US Supreme Court [official website] Justice Stephen Breyer on Wednesday entered a temporary stay [order, PDF] to a subpoena from the British government [case materials] seeking research materials from Boston College [academic website]. The British government is attempting to gain access to research done for the Belfast Project [materials] at Boston College, an abandoned oral history of The Troubles [Guardian backgrounder], a period of violence in Northern Ireland between Protestant and Roman Catholic organizations. The project included interviews with dozens of members of the predominantly Protestant loyalist cause as well as members of the Roman Catholic nationalist movement, including members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Through the project, two IRA members interviewed divulged details of the murder of Jean McConville [NPR profile], a Belfast housewife and former IRA member. The IRA alleges that she was a spy for the British government, which forced her execution. The British government denies that, but there is speculation that Gerry Adams [official profile], the president of Sinn Fein [party website], the major political party of Ireland, ordered the killing of McConville [Boston College Chronicle report]. The stay is in effect until November 16 to allow the parties time to file a writ of certiorari and will be extended pending the court's discussion of the writ. The case is docketed as Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre v. United States [docket].
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled [opinion] in July that there was no First Amendment [text] right applicable to protect the interviews. "To be clear, even if participants had been made aware of the limits of any representation about non-disclosure, Moloney and Mclntyre had no First Amendment basis to challenge the subpoenas. Appellants simply have no constitutional claim and so that portion of the complaint was also properly dismissed." Boston College ended its appeals after the First Circuit decision, but the two journalists who spearheaded the project, Ed Moloney [official profile] and Anthony McIntyre [official website] have continued to fight the subpoena. The British government is seeking the records of interviews with Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price. Hughes has since died, and Boston College has released those files. Price interviewed solely with McIntyre on the condition of complete confidentiality, and portions of her interview related to IRA materials are only known to McIntyre. Several US congress members [materials list] have expressed support for McIntyre and Moloney, fearing the revelation of Price's interviews will unsettle the peace between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and violate the Good Friday Agreement [text, PDF].