Northern Ireland

Police mounting fresh bid to obtain secret Boston College recordings

Anthony McIntyre
Interviews given by Anthony McIntyre to Boston College in the US are still being sought for an ongoing criminal probe, a judge was told

Police are mounting a renewed bid to obtain secret recordings about a former IRA member’s activities during the Troubles, the High Court has heard.

Interviews given by Anthony McIntyre to Boston College in the US are still being sought for an ongoing criminal probe, a judge was told.

The sealed tapes have been kept under lock and key at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast for more than five years.

Police want the prohibition on accessing the recordings lifted before the May 1 deadline for advancing inquiries under the terms of the government’s new Legacy Act.

Counsel for the force, Michael Eagan KC, said: “The PSNI seek to have the order retaining these tapes in court removed.“It wishes to receive the materials and review them for the purposes of its investigation.”

In 2018 Mr McIntyre launched a legal battle to ensure the recordings and transcripts remain confidential.

He was one of the main researchers for the Boston College project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of ex-paramilitaries provided testimonies on the understanding their accounts would be kept secret while they are alive.

Those assurances were dealt a blow after police secured transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Detectives want access to Mr McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities as part of investigations into alleged terrorist offences nearly 50 years ago.

A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews was served on Boston College by the British government.

The move involved an International Letter of Request (ILOR) setting out alleged offences under investigation, including a bomb explosion at Rugby Avenue in Belfast in 1976, and membership of a proscribed organisation.

Although PSNI officers brought the Boston tapes back to Northern Ireland, they were kept sealed because of Mr McIntyre’s legal challenge.

He claimed police should not be allowed the recordings due to mistakes and inaccuracies in the ILOR. But in October 2018 the High Court dismissed his bid for an injunction restraining the PSNI and director of public prosecutions from making any further use of the interviews.

With the Supreme Court subsequently refusing permission to mount a further challenge, Mr Eagan contended on Thursday that all routes of appeal have been exhausted.

The barrister told Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan he was seeking to “remove the stay and allow the PSNI to retake possession of this material”.

Backing those submissions, Peter Coll KC, for the Public Prosecution Service, claimed there was no basis for maintaining the prohibition.

However, Mr McIntyre’s lawyers argued that the legal proceedings are still ongoing.

Resisting any disclosure of the tapes, Ronan Lavery KC questioned whether there ever was a live investigation into his client’s activities.

“This was a fishing expedition because he made it public that he had been involved in the Boston project,” he submitted.

The case was adjourned to next month, when the PSNI is expected to make a formal application for the stay to be lifted.

Dame Siobhan observed: “This court, having given a judgment, can’t just hold material indefinitely.”