Boston College said Tuesday that people interviewed for an oral history project on the conflict in Northern Ireland will have the original recordings of their interviews returned to them if they wish.
Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said the Jesuit college had received several requests for tapes from people who participated on both sides of the conflict between Irish Catholic nationalists and Protestant Loyalists. Dunn added that the university would not retain copies or transcripts of any tapes that are returned.
"Some are concerned about the possibility of prosecution," Dunn told The Boston Globe. "Some are concerned for their safety."
The tapes became the center of an international firestorm earlier this week when they served as the basis for the arrest and questioning of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in connection with the 1972 abduction and murder of Belfast housewife Jean McConville, whom the Irish Republican Army suspected of being an informer for Northern Ireland police. Adams was released without charge earlier this week after being questioned for four days.
The so-called Belfast Project involved the recordings of 46 interviews: 26 with former IRA members, and 20 with former members of the Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Researchers promised interviewees that the recordings would be kept confidential until after their deaths. However, in 2011, federal prosecutors sought and were granted subpoenas for interviews that implicated Adams in IRA killings at the request of authorities in Britain.
"Everyone has the right to record their history but not at the expense of the lives of others," Adams said in a statement. "I welcome the end of the Boston Belfast Project, indicated by the College's offer to now return the interviews to the interviewees before the securocrats who cannot live with the peace seek to seize the rest of the archive and do mischief."
"The [McConville] family have the right to seek redress in whatever way they choose and through whatever avenue is open to them," Adams told The Daily Mail. "This case raises in a very stark way the need for the legacy issues of the past to be addressed in a way that brings closure for victims and their families."
"I want the people who dragged my mother from her home, tortured her, killed her, buried her, I want them brought in a court of law," McConville's daughter, Helen McKendry told The Mail. "That's all I want for my mother, justice."