A US court decision two years ago was the catalyst behind the arrest of Gerry Adams over the murder of Jean McConville. In 2001, Boston College, Massachusetts, began an oral history project aimed at documenting views on the Troubles.
Former republican and loyalist paramilitaries were interviewed about their roles in the 40 years of violence in the North. Author Ed Moloney worked on the archive with former IRA member turned writer and academic Anthony McIntyre. They were effectively sub-contracted by the college to undertake an initiative it agreed to fund and store.
The participants — ‘terrorists’ to some, ‘former combatants’ to others — took part on the understanding that their accounts would only be made public upon their death.
When one such interviewee, former IRA commander in Belfast Brendan Hughes, died in 2008 it emerged that on the tapes he alleged Mr Adams was a senior IRA leader during the Troubles and had ordered Mrs McConville’s killing — claims the Sinn Féin leader vehemently contested.
Prior to her death in 2013, Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price said she had also given an interview to Boston College about Mrs McConville’s death in which she made similar allegations about Mr Adams. Again, the Louth TD rejected the claims.
The revelations prompted lawyers representing the PSNI to launch a legal bid in the US to obtain the Boston College tapes that touched on Mrs McConville’s death.
After a court battle the college was ordered in 2013 to hand over the tapes.
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