A former member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) whose interview was part of a project documenting violence in Northern Ireland said Tuesday that he intends to sue the American college for breaking an understanding of confidentiality.
Richard O’Rawe is one of at least four ex-IRA members who plan to sue Boston College for releasing taped portions of the Belfast Project, an oral history chronicling the experience of paramilitaries, on both the loyalist and republican sides, during three decades of violent unrest known as “The Troubles.”
The interviews were granted on the ground that testimony would not be released until after the participant’s death.
But a legal battle involving police authorities in the U.K. and the U.S. Department of Justice eventually saw college officials hand over some of the tapes.
In his claim against the college, O’Rawe’s lawyer said his client had suffered “serious intimidation and distress together with reputational damage as is evidenced by recent widespread graffiti appearing in west Belfast,” according to a report by the U.K.’s Press Association.
“I entered into the project in good faith in order to contribute to an important historical narrative of the conflict,” he said Monday night according to the BBC.
The Belfast Project was directed by Irish journalist Ed Moloney and a former provisional IRA member turned journalist Anthony McIntyre in 2002.
In exchange for lending their voices to chart the particulars of a long, bitter conflict, it was agreed that the contents would be kept by Boston College, the partnering academic institution, until the point of the participant’s death.
“The opportunity came along in an offer from Boston College to provide us a cast-iron, legally safe — so we were told — way of collecting these interviews and storing them in a safe place in Boston, well out of reach of the British,” Moloney told Al Jazeera’s John Siegenthaler in an interview this month.
Since 2011, the Belfast Project has been caught in a complicated and protracted legal morass after the British government contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to file subpoenas requesting the contents of interviews.
They were looking for tapes believed to have information on the 1972 kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville, a widow and mother of 10 who was killed by the IRA over claims that she had passed information to the British government.
The case received renewed international attention when British police arrested and questioned Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams over his alleged ties to the McConville’s abduction and murder, though he was subsequently released.
"My contribution never mentioned anything at all about the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, because I know nothing about it,” O'Rawe said in statement to U.K. and Irish media.
"Despite that, the police were still able to get my recordings. They should never have been allowed to do that. I blame Boston College for the mess, and I want them held accountable for putting me in this position,” he said.