Northern Ireland

Ex-IRA man wins first legal stage over PSNI's Boston tapes access

Anthony McIntyre at an earlier hearing at Belfast High Court. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
Anthony McIntyre at an earlier hearing at Belfast High Court. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress Anthony McIntyre at an earlier hearing at Belfast High Court. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

A FORMER IRA man interviewed for an American university project has cleared the first stage in a legal battle to stop police accessing his confidential tapes.

Anthony McIntyre was granted leave to seek to judicially review the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service for issuing an International Letter of Request (ILOR) over recordings held at Boston College.

Detectives want the material as part of their investigation into alleged terrorist offences stretching back 40 years.

But senior judges in Belfast ruled yesterday that they were not yet satisfied information in the request for international co-operation had been "scrupulously" examined. The case will now proceed to a full hearing in November.

McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Republic, was one of the main researchers in a major project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies to Boston College on the understanding their account would only be made public after they died.

But those assurances were dealt a blow when legal battles resulted in police securing transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist Winston `Winkie' Rea.

Rea (65) from Groomsport, Co Down, has been charged with the murders of two Catholic workmen in Belfast more than 25 years ago.

Now the authorities want access to McIntyre's recorded recollection of his own IRA activities.

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

The move involves an ILOR setting out alleged offences being probed, including a bomb explosion at Rugby Avenue in Belfast in 1976, and membership of a terrorist organisation.

Counsel for the former IRA man claimed he was the victim in the bombing, and that he was acquitted of the membership charge that features in the ILOR.

Accusing police of mounting a fishing expedition, Ronan Lavery QC said: "The letter itself is replete with errors, which we say are misleading and require an explanation."

With leave to apply for a judicial review granted, fuller arguments will be advanced at the main hearing.

Lord Justices Weatherup and Weir were also told Boston College has now released the tapes to authorities in America.

But the judges stressed that if PSNI officers travel to Massachusetts to retrieve the recordings they must remain under seal and be stored with the court until the challenge is decided.

Outside court a legal representative with McIntyre's solicitors, KRW Law, said: "These matters should be properly and fully investigated before these international letters of request are issued.

"We agree with the judges view that these matters should be scrupulously attended to, and it's our view that this has not happened in this case."