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BC facing its Bunker Hill?

Boston College was apparently buying legal time this week after it was slapped with a subpoena seeking transcripts of oral testimonies given to its archives dealing with the Northern Irish Troubles.

The New York Times reported last week that the U.S. attorney's office in Boston had presented the university with a sealed subpoena apparently intended to obtain evidence linked to murders in Northern Ireland, some of them as far back as four decades ago.

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"We are requesting additional information," Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn told the Echo.

He said that the subpoena received from the U.S. attorney's office had been based on a request by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

"We are considering our options," said Dunn.

He said that the university was concerned over the possible ramifications for its oral history project, the safety of those interviewed for the project "and the peace process itself."

Dunn said that Boston College's "sole interest" in the process of compiling the archive on the Troubles was "the preservation of the truth and to support peace in Northern Ireland."

The front page Times story was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Dwyer, who is no stranger to Ireland or the Troubles.

Wrote Dwyer in his report: "The subpoena is the first indication that a criminal investigation is under way into the disappearance of at least nine people in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s who were thought to have informed for British authorities about the activities of republicans who were working to end British rule.

"Among them was a widowed mother of 10 who vanished from Belfast in 1972 and whose remains were located on a beach 50 miles away, in 2003. It is also the first attempt by the authorities in Northern Ireland to use the Boston College oral history collection to build criminal cases, a development that has alarmed archivists."

Dwyer noted in his report that the inquiry appeared aimed at possible criminality by republicans, not loyalists.

The subpoena, he reported, sought the accounts of two former republican soldiers who accused Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin, of running a secret cell within the IRA that carried out the kidnappings and disappearances.

The Times quoted Sinn Féin U.S. representative Rita O'Hara as stating that Adams, in reference to the kidnappings and disappearances, had "absolutely refuted that he had anything to do with it, or had any knowledge of it."

Boston College is a private Jesuit-founded Catholic university, one of the highest ranked academic institutions in the U.S. and the repository, at its Burns Library, of a wide ranging Irish archive that extends well beyond the Troubles into the arts and literature.