US judges adjourn to consider ruling on Troubles tapes

The tapes are being held at Boston College The interviews with former republican and loyalist terrorists have been held at Boston College

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A US appeal court has adjourned to consider if interviews given by former IRA members can be handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The interviews are part of the Boston College Belfast Project which began in 2001 and lasted five years.

Former IRA member Anthony McIntyre and journalist Ed Moloney argued that the release of the documents could harm the peace process in Northern Ireland.

It is understood that a judgement in the case could take weeks.

Speaking from Boston after the hearing on Wednesday, Mr Moloney told BBC Radio Ulster he felt cautiously optimistic about the progress of the appeal.

He said the judges has asked just one or two questions of their own attorney, but they had "peppered" the US attorney with questions throughout the entire presentation of her case.

"It had raised our hopes but we are also trying to be very cautious about this because events inside a courtroom don't necessarily indicate what the final verdict is going to be," he said.

The Belfast Project involved academics, historians and journalists conducting interviews with former republicans and loyalists about their activities during the Troubles.

The researchers have argued that releasing the documents could risk the lives of people who gave testimonies.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is seeking the transcripts of an interview given by former IRA member Dolours Price to Mr McIntyre and Boston College.

She later gave an interview to a newspaper journalist, in which she admitted that she had taken part in the Belfast Project.

In that interview she allegedly claimed to have been the person who drove one of the Disappeared, mother of 10, Jean McConville, to her death in 1972.

The Disappeared were people abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

The PSNI said it has re-opened the inquiry into Mrs McConville's murder, and on that basis was seeking the transcripts.

Initial court decisions in the United States accepted the PSNI's interest as legitimate, and the tapes of the Price interview and seven others deemed pertinent to an investigation into the Disappeared are now in the hands of the US federal court.

Boston College also appealed the decision to hand over the tapes, but separately.

The college said that it had no grounds to protect the anonymity of Dolours Price, given that she effectively 'outed' herself in a newspaper interview.

In June the college will however try to stop the handover of seven other IRA interviews, querying their value to any investigation.

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