BOSTON Oct 17 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Wednesday blocked a bid by authorities for access to interviews
with a fighter from Northern Ireland's "Troubles," a temporary
win for a pair of academic researchers.
At issue is whether authorities in Northern Ireland can
obtain records from an archive at Boston College. The case has
been closely followed on both sides of the Atlantic as it could
show in uncomfortable detail the possible roles played by
current political figures during the sectarian conflict,
including Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.
Adams, a member of the Irish Republic's parliament, has said
he has nothing to fear from the college's materials.
In a brief order, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
stayed an appeals court decision that would have turned over
material from the archive to police in Northern Ireland.
Breyer's order will last until Nov. 16, or until the
resolution of an appeal of the lower court ruling that the
researchers plan to bring to the Supreme Court soon.
The researchers - including journalist Ed Moloney and
Anthony McIntyre, once a member of the Irish Republican Army -
were part of a project that interviewed dozens of fighters from
both sides of the conflict, which ended with a U.S.-brokered
peace treaty in 1998.
Interviewees were told their words would remain sealed until
their deaths. But after a series of news articles several years
ago, the Police Service of Northern Ireland sought Boston
College's records to help solve one of the most notorious
killings of the sectarian conflict - the 1972 death of Jean
McConville, a widowed mother of 10.
McConville was killed by the IRA on suspicion of being an
informer, an accusation her family has denied. Her body was
recovered in 2003.
The U.S. Justice Department had demanded the records on
behalf of the Northern Ireland police, citing legal-assistance
treaties, despite opposition from U.S. politicians worried the
case could damage the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Since the legal battle began, the Northern Ireland police
have gained access to archived interviews by Brendan Hughes, an
IRA figure who died in 2010. But access to interviews with eight
other IRA figures remains in dispute.
Technically, the matter before the Supreme Court concerns
only interviews with Dolours Price, an IRA member who was jailed
for her part in the 1973 bombing of London's Old Bailey
courthouse that injured more than 200 people. The court's
decision in her case will likely determine the fate of the other
interview material, said Eamonn Dornan, an attorney for the
(Reporting By Ross Kerber; Editing by Peter Cooney)