PSNI move for IRA tapes should be ruled illegal: researchers
Efforts by the PSNI to gain access to the taped testimonies of former IRA members have taken a dramatic new twist after two researchers moved that the efforts be ruled illegal.
They say that releasing the material would breach extradition agreements.
The tapes are in Boston College's Belfast project, which also holds records of IRA decommissioning and material deposited by the Government.
The ex-paramilitary activists spoke in the belief that it would not be published while they lived.
The archive was set up by the journalist Ed Moloney and all the IRA interviews were carried out by Dr Anthony McIntyre, himself a convicted IRA killer.
So far the battle has been between the PSNI, acting through the US Attorney's Office, and the college which has pleaded that lives could be in danger and academic research stifled. Now Mr Moloney and Dr McIntyre have applied to be joined to the action.
In papers lodged by Eamon Dornan, a Belfast barrister who now practices in New York, they say that a Mutual Aid Treaty between America and Britain prohibits the extradition of people from America for offences committed in Northern Ireland before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.
Court papers lodged by Mr Dornan claim that releasing the material would breach "solemn promises made by the UK government to the US Senate" that "it would not reopen issues addressed in the Belfast Agreement, or impede any further efforts to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland".
Police interest was aroused when Brendan "the Dark" Hughes, a former Belfast IRA commander, died and his story was published along with that of David Ervine, the loyalist politician who told of his role as a UVF bomb maker.
Mr Hughes, a former friend of Gerry Adams, claimed that the Sinn Fein president has been an IRA leader, though Mr Adams has consistently denied any IRA involvement and still does.
Mr Hughes went on to allege that, in that role, Mr Adams headed a unit which organised the "disappearance" of people suspected of supplying information to the security forces.
In particular, he claimed that Mr Adams had agreed that Jean McConville, a widow who lived in Divis flats, should not only be killed, but secretly buried.
Her body was found buried in a Co Louth beach in 2003, more than 30 years after her death.
Story so far
Boston College holds the taped testimonies of up to 50 former Northern Ireland terrorists who spoke on condition that nothing would be published in their lifetimes. When Brendan "the Dark" Hughes (above), an ex-IRA commander, died, his story was published.