Boston College said on Tuesday that people interviewed as part of the Belfast Project, a troubled oral-history project on the conflict in Northern Ireland, could have the original tapes and transcripts of their interviews returned to them if they wished.
Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College, said in a statement emailed to The Chronicle that if people interviewed in the project wanted their interviews returned, the university would “accommodate their request upon proper identification.”
Researchers had promised participants in the project that the interviews would remain confidential until after the deaths of the interviewees, but some of the interviews were subpoenaed on behalf of British authorities, and portions of them eventually were released under court order.
“Given that the litigation surrounding the subpoenas has concluded,” Mr. Dunn said, “we believe that it is the appropriate course of action to take at this time.”
The announcement came nearly a week after the police in Northern Ireland arrested Gerry Adams, the leader of the Irish political party Sinn Fein, for questioning in connection with a decades-old murder, based on allegations in the interviews. Mr. Adams was released without charges on Sunday. In a statement on Tuesday, he said the Boston College project was “flawed from the beginning.”
Anthony McIntyre, one of the researchers involved in the project, responded that Mr. Adams’s criticism appeared to be based on political differences with the interviewees. “One purpose of an oral-history project is to capture a number of narratives that would otherwise be unobtainable,” Mr. McIntyre said. “That they might not conform to Mr. Adams’s worldview is not a consideration for the historian.”
Mr. McIntyre is not a faculty member at Boston College but is one of several people contracted to conduct the project. In a letter to the editor published in The Chronicle, several history professors at Boston College state that their department was not involved in the project and had little information about it.
Mr. Dunn, the Boston College spokesman, told The Boston Globe that the university would not keep copies or transcripts of tapes that were returned.