Ex-IRA prisoner to sue Boston College over tape

Jean McConville

Liam Clarke

A former IRA prisoner is to sue Boston College after it handed over parts of interviews he recorded to police investigating the murder of Jean McConville.

Richard O'Rawe was one of over 40 paramilitaries who gave testimony on their role in the Troubles to an oral history project for Boston College.

The interviews were given on the basis that their contents would not be revealed until after their death, but after a protracted transatlantic legal battle, the PSNI secured access to a number of interviews.

In the wake of the handover of the tapes, police have arrested a number of republicans in relation to the McConville murder – including Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. He denies involvement.

The PSNI was supposed to be handed only those recordings where the 1972 abduction and murder of west Belfast mother-of-10 Mrs McConville was discussed. However, solicitor Kevin Winters said the university had handed over a recording of Mr O'Rawe which did not discuss Mrs McConville.

Mr O'Rawe was active in Ballymurphy in 1972. Mrs McCon-ville was abducted from her home in Divis flats, at the other end of the Falls Road, by a separate IRA unit.

Accused of being an informer, she was taken away, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret.

Mr O'Rawe still lives in west Belfast, where graffiti has appeared in nine separate locations across the city branding those who gave interviews to Boston College "touts".

This is causing Mr O'Rawe "distress, stress, and serious inconvenience resulting from intimidation and reputational damage", Mr Winters said.

The action will be taken in the High Court in Belfast.

The case could open the way for other republicans and loyalists who gave interviews to Boston College to sue.

Mr O'Rawe told of his career in the Provos to Boston College researchers on strict conditions contained in a "donor contract" with the college.

It stated that "access to the tapes and transcripts shall be restricted until after my death except in those cases where I have provided prior written approval". However, the contract didn't specify that the secrecy of the archive was limited under American law.

The college has argued that Ed Moloney, the journalist who directed the project for them, and Dr Anthony McIntyre, the former IRA prisoner who interviewed republicans, should have pointed out the problem.

However, Mr Moloney has a 2001 email from Robert O'Neill of Boston College's Burns Library, stating: "I am working on the wording of the contract to be signed by the interview[ee], and I'll run this by Tom [Hachey] and university counsel". Thomas Hachey was Executive Director of the Center for Irish Programs at Boston College.

Mr Winters argues that the Belfast Courts are appropriate because the contract was signed in Northern Ireland, the interview was given there and Mr O'Rawe allegedly suffered damage there.