in her interviews with BC researcher, Anthony McIntyre, Dolours Price did not once mention the name “Jean McConville”. The subject of that unfortunate woman’s disappearance was never mentioned, not even once. Nor so were the allegations that Dolours Price was involved in any other disappearance carried out by the IRA in Belfast, nor that she received orders to disappear people from Gerry Adams or from any other IRA figure. None of this subject matter was disclosed in her taped interviews with Anthony McIntyre.

However, the PSNI still seem keen to find out what was said. UTV report that the judge’s response was (finally) issued this morning:

Mr McIntyre claimed releasing the tapes and transcripts to police would put him under greater threat of being killed by dissident republicans who would perceive it as a betrayal of the IRA’s code of silence.

However, a judge dismissed his case after a senior detective stated he was not aware of any current, increased risk to the researcher due to his work on the project.

Mr Justice Treacy said: “In light of the unequivocal response from the PSNI, supported by the threat assessment from the security authorities, I conclude that the applicant has failed to make out an arguable case that disclosure of the Boston College tapes would, as he claimed, materially increase the risk to his life or that of his family.”

Of course, Dolours Price has recently given a spate of media interviews. One appeared out of nowhere in the Sunday Telegraph, while Dolours was forthcoming in a CBS news report about her participation in IRA operations:

McConville was accused by the IRA of being an informer and one of the so-called “disappeared.” She, among many others, was driven across the border to the Irish Republic and shot. The IRA later revealed where some of the bodies were buried.

Dolours admitted she drove McConville across the border – and she knew what might happen.

“I was aware that that would possibly be her end, yes,” Dolours said. But, it doesn’t bother her.

[source: CBS online news report]

One could question why the PSNI are invoking an inter-government mutual legal assistance treaty to access taped conversations that could be difficult to use as evidence in court when the original source is singing like a canary 100 miles south of CID headquarters? It’s a theme taken up by Chris Bray on Letters Blogatory.

Joanna Harrington also offers an analysis of the use of the mutual legal assistance treaty and the background to the Belfast Project on EJIL:Talk, reminding readers that the Burns Library at Boston College also holds the records of the Decommissioning Commission (which in time might also be open to scrutiny attempts by international governments. Oddly, the PSNI/HET aren’t pursuing the oral history tape recordings of loyalist interviews, carried out as part of the Belfast Project (by a third researcher).

More legal action to prevent the disclosure of the interviews may follow in Belfast courts. And in the US, Ed Moloney & Anthony McIntyre have sought a stay of the First Circuit’s judgement in the Supreme Court with an application filed last week.

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