Originally published 01/28/2014
How Boston College’s oral history of the Troubles fell victim to an international murder investigation
The saga of the most controversial oral history program in the United States.
Originally published 07/28/2013
There are voices and they talk about the death of Jean McConville. It may not matter. After two years of legal proceedings in the US, a set of audiotapes in a Boston College archive are supposed to answer questions about McConville’s 1972 murder by members of the IRA, who claim they suspected her of informing for the British army in Belfast.The voices on the tapes are said to belong to former militants from the organisation that took McConville from her home, shot her dead and then buried her on a beach in the South.But the prolonged court battle may produce evidence of questionable legal value, as Boston College now says it is unable to identify some of the interviewees....
Originally published 06/07/2013
Boston College motto: "Ever to Excel," engraved on the Bapst Library on campus. Credit: Wiki Commons.The journalists are mostly wrong. A federal appeals court decision in Boston this week is a victory, of sorts, but not for oral history. Neither is it much of a victory for Boston College, which filed the appeal. In the end, the university merely protected confidential archival material that its own curious negligence put at risk. (Read the First Circuit's complete opinion here.)
Originally published 06/03/2013
A federal appeals court on Friday handed an important victory to scholars -- especially those who engage in or rely on oral history -- by reducing from 85 to 11 the number of oral history interviews Boston College must provide to British authorities.In doing so, the appeals court rejected (as it did in an earlier review of the case) the idea that confidential materials collected for scholarship were entitled to a heightened level of protection from outside subpoenas than would be most other documents. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said that some "balancing" of conflicting rights could still be in order, and rejected the U.S. government's contention that there was no need for a court review of the appropriateness of the the subpoenas."[W]e rule that the enforcement of subpoenas is an inherent judicial function which, by virtue of the doctrine of separation of powers, cannot be constitutionally divested from the courts of the United States," said the ruling....
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