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The big dig

August 24, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Federal authorities have broadened their demands for the contents of oral history testimonies dealing with the Troubles in Northern Ireland and given to Boston College on the basis of confidentiality.

Boston College has thus far resisted attempts by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston, acting on behalf of the PSNI, to gain access to the archive, dubbed the “Belfast Project,” which was compiled on its behalf by journalists Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre.

Initial efforts by the DA’s office were aimed at securing the testimonies of former IRA volunteers Brendan Hughes (now deceased) and Dolours Price.

However, Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen – one of the most experienced among U.S. journalists who has reported on Northern Ireland over the years – reported Tuesday that new court filings show that federal authorities now want “anything and everything” in the BC secret archive related to the 1972 disappearance and murder of a Belfast mother of 10, Jean McConville, who was abducted and executed by the IRA as a suspected informer.

Wrote Cullen: “At least we now know what this fishing expedition is all about. It’s about using the U.S. government as a pawn in a blatantly political act, an attempt by police in Northern Ireland to certainly embarrass and possibly prosecute the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams over McConville’s disappearance and murder.

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Cullen added that in the nearly 40 years since McConville was disappeared by the IRA, (her remains were found in 2003) police in Northern Ireland had showed little interest in her murder.

Both Hughes and Price adopted positions over the years that were increasingly critical of Adams and in a newspaper interview last year, Price directly linked Adams to the disappearance and death of McConville.

Meanwhile, though the BC archive is wide ranging and includes interviews with loyalist paramilitaries, the federal subpoenas focus solely on the McConville case.

“Not only does this show a selective, politically motivated prosecution taking place, it underscores the seriousness of the threat to the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, which is the cornerstone of the peace process,” wrote Cullen, whose paper recently carried an editorial supporting the DA’s probe.

That editorial prompted an op-ed response from Ed Moloney, director of the Belfast Project at Boston College, and Anthony McIntyre, the project’s lead researcher on the IRA, which was carried by the Globe Tuesday in the same issue as Cullen’s column.

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