[Updated (2/9/2015, 4:45 p.m.) with comment from Ed Moloney, former director of the project.]
A Boston College oral-history project on Northern Ireland’s 30-year civil conflict has again found itself in court. On Monday a British judge ruled that the Police Services of Northern Ireland has the right to retrieve interviews given to Boston College by Winston Rea, a former loyalist paramilitary member and a participant in its Belfast Project. Mr. Rea had tried to block the handover of his interviews, which were supposed to remain confidential until his death.
In 2011 Boston College began a two-year court battle to prevent access to the archives by British authorities, which sought some material as part of a decades-old murder investigation. Boston College ultimately turned over a number of interviews. Last May the Police Services, which continues to investigate old crimes, said that it was going to seek the entire archive.
That appears to have resulted so far in one subpoena, for Mr. Rea’s material. Unlike the earlier court battle, the legal deliberations that led Boston College to turn over Mr. Rea’s interviews came to light only when he tried to stop the transfer of material into Northern Ireland. It is unclear if subpoenas for any other interviews have been issued.
Boston College declined to comment, saying the U.S Department of Justice had asked that the matter be kept confidential. The Justice Department also declined to comment.
Ed Moloney, who directed the project, called the police investigation “nothing less than a cynical fishing expedition … aimed at satisfying sectarian elements in the Irish-American community that they intend to balance their raid on IRA interviews at Boston College by bagging a ‘Loyalist’ in their net. Winston Rea is being pursued not in the interests of justice but to satisfy narrow political goals.”
Mr. Moloney, an Irish journalist, ultimately fell out with Boston College over the handling of the original court case.