“Some of the people involved in the events of recent history are now getting old, their memories are fading. I think there is merit in trying to capture this information now before it is lost,” said Paterson, according to a BBC report. “I just wonder if historians might not have better skills to try to get to the bottom of what happened in the past than professional lawyers. That’s one of the things we are looking at and we’re consulting widely.”
Brendan Hughes, a former senior IRA commander in Belfast known as “The Dark,” died in 2008. He gave more than a dozen taped interviews to Boston College, and that testimony formed the basis, in part, of a book, “Voices from the Grave,” and a documentary.
In the documentary, Hughes said that McConville kept a radio transmitter to alert the British army to IRA activities in the Divis Flats, where she lived. He said that McConville was interrogated, warned and released, but that she continued to cooperate with the British army. Hughes said a squad called “The Unknowns,” which answered to the Belfast commander of the IRA, seized McConville and executed her. Hughes named the Belfast commander at that time as Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing. He now is a member of parliament in the Republic of Ireland.
Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA and having knowledge of McConville’s death. “I reject absolutely any accusation that I had any hand, act or part in the killing and disappearing of Jean McConville,” Adams told Ulster Television.
The subpoena seeks the tapes of Boston College’s interviews with two former members of the IRA. Patrick Farrelly, co-director of “Voices from the Grave,” said that if it is successful, Boston College will either have to move the remaining part of the archive to a location beyond the reach of the British government or return the unsubpoenaed tapes to the participants.
“The British government was a party to the conflict and forcin
g open that archive for selective prosecution has serious implications for any process of reconciliation,” Farrelly said.