Tuesday 21 October 2014

Ex-prisoners could sue Boston College over Troubles tapes

Published 13/05/2014 | 14:42

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

A US university which is storing an oral history of the Northern Ireland Troubles - part of which was relied upon by police to quiz Gerry Adams about an IRA murder - could be sued by former paramilitary prisoners.

Last year the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) won a legal battle to force Boston College to hand over sections of the archive that related to the killing of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

Former IRA prisoner Richard O'Rawe is among more than 40 people active during the conflict who gave interviews to the college on the understanding that accounts would not be released without their permission or until after their deaths. That undertaking was undermined by the US court ruling.

O'Rawe's solicitor Kevin Winters said he had suffered intimidation following recent events. Graffiti appeared in Belfast following the Sinn Fein president's arrest aimed at those who gave interviews to Boston College.

Mr Winters confirmed: "We will issue a letter of claim setting out the case and about 14 days later we will issue a writ."

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was dragged, screaming, away from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces.

She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then secretly buried - becoming one of the "Disappeared" victims of the Troubles. Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.

After his release from custody without charge following four days of questioning, Mr Adams claimed that most of the evidence detectives presented to him was based on allegations levelled by interviewees who had given accounts to the oral project.

Former IRA members Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, both now dead, claimed in the tapes that Mr Adams had a role in ordering the murder of Mrs McConville in 1972.

Mr Adams, 65, vehemently denies any involvement in the crime or that he was ever a member of the IRA.

Of more than 80 interviews contained in the Boston College archive, the court decision saw police obtain sections of 11 tapes.

Amid concerns about the status of the remaining interviews, the college has now indicated its willingness to hand back the tapes to those who were interviewed.

Press Association

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