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'We'll be shot if tapes made public' - ex-IRA men

FORMER Provisional IRA members who recorded interviews for a history project face grave danger if the recordings are handed over to British authorities, a court heard.

The arguments came during a hearing before the American Circuit Court of Appeals, which is being asked to decide if the recordings should be given to police in Northern Ireland.

The recordings were made between 2001 and 2006 as part of an oral history project at Boston College, and participants say they were supposed to be kept secret until their deaths.

The project is intended to be for journalists and historians studying the Troubles.

But police probing the IRA's 1972 killing of Jean McConville want access to the interviews for their investigation.

US Judge William Young ruled that Boston College must turn over interviews with convicted car-bomber Dolours Price. Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA member who conducted the interviews, and Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist who directed the project, challenged US authorities' decision to subpoena the records.

In court yesterday, the men's lawyer, Eamonn Dornan, said McIntyre and the other IRA members who participated in the project face "the real risk of physical harm" if the recordings are turned over. He said McIntyre has already been branded as an informant by some factions in Northern Ireland and could face an attack if the interviews become public.

Dornan also argued that if the recordings are turned over, it will have a chilling effect on other academic projects.

Assistant US Attorney Barbara Healy-Smith said US authorities are bound by a legal treaty with the UK, which requires the two to aid each other's criminal investigations.

The court is expected to issue its ruling within three months.